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Why is the Sahel/Africa becoming a battleground between Russia and the West? Once again, the Sahel-Saharan zone is on the brink of conflagration. If these West African countries (ECOWAS) decide to intervene militarily to dislodge the Niamey putschists and restore constitutional order, it will be one of the worst crises in African history.
Why is the Sahel/Africa becoming a battleground between Russia and the West?
The deposed president, Mohamed Bazoum, was a great ally of the West, but the military junta that took power is waging a war of words with the Western powers, who are fighting to maintain their dominance not only in Niger, but in several African countries.
All this is happening at a time when Russia’s presence on the continent is growing – with increasing investment and military support from Moscow, as well as the increasingly frequent involvement of mercenaries from the Wagner group in local conflicts.
The West, particularly the United States, accuses Vladimir Putin’s government of interfering to derail democracy in some African nations, while seeking allies for its position in the Ukraine war.
“Our respect for the sovereignty of African states, their traditions and values, their desire to independently determine their own destiny and freely build relations with their partners remains unchanged,” wrote Mr. Putin in a statement issued in July this year on the occasion of the Russia-Africa summit, which brought together several leaders in St. Petersburg.
For Nigerian researcher Ebenezer Obadare, of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) think tank, the power struggle between Russia and the West in Africa is a new chapter in the rivalry between these two poles of power, which intensified especially last year following the invasion of Ukraine.
“What Russia wants in Africa is what Western countries want too: diplomatic influence, influence over the economy and politics, projection of their power and influence,” he explains.
“There are no altruistic intentions, only political ones.”
The West, Russia and the Africans!
What is currently at play is far from being a simple ethnic or religious conflict. The West, which has vigorously rejected the coup d’état, suspects Moscow of pulling the strings.
According to Western theories, Vladimir Putin is seeking to open a new front in his all-out war against NATO through the Wagner militias, already well established in these countries. The master of the Kremlin would also seek to deprive his enemies, led by France, of their influence and vital natural resources, such as uranium.
According to experts, the actions of the two sides mainly take the form of aid, military presence and economic investment, as well as propaganda and cultural influence.
According to documents obtained by The Intercept, in 2019, the United States had 29 bases located in 15 countries or territories on the African continent.Another force with a strong presence is France. The European country, which once colonized the territories where Algeria, Senegal, Chad, Mali, Benin, Sudan, Gabon, Tunisia, Niger, Congo, Cameroon and Côte d’Ivoire are located today, maintains bases in Djibouti, Gabon, Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire.
British troops are also present in countries such as Djibouti, Malawi, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Somalia and Kenya. In the latter country, the British government maintains a permanent training center where military exercises are organized every year.
Why is the Sahel/Africa becoming a battleground between Russia and the West
Tatiana Smirnova, a Russian researcher at the Université du Québec à Montréal and a specialist in Sahel politics, explains that the paramilitary organization’s presence is one of the main ways in which the Kremlin is expanding its presence not only in Mali, but also in several other countries on the continent.”
Russia is one of the main suppliers of arms to Africa, in particular to Egypt and Algeria. But in addition to this official security cooperation, there is the work of the Wagner Group and other private military companies”, explains Ms Smirnova.
In addition to Mali, Wagner is also very active in the Central African Republic, Libya, Mozambique, Chad and Sudan. More recently, the US government accused the paramilitary group of “profiting” from the instability in Niger following the military coup.
The links between the mercenaries, the Kremlin and local political forces are hard to pin down. However, according to analysts, since the organization’s leader, Evgeniy Prigozhin, called for an uprising against the Russian army, it has become increasingly difficult to deny these links.”
We can now state with certainty that the Wagner group is supported and financed by Moscow.”
The power most affected by the coup in Niger? Nigeria, not France?
All too often, the foreign media overestimate the Western perspective. Indeed, apart from the African countries hit, the state perceived to be most affected by these military coups is France. However, all analyses emphasizing the decline of the French Republic’s strategic position on the African continent overlook the importance of geography.
Rather, it is Nigeria, which shares a border of over 1,500 kilometers with Niger, and not France, that is the power most affected by these anti-democratic developments in West Africa.
There is a long list of complex challenges facing the Nigerian state, including corruption in the oil industry and difficulties with development and security.
That said, Nigeria is a country of the rule of law and a young democracy that has survived a long history of military coups. Let’s be clear: despite its shortcomings, Nigeria is a regional power with demographic, economic and military clout unmatched by its West African neighbors, which is why Abuja is the cornerstone of ECOWAS.
Mauritania and Chad next targets for Algeria and Wagner
Why is the Sahel/Africa becoming a battleground between Russia and the West
Algeria‘s decision to authorize Wagner’s growing presence in the Sahel is sparking intense debate as to the motivations and consequences of the Algerian strategy, especially as Mauritania and Chad could be the Russian paramilitary group’s next targets, after Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, according to Western experts.
At a time when the Sahel remains a zone of great turbulence, with its share of conflicts and terrorist threats, this strategic opening towards Wagner raises questions about Algeria‘s underlying interests and the potential repercussions of the Russian group’s presence on the regional balance.
