OPINIONS

Date: 27 October 2023 Author: János Hajdu

Russia and China in Africa

Russia’s mercenary system fights against China’s modern imperialism and of course there are the rest of the world is also playing role in Africa. A lot of countries make their business activity in Africa and try to get political and diplomatic influence in this area1. Make contracts, buy mines, bring military, and establish military bases. But what is the importance of Africa? And how do these two major powers seek to influence in Africa?

SOURCE: Getty, Gianluigi Guercia/AFP

The biggest reasons are resources, votes, trade partners, trade routs and workforces. For examples Africa has 54 countries from the 193 countries in the UN. It is nearly 28% of the votes2. They have an enormous amount of resources especially rare earth elements and more than 1.4 billion people3. And of course, the population of Africa grow with an incredible speed (take Egypt as an example, population increases with 1 million nearly in every 240 days4). The most important fact about the population is the average age: It was 19.7 years in 20205. Which means the biggest portion of the population can work or in the near future they will reach the working age. Because of it, Africa have a very wide and young workforce, so now when China’s labour getting more and more expensive – because the wages grow fast since 20006 – their this region become the “new China”.
 
Russian mercenaries
 
When France lives in neocolonialism age7 and China use the power of money to get influence in Africa, Russia still use its military to get influence in Africa. Or not at all. It’s difficult to explain to the world why your military located in another country, so Russia finds another way in Africa: Wagner Group. A lot of countries establish military bases in Africa and give help to
 
African countries to fight against terrorists and rebels (especially France, USA etc.8) but Russia does it with high effectiveness. Wagner Group is in 15 countries in Africa with medium or high confidence. There are reports their present in other countries, but these reports have low quality9. We had to point it is true they are in 15 countries but with different contracts and strength10. The main areas of activity are in 10 countries, for examples, Central African Republic, Libya, Mali, Sudan and now the newest ones are Niger and Gabon. In these two countries coups took place in this year and they aren’t the first. First was in Mali and after in Burkina Faso. The similarity in these countries is simple: they were French colonies and after they signed a contract with France which is called Cooperation Agreement. Because of the agreement these countries get aids form France and the French military helps them secure the country but the side effects – like financial leading by France – keep them poor.11 And this is the reason why these countries are more and more against the Cooperation Agreement. After the coup in Niger, they buried French flags or turned them to Russian flags and after it they asked France to call back their troops.
 
But what can Russai offer them? Nothing else just soldiers. After a country turns towards Russia the Wagner Group arrives to the country and gives a lot of help against rebels, terrorist groups, trains the local military and they helps stabilizes the government’s position12. Of course, it isn’t free but maybe a more favourable than other contracts if you need only soldiers. They don’t give aids, loans or build infrastructure so they want less back. The price is simple: a mine, oil concession or forestry. But in the background, they get something more important to them: trade partners. Because of sanctions they lost most of their trade opportunity, so they try find new ways to get trade capacity in Africa13. They are in an exigency so they have to try everything what they can. Despite of the war in Ukraine the Wagner Group hasn’t decreased the amount of their soldiers in Africa because of the importance of the region14.
 
China’s cash-flows in Africa
 
China’s way is very different. Of course, China has military base too15 but not with the same strategy. China doesn’t want to fight against terrorist or stabilize governments. It is more efficient to use his money. There are a lot of type of contracts between China and Africa. For example there is Nigeria where China helps to modernize the railway system. The modernization made most by the CRCC (China Railway Construction Corporation).16 Nigeria doesn’t have enough money for the construction, so China gave them a lot of loans. In this case the interest rate is low (However, even this conditions, it is worthwhile for China to invest in Africa).17 In other cases the interest rate is very high. For example when China build harbours. Because of the New Maritime Silk Road China want to control as many harbours as possible in Africa coastline (and around the world). So when China gives loan for harbours and starts to construct it with their own companies they always ready to give the option for the country in the debt. China offer to repeal the loan but China will be able to use the harbour for some decades like his own.18
 
All around Africa China has been building a lot of infrastructure and all kinds of other projects. For examples, rail roads – Mombasa – Nairobi railroad, what was the first in Kenya in the last 122 years19. –, dams20, government buildings – for examples, Iconic Tower in the new Egypt administrative capital, Zimbabwe Parliament21 and African Union Headquarters22 what were gifts from China. –, special economic zones23, houses24 for the rapidly growing population etc25. From the examples we can see China invested a lot of money to Africa what brings a good relationship between China and African countries. And we must point two important things.
 
