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What Russia Can Offer Africa

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Russia is back to Africa. This is a fait accompli, a new and significant trend of Russia’s foreign policy over the past 20 years. Russia has much to offer this dynamically developing continent, primarily in the form of political cooperation and diplomatic ties, as well as supporting Africa’s positions at multilateral forums. And there is huge potential here for developing economic ties.

Russia provides invaluable peacekeeping and security assistance to Africa. Moreover, Moscow is traditionally friendly towards its African partners and strives to develop intercultural humanitarian ties with African countries.

Modern Africa truly is a continent of new opportunities. In economic terms, several African countries are developing quite successfully, with the economies of a number of countries in the Sub-Saharan region demonstrating average GDP growth of 5.2 percent over the period 2000–2013. Some African countries have even been called “African lions,” similar to the highly developed “Asian tiger” economies. There is a rapidly growing middle class on the African continent, which means rising consumption and increased demand, including for Russian goods and services. Russia is also interested in those minerals that play a crucial role in the development of industry and innovative technologies which it lacks. It would be economically viable to mine these resources in Africa.

While Russian diplomacy in Africa focuses on the entire continent, there are countries with which it is developing cooperation particularly vigorously.

It is important to note here that Russia mostly interacts with its African partners on a bilateral basis, although it does maintain contacts with regional integration associations and the African Union, which spans the entire continent.

Trade, economics and investments

Russia’s trade with African nations has demonstrated positive dynamics in recent years. According to the Federal Customs Service of Russia, trade between Russia and Africa totaled $17.4 billion in 2017 and $20.4 billion in 2018. While Russia’s trade and economic relations are more highly developed with the countries of North Africa, trade with countries south of the Sahara has also been growing in recent years. Russia’s main trade partners in Africa are Egypt, Algeria, Morocco and South Africa. Trade with Algeria is growing at a particularly rapid pace.

However, in recent years, Russia has demonstrated positive trade dynamics with at least half of the countries in Africa, in particular with Ethiopia, Cameroon, Angola, Sudan and Zimbabwe. Namibia, Nigeria, Angola, Mozambique, Rwanda and Guinea are also important partners.

The Russian Federation supplies a wide range of goods to African countries, including oil products, chemicals, fertilizers, engineering products and machine tools.

Agricultural products occupy an important place in mutual trade. Russia supplies large volumes of wheat to Morocco, South Africa, Libya, Kenya, Sudan, Nigeria and Egypt. A number of African countries (Egypt, Cote d’Ivoire, Benin, Nigeria, Guinea-Bissau, the Central African Republic, Guinea, Burkina Faso and Mali) have increased the volume of fruit and vegetables they sell to Russia. This is helped by the fact that the Russian Federation has introduced countersanctions on several products made in the European Union.

Africa is becoming a kind of “market of the future” for Russian grain and agricultural equipment. This is a very promising area, given the desire of African countries to eradicate the hunger issue (“zero hunger”) and make more productive use of many of the large areas of undeveloped land that still exist on the continent.

The global farming industry is interested in all the key agricultural equipment manufactured in Russia, and exports are growing. This is due to the fact that entirely new and unique technologies and products have appeared in Russia, and the quality of Russian agricultural equipment has reached new heights. Russian manufacturers of farming equipment see North Africa, the Middle East and South America as promising new markets.

Major Russian companies actively invest in Africa. Priority sectors for investment include energy and mining (for example, Russia is involved in the development of the world’s second largest platinum deposit, Darwendale in Zimbabwe, which could turn the country into a leader on the global platinum market), as well as infrastructure, transport, manufacturing and agriculture.

The State Atomic Energy Corporation ROSATOM has signed cooperation agreements on the development of nuclear energy with a number of African countries (Egypt, Sudan, Zambia, Morocco, South Africa and the Republic of the Congo, and others). Some countries (Sudan and Senegal) have expressed interest in developing joint oil and gas projects with Russia. In 2018, President of Senegal Macky Sall noted at a meeting with Vladimir Putin that his country possessed large reserves of oil and gas. He went on to express his hope that Russia would assist in assessing these resources and help workers in the Senegalese oil and gas sector get to grips with the equipment needed for the development of these deposits.

Russian medium-sized businesses have also found niches on the African markets. For example, the company Lisma, which is located in the Republic of Mordovia, set up a joint venture in Burundi to manufacture lamps and streetlights for the entire East African market. In 2015, the Atlantic fish processing plant opened in Senegal. The project, which is the largest of its kind in West Africa, was financed by private Russian investors.