One of the arguments put forward by the Chief of Staff of the People’s National Army (ANP), General Saïd Chengriha, in favor of Wagner’s involvement, is the need to reinforce capacities to combat independence groups and movements in southern Algeria and northern Mali.
President Abdelmadjid Tebboune is also keen to consolidate Wagner’s presence to strengthen economic and energy relations with Russia. Russian companies could potentially invest in infrastructure and natural resource extraction projects, creating long-term economic opportunities.
By allowing Wagner to establish itself in the Sahel, Algeria is also seeking to diversify its geopolitical alliances. For Algerian leaders, this move will serve as a counterweight to Western influences or other regional players.
BRICS Summit – How South Africa is banking on China and Russia: The unusual degree of official enthusiasm in South Africa for this summit serves, according to some observers, to underline just how far and how fast this country seems to be moving away from the West, not only towards a more multipolar world, but also firmly into the orbit of China and, to a lesser extent, Russia.
BRICS Summit – How South Africa is banking on China and Russia
At a recent pre-summit meeting of Brics foreign ministers in Cape Town, and at a foreign policy workshop organized by the South African government, there was overwhelming consensus that China was the future and the West was in decline.
After three decades in power, the African National Congress (ANC) is struggling to rid itself of infighting, corruption and administrative chaos.
Faced with the war in Ukraine, for example, the South African government offered a confusing set of responses: first condemning the invasion, then ostensibly refusing to condemn it, then blaming NATO, praising Putin, offering to mediate peace, hosting Russian naval exercises, rushing to explain itself to Washington and glibly repeating the Kremlin’s talking points.
Finally, it remains to be seen whether South Africa supplied arms to Russia last year, as the US claims.
BRICS Summit – How South Africa is banking on China and Russia
There is no doubt that President Ramaphosa is deeply uncomfortable with Russia’s invasion, and is keen to present himself as a wise and neutral advocate of a more multipolar world.
But many members of his government and party regularly undermine this position, often invoking nostalgia for Moscow’s support during the struggle against apartheid and a more general distrust of US foreign policy.
This disjointed message succeeded in irritating all parties to the conflict and making South Africa appear weak and indecisive.
Nelson Mandela’s “rainbow nation” is certainly in trouble at the moment, some even going so far as to say that it could soon become a “failed state”.
Driven by China, enlargement tears coalition apart
Some 50 “Brics-friendly” heads of state are also expected to attend the summit, which runs until Thursday August 24. The theme of the meeting is “BRICS and Africa”. On the agenda for this year’s Johannesburg summit will be the possible enlargement of the BRICS.
Africa is a new diplomatic challenge for the West, Russia and China, who are vying for influence against a backdrop of divisions fanned by the conflict in Ukraine and tensions between China and the United States. An increase in the number of BRICS members could give greater weight to the bloc and its message of global reform.
“An expanded BRICS will represent a diverse group of nations with different political systems who share a common desire for a more balanced world order.”
Some forty countries have applied for membership or expressed interest in joining the group, including Iran, Argentina, Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia. Nearly twenty of these countries have formally applied for membership.
Iran and Venezuela, under sanctions, are seeking to reduce their isolation and hope that the bloc can provide relief for their downing economies. “Other global integration frameworks are blinded by the hegemonic vision of the US government,” said Ramón Lobo, former finance minister and governor of Venezuela’s central bank.
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates see the BRICS as a way of playing a more important role in global forums, analysts believe. As for Ethiopia and Nigeria, they are attracted by the bloc’s commitment to reforms at the United Nations that would give greater weight to the African continent.
But enlargement has become a point of contention.
Russia is keen to welcome new members to counter its diplomatic isolation following its invasion of Ukraine. South Africa has also expressed its support.
India, which is wary of Chinese domination and has warned against hasty expansion, has “a positive intention and an open mind”, said Foreign Minister Vinay Kwatra on Monday. Brazil, meanwhile, fears that BRICS expansion will dilute its influence.
What do the BRICS want?
These countries are calling for international organizations such as the UN Security Council and the Bretton Woods institutions – the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, etc. – to be rebuilt.
At present, at the IMF, for example, the 5 BRICS countries have just 10% of the votes, and 15% at the World Bank. A distribution which, in the eyes of the BRICS leaders, under-represents them on the international stage. In contrast, BRICS decisions are taken unanimously, on the principle of “one country – one vote”.
BRICS Summit – How South Africa is banking on China and Russia
BRICS members are also trying to break the hegemony of the US dollar in trade. They are promoting the use of their national currencies for trade. Brazil has even floated the idea of launching a common BRICS currency to counter the US dollar. The idea is on the table, but will not be officially discussed at the Johannesburg summit.
E-commerce in Africa is set to reach over $40 billion by 2024: Africa is becoming the next home of the Internet giants, and more specifically those involved in E-commerce. As smartphones and the Internet become more and more within everyone’s reach, E-commerce is evolving, particularly among young people.
E-commerce in Africa is set to exceed $40 billion by 2024
According to statistics, the African e-commerce industry is expected to reach an annual growth rate of 24.7% in 2024. Whereas in 2017, the industry’s annual sales were just $7.7 billion. It is expected to reach $42.3 billion in 2024. Annual revenue is thus expected to achieve cumulative growth of almost 500% in 7 years.
