Since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine on February 24, much has been made of the vague attitude of some African countries to the Russian war.
In a vote at the UN General Assembly condemning the Russian invasion, 28 African countries (51%) voted in favor, 17 abstained (31%), one against and eight absent.
Much of the attention has focused on South Africa, where President Cyril Ramaphosa has refused to criticize Russia while partly blaming the war on NATO expansionism.
In some cases, this attitude stems from an immeasurable gratitude for the Soviet Union’s support for the struggle for African liberation during the Cold War era. In addition, African countries suffering under the yoke of European imperialism are reluctant to take lectures from the West on democracy and human rights.
Others value trade ties – trade between Russia and Africa has doubled since 2015 to nearly $20 billion a year, the African Export-Import Bank reported last year, with Russia exporting $14 billion worth of goods and services and importing about $5 billion of African products last year.
But on a closer look, what does Russia have to offer today to Africa?
As recently as 2017, only 1% of the total share of African FDI came from Russia. Before the pandemic, Russia tried to improve that: 19 green field projects started in 2019, and the first official Russia-Africa summit was held in Sochi that year. But investment remains based around resources – metals, coal, oil and gas collectively account for 90% of Russia’s total greenfield investment in Africa announced since 2003, according to research by fDi Markets.
Since 2015, Russia has also signed military cooperation agreements with more than 17 African countries, according to a report by the Swedish Defense Research Agency. Moscow’s support for military governments, such as those in Mali and Sudan – is often characterized by arms deals, security assistance and the illicit role of mercenary groups linked to Russia such as Wagner. Relations are mostly carried out between irresponsible elites with limited transparency.
War is unlikely to improve relations. An isolated Moscow cut off from the global financial system, lacking the dynamism of the domestic economy and facing a crippling recession, will not have the funds to invest in the long-term infrastructure and development projects Africa needs.
Unlike the Soviet Union, modern day Russia, which is deeply conservative and oligarchic, has given no small talk to the idea of an egalitarian economic model or global equality. Putin’s dream of a post-liberal international order based on imperial revanchism runs counter to Africa’s longing for national sovereignty and territorial integrity, because Kenyan Ambassador Martin Kimani points out at the United Nations.
Impact of war
Russia’s war in Ukraine also destabilized Africa. The war has disrupted staple crop supplies from Ukraine and Russia.
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, director general of the World Trade Organization, told the UK Guardian newspaper that 35 African countries depend on food imported from the Black Sea region.
“I think we should be very worried. The impact on food prices and hunger this year and the next could be enormous. It is poor countries and poor people within poor countries who will suffer the most.”
IMF Chair Kristina Georgieva said Africa is vulnerable through rising food prices, rising fuel prices, declining tourism revenues, and difficulties in accessing capital markets.
Neither of these arguments suggests that African countries should enthusiastically support sanctions regimes that many cannot bear, or abandon their independent foreign policies to follow the West blindly. But African governments must recognize that postwar relations with economically isolated Vladimir Putin are unlikely to yield much.
Russia’s Vladimir Putin has little power to offer Africa
Source link Russia’s Vladimir Putin has little power to offer Africa