Posted: 31.05.2023 09:47:00

Dark bishop move

Africa strengthens its position in the big geopolitical game, while a new window of opportunity opens for Belarus on the Dark Continent

For more than a decade, economists have been predicting an economic boom for the African continent, comparable to that experienced by Southeast Asia not so long ago. So far, the development of the continent has been held back — at first by the consequences of the Arab Spring and the fall in oil prices, later by the COVID-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, Africa’s potential is undeniable and enormous. Belarus is gradually strengthening its presence in the most promising world market. This is a global trend — to participate in the heyday of the African economy. The Belarusian motive is intertwined into the world party of interaction with the continent: Nigerian Abuja, Egyptian Cairo, Pretoria in South Africa, Kenyan Nairobi, now Zimbabwean Harare are the main strongholds of our country in Africa. What does the world need in Africa, and what does Africa expect from the world?

The President of Belarus,     Aleksandr Lukashenko,

“Africa woke up a long time ago. The world has no future without Africa. Here are resources, here people are becoming more educated every year, and here are the latest technologies. Without Africa, there can be no development… Therefore, all the powers-that-be are here: the United States, China, Russia, the UK, the entire European Union and so on. The future belongs to Africa… We came to visit friends. We negotiate with them in the name of our peoples. We are a peaceful nation. We are not coming here the way the colonialists once did. Furthermore, we are bringing technology and training specialists.”

During the talks with the Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa on January 31st, 2023

‘There are piles of gold there, and they all belong to me’

A gigantic amount of natural resources attracted colonialists from all over the world to Africa. The red rocks of Africa, its savannahs and lakes with minerals hidden in them were sawed actively, with taste and with reference to the credo of each conquistador — a collection of articles about democracy and human rights.
However, there was and is something to fight for: even today, Africa represents 30 percent of the world’s mineral reserves, 17 percent of the world’s population and six of the ten fastest growing economies in the world.
Perhaps, the most serious potential is hidden in demography: already now there are almost 1.5 billion people living in African countries (these are actually three Europes), and 1.7 billion people will live there by 2030. At the same time, the continent is still sparsely populated, especially in the interior regions. The low population density in the vast and habitable areas confirms the accuracy of the forecasts of enormous population growth in the coming decades. By 2100, 40 percent of the world’s population will be registered in Africa, and these will be predominantly young people.
The history of the colonisation of the continent began to wind down in the 20th century, including after the entry of the Soviet Union. The basis of the USSR’s policy on the continent was the support and protection of the interests of the newly independent African states. With this approach, close relationships were built with the new governments of the young African states. Since the 1960s, the Belarusian delegation, as one of the founders of the UN, has been participating in the discussion and solution of African problems. Thus, the Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid proposed by the USSR and Guinea was adopted in 1973. Actually, little has changed in the Belarusian position on the African issue since then.
It is clear that political interaction with the continent is only a gateway to entry into African economies for the world’s leading players. For the economic giants, politics runs in parallel with the global financial outlook.

Big African game

The White House clearly outlined a course to strengthen the position of American business in the markets of the continent at the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, which took place in mid-December 2022. This task has two main goals for Washington: strengthening its own economic presence and blocking Chinese expansion.
However, the traditional liberal formula of ‘investment in exchange for democratic reforms’ turned out to be strongly moved by competitors. China, for example, is investing heavily in Africa, placing a strong emphasis on social projects.
Indeed, the pragmatic Chinese offer tied loans to buy their materials and work with their contractors. But from 2000 to 2015, China invested almost $100 billion in various African countries: railways, housing, and even entire cities. At the same time, China does not require Africa to follow the manuals of this or that ideological system as the main condition for receiving money.
India has chosen a similar approach to the Soviet approach towards the continent. Initially, Delhi acted in two main ways: supporting anti-colonial liberation movements and the struggle against apartheid, as well as using ethnic Indians in Africa as a ‘soft power’. From the middle of the 20th century, India began to position itself as a representative of African developing countries in international organisations.
Russia traditionally solves two parallel tasks in its relations with African countries: the development of political co-operation based on ensuring the stability of the continent, as well as economic co-operation.
Africa as a geopolitical entity simply does not exist or the collective West, and very special opportunities open up for those who see African countries as equal partners.
Türkiye, Japan, and Brazil are now groping for their ways of working on the African market. This is why summits according to the ‘one country — all Africa’ formula are so popular in the world. The competition of world powers for the African market is reaching its climax: it is quite obvious that entering projects with the countries of the continent will begin to bring serious dividends in the early 2040s.

Belarusian approach

The competition for investment in the African economy is now such that even giant countries are concentrating on individual industries. For example, American experts admit that U.S. companies cannot compete with Chinese firms in the construction of roads and bridges. They are offered to focus on co-operation in healthcare, financial technologies and renewable energy sources. In such conditions, it is appropriate for Belarus, on the one hand, to look at Russia’s experience in building relations with the continent (fortunately, many ambassadors of African countries in the Russian Federation work part-time with our country), and on the other hand, to focus on the five main partner countries, developing both political and economic co-operation.
Belarusian Ambassador to Russia Dmitry Krutoi held about a dozen meetings with the ambassadors of African countries this year alone and sees a good response to Belarusian initiatives,
“All of Africa for us is $280 million of exports over the past year. Sure, they don’t have a big economy now, they don’t have big finances, but they have big resources and great opportunities.
In order to concentrate (we are not Russia, which, of course, works with every country out of 55 in Africa, and they, by and large, have no prioritisation), our President says: we need to work successfully and expand with those countries with which we are getting interaction and with whom we have made good progress in recent years. There are five such countries: Egypt, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Angola and Nigeria. However, this does not mean that we should concentrate only on these five countries. Therefore, of course, my task at meetings with African ambassadors is primarily the economic agenda and new projects. The projects that are now on our ‘African table’ are a classic supply of equipment, primarily agricultural. In addition, assembly productions of a small format are underway. 
Processing, classical engineering and pharmaceuticals are three areas that we could seriously promote in Africa. Moreover, if in the near future we reach $1 billion in exports to Africa, it would be very cool. Because now whoever stakes out in Africa until 2030 will then simply skim off the cream of co-operation,” Dmitry Krutoi concluded.

By Maksim Korotkin