Over the past two years (2020-2021), the Covid-19 pandemic has also helped the e-commerce industry, as elsewhere in the world. On the other hand, the short-term effects of inflation could cause a slowdown in growth on the African continent.
In 2021, the African e-commerce industry brought in $28 billion in revenues. It recorded growth of 31% on 2020 ($21.4 billion). “The annual growth rate is expected to gradually decline to 9% by 2025”, says the Statista report.
In 2022, the African e-commerce industry is expected to generate $33.3 billion in revenues, following an increase of 19%. For 2023, the report forecasts growth of 14.7% to $38.2 billion. In 2024, the annual growth rate will fall further to 11%, with revenues of $42.3 billion.In 2025, annual sales will reach $46.1 billion, thanks to an annual increase of 9%.
Net growth in the number of users
The growth of the e-commerce industry in Africa is mainly due to the continent’s expanding e-commerce user base.
In 2017, just 138.9 million people shopped online in Africa. This figure is expected to rise to 519.8 million by 2024, representing a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 17.9%. It should be noted that the growth rate of revenues is higher than that of the user base.
Furthermore, e-commerce penetration among the African population in 2024 is expected to be 40%. Thus, the revenue growth rate could record a more attractive rate than that forecast.
Challenges and opportunities for trade on the continent
Despite the growing popularity of e-commerce, the industry faces obstacles.
UNCTAD’s 2018 E-Commerce Index, which measures an economy’s readiness to support online shopping, covers 151 global economies, including 44 African countries. Mauritius is ranked 55th, the best position in Africa. Nigeria and South Africa rank 75th and 77th respectively. Nine of the bottom ten countries are African.
Challenges include slow and expensive Internet connectivity, poor infrastructure, weak logistics and little or no consumer protection.
Although payment by cell phone is on the rise, payment on delivery remains popular in Africa, making cross-border e-commerce difficult. Policies are often not adapted to complex payment chains, and merchants have fewer options for connecting their local e-payment systems to the services used by global customers.
By promoting greater interoperability between payment systems, policymakers can help strengthen Africa’s position as a global leader in mobile payments.
Scheduled for 2024, the new Free Trade Area of the African Continent (ZLEC) aims to create the world’s largest trading bloc, with a market of 1.27 billion consumers, set to grow to 1.7 billion by 2030. Bridging the digital divide and creating an enabling environment would help entrepreneurs win over new customers, and offer numerous opportunities for innovation.
The role that e-commerce can play in the realization of the ZLEC is essential. “E-commerce can boost intra-African trade, which accounts for 18% of trade, and boost Africa’s share of world trade, estimated at less than 3%,” said Ajay Kumar Bramdeo, AU Ambassador to the UN in Geneva, during E-Commerce Week.
The belt of coups in the Sahel is completed by Niger: Niger is a key country in the Sahel, both because of its geographical location and the concentration of Western military bases on its soil.
The belt of coups in the Sahel is completed by Niger
In the Sahel, everything seems to converge on Niger, which until the July 26 coup d’état appeared to be an island of relative security stability in a region haunted by jihadist insurgency. In a report published in 2022, the US State Department even described the country as a “linchpin for stability in the Sahel”.
As The Washington Post recalls, the country was an exception in the midst of a “coup d’état belt”, an expression used to describe the horizontal line running from west to east between the countries of the sub-region that have seen a brutal overthrow of the authorities in power in recent years.
This small country of 25 million inhabitants is also home to numerous Western military bases. According to the Washington Post, the United States has around 1,100 soldiers and a drone base. As for France, after the disappointment and rejection of the Barkhane force by Mali and Burkina Faso, it chose Niger to establish the bulk of its forces, i.e. between 1,000 and 1,500 soldiers.
Finally, Niger abounds in mineral wealth, including precious uranium. In another article, the Washington Post estimates that the country, the world’s seventh largest producer of this mineral, has some of the largest gross reserves in Africa. It is also one of the main exporters of uranium to Europe. If the situation in Niger were to worsen, “this could force European governments to reconsider new punitive measures against Russia, one of the world’s biggest uranium exporters”.
So, will Niger follow in the footsteps of its two neighbors? In Niamey, the scenes involving Russian flags and anti-French slogans are already reminiscent of the events in Mali and Burkina Faso.
International position on the coup d’état in Niger
U.S. President Joe Biden called Thursday for the immediate release of Nigerien President Mohamed Bazoum, who was ousted last week in a military coup.
Biden said in a statement that Niger is “facing a grave challenge to its democracy.”
“The Nigerien people have the right to choose their leaders. They have expressed their will through free and fair elections—and that must be respected,” Biden said.
Briefing journalists at UN Headquarters in New York, Léonardo Santos Simão reiterated condemnation of the attempted overthrow of Nigerien President Mohamed Bazoum on 26 July.
He also underscored support for efforts by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) aimed at restoring constitutional order and consolidating democratic gains in the country.
“The unfolding crisis, if not addressed, will exacerbate the deteriorating security situation in the region. It will also negatively impact the development and lives of the population in a country where 4.3 million people need humanitarian assistance,” he said, speaking from Accra, Ghana.
