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Russia and Global Security Risks
African Post-Covid Syndrome

Africa, the planets second largest continent, could be the next epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic. Africa needs help. The number of old and emerging new problems is poised to create a powerful Gordian knot that cannot be solved by anyone alone, writes Nathalia Zaiser, Chair of the Board/Founder of Africa Business Initiative Union.

Over the past four months, leading experts around the world, including in Russia, have been diligently analysing various scenarios for the development of a post-COVID economy. The main message is still a forecast based on a global economic recession, that an exit from the deep crisis is a long way off, and that theres been a significant shift in global social values.

The situation is especially tense in developing countries. While a number of states at this stage have been able to stop the spread of the coronavirus infection, everything is a little different in Africa. According to the data of the African Union and the African Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (ACDC), as of June 25, 2020, the official number of cases on the continent was 337,315, of which 161,254 have recovered and 8,863 have died. The Maghreb region and South Africa are still leading, and the continent as a whole has shown steady growth in the number of infected people. A pessimistic scenario cant be excluded. Africa, the planets second largest continent, could be the next epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic. It appears that the spread of the virus in Africa has been much slower. This is due to a number of factors, including the insufficient number and quality of tests (especially at the initial stage of a pandemic), the actions of governments themselves (which refuse to provide objective data for their countries), a low level of self-discipline and the general mentality of the population, which in principle is not going to seek medical help. The African continent has historically developed a psychological immunity to especially deadly diseases: yellow fever, Ebola, cholera and others. Therefore, the pandemic situation in Africa is much more worrying from the point of view of rapidly emerging economic and social problems, and not from the point of view of its direct danger to humans. And there are reasons to worry! It is worth looking at the main drivers and sources of wealth in the African economy, which are: the import and export of goods (in the case of exports, this is primarily agricultural products, textiles and food), tourism and international traffic, the energy sector, foreign direct investment, state loans and donor assistance from developed countries and international organisations. The pandemic has made significant adjustments to all of the above positions, setting Africa back at least ten years. One of the main factors has been the suspension of flights, which, in turn, has a direct impact on the main sources of income of the African states  international tourism, business, and the supply and distribution of products. For example, Ethiopian Airlines alone provides Ethiopia with 5% of its GDP.
Global Governance
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Natalia Piskunova
The grave consequences of the pandemic for Africa provide more opportunities to expand Russia’s presence and spheres of influence on the continent by allowing it to go beyond the production and exports of minerals and raw materials to the soft security sphere and greater opportunities for Russia’s soft power, writes Natalia Piskunova, Associate Professor at Lomonosov Moscow State University, World Politics Department.
Expert Opinions


South Africa, while remaining the flagship of the spread of the disease on the continent and, accordingly, keeping external and internal borders closed, curbs the return of tourist flow to neighbouring states: Mozambique, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe. Even with their own airports in these countries, the scale is incommensurable.

For the main oil states of the African continent, particularly members of OPEC, energy and infrastructure are key industries. Moreover, they dont just provide for themselves. The failure of the negotiations on the OPEC + deal last March, which overlapped with COVID-19, had the most negative impact on the economies of Nigeria, Angola, Algeria, Libya and other nations. Some foreign companies have begun to sell off their assets in Africa. This means an outflow of investments, a significant weakening of the already fragile and inadequate energy system of African countries and a weakening of social support for the population. There is still a high degree of uncertainty and risks in the raw materials segment, therefore, attempts to stabilise and reduce production will not be sufficient to compensate for the drop in demand and improve the overall situation.

And, finally, there are African countries which owe debt to international credit organisations: the IMF, World Bank, etc., as well as budgets allocated earlier by European partners. Despite the fact that the European Union periodically declares a need to support Africa, financial flows and conditions of allocation could undergo serious scrutiny.
In this case, Africa will remain alone to address its problems. The well-known slogan African problems African solutions will become more relevant than ever.

The result of the global economic collapse for Africa will be a return to poverty, a widening social gap, and, also taking into account the peculiarities of the demographic structure of the population of the African continent (about 70% of the population is younger than 30 years), to unrest and social tension. All of this can have a multiplier effect. The issue of stabilising the social system is particularly acute. Due to the lack of experience in building statehood and the general imbalance in the system of a number of African jurisdictions, it is extremely difficult for the leaders of these countries to implement obvious strategic decisions. Having no other external support, besides being oriented toward purely narrow political interests, they are forced to use methods by intuition, based on their own ideas, guidelines and values. At the same time, the processes taking place in the USA and Europe cannot but resonate in Africa. So in Kenya riots and clashes with the police have already begun in the continuation of the unrest after the death of African American George Floyd in police custody.

The crisis is contributing to the destabilization of the general political situation and the transit of power in a number of African countries, especially those which are already turbulent, and trying to take advantage of the global problems affecting their interests.

While the participants in the Berlin Conference had to concentrate for a while on problems related to combatting the pandemic, the situation in Libya returned to square one, but with a negative outlook. The internal political confrontations of the parties began to aggravate again and stabilisation is becoming less and less likely.

In a number of states, such as the Central African Republic (CAR), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Burundi and Nigeria, military clashes and terrorist threats have been exacerbated.

The unifying intra-continental economic processes in Africa, such as the creation of the African continental free trade zone, will not play the originally unifying role of the pan-African agreement, since in principle they can be suspended due to the current economic situation on the continent. 

The method of flattening the curve, being used in developed countries throughout the world, may not work in Africa.

Therefore, the continent today needs constant monitoring. Theres no doubt, Africa needs help. The number of old and emerging new problems is poised to create a powerful Gordian knot that cannot be solved by anyone alone. Russia, which recently organised the first ever Russia-Africa Summit and declared joint intentions with the leaders of all African states to pursue fruitful strategic cooperation in all areas, should not weaken its position. Given the need to withdraw from the next crisis of its own economy, perhaps we are not talking about global investment from outside. However, modern Russia has sufficient potential to generate and build a dialogue of another nature, which may be significantly more important for building current and future strategic relations with African countries. This could be the joint development of industrial relations, and the export of innovative technologies, especially in the field of healthcare, and improving the quality of life. Russia can also assist in creating a unified energy system on the African continent, in the search and implementation of new approaches, the export of Russian educational know-how, and, most importantly, re-establishing an interpersonal dialogue on the building of civil society, as it is todays youth in Africa and Russia that will determine the vectors of the future world order. Generations Y and Z, regardless of their continental origin, will actively participate in the new economic cycles of their states.
Russia and Africa
In the XXI century, with both the Cold War and the colonial period left behind, African countries are acting as full-fledged subjects of political and economic cooperation. The infographics, timed to the 16th Annual Meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club, reflects their interaction with Russia in the frameworks of political dialogue, economics and trade, as well as the export of various services and technologies.
Infographics
Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.