It is important that Russia not only seeks to develop mineral resources in African countries, but it also contributes to the development of domestic industry and infrastructure in Africa and helps create jobs.

The Russian Industrial Zone (RIZ) in Egypt – the first infrastructure project of its kind implemented by the Russian Export Center – is a perfect example of this approach. The plan is for the RIZ to become a vanguard for the promotion of Russian goods and services in Africa. Its activities should contribute to the growth of the Russian and Egyptian economies.

What is more, Russian companies take on social responsibilities by supporting development projects in the African countries where they operate. For example, thanks to the ongoing support of Russia and United Company RUSAL in the fight against Ebola in Guinea, significant progress has been made in the prevention of the spread of this disease in the country since 2014. At the height of the Ebola epidemic, RUSAL built a special medical center in the country, the only one of its kind in West Africa in terms of the technologies and equipment at its disposal. The center helped vaccinate and treat locals. In addition, it became a platform for the study and prevention of communicable diseases in Guinea and a training center for future epidemiologists.

However, despite the obvious successes in the development of trade with Africa and the increased investments into the continent, much still needs to be done. Russia lags far behind China and the West in terms of its economic penetration into Africa. It will take at least a decade of diligent work on the development of trade and economic ties with African countries – not to “catch up” with these other countries, but to at least slightly reduce the trade volume gap. An important part of this work is to create new intergovernmental commissions and business councils with those African countries that do not currently have such cooperation formats and to step up work with those countries that do.

Military and Technical Cooperation

In recent years, Russia has signed agreements on military and technical cooperation, security cooperation and fighting terrorism with a number of African countries.

At the Russia–Africa Economic Forum in June 2019, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Sergey Lavrov noted that “Russia, both through bilateral channels and as part of the UN Security Council, continues to support its African friends in the fight against terrorism, crime and other cross-border threats. We are making a contribution to the efforts to resolve crises and conflicts on the African continent on the basis of the principle of ‘African solutions to African problems’ formulated by the African Union.”

Russia also provides humanitarian assistance to those African countries that have been affected by crises or military conflicts, or which have suffered natural disasters or pandemics. African personnel undergo training at Russian educational institutions under the umbrella of the Ministry of Defence, the law enforcement agencies and the security services, and as part of peacekeeping missions. The training programs are fully paid by the Russian budget.

Russia has traditionally played an important role in the African arms market. Russian arms shipments to Africa have increased in recent years, despite fierce competition from other external players and western sanctions. This is largely due to the successes of the Russian Aerospace Forces’ operations in Syria, as well as the numerous joint military exercises and Moscow’s large expositions at international military forums, where it typically unveils its new products.

The 2019 edition of the annual International Military and Technical Forum “ARMY” was held in June of this year. One of the main tasks of the Forum is to expand Russia’s military and technical cooperation with other countries. The number of delegations from Africa attending the Forum every year keeps rising. This is where new contracts for the supply of Russian weapons and agreements on the military, technical and security cooperation are often signed. Russia signed military cooperation agreements with Burundi, Burkina Faso, and Botswana at the ARMY 2018 Forum.

In September 2018, Director of the Federal Service for Military and Technical Cooperation Dmitry Shugaev noted that Russia cooperates in the military and technical sphere with over 40 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Africa is a priority for Russia in this area, as the Soviet Union delivered a significant number of weapons and military equipment to the continent in the 1960s to the 1980s, much of which remains to this day. Many specialists trained in the Soviet Union and Russia are still serving in the armies of African countries. Because of this, many African countries are interested in renovating and upgrading existing Russian- and Soviet-made military equipment. Russia provides all kinds of assistance in this area, and also helps training personnel to operate the equipment. However, Russia’s African partners are also interested in new models of Russian military equipment and weapons.

According to Rosoboronexport, Russia is the leading arms supplier of sub-Saharan countries (30 percent of all arms supplies in 2011–2015).

In early 2019, Rosoboronexport announced that Russian enterprises that are involved in military and technical cooperation had planned a number of important projects with African countries for a year in advance, which is why the year earned the title “the year of Africa.”

In January 2019, for example, Rosoboronexport took part in the Shield Africa International Security and Defence exhibition in Cote d’Ivoire. The company introduced a wide range of weapons and military equipment for counterterrorism and police special operations.