He added that “Niger and the region do not need coups d’état. Populations deserve to enjoy peace, democratic governance and prosperity.”
A delegation from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is currently in Niger to “negotiate” with members of the National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland (CNSP), which overthrew the elected Nigerien president, Mohamed Bazoum, said one of the Community’s officials at the opening of Wednesday’s meeting of West African chiefs of staff in Abuja, Nigeria.
“Nigeria disconnected the high-voltage line carrying electricity to Niger yesterday (Tuesday),” the source told the media. A Nigelec official said that the capital, Niamey, was “supplied by local production”.
Exit France, Russia seduces in the Sahel
After Mali and Burkina Faso, Niger is the third country in the region to experience a coup d’état since 2020. Each time, France’s presence is denounced. A situation that benefits Russia, which is conducting intense propaganda on the ground.
“A bas la France!”, “Vive la Russie!” It’s a familiar scenario in the Sahel. After Mali, hit by two coups in 2020 and 2021, and Burkina Faso, hit by two putsches in 2022, it’s the turn of neighboring Niger to be overthrown by the military. Here again, supporters of the putschists have denounced France’s presence in their country. On Sunday July 30, in front of the French embassy in Niamey, they tore down the building’s plaque before trampling it and replacing it with Russian flags.
For several years now, France, the former colonial power, has been unwelcome in the Sahel, a region stretching from Senegal to Chad. The French army has been driven out of Burkina Faso and Mali, and Operation Barkhane, launched in 2014 to combat terrorism, forced to withdraw to Niger in summer 2022. Taking advantage of this situation, Russia continues to extend its influence and present itself as an ideal political, economic and security partner.
Russia-Africa Summit – Putin promises free grain deliveries to six African countries: Vladimir Putin opened the second Russia-Africa summit in St. Petersburg on Thursday July 27 with a promise of free grain deliveries to six African countries, against a backdrop of concern following the termination of an agreement allowing the export of millions of tons of Ukrainian agricultural products.
Russia-Africa Relations: A Growing Partnership
Russia and Africa have a long history of relations, dating back to the days of the Soviet Union. In recent years, these relations have been growing, as Russia has sought to expand its influence on the continent.
There are a number of reasons for Russia’s interest in Africa. First, Africa is a resource-rich continent, with abundant reserves of oil, gas, minerals, and other commodities. Russia is eager to secure access to these resources, which can help to fuel its own economy.
Second, Africa is a growing market for Russian goods and services. As the African middle class expands, there is increasing demand for Russian products, such as cars, smartphones, and construction equipment.
Third, Russia sees Africa as a potential ally in the global arena. Africa is a non-aligned continent, and Russia is hoping to build partnerships with African countries that can help to counter the influence of the United States and the European Union.
Russia-Africa Summit – Putin promises free grain deliveries to six African countries
In recent years, Russia has taken a number of steps to strengthen its ties with Africa. In 2019, Russia hosted the first Russia-Africa Summit, which was attended by leaders from over 50 African countries. Russia has also increased its military cooperation with African countries, and it has provided military training and equipment to a number of African armies.
The growing partnership between Russia and Africa has been met with mixed reactions. Some African leaders welcome Russia’s interest in the continent, as they see it as an opportunity to diversify their economic partners and gain access to new markets. Others are concerned about Russia’s intentions, and they worry that Russia is seeking to exploit Africa’s resources and undermine its democratic institutions.
Only time will tell how the Russia-Africa relationship will evolve in the years to come. However, it is clear that this relationship is growing in importance, and it will have a significant impact on the future of Africa.
Russia-Africa Summit – Putin promises free grain deliveries to six African countries
Isolated on the international stage since the launch of its military offensive in Ukraine in 2022, the Kremlin can still count on the support, or neutrality, of many African countries, and the Russia-Africa summit is seen as a diplomatic and political test for Moscow. In his opening address, the Russian president assured the audience that Moscow would be able to deliver up to 50,000 tonnes of grain free of charge to six countries “in the coming months”, citing Zimbabwe, Somalia and Eritrea, as well as three countries that have drawn closer to Moscow in recent years: Mali, Central Africa and Burkina Faso.
“Our country can replace Ukrainian grain commercially and free of charge”, he said, asserting that Russia was a “solid and responsible” producer.
Last week, Moscow refused to extend the grain agreement signed in July 2022 under the aegis of the United Nations and Turkey, which allowed Ukraine to export its agricultural products via the Black Sea despite the fighting. In the space of a year, the agreement had enabled nearly 33 million tonnes of grain to leave Ukrainian ports, helping to stabilize food prices and avert the risk of shortages.
Russia-Africa Summit 2023: Moscow makes its move
For this 2023 edition, the organizers have set up an Economic Forum as part of the summit, with a section dedicated to humanitarian issues, with the aim of diversifying this strategic partnership initiated by Moscow with a view to “long-term development”, stressed the Kremlin spokesman. With this in mind, and in preparation for the various aspects of the summit, Russia has stepped up its messages of support for Africa and its diplomatic missions in recent months.