After a few years colonial countries were set free Europe and USA decreased the amount of infrastructural investments, so amount of Africa’s options between lenders decreased. There are some other options like the IMF or a lot of governmental or private bank but firstly China has a good offer for these countries: It doesn’t care about democracy, human rights, sustainability, or other things – what is a big opportunity to dictators in Africa – and secondly the different between the amounts of money is enormous. Between 2007 and 2020 China invested 23 billion dollars for Africa infrastructure while the other parts of the world invested only 9.1 billion dollars.26 Of course, China wants more back than the IMF but it’s available to dictators too so it’s an option for anyone.
 
To fill the Western gap that China tried to do until now, the EU decided to mobilize 300 billion euros till 2027 to build infrastructure projects globally27. They wanted to spend 150 billion euros from this in Africa28 but China has other advantages: multinational companies. There are more than 10.000 Chinese company in Africa, and they try to expand more and more29. So the Chinese government spend a large amount of money in Africa, but their companies spend more money what make it so easier to Chinese government. So the Chinese government spent a large amount of money in Africa but their companies spent more what takes off the weight from the shoulders of the Chinese government and makes it easier for them.
 
Sources:
1. https://www.freiheit.org/tansania/africas-growing-geo-political-influence
2. United Nations, Regional groups of Member States – https://www.un.org/dgacm/en/content/regional-groups
3. https://www.worldometers.info/world-population/africa-population/
4. https://www.thenationalnews.com/mena/egypt/2022/02/23/egypts-population-grows-by-1-million-in-record-232-days/
5. Camilla Rocca, Ines Schultes; Africa’s Youth: Action needed now to support the continent’s greatest asset (2020) – https://mo.ibrahim.foundation/sites/default/files/2020-08/international-youth-day-research-brief.pdf
6. The End of Cheap Chinese Labor, Journal of Economic Perspectives vol. 26, no. 4, Fall 2012 (https://www.aeaweb.org/articles?id=10.1257/jep.26.4.57)
7. Tuğba Korkmaz, Insamer (2019) – La Francafrique: The special relationship between France and its former colonies in Africa.

8. France, Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs, Terrorism: France’s International Action – https://www.diplomatie.gouv.fr/en/french-foreign-policy/security-disarmament-and-non-proliferation/terrorism-france-s-international-action/
9. UK Parliament, House of Commons, Foreign Affairs Committee, Guns for gold: the Wagner Network exposed, Seventh Report of Session 2022–23 (2023) – https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm5803/cmselect/cmfaff/167/report.html
10. 9 – 10-17. page
11. Mame Diarra Diop, Universitá Ca’Foscari Venezia (2020), French monetary neo-colonialism: the CFA franc –http://dspace.unive.it/bitstream/handle/10579/19203/857139-1250226.pdf
12. 9 – 9. page
13. https://www.ecofinagency.com/public-management/0210-44907-trade-between-africa-and-russia-up-43-5-yoy-in-jan-sep-2023
14. https://www.brookings.edu/articles/whats-ahead-for-the-wagner-group-in-africa-and-the-middle-east/

15. Mordechai Chaziza; The Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, Bar-Ilan University: China’s Military Base in Djibouti (2018) – https://besacenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/153-Chaziza-Chinas-Military-Base-in-Djibouti-web.pdf
16. https://www.railway-technology.com/news/ccecc-nigerian-eastern-railway-contract/?cf-view
17. Chinese Loans in Africa Database – https://www.bu.edu/gdp/chinese-loans-to-africa-database/
18. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/25/world/asia/china-sri-lanka-port.html
19. https://www.railway-technology.com/projects/mombasa-nairobi-standard-gauge-railway-project/
20. https://archive.internationalrivers.org/campaigns/chinese-dams-in-africa
21. https://apnews.com/article/africa-china-asia-zimbabwe-d7176d0e7ed5997e50c89d226a34d2e9
22. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-16770932
23. https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/server/api/core/bitstreams/b8b3c953-4683-5e9a-a6f7-a8b72e266b6b/content
24. https://www.chinadaily.com.cn/bizchina/2017-11/13/content_34464880.htm
25. All Chinese investments: https://www.aei.org/china-global-investment-tracker/

26. https://www.reuters.com/markets/us/chinese-funding-sub-saharan-african-infrastructure-dwarfs-that-west-says-think-2022-02-09/
27. https://www.reuters.com/markets/rates-bonds/eu-unveils-300-bln-euro-global-investment-scheme-2021-12-01/
28. https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/eu-earmarks-150-billion-euros-investment-africa-2022-02-10/
29. US Foreign Affairs Committee, China Regional Snapshot: Sub-Saharan Africa – https://foreignaffairs.house.gov/china-regional-snapshot-sub-saharan-africa/#

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