Russia mainly supplies missile and artillery weapons, small arms and automotive equipment to African countries. The most in-demand military equipment in sub-Saharan Africa includes Mi helicopters; Sukhoi and MiG planes; and Pantsir-C1, Kornet-E and Tor-M2E missile defense systems; as well as tanks, armored personnel carriers and small arms.

Russia also offers its African partners a wide range of surveillance and monitoring equipment, including unmanned aerial vehicles and radar locators used primarily to protect borders and critical facilities.

Russian Know-How and “Soft Power”

For Africa, it is important to develop cooperation with foreign partners who are willing to share new technologies, as well as to deliver these technologies and implement them on the African continent, thus promoting industrial and human development. Russia, of course, has the know-how and is ready to share this knowledge with its African partners, if they are interested (for example, peaceful atom technologies, medical technologies, etc.).

The most important event in this respect was the presentation delivered by Russian scientists at an international conference (July 2019) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo of the latest vaccine against the Ebola virus, which “differs significantly from its current western alternatives thanks to its safety, the absence of side effects, and the ease of storage, transportation and use. And, most importantly, it provides effective immunity against this deadly infection.”

Russia can offer to its African partners such services as expert reviews during the construction of nuclear power plants and other infrastructural facilities (hydroelectric power stations, light industry facilities, agricultural raw materials processing factories), oil refining and pipeline construction technologies, and the development of the space industry (in particular, launching satellites in African countries).

The Russian side held negotiations with Sudan when it was still under the rule of President Omar al-Bashir on the construction of a desalination plant at the site of a nuclear facility (know-how that only Russia possesses). The project may be of interest to other African nations.

Russia seeks to share its scientific and cultural achievements with the African people and boost the prestige of the Russian language on the continent. In September 2018, the Federal Agency for the Commonwealth of Independent States, Compatriots Living Abroad, and International Humanitarian Cooperation (Rossotrudnichestvo) unveiled plans to open new Russian Science and Culture Centres (RSCC) in Africa. Rossotrudnichestvo currently has cultural centres in Egypt, Zambia, the Republic of the Congo, Morocco, Tanzania, Tunisia and Ethiopia, as well as a representative working in the Russian Embassy in South Africa. Deputy Head of Rossotrudnichestvo Alexander Radkov pointed out that the African people are showing an increasing interest in receiving an education in Russia and learning the Russian language. In 2019, Russian universities received almost 30,000 applications from citizens of African countries, even though the quota for free places is just 1819.

Interparliamentary ties between Russia and Africa are developing, as the Russia–Africa parliamentary conference in July 2019 proved.

Multilateral cooperation

Russia seeks to build active and fruitful cooperation with African countries in a multilateral format. What this means, first and foremost, is strengthening interaction with the African Union and other regional integration associations on the continent.

In June 2018, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Sergey Lavrov announced during his visit to Rwanda that Russia and the African Union were working on a political framework document that would lay the conceptual foundations for cooperation in the coming years.

One of the tasks is to deepen trade and economic cooperation between the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and African Union countries. It is known that the President of the Russian Federation has invited the Eurasian Economic Commission to take part in the Russia–Africa Summit in Sochi this coming October and has voiced his support for the planned signing of a memorandum of cooperation between the Eurasian Economic Commission and the African Union.

It is also important to strengthen cooperation with African countries at the United Nations, as African countries make up a significant and influential part of that organization. This could help garner support for Russia’s stance on various issues on the international agenda.

Russia is also strengthening its political interaction with African countries in the BRICS format. Even though South Africa is currently the only African country in this association, representatives from several African nations regularly attend the group’s summits as guests and observers. The possibility of including other African countries in the association are being discussed.

The upcoming inaugural Russia–Africa Summit in Sochi should play a significant role in strengthening multilateral cooperation between Russia and various African countries. Leaders of all African countries, as well as the heads of major sub-regional associations and organizations have been invited to the event. Russia and the African Union countries are expected to sign a political declaration on Russia–Africa cooperation after the Summit is over.

Russia and other external players on the African continent: the prospects for competition and cooperation

Russian and Western experts agree that a new “battle for Africa” is currently unfolding, with the main participants being the United States, China and the European Union (both as a bloc of states and as individual countries). Secondary players in this battle include Brazil, India, Turkey, Iran, South Korea and the Persian Gulf states

It would seem that Russia, which has repeatedly emphasized its willingness to work with its partners in Africa, has no interest in taking part in any kind of “battle.” Unfortunately, the reality is that, at the current stage of history, there is serious competition in many areas among external players on the African continent.