As you may recall, in January 2023, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov made two African tours of several countries to lay the groundwork for this very important conference for Vladimir Putin, who wants to expand his relations in Africa and win the confidence of several countries on the continent, thus countering the isolation imposed on him by the West. It’s also a way of reviewing Russia’s cards in terms of trade, which still fall far short of Moscow’s and Africa’s expectations.
Important sectors of cooperation between Russia and Africa, such as armaments, are the most urgent, since for the past decade, Moscow has been asserting its desire to strengthen its military partnerships with numerous countries such as Cameroon, Ethiopia, South Africa, the Central African Republic and Mali.
These agreements follow a long-standing tradition dating back to the days of independence. At that time, the Soviet Union supplied arms to many African countries. But continuity failed to materialize after the collapse of the Soviet bloc. The Kremlin intends to make up for this delay with the help of the Wagner militia, which has already made its mark in recent years in countries such as the Central African Republic, Mali, Sudan and Libya.
It is in this sense that we need to understand that between 2018 and 2022, Russia has achieved a major turnaround by dethroning China as the leading arms exporter to sub-Saharan Africa, as we can read in a report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, rising from 21% to 26% market share. The same report tells us that “arms deliveries to Africa represent only a small share of Russia’s arms exports (12% in 2022), whose overall volume has fallen significantly in recent years, and even more so with the war in Ukraine”.
Sudanese refugee crisis: Fighting between regular army and paramilitary rapid intervention forces has dangerous human consequences. Hundreds of thousands of refugees!
Sudanese refugee crisis
Deadly fighting in Sudan has displaced more than 330,000 people inside the country, and another 100,000 have already fled to countries in the region, the United Nations reported on Tuesday, May 2. In all, “more than 800,000 people” could flee the country, the UN estimates.
The 2023 Sudanese refugee crisis began in Africa in mid-April 2023 after the outbreak of the 2023 Sudanese conflict. By May 12, 2023, over 200,000 people had fled the country and over a million had been internally displaced.
These included diplomats, citizens and foreign nationals from countries such as Somalia, Eritrea, Brazil, the USA, the UK, Kenya and Uganda. Thousands more were displaced, mainly from Khartoum.
Sudanese refugee crisis
On April 24, 2023, several countries, including Chad and South Sudan, reported the presence of several thousand civilians, some arriving by bus, car or on foot in extremely dangerous conditions.
In Chad, the situation is critical
Sudanese refugee crisis
The influx of Sudanese refugees entering Chad, 80% of whom are women and children, has been happening so fast that it’s testing international efforts to provide them with shelter, food and drinking water.
Ali Salam, a Chadian-American working with the Sudanese Association of American Physicians (SAPA), tells the Guardian that conditions in a refugee camp in Koufroun are “overwhelming”.
The rainy season, which starts at the end of June, will turn the region’s dirt roads into mudslides, further complicating the delivery of aid to those in need, and causing a rise in cases of malaria and other diseases, according to aid agencies.
“We know we won’t be able to relocate them all before the rainy season,” Pierre Kremer of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) tells Reuters. “We run the risk of a major humanitarian catastrophe in this region.
Disastrous economic situation
Chad, a landlocked country, depends on Sudan for access to international markets for foodstuffs, refined oil products and other imports. The fighting has complicated this system, exacerbating the fuel shortages that began in early March and driving up food prices.
According to the Observatory for Economic Complexity, the closure of the border with Sudan has caused prices to rise by up to 70%. In Chad’s capital, high inflation has caused major problems for shopkeepers and their customers alike, as the economic fallout from the fighting in Sudan influences the price of everything, including the red tea prized by Chadians.
Chad requests international aid
On Saturday June 24, Chad, where tens of thousands of new refugees are fleeing the war in Sudan, called for “massive aid” from the international community, which it accuses of “leaving it almost alone” in the face of an “unprecedented” humanitarian crisis.
Prime Minister Saleh Kebzabo told diplomats and representatives of international organizations on Saturday that “the mobilization of the international community (…) is not on a par with the mobilization seen elsewhere, leaving Chad almost alone in the face of hosting refugees, while exhausting its own resources to the maximum”.
Sudanese refugees between a rock and a hard place in the Central African Republic
For the past eight weeks, Sudan’s civil war has been turning the country upside down. Fleeing the fighting in Darfur, ten thousand refugees have taken refuge in the north of the Central African Republic.
While the fate of these shipwrecked warriors has caused a stir, more than 10,000 people have found themselves in an even more precarious situation in Amdafock. This small Central African village on the border with Darfur has been the scene of a drama behind closed doors since mid-April.
Sudanese refugee crisis
Life here is hard. No water, no electricity, no shelter for those shipwrecked – mostly women, children and the elderly – by the violence that continues to shake neighboring Darfur, bringing in hundreds of new arrivals every day.
Humanitarian assistance to date has been insufficient to cope with the influx. Bandits and armed groups lurk nearby. The security stakes are high. Here, the border only exists on paper, and with the exception of a few undermanned peacekeepers, no one is protecting the locality. At the end of May, the vehicle of an international NGO was attacked on the road, killing one person.
Egypt: government restricts entry conditions for Sudanese refugees
Sudanese refugee crisis
Egypt is tightening entry formalities for Sudanese nationals. Their country has been torn apart for almost two months by a deadly war that has led to a serious humanitarian crisis.
