The expansion of China and Russia in Africa. Will Europe keep up? Clash in Africa [OPINIA]

German chancellors until now they have rarely been to Africa. But at the end of last week Olaf Scholz he embarked on a journey across the dark continent, starting with Senegal, which currently holds the presidency of the African Union. There he easily found a common language with the president of this country, Macky Sall. Fortunately, the Senegalese leader is a geologist by training, and he started his career with oil companies and then moved into politics as the Senegalese Minister of Mines. Both gentlemen mainly talked about the extraction of natural gas. At least that’s what they said at the joint press conference. The chancellor stated that Germany wanted to help Senegal develop its gas reserves off the coast of West Africa. “It’s an issue worth addressing intensively,” President Sall replied. According to CNN reports, “Senegal is ready to supply the European market with LNG. He predicts that LNG production in Senegal will reach 2.5 million tons next year and 10 million tons by 2030”.

Tour de Scholz

Interestingly, the chancellor Scholz invited the country and South Africa to participate in the G7 summitorganized by Germany in June. In thanks, President Sall said of the war in Ukraine: “We are working on de-escalation, working on a ceasefire, on dialogue.” That is why he is going to Kiev and Moscow on behalf of the African Union to persuade both sides to end their hostilities as soon as possible. So it expressed exactly what Berlin wants today.

After a little success Scholz also traveled to Niger, which is rich in natural resources† There he promised the local authorities more military and financial support in the fight against Islamic rebels. This means that the contingent of 180 Bundeswehr soldiers stationed in the military camp in Tillia will be significantly expanded. Thus, the chancellor significantly improved the mood of the Nigerien president, Mohamed Bazoum. Then Olaf Scholz left for South Africa.

The EU is working on a plan to replace Russian raw materials

The German Chancellor’s Journey to the Black Continent was no surprise. As early as early May, the Bloomberg agency reported that W. European Union a plan is underway to replace Russian energy sources with those from Africa. Besides Senegal, the list of potential suppliers includes: Angola, Algeria, Egypt, Nigeria and the Republic of Congo.

At the same time Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi single-handedly, he sent his foreign minister, Luigi Di Maio, along with the minister for ecological transformation, Roberto Cingolani, and the president of the ENI energy group, Claudio Descalzi, to Angola and Congo. Their job was to find gas for Italian power plants.

Probably pilgrimages of EU politicians to Africa they will not stop there and we will soon witness as much attention to the continent of European countries as it has not experienced since the great decolonization in the 1960s. However, there are many indications that the exact opposite process begins.

Europe needs Africa’s riches

Europe needs Africa’s wealth like never before† All because of the complete impossibility of predicting the development of the situation in Russia. With his aggressive policies, Vladimir Putin has taken away all guarantees that in the near or distant future, the countries of Western Europe will be able to see his country as a secure base. A return to full cooperation would only be possible with a change of leader in the Kremlin, peace in Ukraine and a general reset. Meanwhile, a protracted war in Ukraine and a deep crisis in Russia itself, which threatens to collapse, seem much more likely. Such a turn of events (whether or not there is a general embargo on Russian oil and gas) threatens to reduce supplies or even shut them down altogether if the empire collapses.

The only possible alternative for Europe – both real and cheap – will be Africa† Olaf Scholz and other Western leaders are already seeing this. However, that does not alter the fact that they are dramatically late. Until the day of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Black Land seemed to the political elites of the European Union to be one big problem, divided into many smaller ones.

Former colonial powers struggled with embarrassing memories of past crimes. From participating in the slave trade, ending with the modern genocide of the black population – from Congo to Namibia to Madagascar. It was in Africa that the British government invented and tested the first concentration camps at Burach. The troublesome past was supplemented by an equally troublesome present. Until February 24, the Black Country was a reservoir of unwanted emigration for southern Europe, and a distant place for the north, full of endless conflicts, revolts, exotic diseases and regular defeats of democracy. Recently, it has also become a place of expansion for Islamic fundamentalism. In tackling it, African countries could count on the support of small military contingents sent from Europe, and that was it. In fact, only western oil and mining companies were seriously interested in that part of the world. So the fact that it lasted in the dark continent wasn’t particularly concerning expansion of Russia and especially China

