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Neck and Neck: Ankara and Moscow in the New ‘Race for Africa’

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As emerging powers in the international system, Turkey and Russia are frequently in strict competition for influence in global affairs. This same competition extends to the African continent. From the Horn of Africa to Libya, Russia and Turkey are vying for increased resource trade, fighting for new consumer markets, and searching for influence as “partners” with African nations.

In the renewed concourse for Africa, these two powers have sought to augment their position in regional resource and energy markets, making use of the continent’s strategic military value in establishing government-level partnerships, holding military exchanges with local powers, and negotiating the establishment of military installations along the Mediterranean Sea, Indian and Atlantic Ocean.

Russia and Turkey have much to fight over in the new ‘race for Africa’ — however, there are important instances of cooperation and aligned interests which may bridge the gap between Ankara and Moscow. These vectors of mutual interest may create synergetic, multi-level gains, both for Russia and Turkey, as well as African countries. Through established political, economic, and ties between Russia and Turkey, both nationwide and regionally, and shared perspectives between the Turkish and Russian central governments on the creation of a multipolar world, the two countries may find commonalities and even points of partnership in Africa. Particularly in Libya, where energy, defense, and foreign policy objectives of Turkey and Russia possess quite similar ambitions. The result could spell increased options for African governments seeking new partners.

Competition: two powers, running a different race

When analyzing the role of Russia and the role of Turkey in the new race for Africa, it appears the two powers have markedly different approaches for how to cross the “finish line”, with that finish line being garnering influence, the capture of consumer markets, and the control over valuable resources from diamonds to bauxite and uranium ore.

Based on the content of strategic partnerships, publicized trade deals, and senior-level summits and meetings between African Heads of State and their Russian or Turkish counterparts, two observations become apparent: (1) Turkey has been pursuing an African strategy far longer than Russia; and (2) this strategy is far more varied than the one employed by the Russian Federation – which – although it holds similar symbolic qualities (e.g., the holding of grand summits, frequent state visits, and the public instrumentalization of strategic partnership agreements) it largely centers around a few select fields of interest for which Russia holds a strategic advantage. These fields of interest include: the extraction of natural resources such as diamonds in Zimbabwe, the installation of nuclear power plants in Egypt and South Africa by RosAtom, the processing of oil resources in the Al Sahara oil fields in Libya by Taftneft, and the supply of arms and security services in Mali, Nigeria, the Central African Republic, and Angola by Rosoboronexport and other organizations involved in the Russian security-supply market.

To this end, Russia is strategic in its diplomatic as well economic outreach in Africa – primarily focusing on the best partners to enhance points of business as well as political-military interest for Russia. This is exemplified by the signing of strategic partnerships with Mali in 2021, the military cooperation agreement between Russia and Nigeria in 2021, and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s various tours to select countries (e.g., South Africa, Zimbabwe, Angola, and Egypt) over the past decade to build better relations with these key partners. These activities fit Russia’s strategic advantages in resource extraction, energy development, and arms sales and security provision. However, Russian grasps at influence in the continent have begun to expand in recent years – including the expansion of media outlet RT in Mali, Congo, and the Central African Republic, as well as the growing importance placed on Russia-Africa summits in Sochi, Moscow, and St. Petersburg over the last eight years.

Meanwhile, Turkey’s strategy in Africa is more diverse and has benefitted from a sizeable head start over Russia. Beginning in 2005 after the announcement of “the year of Africa” by the Turkish central government, Turkey has pursued a “Neo-Ottoman” vision in its outreach in Africa. This vision has drawn from practical political, economic, and diplomatic ties, as well as more ephemeral cultural and religious ties with Africa that draw on both the Ottoman Empire’s activities in Northern and Saharan Africa and a shared Muslim identity with modern African states, such as Mali, Somalia, and Libya. The former political, economic, and diplomatic ties cover much of the same bases as Russia’s activities across Africa. Like Russia, Turkey employs strategic partnership agreements – for example, with the GNA in Libya and the authorities in Somalia. However, Turkey has also achieved sizeable public opinion successes in Africa as it expands its development aid presence in Africa. From the creation of the Dakar-Blaise Diagne airport rail line in Dakar, Senegal and education scholarships for over 15,000 students since 1992 to development and military aid to countries like Libya, Somalia, and elsewhere, Turkish activity across the continent appears far more varied than Russia in Africa.

