Africa: U.S. and Russia Square Off Over Africa

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The U.S. has passed a law to counter Russia in Africa by tracking its military operations, investments, oligarchs and suspected illicit financial flows.

Legalbrief reports that it marks the latest indication that Africa is an important player in the Russia-Ukraine conflict that is threatening Europe and the global economy. And there is growing speculation that the legislation is partly because more than half of the African countries chose to stay neutral on UN resolutions on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Senegalese President Macky Sall yesterday said he would visit Moscow and Kyiv in the coming weeks in his capacity as chairman of the African Union, which he said wanted to see de-escalation in Ukraine and peace through dialogue between the two sides.

Speaking at a joint news conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Sall said: ‘We do not want to be aligned on this conflict … very clearly, we want peace. Even though we condemn the invasion, we’re working for a de-escalation, we’re working for a ceasefire, for dialogue … that is the African position.’

A TimesLIVE report notes that SA President Cyril Ramaphosa last week addressed the devastating impact of the conflict in the Ukraine. ‘We realised that (the Ukraine-Russia conflict) is going to have an impact on our own continent as well,’ said Ramaphosa.

He was addressing the annual Black Business Council summit dinner in Midrand. Ramaphosa told guests – who included ambassadors from Venezuela, Cuba and Russia – that the conflict has added to the challenges driving up fuel and food prices and intensifying geopolitical tensions.

‘The rising prices and cost of living is going up and getting the central bank to respond by raising the cost of money and debt. This will particularly have a damaging impact on African and developing countries, which are most vulnerable to food and energy insecurity,’ he said. Full TimesLIVE report

Through the Countering Malign Russian Activities in Africa Act, the US will ‘hold to account African governments and their officials who are complicit in aiding (Russia’s) malign influence and activities’.

The Bill, sponsored by Gregory Weldon Meeks, who chairs the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, will require the State Department to send Congress, every year, a report on US measures to counter Russian machinations in Africa.

Since 2014, Russia has been growing its soft power influence in Africa by means of appeal and attraction in investment, bilateral agreements and diplomatic ties.

In a Daily Maverick analysis, Peter Fabricius notes that the Bill would direct the US Secretary of State to develop and submit to Congress a strategy and implementation plan outlining US efforts to counter the malign influence and activities of the Russian Federation and its proxies in Africa.

‘The government would have to counter such activities effectively, including through US foreign aid programmes. It would need to hold accountable the Russian Federation and African governments and their officials who are complicit in aiding such malign influence and activities. But what about the Bill’s intention to thwart Russian efforts to ‘invest in, engage, or otherwise control strategic sectors in Africa, such as mining and other forms of natural resource extraction and exploitation, military basing and other security co-operation agreements, and information and communications technology’? Does that mean any African country where a Russian company invests will fall foul of this legislation? Or will it only apply to investments that advance Putin’s supposedly nefarious ambitions?’ Full analysis on the Daily Maverick site

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz yesterday spoke of the impact of Ukraine’s war on the continent. A report on the allAfrica site notes that he said Berlin would help restore grain exports from Europe to avoid a worsening food crisis. He also spoke of the need to ensure the steady transfer of fertilisers out of Africa.

Scholz was speaking in Dakar at the beginning of a three-day trip to Africa – his first since taking office six months ago. Ahead of his visit, the former German ambassador to Moscow said Russian President Vladimir Putin was deliberately aiming to trigger a famine in the Middle East and Africa. The Kremlin’s goal is to destabilise Europe through a massive refugee influx, Rüdiger von Fritsch told Sunday’s edition of the Tagesspiegel newspaper.

Botswana sees a prolonged ban on Russian diamonds opening the way for synthetic gems to expand market share, the country’s Minerals & Energy Minister has noted.

Moneyweb reports that the US, the world’s largest market for natural diamonds, imposed sanctions on Russia’s state-controlled Alrosa in April, aiming to cut off a source of revenue for Moscow after its February invasion of Ukraine. Alrosa, the world’s largest producer of rough diamonds, accounted for about 30% of global output in 2021.

Botswana’s Minister of Minerals & Energy, Lefoko Moagi, said the ban on Russia diamonds might push prices up to the benefit of rival producers, but he also said the gap would be hard to fill.