Africa’s partners in the west are concerned about the increased interaction between the continent’s countries and Russia, even though Russia is far behind almost all of the above-mentioned countries in terms of trade and economic cooperation with Africa. What is more, Russia does not have the same financial and economic capabilities as China, for instance, when it comes to implementing its policies on the African continent.

Three key points should be kept in mind here:

— Almost all African countries try to pursue a multi-vector foreign policy, one that allows them to be flexible in their interactions with those external players which provide the most attractive conditions for cooperation.

— Russia has exactly the same right as other international actors to develop relations with African partners. Unfortunately, far from everyone outside of Russia agrees.

— African countries have the sovereign right to offer cooperation to, and develop cooperation with, Russia, regardless of what their other foreign economic partners think about it.

I believe that Russia could cooperate with other African countries on various projects, but this requires practical interest and goodwill. These countries have shown a certain amount of interest, although it is thus far unclear how this interest can be transformed into practical actions.

In conclusion, we should note that the needs of Africa in terms of human development, building new infrastructure, industrial development and job creation are so great that the combined efforts of all external partners are both encouraged and welcomed. There is plenty of work for all interested parties. There is no need for a “battle,” rather, a strategic vision and a readiness to negotiate are required.

Russia is simply following its course, seeking to strengthen its traditionally friendly ties with Africa. The upcoming Russia–Africa Summit will define the priorities of Russia’s policy in Africa more clearly, including in the eyes of Russia’s partners in the west, and may lay the foundations for new talks and debates on the possibilities of cooperation on the African continent.

From our partner RIAC

Ph.D. (Hist.), Senior Research Fellow, Research Fellow of the Center for Development and Security Studies, Faculty of World Politics, Moscow State University

Africa

West Africa: Extreme poverty rises nearly 3 per cent due to COVID-19

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Food insecurity is affecting millions of people in Burkina Faso. © UNICEF/Vincent Treameau

Extreme poverty in West Africa rose by nearly three per cent in 2020, another fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, a UN-backed report launched on Thursday that looks at the socio-impact of the crisis has revealed. 

The proportion of people living on less than $1.90 a day jumped from 2.3 per cent last year to 2.9 per cent in 2021, while the debt burden of countries increased amid slow economic recovery, shrinking fiscal space and weak resource mobilization. 

More than 25 million across the region are struggling to meet their basic food needs. 

Gains annihilated 

The study was published by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), in partnership with the West Africa Sub-Regional Office for the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and the World Food Programme (WFP). 

Sekou Sangare, the ECOWAS Commissioner for Agriculture, Environment and Water resources, said the pandemic has, in particular, annihilated benefits gained in fighting food insecurity and malnutrition. 

“Even if we are happy with the governments’ response through the mitigation actions they have taken, we have to worry about the residual effects of the health and economic crisis as they are likely to continue disturbing our food systems for a long time while compromising populations access to food, due to multiple factors,” he said

The report highlights the effects of measures aimed at preventing coronavirus spread, such as border closures, movement restrictions and disruption of supply chains. 

Forced to sell 

These measures had an impact on income-generating activities, and on food prices in markets, with small traders, street vendors and casual workers most affected. 

The deteriorating economic situation has adversely affected food security and nutrition in West Africa.  

More than 25 million people are unable to meet their basic food needs, a nearly 35 per cent increase compared to 2020. People have been forced to sell their assets and livelihoods in order to get enough to eat. 

The situation is most severe in those areas affected by conflict, such as the Lake Chad Basin region, the Sahel, and the Liptako-Gourma region, which borders Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger. 

Strengthen social protection 

The partners hope the report will encourage public and private response to address the pandemic’s negative impacts on the people of West Africa. 

Chris Nikoi, WFP’s Regional Director for West Africa, underscored the need for immediate and concerted action. 

“This report clearly shows the urgent need for Governments and partners to deliberately increase investments to strengthen and increase social protection programs, social safety-nets such as school meals, and other livelihoods-enhancing programs with particular emphasis on women and youth,” he said. 

The Director of the ECA’s Sub-Regional Office, Ngone Diop, pointed to one of the strengths of the partnership, namely the ability to carry out an online survey which mobilized nearly 8,000 respondents. 