The Turkish development agency (TIKA) has transferred 1 billion dollars to African countries in the past few years, while Turkish foreign direct investment (FDI) in Africa reached over 10 billion and trade volume with African countries hit 26 billion in 2021. Ankara can also boist having 37 embassies across Africa and AU observer status. These figures are “neck and neck” with Russian economic, political, and diplomatic capabilities across the region, as Russia only holds 51 active embassies in Africa, has reached a trade volume of 20 billion dollars in 2021, and largely confined its development aid and investment across the continent to emergency food relief and the forgiveness of Soviet Era debts for the purchase of African arms before the end of the Cold War.

Although they be “neck and neck” across various concourses in the new race for Africa, perhaps there is room for cooperation, and possibly, to relay common interests into a net gain for Russia, Turkey, and their African partners.

Turkey: A Neo-Ottoman vision

Much like Turkey’s larger foreign policy goals in global affairs, Turkish activity in Africa aligns itself with a reoccurring construct in Turkey’s foreign policy: Neo-Ottomanism. Although Neo-Ottomanism is not codified in Turkey’s foreign policy doctrine it is resonated in statements by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and other senior-level officials. The gist of this concept is to re-establish Turkey’s role as a center of cultural, religious, political, economic, and military center of power in an increasingly multipolar world where influence in regions of key strategic interest (e.g., the Middle East and North Africa, the Mediterranean, Turkic countries in Central Asia, and larger Africa). This Neo-Ottoman vision guides Turkish foreign policy and connects itself with the established Turkish foreign and military policy concept of the “blue homeland” – or “Mavi Vatan” – which intensifies maritime transit and gas exploration and exploitation issues across the Mediterranean from Israel to Libya.

In Africa, this Neo-Ottoman vision feeds into Turkey’s loosening secularism and state-sponsorship of Muslim initiatives as well as Ottoman-Era ties to the continent through the empire’s regional holdings in Egypt, Libya, Algeria, and Eritrea. To many observers, President Erdogan’s recent political adaptation of Islam at home is extending itself to Turkish foreign policy abroad, building ties with Muslim majority countries that share commonalities with Turkish Islam – and more importantly – have strategic practical value to Turkey. Such as Libya and others countries.

Russia: A Western spoiler

As outlined in A.K. Bobrov’s “The Russian Foreign Policy Concept of 2016” – Russia engages in activities across the world, both in its strategic military, political, and economic self-interest, but also to act as a spoiler to the West – and most specifically – the United States. Equally, as part of the Russian foreign policy concept of 2016, is the imperative placed on the creation of a multipolar world order where in which the Russian Federation is a center (or pole) of power. And although A.K. Bobrov highlights that the 2016 foreign policy concept dedicates little attention to Africa in comparison to other regions and relationships, the tendency has changed over the course of the last six-years with increased summits, agreements, and state-visits between African countries and Russia.

Regarding Russia-Africa relations, Russia has reanimated its relationships with African partners that collaborated with the Soviet Union during the Cold War or whose modern-day elite were educated in Russian universities like RUDN. For example, in Congo, South Africa, the CAR, and most recently, Mali. In this vein, Russia has upset power balances and monopolies on power controlled by France and the United States – albeit usually in pockets isolated to Russia’s strategic advantage in providing packaged arms, energy development, and resource extraction deals to African governments ostracized by Western governments for human rights abuses or dictatorial behavior.

