Africa is a beautiful place that is endowed with a vast array of riches. It is a land of notable diversity, and the people of Africa mirror reflect beautiful spirits. And yet, despite this huge advantage, Africa has had its fair, if not overloaded, share of problems. These stem from external influence, a type of influence that is aimed at further keeping Africa in shackles of economic bondage. Problems from external influence are then aggravated by the inability and ineptitude of our own leaders to be innovative in moving their countries forward.
The recently held Russia-Africa Summit is a clear manifestation of how external influence seems to be a feature that is permanently etched in the identity of Africa. The summit served more as a catch-up program for Russia with the rest of other superpowers such as the US and China in their influence over African politics and economics. Except, Russia claims it strictly does not meddle in the affairs of sovereign countries, unlike the checkered history of the United States foreign policy. The summit was also a way of wooing Africa to Russia's side by evoking the nostalgic feeling of the Soviet Union's co-operation with Africa during the volatile times of mounting anti-colonial struggles. Russia has realized that Africa is an important playground as far as world relations for dominance are concerned, and so they want to catch-up in this never-ending affair of the scramble for Africa.
Russia's overtures for fruitful relations with Africa as a whole have come with a different tone. One that seems to ward off suspicions of a more ferocious stage of neo-colonialism. And at the summit, there were allusions to the times when the Soviet Union was still existing. References were made to the strong partnerships that were there between the Soviets and Africans in fighting the oppressors, i.e the West. The apparent insinuation is that the love between Russia and Africa has been lost, and it needs to be lit again.
In these moves to gain the love of Africa, Russia took a swipe at the West. The Daily Maverick captured aptly the tone of the Russians, which lays bare its ruse. Or, one may think, a tone that shows the seriousness of Russia to helping Africa develop. Russia says financial institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) are dictatorial in their moves, because they attach conditions to African countries for the money they borrow. And that in that sense they impose sinister Western agendas on Africa.
Konstantin Malofeev, the chairperson of the International Agency for Sovereign Development (IASD) said, "The IMF and World Bank are the instruments of America’s global financial dominance. The agreements signed between these institutes and African countries allegedly lend money under 2-3%, however, they include about 27 essential clauses that set requirements to African governments, which is direct interference in politics and sovereignty of African countries." The IASD is a Russian project targeting at giving development to Africa.
He said that trillions of dollars in revenue are lost from Africa because of the West's grip on Africa's economic dynamics. Russia's position is that the machinations of the West result in Africa losing money to them, and that this money is now brought back to Africa as "aid" which does not help anything at all.
Oleg Ozerov the deputy director of the Africa Department in Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said, "Russia takes a strong and consistent stand on the need for changing the global financial architecture, i.e a further increase in the role and influence of new global centres of economic growth and redistribution of financial resources in their favour with an emphasis on African states." It is that desire to convince Africa not to rely on the West any more and start shifting all focus towards Moscow.
But then, Russia still provides aid to Africa. There is a $1 billion fund in aid that comes to Africa through the Russian Federation Council’s committee on science, education, and culture for "sustainable development and humanitarian help." In its essence, it is nothing different from what the West or China does.
The plan is that Russia must get a more visible imprint on the African continent. And the big question is this - Is this rekindled Russian-African relationship done in good faith?
Russia claims the West's media is responsible for tarnishing Russia's image through Russophobia and anti-Russian propaganda. And as such, co-operation in media is needed between Russia and Africa, with Russia extending its network of correspondents to more African places and change the narrative.
What Russia is offering to Africa is help in developing the energy sector in Africa. And they want to achieve this primarily through nuclear energy. Apart from this is infrastructural development in the construction of railways and housing, high technology in the mineral sector, agriculture, digital technology, exploration, medicine, science and education.
Nuclear energy is a focal point for Russia, for they want to make it a reality in Africa. This has raised concerns about Africa's ability to withstand the debt. This comes in the light of many African countries that are sinking in debt, both to the Bretton Woods institutions and to China. Developing the plants will come at a wildly enormous cost, and that debt will be likely insurmountable. Russia claims there are huge rewards to be reaped from nuclear technology in producing electricty, but still, the economic ramifications of these projects remain in mind. South Africa refused to build nuclear plants with the help of Russia, but Ethiopia and Rwanda are on their course to having nuclear technology.
Russia's latest attempts in having Africa's interest scream one thing, and that is neo-colonialism. Are these relations being done in good faith? The answer to that is a blurry one, for all the world superpowers are vying for Africa's vast natural resources for their own benefit only.
African leaders should remain cautious in their relations with Russia. They should be more stoic when facing ulterior motives from these external players.
Header image credit - Daily Maverick