Russia seeks ‘low-cost, high-profile’ opportunities on the African continent to burnish its prestige.

President Vladimir Putin waves during a family photo with heads of countries taking part in the 2019 Russia-Africa Summit in Sochi, Russia, October 24, 2019 [Sergei Chirikov/Pool via Reuters]

President Vladimir Putin waves during a family photo with heads of countries taking part in the 2019 Russia-Africa Summit in Sochi, Russia, October 24, 2019 [Sergei Chirikov/Pool via Reuters]

It used to be that the only time one would see African leaders huddled together in large numbers was at the annual gatherings of what used to be known as the Organization of African Unity and later rebranded as the African Union.

Today, however, one is also likely to encounter them in a few capitals outside the continent. Over the last five years, there have been such gatherings of leaders from nearly all 54 African countries in Washington in August 2014, in Beijing in July 2018and most recently in Moscow last month.

These summits have been seen in the context of a new “scramble” for the continent, primarily pitting a growing, more confident and resource-hungry China against the West, which sees it as a threat to its global hegemony. However, what the role and ambition of Russia is, has been less clear. 

Though during the Cold War, Moscow was a significant player on the continent, its interest in Africa was tangential at best, ultimately tied to maintaining its global prestige as a superpower and limiting the influence of its rivals, China and the United States. Africa offered the prospect of “maximum gains for winning world influence with minimum risk”.(Patrick Gathara)

Posted by The non-Conformist