Old and new races

Publish date 13-04-2022

by Paolo Lambruschi

The year 2022 will be decisive for Africa. Experts affirm this and the diplomacies of the great powers think that, with the intensification of the pandemic and the energy transition underway - the two great epochal changes that are conditioning the economy and international politics in this decade - they have started a new race for Africa.

Who are the protagonists of this race old and new? The old protagonists are us Westerners, Europeans, in particular the French with many interests of colonial origin in West Africa, North Africa and Djibouti, in the Horn . They have retained political and economic influence in the French-speaking area and still own many mines of uranium, but also of diamonds, timber and oil. With the progressive withdrawal of the United States from the continent, in the last 5 years Russia has entered the vacuum created in Libya, in the Central African Republic and recently in Mali. The Russians are not present directly, but they have sent the mercenaries of the Wagner Corporation to fight against the militias, siding with this or that government. China arrived in Africa 20 years ago, starting from Ethiopia where it has built a lot of public infrastructures and granted very favorable loans. In exchange, he opened African markets to goods made in China, he was able to buy energy (such as oil) and the rare earths with which he builds lithium batteries for electric cars and components for mobile phones and PCs at very favorable prices. China and Russia never ask questions about respect for human rights: this is why they are considered ideal partners by many African governments. The latest arrivals are the Arab countries, in particular the Emirates and Saudi Arabia, which are investing from one coast to the other of Africa, aiming to acquire resources underground and above the ground. Energy resources and arable fields are the object of the new race for Africa. Those who manage to appropriate it impose prices on global markets and therefore do not hesitate to finance wars of militias of jihadist or rebel terrorists. According to Caritas' latest report on forgotten conflicts, 13 out of 22 are being fought in sub-Saharan Africa. It is no coincidence that Russia, China and France are the main arms exporters on the continent. A new entry is Turkey which is retracing the foreign policy of the Ottoman Empire from 150 years ago by expanding on the Red Sea, particularly in Somalia and Libya.

But the litmus test of this race for Africa and of the future that awaits the continent is the civil war that started 15 months ago in northern Ethiopia, which got out of hand to those who declared it , Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed - Nobel Peace Prize 2019 - and who, amid constant reversals, has become the worst humanitarian catastrophe on the continent with over 5 million people living as if there was a famine. Abiy was losing the war when he was supplied with drones and weapons by the Chinese, the Turks, the Russians and the Emirates. Beijing and Moscow have in parallel blocked any attempt by the UN to stop the fratricidal conflict.

What will they want in return? Peace, which has moved away from a continent plagued by climate change, Covid, with only 5% of people vaccinated, will not return soon, it is not convenient for those who want to exploit Africa and sell her only weapons. 2022 must therefore become a year in which we Europeans, especially we Italians, return to discover Africa, even if it is almost impossible to travel due to the variants of the virus. We undertake to take an interest in our sister land, we demand news and we become critical public opinion. Let's not leave Africans alone now who need them more than ever.

Paolo Lambruschi
NP January 2022

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