Tug-of-war: West and Russia vying for influence in Africa
French President Emanuel Macron and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov are each visiting several African countries this week in what is widely seen as a tug-of-war over zones of influence on the continent.
Speaking during a visit to Ethiopia, Lavrov on Wednesday (27 July) criticized the reliance of the global economy on the US dollar, saying the reliance on the American currency in supporting the world economy was “not so very promising” and claimed countries were shifting to using alternative currencies “more and more“. “This process will be gaining momentum,” Russia’s top diplomat said during a press conference in Addis Ababa. Overall, Lavrov is seeking to convince Africa that Moscow cannot be blamed either for the conflict in Ukraine or the food crisis. Russia has blamed the blockade on Ukrainian mines.
As he was wrapping up a four-nation African tour, Lavrov said Moscow supports Ethiopia’s efforts to stabilize its internal political situation — in remarks that sought to draw a contrast with what he presented as meddling by the West. But most African nations, mindful of economic interests and historical ties with both Russia and the West, have declined to take sides over Ukraine.
Meanwhile, also on Wednesday, French President Emmanuel Macron arrived in Guinea Bissau for the first official visit of a French head of state to the West African nation. His visit comes as the country’s president, Umaro Sissoco Embaló, recently assumed the rotating presidency of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) for a one-year period. The French leader’s visit was highly anticipated as the streets were full of people chanting his name and waving flags in a bid to express their delight and support in his visit. Macron’s historic visit to Guinea Bissau also comes at a time of turmoil for this small West African country, which is plagued by political crises, coupled with instability and poverty.