EU-AU Summit, China and the Fresh Scramble for Africa

President El-Sisi Heads to Belgium Ahead of 6th European Union-African Union Summit (News Central TV)

Heads of states of African nations will sit with the European Union on the 17th and 18th of February to discuss relations between both continents, their current issues and what the future holds.

The sixth EU-AU Summit will hold at the seat of the European Union in the Belgian capital city, Brussels with Europe making new advances on getting through to Africa after some months of strained relationships.

Last year, France’s Emmanuel Macron announced what may potentially be the abrupt end of the Françafrique arrangement. He ordered French soldiers out of the Sahelian countries and said the relationship between both France and its colonies as a “little tired”. For many Africans, this signals freedom from the clutches of overriding French influence in Africa. 

The EU-AU Summit will bring many issues to the centre again with one of them being Europe’s renewed plans to gain a stronger grip on investment in Africa, COVID-19 and security. These investments are now widely known as a means to exert control on resources, talents and the boundless riches on the continent. Africa is seen as a property every group or nation seeking global control should have. It’s the ‘farm continent’ where they trial their inventions and policies before introducing them to the rest of the world. It’s high time this changed.

Global Gateway Or Belt And Road: Why Not Both?

Many African countries are benefiting from China’s Belt and Road Initiative as they get projects primed to improve the continent infrastructure-wise. While this means many of these nations are in bad debt situations, with policies and practices that don’t help he repayment of their loans, they lose control of their resources gradually. China has also established a direct link to Africa through the China-Africa summit.

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The infrastructural loans from China may have given Africa a cosmetic uplift and may be a brilliant idea on the long run as the infrastructure are expected to generate income but the benefits on the short run are somewhat negligible. China has established base in Africa in its quest for global dominance and the EU has seen this from a distance and will be willing to strike similar chords. Enter Global Gateway Initiative.

On paper, the European Union is a much more inflexible organisation than any other entity Africa may be dealing with currently. Its €300bn planned investment in Africa is definitely to exert influence and better control on the continent. With Russia also gradually making its way through, especially in the area of security where the Kremlin-supported Wagner is replacing French forces, the EU has identified the need to establish a strong base again.

Its investment will help African countries have more access to funds but the danger on the long run is the tendency to always have the continent’s fate controlled externally. Call it a new brand of neocolonialism and it’s not totally incorrect but Africa can be the beneficiary of this competition for the continent. Africa is the beautiful bride they all court to underline their global influence but it could be an advantage if the mindset on the continent is primed towards growth. Why can’t Africa enjoy this support, negotiate a strong resource-sharing approach and grow to what Africans desire?

Special Drawing Rights:  EU, China Battle For Influence 

Many members of the EU have frowned at the plans of the organisation to give African countries a part of the IMF’s Special Drawing Rights (SDR). The SDR is financing provided by the International Monetary Fund for countries facing urgent liquidity challenges. 

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With a huge portion of the SDR going to Europe in a move widely criticised in Africa, French President Macron and the European Union Council President Charles Michel have pushed for the sharing of the SDR allocations to Africa. Macron and Michel want as much as 50% of the SDR due to the EU given to Africa but member-nations have frowned with suggested percentages ranging between 10-20%. 

Macron’s wish will most likely not be granted and his target is expected to be scaled back, but there’s China looking at another opportunity to exert its support to Africa, and its influence on it.

China has pledged 25% of its SDR to Africa in what’s another statement of its dominating stature on the continent. 

AOB: Migration, Education And Insecurity

When European Union, United States and the UN saw Russian private security company, Wagner in Central African Republic and Mali, they cried foul. China on its part was indifferent as the scramble for Africa took a new turn. 

Nations like Turkey is also finding some control in Africa by helping nations to battle insurgents and terrorists but more evidently, the battle for Africa’s security has been narrowed to the EU and Russia. 

The EU has 11 Security missions across Africa and sees Russia as an unnecessary presence. The United States is also looking to take control of proceedings but would rather observe for now. The EU claims its reach is across Africa, from the Sahel to the Maghreb and the Horn of Africa while Russia is also gradually gaining control with its efforts in Libya and the CAR.

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Migration is one of Africa’s toughest challenges. The high poverty rate on the continent and the lack of opportunities mean many people attempt to travel abroad using some of the most dangerous methods. Hundreds die monthly on the Mediterranean in their quest to cross borders. Europe seeks to address this by providing more opportunities for education and jobs for African nationals.  

African Leaders, Et Tu?

Lazy, mostly unwilling and preferring to be fed by the people who seek food here, African leaders will be ringing for support at the summit in Brussels.

Insecurity challenges, systemic decline in the value of lives and rising job losses and unemployment are testing and in need of inventiveness. But in the absence of futuristic leaders with sound sense of direction about the growth of the continent, African leaders are easy enablers of the scramble for the continent.  

Donations, support and special drawing rights are always coming to Africa but they never do for free. Its leaders must think to take the continent forward else Africa will always be a ladder for other nations to reach global dominance and influence at its own expense.

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