When the United Nations General Assembly almost unanimously adopted the resolution demanding Russia’s withdrawal from Ukraine on February 23, one of the most striking observations was the weight of Africa among the abstaining countries.
Liberal democracies should see this as a wake-up call, because this abstentionism is the symptom of an Africa that is moving further and further away from its Western partners to get ever closer to the Chinese, Indian and Russian powers.
This gap has even widened over the past year. In the first resolution calling for the withdrawal of Russian forces from Ukraine in March 2022, seventeen African countries abstained and eight abstained. Only Eritrea voted against this resolution. Last February, the number of African countries that abstained rose to 22 and Mali joined Eritrea in voting against the resolution.
It therefore becomes imperative for Western countries, including Canada, to revitalize their alliance with Africa and to remedy the causes of the de-Westernization that is increasingly appealing to the global South.
Seen from the continent, Western values are also less and less considered universal. The Western civilizational ideal does not necessarily correspond to the aspirations of the African peoples.
According to Dominique de Villepin, the African continent is increasingly inhabited by an anti-Western feeling, a feeling amplified by the “anti-imperialist” struggle in which the Indo-Sino-Russian powers are engaged in the name of the global South.
Without forgetting that the African collective imagination is disappointed by the selective solidarity of which it is the victim. Some African diasporas cannot help but deplore, with some bitterness, that the solidarity shown by Western countries towards the Ukrainian people has rarely been shown with regard to the tragedies of the African continent.
In recent years, the military activities of China, India and Russia have increased in Africa due to their desire to expand their influence.
In 2017, it inaugurated its first military base on the continent, in Djibouti.
Worried about China’s growing influence in the Horn of Africa, in particular, India has been increasing its military installations in the Indian Ocean since the inauguration of its naval surveillance base north of Madagascar in 2007. Nor does it hide its ambition to install around thirty coastal monitoring stations, notably in Mauritius and the Seychelles.
While the Chinese are instrumentalizing their military presence on the continent for economic purposes, Russia, for its part, has mainly security motivations. While it aspires to become the leading arms supplier in Africa (between 2017 and 2021, 44% of arms sales on the continent were provided by Russia), it operates there militarily in a fragmented way, mainly through the use of to mercenaries from the paramilitary organization Wagner. To support anti-piracy missions in the region and to control maritime lines of communication passing through the Red Sea, Russia has chosen Sudan to set up its naval base there.
With the return of the non-alignment policy of the 1960s, Africa expects an alliance with Western countries that recognizes not only its autonomy, but also and unambiguously its right to prosperity.
Especially since in response to the rivalry imposed on it by the Indo-Sino-Russian powers on the international scene, the West needs to renew its alliance with Africa. A partnership alliance supposed to meet not only its expectations, but also the interests of its African partners. Not just out of virtue, but mostly out of necessity.
Encourage economic cooperation through investment and the synergy of value chains, put culture at the service of diplomacy, rely on university cooperation, mobilize the African diaspora, increase diplomatic visits, opt for coordinated military operations based on non-interference, strengthening air and maritime connectivity are all actions to be deployed to renew this alliance on a lasting basis.