Analysis: Southern Africa calls the tune as great power suitors queue up & More Trending News


  • Russia, United States in high-level visits to area
  • Region has historic Russia ties however greater Western commerce
  • Ukraine warfare heightens geopolitical rivalry over Africa

JOHANNESBURG, Jan 26 (Reuters) – South Africa and its neighbours had been at the centre of a tussle for affect this week when high Russian and U.S. officers visited, providing a uncommon second of leverage for governments on a continent extra used to being buffeted by occasions than wooed.

With a warfare in Europe pitting invading Russian forces in opposition to Ukraine’s military provided with Western arms, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen had been each on the hunt for broader worldwide help.

For the nations of southern Africa, which preserve robust ideological and historic sympathies for Russia however maintain way more important commerce balances with the European Union and United States, that rivalry presents a chance.

“They have the opportunity to play one side off against the other to get concessions; to get more aid, more trade,” mentioned Steven Gruzd from the South African Institute of International Affairs. “That’s precisely what we’re seeing at the moment.”

The warfare in Ukraine has intensified long-standing great power competitors for entry to Africa’s ample pure assets and the diplomatic prize of its 54 U.N. votes.

But Africa’s voting patterns at the United Nations present a continent divided over which facet to help in Ukraine’s warfare.

Landlocked between South Africa and Mozambique and with a gross home product of lower than $5 billion, the tiny kingdom of Eswatini would not typically command the consideration of world powers. No Russian diplomat is predicated there.

Nevertheless Lavrov made a stopover after visiting South Africa, which his counterpart Thulisile Dladla described as a “profound honour.” The two sides signed a visa waver settlement.

Eswatini depends on the United States for assist, however its absolute monarchy has suffered U.S. criticism on human rights.


For South Africa, the continent’s financial powerhouse and diplomatic heavyweight, it was a chance to thumb its nostril at a Western alliance it regards as too bossy and hegemonic.

Receiving Lavrov in Pretoria, his counterpart Naledi Pandor defended joint navy drills deliberate with Russia and China as a “natural course of relations” between “friends”, and advised South Africa now not believed that Russia should withdraw from Ukraine, until a peace deal is agreed.

South Africa, alongside Russia and China, is pushing for a “multipolar” world wherein geopolitical power is much less concentrated round the United States. For that motive, it’s an enthusiastic exponent of a proposed political and commerce alliance between Brazil, Russia, India, China and itself (BRICS) — for which it’s holding a summit later this 12 months.

“A more inclusive multipolar world. This is the vision of the BRICS family and what we all subscribe to,” Anil Sooklal, South Africa’s official accountable for BRICS, advised Reuters.

But South Africa’s exports to Russia had been $587 million in 2020, whereas its exports to the United States in the similar 12 months had been $10.2 billion, information from The Observatory of Economic Complexity (OEC) reveals.

“South Africa takes BRICS very seriously, but reality is BRICS has (offered it) very little,” mentioned Tom Lodge, Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Limerick. “It hasn’t delivered the kind of benefits South Africa was hoping to get.”

Russia-ally China, a significant commerce companion, has been extra concerned about fundamentals like wine and wool than the high-tech worth -added merchandise South Africa needs to promote, Lodge mentioned, including, “the United States provides better trading opportunities.”

Yet regardless of South Africa’s refusal to vote in opposition to Russia at the U.N. and its rejection of NATO’s stance on Ukraine, Yellen met South African officers and on Thursday will go to mining websites that stand to lose jobs from the transition to inexperienced power of which the United States is a significant funder.


While Angola’s ageing political class nonetheless remembers Russia’s help for its then-Marxist People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) in its 27-year civil warfare in opposition to Washington-backed rebels, there was a marked shift in the direction of the West since President João Lourenço took over in 2017.

“Angola is one of a few African countries to condemn Russia’s actions – apparently under pressure from the EU,” mentioned South African political danger analyst Marisa Lourenco, noting “a strong pivot towards the U.S. and away from Russia.”

Angola can also be in search of to deepen ties with Germany, France and its former colonial ruler Portugal, she mentioned. Lourenço even advised in an interview with Voice of America in December that he wish to ditch Russian navy help in favour of the U.S. navy tools programme.

That did not cease Lavrov making courtesy name to Luanda on Wednesday, the place he provided to double college scholarships to Angolan college students to 300 subsequent 12 months in an train of Russian tender power. Russia’s Alrosa, the world’s largest diamond producer, has a 41% stake in a large Angolan mine.

“The Russians do want to say very loudly that they are not isolated, and that they are welcome everywhere,” mentioned Irina Filatova, Emeritus humanities professor at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

“(That) will not endear (southern Africa) to the U.S. or the British, but it doesn’t mean they will stop trading,” she mentioned. “It’s too important.”

Editing by William Maclean

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Analysis: Southern Africa calls the tune as great power suitors queue up

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Analysis: Southern Africa calls the tune as great power suitors queue up

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