Cooperation to Contention

Russia and Turkey are both acting in their enlightened self-interest by portraying themselves as “partners” with African countries, which can mutually benefit from relations with either nation. Both Russia and Turkey are seeking to establish footholds in Africa and in the international arena as credible emerging powers, and in doing so, destabilizing a fragmenting monopolar world with the U.S. and E.U. at its helm, or even conflictual bipolar world with competition between the U.S./E.U. and China. Inevitably making way for more room at the table for emerging powers like Russia, India, and Brazil.

On a foundational level, this may breed competition or cooperation between Russia and Turkey as the two seek global preeminence in international affairs as well as conflicts. Currently, there are sparks of competition and conflict over the situation in Ukraine but also cooperation as Turkey hosts negotiations between the parties involved. In the Nagorno-Karabakh crisis in 2019, the two powers settled on a peace and monitoring mission agreement between Armenia and Azerbaijan – although entering conflictual and competitive waters in the early days of that crisis.

In Africa, Russia and Turkey have ameliorated their efforts in the region. However, it will be much to no avail as the two powers stagger behind established powers like the EU, U.S., and China in the new race for Africa. Going forward, Turkey and Russia may be able to find more points of commonality.

For one, Russia playing its “Muslim card” (such as indirectly involving Tatarstan as a region close enough to Turkey’s culture) could prove to be a powerbroker for new deals between Russia and Turkey in Africa. This can extend to shoring up common points of interest in Libya, where Russia and Turkey seek to re-establish economic ties and remove other nations such as the UAE or the U.S. from advancing their interests in the region. Similarly, this can be a beachhead for better relations with Turkey in its mission in Djibouti and Somalia. Possibly allowing Russia to establish military operations, joint arms deals, and other diplomatic, political, and military exchanges along Africa’s Indian Ocean coastline.

Cooperation: different races, similar finish lines

No one knows where the new race for Africa will lead, who will be the inevitable victors, or where it will leave Africa in the end. And although certain articles cite Russian interest in a new world order is a net negative for the continent, the activities of Russia, Turkey, India, and other powers on the continent, do achieve one necessary object required for not only African development but international development though – diversification of options. Operating in different spheres, overlapping in others for influence and resources, Turkey and Russia may find more in common as emerging powers looking to establish a multipolar world vis-à-vis relations with equally emerging powers in Africa. If not, there will be avenues for tempered cooperation between Russia and Turkey across other domains, such as playing up Russia’ “Muslim card”. The result of both possibilities being the reduction of the EU’s, China’s, and U.S.’s monopoly of influence over African decision-making in the political, economic, military, and economic spheres.

From our partner RIAC

Dual M.D. in International Development and World Politics, Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO) & Sciences Po Paris, RIAC Intern

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Transforming Africa

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Authors: Srilata Kammila and Rohini Kohli, UNDP*

This year’s Africa Climate Week brings together governments and key stakeholders from across the continent to “explore resilience against climate risks, the transition to a low-emission economy and the partnerships we need to solve these pressing challenges.”

With so much at stake, it’s clear that we must make substantial investments and coordinated efforts in building transformative climate actions across Africa.

This means advancing integrated holistic solutions that connect the dots between land-use, water management, agriculture and livelihoods, between energy, natural resources, economic growth and social development, and between disaster risk reduction, climate information services and resilience. This is what we call transformative climate action.

A life-threatening crisis

We are in a race against time. And no continent is more vulnerable from the multiplying threats of climate change, poverty, conflict, displacement, and hunger than Africa.

The most recent IPCC Report indicates vast disruptions to economies, lives, food security and livelihoods across the continent. “Africa has contributed among the least to greenhouse gas emissions, yet key development sectors have already experienced widespread loss and damage attributable to anthropogenic climate change, including biodiversity loss, water shortages, reduced food production, loss of lives and reduced economic growth.”

Temperature rises between 1.5°C and 2°C are projected to become widespread, resulting in reduced food production and economic growth, increased inequality and poverty, biodiversity loss, and most concerning increased human morbidity and mortality, according to the report.