Moreover, she said “basing our analyses on primary, first-hand data from households directly impacted by the health crisis makes it possible to offer decision-makers at the regional and national levels with relevant and better-targeted policy options.” 

Responding to needs 

Since the outbreak of the pandemic nearly three years ago, ECOWAS and its partners have implemented several economic and financial measures to respond to the increasing needs in the region.  

ECOWAS Member States, with support from WFP and other technical partners, have also expanded social protection programmes, as well as food distributions, for the most vulnerable communities.  

For example, In Mali and Niger, they are supporting some 1.4 million people and helping to strengthen national social protection systems. 

“WFP is committed to engage more with ECOWAS in enhancing coordination and facilitating experience sharing among countries, with the aim to ensure social protection systems in the region support food security and nutrition and provide resilience to shocks,” said Mr. Nikoi. 

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Pragmatic Proposals to Optimize Russia’s Pledged Rehabilitation of Ethiopia

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A girl stands outside her home in the Tigray Region, Ethiopia. © UNICEF/Tanya Bindra

Russian Ambassador to Ethiopia Evgeny Terekhin pledged that his homeland will help rehabilitate his hosts after getting a clearer understanding of the full extent of the damage that the terrorist-designated Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) inflicted on the northern part of the country throughout the course of its approximately half-year-long occupation of the Afar and Amhara Regions. China’s Xinhua recently cited official Ethiopian government statistics about this which claim that the Amhara Region suffered damages upwards of approximately $5.7 billion.

According to their data, the TPLF partially or fully damaged 1,466 health facilities and vandalized water, electricity, and transport infrastructure. 1.9 million children are out of school in that region after more than 4,000 schools were damaged by the group. Over 1.8 million people were displaced from the Afar and Amhara Regions while 8.3 million there are suffering from food insecurity. The scale of this humanitarian crisis is massive and the direct result of the US-led West’s Hybrid War on Ethiopia that was waged to punish the country for its balanced foreign policy between the US and China.

It’s here where Russia can rely on its recent experiences in helping to rehabilitate Syria and the Central African Republic (CAR) in order to optimize its pledged rehabilitation of Ethiopian. Those two countries are much more war-torn than Ethiopia is, the latter of which only saw fighting in its northern regions instead of the entirety of its territory like the prior two did. The most urgent task is to ensure security in the liberated areas, which can be advanced by summer 2021’s military cooperation agreement between Russia and Ethiopia.

This pact could potentially see Russia sharing more details of its earlier mentioned experiences in order to enhance the Ethiopian National Defense Force’s (ENDF) security and stabilization operations in the northern part of the country. Syria and the CAR survived very intense Hybrid Wars that utilized cutting-edge military tactics and strategies against them similar to those that were subsequently directed against Ethiopia by the TPLF. It would help the ENDF to learn more about the challenges connected to ensuring security in areas that have been liberated from such contemporary Hybrid War forces.

The next order of business is to help the many victims of that country’s humanitarian crisis. Russia’s experience with assisting Syria in this respect, which suffered one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises in decades, can be of use to Ethiopia. This is especially the case when it comes to aiding its internally displaced people. Their immediate needs must be met and maintained, which might require urgent support from that country’s trusted partners such as Russia. Provisioning such in an effective and timely manner can also improve Russia’s international reputation too, especially among Africans.

Northern Ethiopia’s post-war rehabilitation must be comprehensive and sustainable. The country’s Medemer philosophy — which has been translated as “coming together” – will form the basis of these efforts. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed touched upon this in his 2019 Nobel Peace Prize speech and his book of the same name that was released earlier that year. Its English translation hasn’t yet been published but Medemer was explained at length by high-level Ethiopian officials during an early 2020 US Institute of Peace panel talk and in Ethiopian writer Linda Yohannes’ insightful book review.

An oversimplification of it in the economic context is that Medemer preaches the need for comprehensive, inclusive, and sustainable growth through public-private and other partnerships that bring prosperity to all of its people, which in turn strengthens socio-political relations between them. It seeks to apply positive aspects of foreign models while avoiding the bad ones. The Medemer mentality aspires to balance cooperation with competition, constantly improving itself as needed, in order to synchronize and synergize Ethiopia’s natural economic advantages in people, location, and resources.

