The year of truth

Publish date 26-03-2023

by Paolo Lambruschi

In 2022, Africa has returned to the center of interest of the great powers. China, Russia and the United States are interested in reaffirming their spheres of influence and in grabbing the resources above and below the soil of which it is rich the great continent, certainly not to favor its development. This is why, if on the one hand the peaceful competition to acquire commercial relations can have positive implications, on the other hand it is difficult for the people to receive great benefits.

For more than a decade, China has become Africa's second largest trading partner after the EU, overtaking the United States. China also wants to bring the great project of the new Silk Road to Africa and has involved companies of all sizes in the private sector and has invested in the public sector not only in the countries richest in resources - Nigeria, Guinea Equatorial, Namibia and South Africa – but also in the poorest ones, such as Eritrea, Ethiopia, Uganda, Sudan and Kenya. What are the Chinese really interested in? The earth. Africa is the only corner of the planet that still has millions of hectares of untapped arable land. They are often used as a form of payment by states trapped in debt to the Chinese for infrastructure construction. China is currently the state with the most inhabitants in the world (about 1.4 billion). The so-called land grabbing in Africa is strategic for guaranteeing food security for its immense population. It is the African natives who pay the price, often forced to leave the lands sold.

Russia, on the other hand, has resumed the old relations from the times of the cold war and has sent the mercenaries of the Wagner corporation to Cyrenaica, eastern Libya, where it can control the flow of migrants towards the EU. Another strategic point for controlling flows is Mali, where the Russians have taken the place of the French. In recent years they have sent mercenaries to Sudan, Mozambique and the Central African Republic. Russians are interested in the arms market: Russia has become the main supplier of arms to the African continent and holds half of the African market, more than double that of China and the United States. Algeria, an ally since the 1960s, is at the top of the list of major customers followed by Egypt.
In mid-December, the US organized a summit in Washington with the heads of 49 African governments, signaling a revival of interest after Trump's departure. The Biden administration has promised to invest $55 billion in Africa over three years and forge trade ties with the free trade area being built on the continent.

Biden himself has also announced that he will make the first visit by an American president to sub-Saharan Africa in ten years in 2023, but did not specify where he will go and when. The United States has pledged that it will support increased African representation in international institutions, such as the G20 and the UN Security Council. In short, the war in Ukraine and the advance of China have reawakened American interest. After all, through the Obama Foundation, the African diasporas have been heavily involved in the Biden administration. And Europe? If for the issues of migrants and energy supply the approaches have been bilateral, an EU-African Union summit was held last February where Brussels launched a 150 billion euro investment package for the energy transition. The EU has reaffirmed its willingness to remain its first trading partner and has agreed that the fate of the two continents is common provided that we abandon the neocolonial logic and welfarism. 2023 will be the year of truth to understand which direction African history will take.

Paolo Lambruschi
NP January 2023

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