While the war in Ukraine, ongoing conflicts and COVID-19 have exacerbated these issues, climate change is pushing million more people to the brink of starvation in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, the Sahel and beyond.

It’s not just a regional problem. It’s not just an Africa problem. It’s a worldwide problem.

But the poorest and most vulnerable will be the ones that will lose their children to hunger. They are the ones that will see crops wilt on the vine as prolonged droughts scourge the continent. They are the ones on the frontlines. And we must empower local action, national action and global action to rise to the truly devastating consequences of climate change.

A pathway forward

The pathway forward starts with people, but also requires resources, political will, policies and coordination to deliver the type of transformative action we need.

UNDP is accelerating adaptation planning and investments in Africa through a number of cross-sectoral solutions across the key domains of adaptation policy and planning, resilient livelihoods, food security, ecosystem-based adaptation, water resources and coastal management, and climate information and early warnings.

In Zambia for instance, a project funded through the Green Climate Fund and delivered in partnership with the government by UNDP, FAO and WFP is building climate-resilient food security and poverty reduction measures for close to a million people. The project has introduced the use of modern technology, sustainable growing techniques, and better understanding of climate change and has already reached close to 200,000 smallholder famers.

In Uganda, we are working to protect vulnerable wetland ecosystems and build resilient communities with support for support sustainable land management practices and reforestation, resilient practices and alternative livelihoods for 4 million people that rely on the wetlands for their livelihoods.

Integrating adaptation into development

Climate risk-informed policy, planning, and investment decisions that maximize development benefits to communities are critical for transformative action on adaptation. A ‘whole-of-society’ approach calls for integration of adaptation at all levels of society from informing national and sub-national policy and budgeting to devolving finance and decision making to local stakeholders for adaptation action.

UNDP’s support to adaptation planning in over 50 countries is building capacity to assess risks and vulnerabilities, measure adaptation progress, identify adaptation priorities and works in tandem with national, sectoral and local institutions for risk informed plans and budgets.

In building united actions, a joint initiative led by FAO and UNDP with funding from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action (BMWK) through the International Climate Initiative (IKI) is scaling up climate ambition on land use and agriculture through Nationally Determined Contributions and National Adaptation Plans across 12 countries worldwide, including five in Africa.

In Uganda, the SCALA Programme is working to build the agricultural, forestry and land-use plans needed to improve production on the farm, reduce emissions, and connect climate plans and policies with climate actions like the wetlands initiative.

In its updated Nationally Determined Contribution to the Paris Agreement, Côte d’Ivoire committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 30.41% by 2030 relative to business as usual, or 98.95% with international support. The country has also committed to increasing resilience in agriculture, food and land use, water, health, and coastal zones. 

UNDP’s Climate Promise along with various supports for National Adaptation Plans are supporting the country in delivering on these goals.

As the world’s largest cocoa bean exporter, the SCALA programme in Côte d’Ivoire is building a more resilient cocoa culture to ultimately lower emissions from cocoa production, which has been a major cause of deforestation over the last decade. As the country shifts towards more sustainable agroforestry landscape practices – more forests coverage will help absorb more carbon emissions

Africa driven solutions and partnerships

Locally-led adaptation initiatives connected with globally minded partnerships are key. At the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP) in December 2015, African Heads of State launched the Africa Adaptation Initiative (AAI) to ensure the continent urgently adapts to the adverse effects of climate change in the immediate, short, medium and longer terms. With funding from the European Union and support from UNDP, the programme is enhancing capacity to utilize climate risk information and assess and implement risk transfer mechanisms.

Launched at the Climate Adaptation Summit in January 2021, the Adaptation Innovation Marketplace (AIM) is a another strategic global platform that promotes scaled-up adaptation at the local level, focusing on civil society, non-government organizations, and women and youth innovators. The marketplace crowds in resources, know-how and support to facilitate local access to climate change finance.