The Expansion of Russia and China in Africa

In the case of Russia, according to the report titled: “Security, Soft Power, and Regime Support: Spheres of Russian Influence in Africa” ​​prepared by – Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, Putin’s country attempted close cooperation to with more than 20 African countries. In: Libya, Sudan, Central African Republic, Chad and Mozambique mercenaries of the Wagner Group have been deployed† Recently, they managed to take the place of the French expeditionary force in Mali. On April 12, 2022, the Kremlin signed an official agreement on military cooperation with Cameroon. For military support, local dictators pay Russia with permission to take over the rights to exploit the ever-desired deposits: gold, platinum and diamonds. By adding uranium needed in nuclear power and needed for the production of accumulators and batteries as well as complete electric cars – cobalt and lithium

On the other hand China avoids exposing its military might and prefers to use money as a weapon† According to calculations by the American Johns Hopkins University, African countries took out as many as 1,141 loans in the Middle Kingdom in 2019, for a total of $153 billion. For Angola, Ghana and Kenya this meant complete financial dependence. The second expansion instrument is investment in infrastructure (roads, bridges, seaports) in more than 20 African countries. After completion of the investment, the Chinese retain control of their work.

She became the third instrument of domination trade fairwhich has grown 15 times since 2002. As a result, the Middle Kingdom is today Africa’s largest and most important trading partner. Neither China nor Russia, of their “friends” from the black continent, need concern for freedom of expression, the holding of democratic elections and respect for human rights. This has a significant impact on the attractiveness of the collaborative offer. So far, China and Russia have had it easier because the black continent has little interest in the United States. The need to respond to Chinese expansion is beginning to change that. Last June, President Joe Biden unveiled a plan at the G7 summit called “Build Back Better World” for “B3W.” It should bring Africa and other countries where the Middle Kingdom is building its trade routes, investing billions of dollars in alternative infrastructure and significant economic support. What comes out, time will tell. So far, China has responded to B3W by creating the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) under its auspices, which unites more than 30 countries.

Scholz .’s Late Expedition

Only from this perspective can it be seen what time is the African expedition of Olaf Scholz and the actions of other European leaders?† They come into play on the field, where the Russians and Chinese have been playing for a long time, and the Americans also came a little earlier. At the same time, the colonial past is not only an asset, but also a burden. Meanwhile, the game may prove to be faster and sharper over time. Because so many powers are connected, it does not bode well for African countries. Most of them are theoretical creations, torn apart by numerous tribal and religious conflicts, unable to exert control over their entire territory. Their ruling elites are easily corrupted and are rarely interested in the common good. So they are creatures in which outside influences will run like a knife in butter.

So what could Africa’s future look like? The past gives a hint here.

“In 1879, more than 90 percent of the continent was under African rule. By 1900, all but a small part of Africa was ruled by European powers,” describe Roland Oliver and Anthony Atmore in The History of Africa After 1800. The answer to why the great powers refused to colonize the dark continent for hundreds of years and suddenly attacked it and then tore it apart for 20 years is very simple, partly because huge amounts of gold and diamonds were once discovered in the early 1880s, and at the same time European industry needed more and more rubber (artificial rubber could not yet be produced), but the real race started when Chancellor Otto von Bismarck unexpectedly announced in 1883 that Germany, previously absent from Africa, would annexed colonies: Togo, Cameroon, East Africa and Southeast Africa, the move sparked panic in Britain and France. Independently of each other, they decided that they should conquer as many countries as possible. If this did not happen, there was a risk that competing powers would subjugate larger territories and gain a lasting advantage. “Each power was concerned that its rivals would keep trade in their new colonies to themselves by shielding high tariff barriers,” Oliver and Atmore write. The same was true of access to wealth.

Breaking the balance of power thus led to the race, fueled by fear of competitors and the desire for profit. Soon the late but ambitious participants, incl. Italy and Portugal. So competition has intensified. Then bribery and military force became the main means of action. And because the civilizational advantage of the colonizers was enormous, African states, although they had previously (sometimes for centuries) cooperated with European countries, were pulverized to dust in a few years.

The war in Ukraine could not only cause a famine on the black continent, but also put it at the center of the attention of all currently major powers. In the long run, given the mounting fear and potential benefits, will they begin to behave more humanely than their predecessors did a century and a half ago? It’s kinda hard to believe.

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