Atlantic and Asia on opposing fronts in Africa

Atlantic and Asia on opposing fronts in Africa

By Orçun Göktürk / Editor of international news, Aydinlik Newspaper

In July 2014, the Former American President Barack Obama held the first “US-African Summit” in the entire US history. At the summit, where 50 countries participated, Obama declared his intentions stating “The African nations must make sure that their mineral resources do not end up in Shanghai port”. One year before that US-African summit in 2014, the Chinese President Xi Jinping had officially announced the “Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI) during a visit to Kazakhstan. BRI has received a lot of attention from the Asian and the African countries, and the United States had to take a step against the growing influence of China, which has developed its trade and its political relations in Africa based on the principles of “shared development” and “win-win”. The African countries, which had been oppressed for centuries – first by the imperialism of the Western European countries and then by the imperialism of the US – had finally begun to take a deep breath by developing relations with China.

Growing influence of China, Turkey and Russia in Africa

Of course, the Africa-China relations, built on the notion of a “common destiny” after the Bandung Conference in 1956, rely on a common history and mutual respect since the modern era. But especially when we take a look on the relations in the 21st century, China’s trade volume with African countries has grown more than 20 times in the past 21 years after the establishment of the Forum on China–Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in 2000. During this time, Chinese direct investment stock in Africa has reached 110 billion dollars, especially after approximately 4,000 Chinese firms have established facilities and businesses across the continent. These investments created thousands of jobs and led to technology sharing with many African countries.

There are two other countries in the region that have recently gained political, economic and military influence other than China: Turkey and Russia. These countries have a considerable charm in Africa through heritages left by either the Ottoman Empire or the Soviet Union. Despite some heavy resistance and the efforts to prevent from the Western powers, the “Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples”, adopted by the United Nations on pressure of the USSR, have established an international legal basis for the oppressed nations in Africa to gain their independence in 1960. Russia, which had lost its former influence in the region after the collapse of the USSR, has been wishing to restore its former relations with Africa to its former glory, especially after Vladimir Putin was elected in the office. Russia is currently the largest arms supplier of the continent, being the most important partner in ensuring the security of Africa.

And when we take a look from the Turkish point of view, the former Ottoman heritage and the fact that around 40 percent of the African population is Muslim provide some main advantages. More recently, the Turkish “Opening to Africa Action Plan” of 1998 has established a solid foundation for Turkey-Africa relations today. While having embassies in only 12 countries in Africa back in 2002, Turkey now has nearly 45 embassies all over the continent. According to the data from the Turkish Statistical Institute (TURKSTAT), Turkish trade volume with the African continent has increased from 4.3 billion dollar back in 2002, to around 22 billion dollars in 2020.

The recessing hegemony of the Atlantic Camp

In response to the increasing influence of China, Russia and Turkey, the Atlantic front led by the United States and France, has been wishing to turn the tables back in their favor by creating instability in the region through coup d’états and assassination attempts.

Despite all the efforts, the ongoing decline of the US global hegemony allows the initiative in the African region to shift towards Eurasian powers. In early June this year, French President Emmanuel Macron has announced that the French troops of around 5,000 would gradually withdraw and France would shut down its military bases in the Sahel Region. Since 2019, some anti-French demonstrations have been taking place in the Sahel countries such as Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria, Chad, Sudan and Eritrea. And the Chinese investments in North, West and Central African nations as a part of the Belt and Road Initiative have created maneuver space for the leaders of these countries when taking an action against any embargoes or sanctions from France. The decided attitude of Algeria in the north of the Sahel Region, and the Turkish military support in Libya are some other developments that have weakened France’s cards on the table.

The recent developments in Africa

Russia has strengthened its military cooperation with the African countries that have been facing some threats of terrorism and military embargoes from France. The “France out!” rallies in Mali and in many other Sahel countries were accompanied with slogans of “cooperation with Russia”. The developments in the last two years are:

– In February 2019, Algeria has experienced a neo-Boumedienist revolution that ended the 40 years of neoliberal policies.

– In August 2020, the French-backed President, the cabinet and the Chief of Staff High Command were overthrown in Mali.

– The French-backed coup attempts have failed in Ivory Coast, both in September 2020 and in January 2021.

– In April 2021, Chadian President Idriss Deby was killed during a conflict with terrorists while defending his country.

– Couple days ago (September 6th 2021), a coup d’état plotted in Guinea against the President Alpha Condé, who has recently developed friendly relations with Turkey and China. Mamady Doumbouya who was the main organizer of the coup, had been under the command of the “French Foreign Legion” until 2018. Doumbouya also served for France in countries like Senegal, Ivory Coast, Gabon and Afghanistan. The overthrown Guinean leader Condé had visited Ankara in mid-August to personally meet with Erdogan. It was also reported in the media that Condé had a phone conversation with Erdogan just one day before the coup, on Sunday.

Africa’s place in the New International Order

Some leaders of non-members such as India and Australia, as well as the leader of South Africa attended the G7 summit, held on June 11th in the Cornwall Region of the United Kingdom. South Africa, which the US is illicitly trying to drag to its camp in its strategy of ‘Chinese Containment’, has taken part as the main guest speaker at the event of “Centenary of the foundation of the Communist Party of China”, only three weeks later than the G7 summit. South African leader Cyril Ramaphosa was the second speaker right after Chinese President Xi Jinping in the conference, where representatives of 160 nations took part. In his speech challenging US provocations and the Atlantic camp, the South African leader said the following:

“This is a joyous occasion for the people not only of China, but of the world. (…) We are here today representing different movements from different parts of the globe, but we share a common desire for peace, understanding and progress. (…) The Party will continue to work with all peace-loving countries and peoples to promote the shared human values of peace, development, fairness, justice, democracy and freedom.”

Today, African countries have the upper hand more than ever in their struggle for the independence of the African nations and the liberation of their peoples. From the north all the way to the south, the entire African society is starting to take their own place in this fair and sharing “New International Order”, in which the liberation from the oppression of mainly American and French imperialism will prevail, with a mutual respect for national sovereignty.

United World International

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April 2024