In February 2018, in the midst of ongoing political turmoil, few could have predicted the radical political change of direction Ethiopia would experience within a matter of weeks. The election in March 2018 of Abiy Ahmed as Chairman of the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) and consequently the country’s Prime Minister heralded the beginning of a major shift in leadership style and approach in one of Africa’s most authoritarian polities.
The EU-ACP Partnership Agreement, signed in Cotonou in 2000, is due to expire on 29 February 2020. Since the negotiations have ground to a halt, the parties have almost agreed to transitional measures to extend the application of the current agreement. Just before passing the torch to his successor, as the new European Commission took office December 1st, commissioner Neven Mimica briefed member states' representatives on the negotiations and its current standstill. Which appears to be very much inherent to the format itself.
On December 10, 2019, the southwestern region of Tillabéri, in Niger, was shocked by an act of armed violence against Nigerien military forces. Around 500 heavily-armed men stormed a military camp in In-Atès, about 180 km from the capital Niamey and 20 km from the border with Mali. More than 70 soldiers were killed, dozens injured and many weapons and pieces of equipment stolen.
Jihadist insurgency, geostrategic competition, smuggling, and migrant flows. More than anywhere in Africa – and perhaps the world – the Sahel is where these phenomena come together, fuelling social and economic crises. Keeping an eye on the Sahel in 2020 will be paramount.
On November 12, French president Emmanuel Macron and his Chadian counterpart, Idriss Déby, met in Paris, at the Peace Forum. Faced with the urgency of the situation in the Sahel, where the G5 military forces (Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger) have just suffered a major setback with the death of 50 Malian soldiers during a terrorist attack, France seems more than ever to rely on Chad and its army to restore security.
As the first-ever Russia-Africa summit made headlines around the world in the past few weeks, the comparison between the Russian and the Chinese approach to Africa was recurrent. It originated in the fact that both China and Russia are not Western countries, both have seemingly ‘returned’ to Africa in the 21st century for economic and political reasons, both advocate a non-interference approach in the internal affairs of other countries and both are perceived as great powers in international relations.
The Russia-Africa summit hosted at the Black Sea retreat of Sochi, with the participation of 43 African heads of state, marked the culminating point of the Kremlin’s renewed interest in the African continent and its political and economic assets.
Russia’s presence in Africa has returned to the fore. The first-ever Russia-Africa summit, held in Sochi on 23-24 October 2019, sparked international attention, raising questions about Russia’s new Africa strategy.
The language of empire strikes back. Against the backdrop of China’s growing influence on the African continent and the attempts of other great powers to counter Beijing’s sway, Western news outlets have, in the last eighteen months, seized on comparisons between these current rivalries and those of the nineteenth-century colonial era. The Economist led the way with its headline “The New Scramble for Africa.”