This week, the Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, is traveling across Africa to meet with government authorities in a bid to strengthen Russia's diplomatic ties on the continent. Egypt, the Republic of the Congo, Uganda, and Ethiopia are all on his itinerary.
On Sunday, Lavrov assured Sameh Shoukry, the Egyptian foreign minister, that Russia would fulfill its grain orders to the country. The risk of starvation has increased as a result of the war in Ukraine, as many African countries are largely dependent on imports of wheat from Russia and Ukraine.
With the West strongly condemning the war in Ukraine, Lavrov's visit is being interpreted as an effort to gather the support of African countries, many of whom have significant historical ties with Russia.
Moscow Reviving Old Soviet Ties.
According to Irina Filatova, from the Higher School of Economics in Moscow, claims that Russia wants to establish itself as a security broker on the continent in order to confront the collective West and portray itself as a defender of Africa, a goal that the West has ostensibly failed to accomplish.
Russia has long been involved in African affairs; in the 1950s, the Kremlin supported freedom movements all throughout the continent. Obadiah Mailafia, a former deputy governor of Nigeria's central bank, stated that "many of our countries would never have seen the light of freedom without the solid position of the Soviet Union during the Cold War and the heyday of the anti-colonial movement."
However, this backing diminished with the Soviet Union's collapse in 1991. Vladimir Putin, the current president, has worked to rekindle these ties to serve as a type of counterbalance to the West's neocolonial actions over the past 20 years.
Military Support for Africa
In the past few months, Russia entered into a number of military and political agreements across the continent. A number of Russian military advisers were sent to Mali early this year. According to the Malian army, the contractors from the Wagner Group, a private Russian military firm, were invited to assist Mali in the training of its security forces.
Russia has also been linked to a number of military coups across the continent. For example, recent coups in Sudan, Chad, and Guinea all had one thing in common: the majority of the soldiers responsible for the coups had gone through military training in Russia.
Malick Diaw and Sadio Camara, two Malians who are thought to be the main brains behind the coup in 2020, attended the Moscow Higher Military Command School for around a year each.
Russia's Business Deals in Africa
For the most part, over the past two decades, Moscow has been able to remain under the radar by covertly signing nuclear power and military export agreements. Right now, Russia is the country that exports the most weaponry to Africa. According to the yearly study from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), 18% of all Russian weaponry exports between 2016 and 2020 went to Africa.
The first publicly announced arms deal occurred in April 2020 when Rosoboron export, the sole state-owned arms exporter from Russia, announced the sale of an attack boat built in Russia to an unknown sub-Saharan African nation.
In addition to providing military services, Moscow has established a market for selling nuclear technology to poor African countries. Nigeria, Zambia, Rwanda, Ethiopia and Egypt are among the countries looking to purchase nuclear power reactors made in Russia.
One thing is certain, despite the lack of information regarding its numerous programs and agreements: Russia is back in Africa, and this time, it means business.