Lavrov Pushes Military and Economic Ties on Africa Tour

In seemingly synchronized step with Chinese FM Qin Gang and US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, US FM Sergey Lazarov is also touring Africa at the beginning of 2023. His tour will take him to South Africa, Botswana, Angola, Eswatini and Eritrea.

This marks the 2nd time that Russian FM Lavrov is visiting Africa since the onset of Russia-Ukraine war. Last July 2022, Lavrov visited Egypt, Ethiopia, Republic of Congo and Uganda. In February 2023, Lavrov is believed to take another tour of Africa which will focus on North Africa with stops in Algeria, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia.

Meeting with his South African counterpart, he thanked South Africa for not taking sides in the “special military operation” in Ukraine. Indeed, after voting for Russia to “immediately withdraw its forces from Ukraine” at the UN back in February 2022, South Africa then adopted a different posture by being one of the 17 African states which abstained to condemn Russia in a subsequent vote in March 2022.

Pandor has demanded the withdrawal of the Countering Malign Russian Activities in Africa Bill which was adopted by the US House of Representatives in April 2022. The Bill proposes to impose sanctions on Russian entities, more particularly the Wagner ‘mercenary outfit’ which is deemed to be conducting ‘malign’ operations in Africa. It would also sanction African governments and businesses known to be dealing with Russian entities.

During US State Secretary Blinken’s visit to South Africa in August 2022, Pandor expressed that South Africa will not be bullied into taking sides and was glad that the USA is not forcing South Africa to pick sides.

Russian FM Lavrov pushed for a joint naval exercise with South Africa and China during the 17 to 27 February 2023 timeframe. The timing was not lost on observers who noted that the time window coincided with the anniversary of the start of the Russia-Ukraine military conflict on 24 February 2022. The military drill is codenamed “Mosi” which means “Smoke” in Tswana language.

Lavrov hinted that Wagner intends to expand its footprint and develop defense partnerships in Africa. In addition, Russia intends to offer more scholarships to African students. Similarly to USA and China, Russia also supports the membership of Africa in #G20.

Bilateral trade volume between South Africa and Russia totaled USD 4 billion. Comparatively, South Africa traded for USD 20 billion with USA and USD 60 billion with China.

“The current global geopolitical tensions clearly signal the need to create institutional mechanisms that will have the stature, form and global trust to promote and support global peace and security — BRICS should play a proactive role in emerging processes and ensure it is part of a redesigned global order.”

South African FM Naledi Pandor

South Africa is due to host the #BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) Summit in 2023. Discussions are afoot to enlarge the club with Turkey, Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Argentina as potential new members of the bloc of emerging economies.

On the other hand, Russia is planning to host the Russia-Africa Summit (#RAS2) around July 2023 although no specific date has been given yet. Lavrov’s tour of Africa is a way to gauge the level of interest and drum up support for the event. One of the key themes of the Summit would be promote the use of national currencies in bilateral trade in order to circumvent economic sanctions enabled by US dollar hegemony in international trade.