In practice, this could see Russian public and private companies partnering with Ethiopia’s primarily public ones to rehabilitate the northern regions’ damaged infrastructure. Since sustainable growth is one of Medemer’s key concepts, the country’s Russian partners could also train more laborers, social workers, teachers, and doctors throughout the course of these projects while offering scholarships to some internally displaced youth for example. In that way, Russia and Ethiopia could truly embody the Medemer spirit by literally bringing their people closer together as a result of these noble efforts.

All the while, Russia’s international media flagships of RT and Sputnik should be active on the ground documenting the entire experience. The immense influence that Moscow has in shaping global perceptions can be put to positive use in exposing the foreign-backed TPLF’s countless crimes against humanity in northern Ethiopia. This can powerfully counteract the US-led West’s information warfare campaign against its government, which misportrays the TPLF as innocent victims of the “genocidal” ENDF, exactly as similar Russian media efforts have done in debunking Western lies against Syria.

The world wouldn’t only benefit by learning more about the US-led West’s lies against Ethiopia, but also in seeing how effectively Russia is working to reverse the damage that their TPLF proxies inflicted in the northern part of that country. Russia is also a victim of their information warfare campaign, which misportrays the Kremlin as a dangerous and irresponsible international actor. The truth, however, is that Russia is a peaceful and responsible international actor that has a documented track record of cleaning up the West’s Hybrid War messes in Syria, the CAR, and prospectively soon even Ethiopia too.

Upon taking the lead in rehabilitating northern Ethiopia, Russia should diversify the stakeholders in that country’s prosperity in coordination with its hosts. It’s in Ethiopia’s interests as well to receive assistance from as many responsible and trusted partners as possible. Russia can help by requesting that relevant aid and multilateral rehabilitation efforts be placed on the agenda of the proposed heads of state meeting between the Russian, Indian, and Chinese (RIC) leaders that presidential aide Yury Ushakov said was discussed for early 2022 during President Putin’s latest video call with President Xi in December.

The RIC countries stood with in solidarity with Ethiopia at the United Nations in the face of the US-led West’s subversive attempts to weaponize international law against it. They’re strong economies in their own right, not to mention through their cooperation via BRICS and the SCO, the latter organization of which also has anti-terrorist and other security dimensions. These two multipolar platforms could potentially be used to extend economic, financial, humanitarian, and security cooperation to their Ethiopian partner to complement bilateral and trilateral efforts in this respect.

Russia’s increasingly strategic ties with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) could also lead to Moscow working more closely with Abu Dhabi on related rehabilitation matters with their shared partners in Addis Ababa. Observers shouldn’t forget that Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed (MBZ) played a crucial role in brokering peace between Ethiopia and Eritrea in 2018. He even awarded their leaders his country’s highest civil honor when they both visited the UAE that summer. Furthermore, Al Jazeera alleges that the UAE has maintained a humanitarian (and possibly even military) air bridge to Ethiopia.

Regardless of whether or not the military aspect of this reported bridge is true or not, there’s no denying that the UAE has emerged as a major stakeholder in Ethiopia’s success. It deposited $1 billion in Ethiopia’s central bank in summer 2018 as part of its $3 billion aid and investment pledge at the time. The UAE also plans to build an Eritrean-Ethiopian oil pipeline in order to help the latter export its newly tapped reserves in the southeast. Additionally, DP World signed a memorandum with Ethiopia in May 2021 to build a $1 billion trade and logistics corridor to separatist Somaliland’s Berbera port.

Considering the closeness of Emirati-Ethiopian relations, it would therefore be fitting for RIC to incorporate the UAE as an equal partner into any potential multilateral plan that those countries might come up with during their proposed heads of state summit sometime in early 2022. It enjoys excellent relations with all three of them so it’s a perfect fit for complementing their shared efforts. Plus, the UAE has the available capital needed to invest in high-quality, long-term, but sometimes very expensive infrastructure projects, which can ensure northern Ethiopia’s sustainable rehabilitation.

It’s pivotal for Russia to prioritize its pledged rehabilitation of Ethiopia ahead of the second triennial Russia-Africa Summit that’s expected to take place in October or November after fall 2019’s first-ever summit saw Russia return to Africa following a nearly three-decade-long hiatus. Coincidentally, Ethiopia requested last April to hold the next event in Addis Ababa. That would be a sensible choice since its capital city hosts the African Union headquarters, has sufficient infrastructure, and can serve most of the continent through its Ethiopian Airlines, which regularly wins awards as Africa’s best airline.

