Is the chancellor fleeing the never-ending debate about German arms deliveries to Ukraine? Does he misjudge priorities in the face of war when he travels to Africa for three days? These and similar questions were ventilated when Olaf Scholz visited Niger, Senegal and South Africa from Sunday. But the social democrat had good reasons for choosing his work program in the south.
The talks in the host countries focused on cooperation in energy production, security, trade and climate protection – major issues that Germany will have to deal with in the coming years. The war of aggression against Ukraine has opened the eyes of the republic to how dependent it is on Russian energy. Diversification is the lesson learned from this, which is why gas cooperation was discussed in Senegal and hydrogen projects in South Africa. The neighboring continent as an energy supplier – that seems a good alternative.
The three host countries are also important for the security of their region and Germany. Many of the more than 50 African states abstained when a large majority of UN states condemned the Russian war of aggression in early March – including the emerging country South Africa, which belongs to the BRICS group (alongside Brazil, Russia, India and China).
In African conflicts, Russia often plays a destabilizing role, just think of the “Wagner group”. Scholz wants to prevent emerging and developing countries from opposing the industrialized countries (G7) in the new world order. More attention, more exchange and more cooperation are instruments that can prevent such a development.
Food shortages and skyrocketing energy prices as a result of Russia’s war are hitting many African countries hard, including Senegal, which currently leads the African Union (AU). The corona pandemic had already led to an unprecedented outflow of capital from the Global South.
The new food crisis may starve previous buyers of Ukrainian wheat and destabilize countries. It is only reasonable that Scholz tries to understand his own position on the spot and argues against blaming the West.
China and Russia are continuously expanding their influence in Africa. If Germany does not want to leave the region to them, it must become more politically and economically involved on the continent. Scholz’ journey can only be a beginning. Because the rule applies: If you want to stand up to strong autocracies, you need many allies in this world.