In a statement published on Sunday June 11, the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced new procedures. The aim is to “establish a regulatory framework for the entry of Sudanese brothers into Egypt after more than 50 days of crisis” in their country.
Egypt has welcomed more than 200,000 Sudanese citizens since the start of the crisis” two months ago, according to local authorities. They add that these recently arrived refugees “are in addition to the five million Sudanese citizens already present in the country before the war”.
These restrictive measures are not intended to “prevent or limit the number of Sudanese citizens entering” Egyptian territory, but rather to put an end to the “illegal activities of individuals and groups on the Sudanese side of the border, who falsify entry visas” for profit, explains the statement.
Darfur again threatened by “ethnic cleansing
Both the United Nations and human rights organizations have been warning in recent weeks of the proliferation of attacks in the region against civilians based on their ethnicity.
The international organization’s special representative for Sudan, Volker Perthes, recently warned that some of these attacks could potentially constitute “crimes against humanity”.
The New York Times recently reported, based on the testimony of refugee survivors in Chad, that snipers had been positioned to shoot down fleeing civilians.
On Tuesday, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) expressed its alarm at the situation in Darfur, pointing out that the fighting was intensifying and that “the ethnic dimension seen in the past is unfortunately returning”.
A crisis that drags on
The conflict in Sudan could join the long list of forgotten regional and international crises. A number of factors support this hypothesis, which is not to everyone’s displeasure. Firstly, the unbridled nature of the parties to the conflict, dominated by the desire for revenge and the quest for a decisive military victory over the two generals, who do not seem to have any intention of ceasing their actions, at least in the foreseeable future.
These crimes against civilian facilities such as airports, hospitals, schools, water points and the like are not the only evidence of the disaster that has befallen Sudan. The worst has been confirmed, especially after the collapse of the ceasefire and the suspension of talks in Jeddah announced by the Saudi and American mediators, accusing both sides of failing to respect the ceasefire and hindering aid and appeasement measures.
The perpetuation of the conflict in Sudan risks extending the fighting scenario beyond the country’s major cities. It could spread to other regions and neighboring countries, exacerbating existing insecurity and the causes of tension and conflict. The result would be humanitarian crises and a wave of refugees, outstripping the capacity of countries in the region to cope with such challenges.
New constitution for Mali: Malians have approved with 97% of the vote the draft of a new constitution submitted by the transitional authorities of this West African country, the electoral authority said in Bamako on Friday, publishing provisional official results.
New constitution for Mali
The turnout was 39.40%, announced the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI), which announced the provisional results at a ceremony at the Bamako International Conference Center.
Turnout is traditionally low in Mali, but voting, which took place on Sunday, was also hampered in many central and northern localities, either by fear of terrorist attacks or political disagreements.
The referendum is an important step on the road to a return to civilian rule in March 2024.
This will be the fourth constitution, after the current one dating from 1992 and those of 1974 and 1960. Some 8.4 million Malians were asked to say yes or no to the text.
New constitution for Mali: Main new features
The new constitution strengthens the powers of the future president, who will determine national policy, and affirms the country’s commitment to a republican and secular state.
Under the new constitution, “the government is accountable to the President”, rather than to the National Assembly. The initiative for legislation would rest with the President and parliamentarians, rather than with the government and the National Assembly.
The president would be elected for a five-year term, and could not serve more than two terms, according to the new constitution.
ECOWAS congratulates the transitional government
Following the announcement of the holding of a referendum on a new constitution in Mali on June 18, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission was quick to congratulate the country’s transitional government.
In a message addressed to the authorities in Bamako, the ECOWAS Commission expressed its satisfaction at the convening of the Republic of Mali’s electoral college on June 18, 2023 for the constitutional referendum to adopt the country’s new constitution.
The communiqué adds that the ECOWAS Commission congratulates the transition government on this decision, which marks an important step in the implementation of the transition timetable for a return to constitutional order.
The note goes on to say that the sub-region’s institution reiterates its readiness to support the transition government throughout the transition process towards a return to constitutional order.
Victory for Goïta with the approval of the new constitution
Colonel Assimi Goïta, who took power in Mali in August 2020 during a change of military government, has just scored a significant victory.
The new constitution, which substantially strengthens the powers of the president, has been seen by some as a strategy to ensure that the military government, led by Colonel Goïta, retains its influence even after the presidential election scheduled for February 2024.
The text also emphasizes the country’s “sovereignty”, a theme dear to the president since his takeover.
However, the referendum process was marked by several irregularities and incidents, particularly in the center and north of the country.
Fear of jihadist attacks and political disagreements were cited by some as factors behind these obstacles. In addition, several armed groups in the North, who had previously fought the central state before signing a fragile peace agreement in 2015, prevented voting from taking place in certain regions, arguing that the new constitutional text did not respect the terms of this agreement.
Nevertheless, the approval of the new constitution is an important victory for Goïta and the military government.
“The big difference with the 1992 Fundamental Law is that this new text takes into account the evolution of Malian society”.
For constitutional law professor Fousseyni Doumbia, the 1992 Constitution did not take into account the various changes in society. He believes that the draft Constitution takes into account dimensions linked to international commitments signed by Mali. It was not the case of the old Fundamental Law.
