West is losing in the fight for Africa

Petr Akopov

In the war with Russia, the West has no forgotten fronts – everywhere you need to be on the alert. Work is underway on all continents – and Africa occupies a special place among them.
Not because there are 54 countries and their votes are important for obtaining a majority in the UN voting on resolutions condemning “aggressive Russia.” These are all trifles, although the fact that last March the majority of African countries refused to vote together with the West, for some reason, was surprising for the “golden billion.” But the point is not in symbolic resolutions, but in an absolutely concrete struggle for the future world order. In which today’s Africa (in terms of population rapidly catching up with China and India ) will no longer be just an object of foreign manipulations, but will also try to seriously defend its own interests. Therefore, it is so important who will become a strategic partner for Africa in the coming decades – the West or the East: the USA and Europeor China and Russia. There is, of course, a third force in the struggle for Africa – the Islamic world (which includes a large part of the Black Continent), but he himself is increasingly leaning from the West to the East.
It is not surprising that the upcoming joint Russian-Chinese-South African naval exercises off the coast of South Africa in a month are causing great displeasure in the West. After all, if, as South African Defense Minister Tandy Modise recently stated, the Americans “threaten Africa because of everything that smells of Russia,” then what can we say about Russian warships at the southern tip of the continent. Joint exercises were already held in 2019, and all three countries are members of the BRICS, but the West seems to be discovering a new reality for itself for the first time: the non-Western world is increasingly not only establishing multilateral ties in various fields, but is also building a parallel architecture of a new world order. In trade, transport corridors, the financial system, arms trade and defense, raw materials, information sec-urity – and the initiators of the process are Russia and China. Moreover, despite the interconnectedness of their economies with the Western one, Moscow and Beijinghave long since embarked on a course to reduce the dependence of their relations with the third world on global, that is, Anglo-Saxon, rules and mechanisms. And after the West tried to cut Russia out of the world economy, and threatened China with gra-ve consequences if it followed Russia’s path, the pr-ocess of separating the East from the West accelerated.
Africa, which at the same time needs huge help and is the last region with unlimited potential for growth (demographic and economic), and therefore appears as a welcome ally for everyone, sees in the showdown between West and East a chance to strengthen its own weight and gain true independence. But at the same time, it would be wrong to reduce the whole African position simply to the desire to benefit from “courtship”, that is, to accept investments from both sides.
After all, most African countries (if you do not take North Africa with its separate history) already have more than sixty years of independence experience – and it showed how and with whom one can deal. Despite the insolvency of a significant part of African states, the processes of formation of national elites are still going on there – and there is also an understanding of the need for integration. Both regional and continental (within the African Union) integration has, of course, its side effects – this process can turn into the creation of a new form of neo-colonial control by the West (for example, through the EU-African Union). Financial, personnel, ideological and other forms of Western control have been preserved almost everywhere in Africa, and all attempts to build independent African integration have always been very severely suppressed (as was the case, for example, with Muammar Gaddafi, who was almost overthrown by the discontent of the West his pan-African integration efforts). However, most African countries understand that alone they will remain puppets of external forces, and by joining forces they will get a chance for both internal development and global play.
Russia offers Africa not only economic projects, but just help in gaining real independence from Western control. That is why in France they are so dissatisfied with the penetration of the Russian PMC “Wagner” into Francophone Africa – first into the Central African Republic, then into Mali and Burkina Faso. If the local elites see that with the help of Russians (primarily instructors) it is possible not only to restore order in the country (by pinning down all sorts of separatist and rebel groups), but also to get rid of dependence on Paris, this will seriously undermine French influence in West and Central Africa.
But Russia can help not only in preparing the army and supplying weapons, but also in training personnel, building infrastructure projects, exploration and development of natural resources – many African countries remember all this from the 60s, from the time of the first Soviet campaign in Africa. In addition, there is China (the main trading partner and creditor, with huge investments and large infrastructure projects on the continent), and the Persian Gulf monarchies (with gigantic financial capabilities). That is, with the right combination of relations with non-Western players, Africa can really “leave the West” and move forward along the path of gaining subjectivity.
This is well understood in the West as well, and they are trying to use the Ukrainian situation to put pressure on Africa. They accuse Russia of threatening the world order, of rising prices for raw materials and food – calling on the countries of the Black Continent to join Western sanctions in order to “stop the aggressor.” Last week, two European – German and French – foreign ministers flew to Addis Ababa, where the headquarters of the African Union is located: Annalena Burbock and Catherine Colonna. The ladies convinced the hosts that “the African Union and Europe must stick together” because it is necessary to “stand shoulder to shoulder” against Putin, because the AU and the EU have common values, and “Europe and Africa are neighbors not only geographically,
With arguments about common values with Europe, Africans can agree only in the sense that British, French and German museums are really full of African values taken away during the colonial robbery. And, of course, African countries are not going to join the sanctions – moreover, Western pressure only strengthens their understanding of the importance of relations with Russia. Just during the trip of Burbock and Colonna to Ethiopia, it was announced that the second Russia-Africa summit would be held at the end of July in St. Petersburg. The first, held in Sochi in the fall of 2019, was a major step towards Russia’s return to Africa, and the second will demonstrate the desire of the Black Continent for a new, post-Western world order.