Russia Has Big Plans to Expand Its Influence in Africa

Africa is a key territory on the global map. Rich in oil and natural resources, the continent holds a strategic position as the world’s fastest-growing region for foreign direct investment. It has approximately 30 percent of the earth’s remaining mineral resources.

The region is full of promise and untapped riches – from oil and minerals and land to vast amounts of people capital – yet, it has struggled since colonial times to truly realize its potential, despite this huge advantage.

Africa has had its fair, if not overloaded, share of problems, which stems from external influence; a type of influence that is aimed at further keeping Africa in shackles of economic bondage. Problems from external influence are then aggravated by the inability and ineptitude of her own leaders to be innovative in moving their countries forward.

The recently held Russia-Africa Summit is a clear manifestation of how external influence seems to be a feature that is permanently etched in the identity of Africa. The summit served more as a catch-up program for Russia with the rest of other superpowers such as the US and China in their influence over African politics and economics. Except, Russia claims it strictly does not meddle in the affairs of sovereign countries, unlike the checkered history of the United States foreign policy.

The summit was also a way of wooing Africa to Russia’s side by evoking the nostalgic feeling of the Soviet Union’s co-operation with Africa during the volatile times of mounting anti-colonial struggles. Russia has realized that Africa is an important playground as far as world relations for dominance are concerned, and so they want to catch-up in this never-ending affair of the scramble for Africa.

What Russia is offering to Africa is help in developing the energy sector in Africa. And they want to achieve this primarily through nuclear energy. Apart from this is infrastructural development in the construction of railways and housing, high technology in the mineral sector, agriculture, digital technology, exploration, medicine, science and education.

Nuclear energy is a focal point for Russia, for they want to make it a reality in Africa. This has raised concerns about Africa’s ability to withstand the debt. This comes in the light of many African countries that are sinking in debt, both to the Bretton Woods institutions and to China. Developing the plants will come at a wildly enormous cost, and that debt will be likely insurmountable. Russia claims there are huge rewards to be reaped from nuclear technology in producing electricity, but still, the economic ramifications of these projects remain in mind. South Africa refused to build nuclear plants with the help of Russia, but Ethiopia and Rwanda are on their course to having nuclear technology.

Russia’s latest attempts in having Africa’s interest scream one thing, and that is neo-colonialism. Are these relations being done in good faith? The answer to that is a blurry one, for all the world superpowers are vying for Africa’s vast natural resources for their own benefit only.

African leaders would have to be cautious in their relations with Russia as China’s debt has become a huge concern for African citizens to bear. This ought to be a great time for African leaders to wake up and be more stoic in their approach of dealing with external influence.

Written by Olakunle Agboola, published on African Voice