Highly critical of the text, he believes that it fails to take into account most of the concerns of Malians, themselves divided by the crisis. At the same time, Professor Fousseyni Doumbia deplores the fact that the draft Constitution is overloaded with ambiguous articles.
In his view, the project took relatively little account of issues linked to the rebuilding of Mali.
Repression against journalists in Tunisia worries the UN: Since Tunisia voluntarily aligned itself with Algeria in exchange for gas, democracy has suffered an alarming setback, jeopardizing the achievements of the Arab Spring. This situation has led the UN Human Rights Office to strongly condemn the repression of journalists in the country.
Repression of journalists in Tunisia worries the UN
Like Algeria, Tunisia has adopted legislation that treats independent journalism as a criminal act, thereby silencing criticism of the authorities.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, expressed his concern at this situation, declaring: “It is worrying to see that Tunisia, a country that once held out so much hope, has regressed and lost the human rights gains of the last decade.”
According to him, the repression that had previously targeted judges, politicians, union leaders, businessmen and civil society actors, has now spread to target independent journalists, who are constantly harassed and prevented from carrying out their work. The High Commissioner called on Tunisia to change course.
Like Algeria, Tunisia uses anti-terrorist legislation to silence independent journalistic voices.
The United Nations Human Rights Office in Tunisia has documented twenty-one cases of alleged human rights violations against journalists since July 2021, including prosecutions before civilian and military courts, according to Volker Türk.
Human rights on the wane in President Saied’s Tunisia
The silence imposed on journalists in a coordinated effort undermines the crucial and necessary role of independent media and has a corrosive effect on society as a whole, he stressed.
Last April, after a series of arbitrary arrests and false accusations against outspoken journalists, Algeria decided to institutionalize its repression of freedom of expression by drafting a law that transforms media silence into a legal procedure.
Last febrary, dozens of Tunisian journalists and rights activists demonstrated in the streets of the capital, Tunis, to denounce “state repression” and attempts to intimidate the media.
The protest, organised by a journalists’ union, SNJT, came three days after police arrested Noureddine Boutar, the director of a popular private radio station, Mosaïque FM.
Boutar is one of 10 public figures arrested since Saturday, mainly critics of President Kais Saied, including members of the Islamist-inspired Ennahdha party.
“The authorities, at all levels including the president and the prime minister, are seeking to repress press freedom and there are many indicators that prove this, such as military trials, decree-law no. 54, allegations over editorial outlines and other practises”, denounced Amira Mohamed, vice-president of the SNJT journalists’ union.
Turkey positions itself in Africa: charitable, cultural, economic and now security diplomacy … The Euro-Asian country consolidates its position as a partner in Africa.
Turkey positions itself in Africa
Indeed, Turkey is not to be outdone in the economic powers‘ struggle for influence on the African continent. The country is positioning itself as an alternative partner to the former European colonial powers.
A strategy that is paying off: outgoing President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his investments are welcomed with open arms in many African countries.
Trade with Africa has increased by 4.4% in 20 years, and now accounts for 9.4% of Turkey’s exports.
Turkish furniture, for example, is uncompetitive in Europe but successful in Nigeria. And Turkey has become an attractive trading partner for West African countries, which prefer it to France because of its colonial past.
“Ultimately, Turkey is seeking to diversify its partnerships and international relations, and to conquer new markets”, says Alex Vines, director of the Africa program at London-based think tank Chattam House.
According to him, “this is also one of the main thrusts of the policy developed over the last twenty years”.
Turkey’s African strategy is not just about trade. It ranges from “soft power” with educational and social establishments or media projects, to infrastructure projects and humanitarian aid against famine in Somalia.
Turkish construction companies are well established in building roads, bridges, railroads, airports and mosques in Africa.
In return, the continent is becoming an increasingly important supplier of energy and raw materials for Turkey. Algeria, for example, is Turkey’s fourth-largest energy supplier.
“Turkey Days” will be organized in 4 countries between July and September
Under the slogan “Experience Turkey in Africa”, Turkey Days in Africa will take place for the first time in several West African countries.
Organized by Grevents World, under the aegis of DEIK and in partnership with several Turkish institutions including Maarif, TIKA and the Yunus Emre Institute, these days will aim to “raise awareness of Turkish culture and language”, Zeki Guvercin, Chairman of the Board of Directors of “Türkiye days Expo 2023”.
According to Guvercin, these days will also help “strengthen cooperation between Turkey and West Africa”, while “increasing trade relations”.
The days will take place on different dates in 4 West African countries. The inauguration will take place on July 22-23 in Senegal, followed by September 20-21 in Benin. Two days later, Togo will host the event on September 22-23, followed by Niger on September 25-26.
Between Africa and Turkey, a partnership that’s taking root
When the Turkish Republic came into being in 1923, Ankara cut itself off from the Middle East and Africa to look to the West and join NATO after 1945. The collapse of the Soviet Union, which put an end to the bipolarity of the Cold War, encouraged Turkey to reweave its own diplomatic web. As early as 1998, even before the AKP came to power, the Turkish authorities put in place an “Action Plan for an Opening to Africa”, to offer new perspectives to Turkey’s foreign policy, and, in the midst of globalization, to develop its economy”.
