Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov is launching a charm offensive in Africa, but why?

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met representatives of the Arab League in Cairo on 24 July 2022.Picture AFP

What exactly is on the program during the Russian Africa tour?

Lavrov meets with African leaders and their officials in four countries. At the weekend he visited Egypt and arrived late Sunday evening in Congo-Brazzaville. Visits to Uganda and Ethiopia are planned for later this week. The trip is seen as preparation for a Russia-Africa summit to be held in Ethiopia later this year.

Why is Lavrov traveling through Africa?

The working trip is part of a Russian charm offensive, in which Lavrov would like to emphasize the good relationship between his country and African countries. For example, during a meeting with Egyptian President Al-Sisi on Sunday, Lavrov said that his trip through Africa shows that Russia is not isolated from the rest of the world.

Russia also wants to show that it is ‘doing everything it can’ to get food to Africa. Western leaders have previously said that the Russian invasion of Ukraine has led to a global food crisis. “Speculations by Western and Ukrainian propaganda that Russia is ‘exporting hunger’ are absolutely unfounded,” Lavrov wrote in a letter published by newspapers in the African countries he is visiting. According to Lavrov, Russia is not “tainted by the bloody crimes of colonialism” and has played a major role in the decolonization of Africa.

Sergei Lavrov at a meeting with members of the Arab League in Cairo.  Image ANP / EPA

Sergei Lavrov at a meeting with members of the Arab League in Cairo.Image ANP / EPA

How is Lavrov received?

Although Egypt and the United States have enjoyed good diplomatic ties since 1849, Lavrov was welcomed with open arms by the Egyptians. Egypt-Russia relations are “historic” and “characterized by friendship and branching into many political, economic and cultural areas,” Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said after meeting Lavrov. ‘We look forward to further close cooperation based on mutual respect and common interest.’

The red carpet for the Russian minister has also been rolled out in the other three countries: Lavrov… was warmly received by his colleague in Congo-Brazzaville.

Why do African countries like Russia?

Despite the invasion of Ukraine, many countries have good diplomatic relations with Russia. For example, Egypt, one of the world’s largest importers of Ukrainian and Russian wheat, has strengthened bilateral relations with Russia in recent years. Last week, a Russian state-owned company started construction of a power plant in the North African country.

For other countries, Russia is a major arms supplier: in recent years, the Russians have signed military agreements with, among others, Ethiopia and Nigeria. Although this is denied by their governments, Russian mercenaries are also active in some countries, such as Mali and the Central African Republic. In addition, many African countries import grain and fertilizer from Russia.

No African country has joined the US and European sanctions against the Russians. African leaders do not speak out against the war in Ukraine, preferring to remain neutral. Earlier this year, only 28 of the African countries at the UN General Assembly voted in favor of a resolution strongly condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The 26 other African countries did not vote, for example by taking a strategic coffee break.

How do the Western countries react to Lavrov’s working trip?

that New York Times writes that Western countries have waged a “joint campaign” to prevent Lavrov from being “too warmly received” by the Egyptians. According to the Russians, the US also tried to prevent leaders from taking pictures with Lavrov.

On Sunday, ahead of Lavrov’s first visit, the US Embassy in Cairo sent another press release to reporters saying US President Biden has pledged $50 million to Egypt. The money is intended to offset the rapid increase in the prices of wheat and other staple foods “caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.” Biden announced another US-Africa summit last week to take place in December.

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