The AIM partners include UNDP, the International Centre for Climate Change and Development, the Least Developed Countries Universities Consortium on Climate Change, the Global Resilience Partnership, the Climate-Knowledge Innovation Community, and UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF).

Currently, there are multiple funding windows under AIM. One funding window supported by the Adaptation Fund and EU (Adaptation Fund Climate Innovation Accelerator) has recently concluded the first round of call for proposals, and seven local partners from Africa were selected for the first round of funding.

In Ghana, the local partner Open Ghana aims to create alternative livelihoods for women, youth and persons with disabilities by establishing dry season gardens across multiple regions. Local community members will be trained on climate change adaptation, and several village savings and loans associations will be formed to develop sustainable business modules using the second-season-cropping production.

In Uganda, our local partner Sample Uganda Aquaculture Association is introducing aquaponics technology through an innovative lease-to-own model to promote aquaponics and horticulture related production, including nursery propagation.

These locally led adaptation solutions with sustainable business models are going to be key for transforming the adaptation practice in Africa.

Investing today for a better tomorrow

Investments in adaptation provide a significant return on investment. It’s good for business, it’s good for our planet, it’s good for our people.

The Global Commission on Adaptation found that investing US$1.8 trillion globally in five areas – early warning systems, climate-resilient infrastructure, improved dryland agriculture, mangrove protection and resilient water resources – from 2020 to 2030 could generate US$7.1 trillion in total net benefits.

There is a rapidly narrowing window of opportunity to enable climate-resilient development and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Paris targets. Global leaders must step up to support UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ call to apply 50% of all climate finance for adaptation and adhere to the commitments at COP26 in Glasgow, which called for doubling adaptation finance from US$20 billion to US$40 billion per year, a larger proportion of which is urgently needed for Africa.

Transformation is possible and there is hope with initiatives like the Great Green Wall, low-emission, high-growth strategies in Nigeria, and ground-up initiatives led by women farmers in Ghana will build equality today for a sustainable tomorrow.

Throughout it all, the leaders of Africa must commit to transformative climate actions and coordinated approaches to protect the most vulnerable communities from the unfolding and ever-increasing risks and impacts of climate change

Srilata Kammila

Srilata Kammila is the Head of Climate Change Adaptation at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). This position sits in UNDP’s Nature, Climate and Energy Team in UNDP’s Bureau for Policy and Programme Support/Global Policy Network.

Rohini Kohli

Rohini Kohli is the Senior Technical Advisor for Adaptation Policy and Planning in  UNDP’s Nature, Climate and Energy Team.

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Russia Scrambles for Higher Performance Marks in Africa

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Squeezed between Western and European sanctions due to its “special military operation” in Ukraine since late February and its dilapidating effects on Africa’s economy on one side and its decades-old desire to regain part of the Soviet-era influence despite the weak economic presence and negative perceptions at the core among the public especially the youth and middle class, Russia is gearing up for the next traditional African leaders summit. 

With preparations underway, Russia would have to begin preparing for and play different attractive rhythms at the second African leaders summit in 2023 at St. Petersburg, Russia. Reports monitored by the author indicate that the modest economic gains are gradually eroding due to Covid-19 these past two years and the situation is turning complicated currently due to the Russia-Ukraine crisis. The Russia-Ukraine crisis has a strong immeasurable negative impact, generating social discontent across large spectrum of the population in Africa. Therefore, African leaders would indiscriminately have cooperate with any foreign investors willing to invest and support their development process. Across Africa, more than 282 million people are food insecured – and that number is rising, according to the estimates by the World Bank. 

Throughout Africa, many across the population are displaying discontention and dissatisfaction due to unbearable rising prices for commodities and consumables. This latest food crisis, which did not originate in the continent, is reaching alarming dimensions especially in Africa. In fact, African leaders are confronted with these hurdles and emerging challenges. They are feverishly looking for both short-term solutions to calm down existing tensions among the people, and also long-term strategies to push sustainable development and make pace for growth.

