Against the backdrop of France’s recent blatant failures on the African continent, whose inhabitants are increasingly determined to throw off the shackles of modern French neocolonialism, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz decided to seize the moment and use the French vacuum in Africa to strengthen Germany’s position there.
To this end, on May 23 he and a company of German business people set on a three-day visit to the African countries of Senegal, Niger and South Africa, where he held talks with national leaders on economic cooperation, overcoming the pandemic, climate change and combating Islamic terrorism. At the same time he initiated discussions on the situation in Ukraine and Russia’s impact on energy and food prices, whilst pushing hard the agenda of the “collective West” acting in close anti-Russian tandem with Washington. However, some observers have pointed out the strikingly hasty nature of Scholz’s trip, as since his appointment as Federal Chancellor he has so far only graced with his visits the USA, Israel and Japan.
As for Scholz’s choice of the African countries to visit, it was not at all random. After all, Senegal now holds the presidency of the African Union, which brings together 55 countries on the continent. It is Senegal and South Africa that Scholz has already invited to the G7 meeting in Bavaria in June. South Africa is considered to be Germany’s main partner in Africa, and both countries enjoy a relatively intensive economic, political and cultural relationship. Moreover, South Africa is the only African member of the G20.
Niger, despite its poor financial situation, is, in Berlin’s estimation, a certain stabilizing force in the sub-Saharan region. It is also to Niger that the German government intends to relocate German military advisors and instructors from Mali as part of the Bundeswehr’s participation in the UN stabilization mission in Mali MINUSMA and the European Union training mission for Malian security forces EUTM. The main reason for Berlin’s decision was jealousy towards the strengthening of military and military-technical cooperation between Bamako and Moscow, including the training of Malian soldiers by Russian instructors. In Niger, German troops are to be deployed in a training mission for the country’s special forces, Gazelle. Moreover, the maximum number of troops will be increased from 1,100 to 1,400. Speaking in mid-May during discussions in the Bundestag on the advisability of maintaining German participation in MINUSMA, German Minister of Defense Christine Lambrecht strongly emphasized that, in her words, the Sahel countries cannot be abandoned to their fate. “Bundeswehr troops provide the UN contingent with intelligence information through advanced unmanned aerial vehicles, as well as by communicating with locals. They (German soldiers) clarify the situation for the commanders. They patrol the area. They make eastern Mali safer,” Lambrecht said.
It is noteworthy, however, that Sevim Dağdelen, MP for the Left Party, during discussions in the Bundestag about the prospects of German participation in MINUSMA, pointed out that although the war party from CDU to the Greens may deny it, the fact is that Germany is involved in a “war on Malian territory.” She stressed the need to admit that “the Bundeswehr war in Mali is lost. It is very similar to Afghanistan. It (the war party) is making Mali a second Afghanistan. The German Armed Forces will actually support the economic interests of France’s former colonial power in the Sahel, which is hated in the region.”
While speaking to the three African leaders, Olaf Scholz placed particular emphasis on explaining the consequences of the situation in Ukraine for Africa’s food supply, seeking to convey Washington’s position that events in Ukraine have global implications for the entire world. Moreover, in his blatantly erroneous belief, it is Russia’s actions that are allegedly dramatically worsening the food situation in Africa, rather than the failed US sanctions policy and the West’s continued pumping of weapons into Ukraine, which are deliberately prolonging the hostilities. In particular, during conversations in Senegal, Scholz pointed to Russia’s blocking of Ukrainian wheat exports from Black Sea ports, deliberately “forgetting” to note that it is not Russia but Ukraine that has mined its seaports and the entire Black Sea, due to which there is an objective risk of any vessel being hit by a Ukrainian mine in the Black Sea basin.
Maintaining Washington’s Russophobic line, Scholz failed to inform African interlocutors and even German experts of the conclusions published by the German publication Deutsche Wirtschafts Nachrichten, that due to Western restrictions on mineral fertilizer imports from Russia and Belarus and the resulting shortages, further price increases for agricultural products are expected. Meanwhile, even this publication noted that the withdrawal of Russian nitrogen and Belarusian potash fertilizers from the international market as a result of the West’s anti-Russian sanctions policy would lead to a reduction in their use and, ultimately, to a widespread reduction in grain yields.
Another authoritative German publication, Die Welt, said on May 18 that Russia was not to blame for the record rise in the price of wheat on the world market and that Moscow was not blocking grain exports.
Ever so loyal to Washington’s instructions, Scholz also stressed to African leaders that many African countries, when voting at the UN General Assembly on the resolution condemning Russia for its actions in Ukraine, had abstained from supporting the Western position. The German chancellor therefore worked hard to persuade his interlocutors to withdraw their de facto support for Moscow.
Scholz also raised other issues, in particular the development of energy cooperation. Among other things, the German chancellor offered Senegal the help of German firms in researching and extracting gas, after which Senegalese President Macky Sall said he was ready to explore the possibility of arranging liquefied natural gas (LNG) supplies to Europe. Large oil and gas deposits have famously been discovered off the coast of Senegal, with reserves estimated at 1 billion barrels of oil and 2.8 trillion cubic meters of gas, according to experts. They are being developed there by BP of the UK and Cosmos of the US. However, Senegal will not really be able to start supplying LNG to Europe until 2023.
Judging by the African media’s reaction to Scholz’s visit, it clearly did not inspire African states to rush into the arms of a new European player (instead of France). And there are many reasons, including for example, Scholz’s overt following of instructions from Washington regarding the German policy. In addition, a vivid example is unfolding before the eyes of Africans today of Germany’s – and Europe’s – increased financial and military support for Ukraine and Ukrainian refugees against the blatant disregard for African refugees as well as other African concerns for a long time. Under these circumstances, the countries of the African continent prefer to remain reticent about such “friendship initiatives” by yet another Western emissary, preferring to continue and maintain ties with Russia and China. Which, by the way, have already demonstrated, time and again, their sincerity in relations and their lack of hegemonic and neo-colonial aspirations.
Vladimir Danilov, political observer, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.