The interest that Ethiopian Ambassador to Russia Alemayehu Tegunu recently expressed in courting more Russian investment ahead of the next summit goes perfectly well with Russian Ambassador to Ethiopia Terekhin’s vow to heighten cooperation between those countries’ ruling parties. This in turn raises the chances that the present piece’s proposals could hopefully serve as the blueprint for beginning relevant discussions as soon as possible on Russia’s pledged rehabilitation of Ethiopia with a view towards achieving tangible successes ahead of the next Russia-Africa Summit.

That timing is so important since Russia mustn’t miss the opportunity to showcase its bespoke “Democratic Security” model in Ethiopia. This emerging concept refers to the comprehensive thwarting of Hybrid War threats through economic, informational, military, and other tactics and strategies such as the action plan that was proposed in the present piece. “Democratic Security” approaches vary by country as evidenced from the differing ones that Russia’s practicing in Syria and the CAR, but the concept could attract many more African partners if it’s successful in Ethiopia by next fall’s summit.

Russia must therefore do everything in its power to bring this best-case scenario about. Rehabilitating Ethiopia won’t just improve millions of lives, expose the war crimes committed by the US-led West’s TPLF proxies, and enable Russia to showcase its “Democratic Security” model to other African countries, but ensure that the continent’s historical fountainhead of anti-imperialism and pan-Africanism survives its existential struggle. Upon that happening, Ethiopia can then serve to inspire a revival of these ideas all across Africa through its complementary Medemer concept and thus strengthen multipolarity.

From our partner RIAC

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Decade of Sahel conflict leaves 2.5 million people displaced

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Two displaced women sit at a camp in Awaradi, Niger. © UNOCHA/Eve Sabbagh

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) called on Friday for concerted international action to end armed conflict in Africa’s central Sahel region, which has forced more than 2.5 million people to flee their homes in the last decade.

Speaking to journalists in Geneva, the agency’s spokesperson, Boris Cheshirkov, informed that internal displacement has increased tenfold since 2013, going from 217,000 to a staggering 2.1 million by late last year.

The number of refugees in Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger now stands at 410,000, and the majority comes from Mali, where major civil conflict erupted in 2012, leading to a failed coup and an on-going extremist insurgency.

Increase in one year

Just last year, a surge in violent attacks across the region displaced nearly 500,000 people (figures for December still pending).

According to estimates from UN partners, armed groups carried out more than 800 deadly attacks in 2021. 

This violence uprooted some 450,000 people within their countries and forced a further 36,000 to flee into a neighbouring country.

In Burkina Faso alone, the total number of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) rose to more than 1.5 million by the end of the year. Six in ten of the Sahel’s displaced are now from this country.

In Niger, the number of IDPs in the regions of Tillabéri and Tahoua has increased by 53 per cent in the last 12 months. In Mali, more than 400,000 people are displaced internally, representing a 30 per cent increase from the previous year.

Climate, humanitarian crisis

Meanwhile, the humanitarian situation is rapidly deteriorating with crises on multiple fronts.

Insecurity is the main driver, made worse by extreme poverty, and the COVID-19 pandemic. The effects of the climate crisis are also felt more strongly in the region, with temperatures rising 1.5 times faster than the global average.

Women and children are often the worst affected and disproportionately exposed to extreme vulnerability and the threat of gender-based violence.

According to the UNHCR spokesperson, “host communities have continued to show resilience and solidarity in welcoming displaced families, despite their own scant resources.”

He also said that Government authorities have demonstrated “unwavering commitment” to assisting the displaced, but they are now “buckling under increasing pressure.”

Bold response

UNHCR and humanitarian partners face mounting challenges to deliver assistance, and continue to be the target of road attacks, ambushes, and carjacking.

In this context, the agency is calling on the international community to take “bold action and spare no effort” in supporting these countries.

UNHCR is also leading the joint efforts of UN agencies and NGOs to provide emergency shelter, manage displacement sites and deliver vital protection services, including combating gender-based violence and improving access to civil documentation.

In 2021, more than a third of the agency’s Central Sahel funding needs were unmet.

This year, to mount an effective response in Burkina Faso, Niger and Mali, the agency needs $307 million.

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For decades, the Kurdish problem was overshadowed by the Palestinian one, occasionally popping up in international media reports following the...

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