The United States percieves most of the challenges and opportunities with a difference in Africa. It is constantly investing and its private investors are active exploring the continent. The United States is well-connected with its public outreach diplomacy. American institutions and organizations are linking up with the youth, women and the civil society.

After a peak in 2014, foreign direct investment (FDI) in Africa from the United States dropped to US$47.5 billion in 2020. During the pandemic, it provided more than 50 million doses to 43 African countries. It has further given more than US$1.9 billion in Covid-related assistance, for urgent needs like emergency food and other humanitarian support.

President Joe Biden has launched the Emergency Plan for Adaptation and Resilience. The year, the Congress allocated US$3 billion every year by 2024 to finance climate adaptation projects, the largest commitment ever made by the United States to reduce the impact of climate change on those most endangered by it. Through the Power Africa programme, the U.S. has connected more than 25 million homes and businesses across the continent to electricity, 80 percent of which is based on renewables. Development Finance Corporation supports renewable energy across Africa, including a solar project in Nigeria, wind farms in Senegal and Kenya. Nigeria marked a new chapter with the signing of a US$2.1 billion development assistance agreement that supports collaboration in the fundamentals: in health, in education, agriculture, good governance. 

And then four U.S. companies are collaborating with the Senegalese Government on infrastructure projects; that’s the Institut Pasteur de Dakar, which is working toward COVID vaccine production with American support and investment; and pushing innivation, technology and entrepreneurship with women and youth groups in Africa.  The popular partnership between the United States and Africa is YALI – the Young African Leaders Initiative.

The Prosper Africa initiative aims to increase two-way trade and investment.  The Africa Growth and Opportunity Act – known as AGOA – provides duty-free access to American markets, and most African countries have taken full advantage of it. U.S. investors are seriously leveraging unto the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). Similarly, China, Japan and South Korea have started localizing production of automobiles and tech gadgets. 

Despite some criticism, international development institutions and organizations are ready and offering support. In addition, external countries are stepping up efforts in that direction. The World Bank stands ready. Its latest three-year, US$93 billion global programme – about 2/3 of which will support Africa’s development agenda – delivered through the International Development Association (IDA). The IDA is the world’s largest source of concessional funds, including grants for low-income countries, helping them seize opportunities to reduce poverty and stimulate inclusive growth.

This latest IDA replenishment will enable our support to Africa to increase even more in the years ahead.  Africa has become the prime region benefiting from IDA resources – growing more than tenfold its annual program of about US$3 billion in 2000 to well over US$30 billion currently. This support, plus our growing on the ground presence across Africa, is enabling us to work hand-in-hand with governments, with the private sector, and civil society to implement the continent’s ambitious development agenda.

While in Dakar, capital of Senegal, meeting more than a dozen Heads of State from across Africa, Axel van Trotsenburg, World Bank Vice President for Latin America and the Caribbean, said “African leaders have, through the African Union process, articulated clear goals – from digitalization to electricity to education – and we are committed to helping Africa translate these ambitions into strong programmes that can, within a short period of time, improve people’s lives and transform the continent.”

Foreign countries, the United States, European Union, Asian states such China, and from the Gulf and Arab states are, indeed, at the forefront in Africa. In March during the heat of Russia-Ukraine crisis, the United States and European Union supported Africa through the African Development Bank (AfDB), when the bank sought funds more than US$50 billion for curated bankable projects in key priority sectors identified in the Africa Investment Forum’s 2020 Unified Response to Covid-19 initiative.

According to the China-Africa Economic and Trade Relationship Annual Report (2021), while Covid-19 has shaken the global economy, Chinese investment in Africa has been climbing. The report says China invested US$2.96 billion in Africa in 2020, up 9.5% from 2019.  The turnover of Chinese enterprises’ contracted projects in Africa amounted to US$383.3 billion in 2020, that is a 16.7% drop from 2019.

