Russia has planned a number of events related to the African continent for 2023. First of all, they include the second Russia-Africa Summit, which is to be held in St. Petersburg in July 2023. This summit will take place amid new geopolitical circumstances, in conditions of fierce confrontation and active, even aggressive opposition from the countries of the “collective West”. In April 2022, the US House of Representatives approved a bill titled “Countering Malign Russian Activities in Africa.” Congress is waiting for reports from the State Department on Russia’s priorities in Africa in various areas, including in the political sphere (referring to Moscow’s alleged attempts to “manipulate” African governments, voters and diasporas). In the economic field, America is interested in Russia’s participation in “strategic sectors” (primarily the exploration and extraction of natural resources), as well as cooperation in the field of communication and information technologies. The United States is particularly interested in the deployment of Russian military bases and other forms of military cooperation. The bill also provides for the “punishment” of African countries by the United States for cooperation with Russia in various fields.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov called congressional bill “an American provocation”, which, in fact, testifies to Washington’s colonial approach toward the countries of the African continent. This legislative initiative has provoked the indignation of the leaders of a number of African countries. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, at a meeting with Biden, spoke about the injustice of the United States to punish African countries for ties to Russia. The speaker of the National Assembly of Zimbabwe, Jacob Mudenda, said that “the African countries reacted with disgust to the US bill to counteract the ‘malicious activities of the Russian Federation in Africa’ because it is an encroachment on the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the states that support Russia.” In addition, the Washington Post mentions a senior official in the US administration, who noted that African countries are unhappy when it comes to sanctions against Russia or openly criticise Moscow.
On December 13-15, 2022, the first US-Africa Summit in eight years was held in Washington, DC. It was attended by the leaders of 49 African states, representatives from about three hundred American and African companies, as well as the head of the African Union Commission. The summit also outlined goals related to blocking the Russian presence on the African continent. Washington tried to demonstrate that cooperation with the United States is more beneficial for Africa than cooperation with Russia and China. African countries were offered grants for the development of their economic, military, technological and scientific potential. A $350 million investment in digital transformation has been proposed. The White House has pledged $55 billion over three years to support Africa’s economy, healthcare and security.
Four countries — Gambia, Mauritania, Senegal and Togo — were the first to receive grants from their North American “partner” through the Millennium Challenge Corporation, which finances projects in countries that meet key governance standards. Thus, the President of Senegal, Macky Sall, met Joe Biden during a reception at the White House within the framework of the summit and was among the first to receive an American grant. In general, all the “players” participating in the so-called “fight for Africa” offer various projects, investments, goods, humanitarian aid, scholarships, grants and loans.
The above examples are by no means a complete list of “initiatives” on the part of the US and EU countries, which are designed to block and/or hinder the development of Russian-African relations. Earlier, on February 18, 2022, following the results of the 6th EU-African Union Summit (Brussels, 2022), the launch of a large-scale programme was announced to attract investments in Africa in excess of €150 billion for the period up to 2030, including both private and public investment. This programme is part of the overall European Global Gateway investment strategy. The objective of the project is to strengthen the role of the European Union in developing countries in general and in African countries in particular. It should be noted that this strategy is considered a way to counter the Chinese Belt and Road initiative. The EU and the African Union announced the launch of an investment programme in Africa worth €150 billion. The Western strategy to eliminate competitors extends to China. The growth of investment in the development of Africa is part of the foreign policy of European countries that are striving to restore and strengthen their influence on the continent. As an example of African funding programmes, and in fact, American neo-colonial ambitions, one should name the American Prosper Africa project, adopted in 2019 by the Trump administration at the US-Africa business summit in Mozambique (experts consider this project as a way to “subdue the African continent”).
The project is aimed at discrediting the policies of China and Russia in Africa. According to Bolton, “The American approach is independence, self-sufficiency and growth.” One of the objectives of the Prosperous Africa project is to promote American liquefied natural gas in Africa.
The European Union’s Horizon Europe project, calculated to have a budget of 95.5 billion euros which will last until 2027, contains an African department with a budget of 350 million euros for two years. This money is allocated for the introduction of innovations and joint research in the field of healthcare and the fight against infectious diseases, in the field of green energy, climate change, information and communication technology, etc.
In addition, a fairly large number of charitable foundations and NGOs operate in African countries that finance individual projects in the field of healthcare, green energy, agriculture and innovation (for example, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which, in particular, is actively promoting genetically modified seeds in Africa and thus acts as a guide for manufacturers such as Dupont, Arcadia Biosciences and Monsanto) as well as the L’Oreal Foundation (France), the Gerda Henkel Foundation (Germany), etc.
Since extreme poverty in Africa has not been eliminated, there are many problems that are still difficult to solve without “donor” support. Africa is forced to accept assistance from a number of countries, including its former colonial masters. At the same time, Africans understand the complexity of the situation; they try to regulate the factors that make Africa dependent on finance and technology donor countries, and think about the need to maintain a balance of power. Therefore, even despite the attempts of Western countries to increase pressure on Africa, including numerous “carrots” in the form of grants and promises of financial support, contacts between Russia and the countries of the African continent are developing. Sergey Lavrov’s visits to African countries, including South Africa, Eritrea, Angola, Eswatini, Mali, Mauritania and Sudan, where summit meetings were held, indicate that both sides are interested in cooperation, that the force of attraction between Russia and Africa has deep roots, which are not necessarily limited to the sphere of financial, trade and economic relations.
Understanding the deep foundations of Russian-African cooperation, knowledge of the problems Africans face, understanding the essence of their request for cooperation can become a serious competitive advantage for Russia in the current geopolitical conditions.