But it was really Recep Tayyip Erdogan who was to flesh out the links, giving of himself: with over 40 visits, sometimes two a year, he is the non-African leader who has visited the most states on the continent. In 2005, when he was Prime Minister, he launched the “Year of Africa”, a year ahead of China and five years ahead of France. Then, in 2008, the year of the first Africa-Turkey summit, he launched the “Strategic Partnership with the African Union”, with Ankara playing an observer role. Relations have been forged with ECOWAS and IGAD, but the emphasis is on bilateral relations.
In 15 years, Turkey’s network of embassies in Africa has grown from 12 to 44. Ankara is now also home to 37 African embassies. In December 2021, still in the midst of a health crisis, no fewer than 16 African heads of state and over 100 ministers from the continent travel to Istanbul for the third Africa-Turkey summit.
Remittances from migrants – top 10 recipient countries in Africa: Global migrant remittances rose in 2022, according to the latest World Bank report. Internationally, remittances totaled $647 billion, up 8%. In Africa, however, the increase was only 2.63%, to 97.5 billion dollars. Egypt remains by far the largest recipient of these flows. Transfer costs are still very high.
Remittances from migrants in Africa: Analysis 2022
On the African continent, diaspora remittances totaled $97.5 billion, up 2.63% on 2021. However, these figures need to be put into perspective. Many migrant remittances, particularly from sub-Saharan African countries, are channeled through informal channels and are therefore not taken into account in the official statistics of banks, exchange offices and central banks. These data are therefore somewhat biased.
By region, remittances to North African countries (Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco and Djibouti) totaled $44.5 billion, compared with $46 billion a year earlier, down 4.02%, mainly due to the decline in remittances from Egyptian migrants. Transfers to sub-Saharan Africa totaled $53 billion, up 6.1% on the previous year.
Remittances from migrants – top 10 recipient countries in Africa
Egypt & Nigeria in the lead
In terms of the major recipient countries of remittances, there were no notable changes. Egypt, Africa’s third most populous country and home to a diaspora of over 10 million souls, remains the continent’s biggest recipient of remittances. This volume stood at $28.3 billion, down 11.31% on 2021, when it reached a record $31.5 billion. Egypt alone accounts for 29% of migrants’ remittances to the continent.
As the country’s second-largest source of foreign currency after exports this year, remittances contribute to the country’s foreign exchange reserves and improve the current account balance. These transfers represented the equivalent of 8.1% of Egypt’s Gross Domestic Product.
In addition, these transfers also help to alleviate the situation of the Egyptian population, which has been hard hit by the effects of the global economic crisis following the Covid-19 crisis, and above all by the impact of the Russia-Ukraine war and its effects on inflation, which has reduced the purchasing power of Egyptians.
Nigeria was a distant second, with remittances of $20.1 billion, down 3.3% on the previous year. Here too, the size of the diaspora plays a major role. As Africa’s most populous country, we have a large community abroad, particularly in the major Anglo-Saxon countries (UK, USA and Canada), estimated at over 17 million souls. During the period under review, the diaspora transferred $20.1 billion. Remittances from Nigerian migrants represent 38% of total remittance flows in sub-Saharan Africa.
Remittances from migrants – top 10 recipient countries in Africa
Behind these two demographically significant countries comes Morocco, whose diaspora remittances reached $11.2 billion, compared with $10.4 billion in 2021, an increase of 7.70%. The Kingdom ranks 3rd among recipients of remittances in Africa, thanks to its diaspora estimated at over 5.5 million souls, equivalent to 15% of the Moroccan population. This diaspora is very attached to its origins, and its remittances have a significant economic and social impact. These transfers, facilitated by the presence of Moroccan banks in countries where a large part of the diaspora lives (France, Spain, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, etc.), represented the equivalent of 6.6% of the country’s GDP in 2022.
Behind this trio come Ghana (4.7 billion dollars), Kenya (4.1), Tunisia (3.1), Zimbabwe (3.1), Senegal (2.5), Algeria (1.8) and DR Congo (1.7).
Top 10 African countries receiving remittances
Country Transfers in 2022 Change 2022/2021 Transfers/GDP Egypt 28,30 billions of dollars -11,31 % 8,1 % Nigeria 20,10 billions of dollars -3,30 % – Morocco 11,20 billions of dollars +7,70 % 6,6 % Ghana 4,7 billions of dollars +11,9 % 6,4 % Kenya 4,1 billions of dollars +8,5 % – Tunisia 3,1 billions of dollars 10 % 6,0 % Zimbabwe 3,1 billions of dollars – 9,3 % Senegal 2,5 billions of dollars -7,41 % 9,1 % Algéria 1,8 billions of dollars 0 % 0,9 % DR Congo 1,7 billions of dollars +30,77 % –
Lastly, despite requests from multilateral financial and development institutions and receiving countries, transfer costs to Africa remain high. In North Africa and the Middle East, the cost of a $200 transfer to the region averaged 6.2% in Q4 2022. In sub-Saharan Africa, the average cost was 8% over the same period.