In a media release, the U.S. Government’s lead development agency, United States Agency for International Development (USAID), has renewed its partnership with many African countries. Quiye recently, it offered to fund various projects, including investment in health and education, women and youth, and infrastructures in a number of African countries. For instance, in April this year, it gave assistance funding of US$1.5 billion to promote a more peaceful, prosperous and healthy Mozambique.

The economic significance of Eurasian Union for Africa’s development here need not be over-discussed. Members of the European Union such as Britain, France, Germany and The Netherlands are play some visible roles in Africa. The European Union, as a substantial economic power bloc, has long-term working relations with African Union.

With its new Global Gateway Strategy, the EU is demonstrating the readiness to support massive infrastructural investment in Africa.  It also seeks to unlock new business and investment opportunities, including in the areas of manufacturing and agro processing as well as regional and continental value chains development. In a document entitled “Toward a Comprehensive Strategy with Africa” – the document sets forth the template of what the EU plans to do with Africa. 

Valdis Dombrovskis, Executive Vice-President and Commissioner at the EU Secretariat pointed out that “In this new approach towards Africa, we can build a modern, sustainable and mutually rewarding partnership of equals. Of course, there will be challenges along the way but the EU stands ready to help. We want to share the lessons from our own process of economic integration, and with our new Global Gateway Strategy. We have demonstrated that we are ready to support massive infrastructural investment in Africa.”

That said, African leaders are exploring available possibilities and windows that have been opened after the last EU-Africa summit. The European Union has unveiled €300 billion (US$340 billion) alternative to China’s Belt and Road initiative – an investment programme the bloc claims will create links, not dependencies.

There great rivalry and keen competition among key global players now. And Africa is now seen from different perspectives, but more importantly, it has been described as the last investment frontier due to the current transformations taking place there. During the 35th Assembly of the Heads of State and Government of the AU in Addis Ababa in February, António Guterres argued that Africa was “a source of hope” for the world. 

In November 2021, a report prepared by 25 Russian policy experts, titled ‘Situation Analytical Report’ explicitly noted that many external countries are using diplomacy in all ways to support their efforts in Africa. It criticized the inconsistency of Russia’s current policy towards Africa. The intensification of political contacts is only with a focus on making them demonstrative. Russia’s foreign policy strategy regarding Africa needs to spell out and incorporate the development needs of African countries. 

While the number of high-level meetings has increased, the share of substantive issues on the agenda remains small. There are little definitive results from such high-level meetings. Many bilateral agreements largely remain not implemented, and many pledges undelivered. It pointed to lack of coordination among various state and para-state institutions working with Africa. According to the report, Russia has to intensify and redefine its parameters as it has now transcended to the fifth stage in its relationship with Africa.

That report was also critical about public speaking. The report lists insufficient and disorganized Russian-African lobbying, combined with the lack of “information hygiene” at all levels of public speaking among the main flaws of Russia’s current Africa policy. In several ways, ideas and intentions are often passed for results, and worse Russia’s possibilities are overestimated both publicly and in closed negotiations.

Several reports monitored by this author show clearly that there has been little approach, in terms of government and institutional public relations, in Russia’s foreign policy in Africa. This author has written a lot about this, emphasizing the seriousness of using media networks – an calculated attempt to build an atmosphere of trust and confidence. Quite obviously, Russians have to devote a great deal of thought to creating strategic communication group that could highlight its diverse performance and practical genuine interests in Africa.

Opening a new stage of relations becomes important especially when analyzing the contradictions and confrontations posed by the Russia-Ukraine crisis and its multiple effects on future relations. Without doubts, African leaders complained bitterly that they have become direct victims of the Russia-Ukraine crisis. Overall Russia’s investment in economic sectors is still staggering there in the continent and comparatively, the fact still remains that the United States, the European Union and a number of Asian and Gulf States are investing heavily in Africa.

The Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his Deputy Mikhail Bogdanov, most often show their crosshair of consistent criticism for Western and European dominance and investment in Africa. It lacks strategies for implementing those oftentimes forward-looking policy for Africa. The passion for repeating the same things in different ways in speeches. In a general sense, their repetitive theme of Soviet-era support for political liberation and now efforts to help Africa fight neocolonialism is highly appreciated but Russia has to, in practical terms, show its latest policy achievements in various sectors for the past two decades. 

On another side note, Russia most probably needs to design its template of its communication strategy ahead of the 2023 summit, that has to largely win the hearts of African leaders to the emerging New World Order. As already promised, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Sergey Lavrov, indicated in a mid-June message that “in these difficult and crucial times the strategic partnership with Africa has become a priority of Russia’s foreign policy. The signed agreements and the results will be consolidated at the forthcoming second Russia-Africa summit.” 

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Ethiopia: Without immediate funding, 750,000 refugees will have ‘nothing to eat’

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Children displaced by conflict and drought pose for a photo n Semera, Afar Region, Ethiopia. © UNICEF/UN0639245/Sewunet

UN agencies appealed on Tuesday for $73 million over the next six months to provide food rations to more than 750,000 people seeking refuge in Ethiopia.

The World Food Programme (WFP), UN refugee agency, UNHCR, and Ethiopian Government Refugees and Returnees Service (RRS) made the plea for assistance because without it, WFP will run out of food for the refugees by October.

The impending crisis will leave vulnerable families at risk of undernutrition, micronutrient deficiency, and increased susceptibility to diseases, the agencies warned

“Three quarters of a million refugees will be left with nothing to eat in just a matter of weeks unless we receive funding immediately,” said Claude Jibidar, WFP’s Representative and Country Director for Ethiopia.

Ration cuts

Cutting rations has been an issue with which WFP has long had to grapple.

Food rations for refugees in Ethiopia were first reduced by 16 per cent in November 2015, then 40 per cent in November 2021, and finally 50 per cent in June 2022.

The impact of these cuts has been heightened by global limitations on food availability, widespread economic shock, rising food and energy costs, the COVID-19 fallout, and armed conflict.

Impact of cuts

To understand the impact of ration cuts on refugees, WFP, UNHCR and RRS conducted in April, a rapid assessment on 1,215 refugee camps households throughout relevant regions.

The results show that most had coped with food insecurity by reducing the number of meals eaten in a day, consuming less expensive foods, or limiting meal portions. 

The joint assessment also revealed that households are going to desperate measures to make up for funding cuts.

Funding repercussions

Funding cuts have forced refugees to rely on an ever-finite supply of food, which increases the likelihood of resource-based conflicts.

Data shows that many families have been relying on children to generate extra income to afford food.

Other households were forced to borrow cash, relying on friends or relatives for sustenance.

“We have a shortfall of $73 million for refugees’ minimum needs and we are deeply concerned that if funding cuts continue, they may consider returning to their places of origin when it is unsafe,” warned Mr. Jibidar.

Taking action 

More resources must be mobilized to meet immediate food demands, and smart investments should be taken to prioritize sustainable farming.  

“The priority for us all must be to restore assistance to at least minimum levels for refugees, all of whom are solely reliant on WFP’s cash and food assistance for survival,” said the UN Country Director.

With an immediate donor response, WFP would be able to buy food available in the region to meet the dietary needs of the refugees and also transfer cash to the refugees, providing them the choice of how to meet their immediate needs and stimulating local markets.

Support needed

The agencies have established an effective system to identify the food assistance needs of refugees through biometric verification, accountability mechanisms and programmes to grant monthly food and cash assistance.

The trio called on all partners to strengthen efforts to address their immediate and long-term food needs in line with international commitments. 

Meanwhile, WFP, UNHCR and RRS will continue to count on donors for extended funding support based on the principle of shared responsibility to implement basic humanitarian life-saving activities.

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