Lavrov Turns on Charm Offensive in the Lead Up to Russia-Africa Summit

From 23 to 26 January 2023, Russian Foreign Minister visited South Africa, Eswatini, Angola and Eritrea. Then from 7 to 9 February 2023, he visited Mali, Mauritania and Sudan after meeting his Egyptian counterpart in Moscow in between the two trips to Africa.

It is worth recalling that in July 2022, Minister Lavrov already visited Egypt, Ethiopia, Uganda and the Republic of Congo. Thus, Russian FM has visited nearly a dozen African countries during short span of half of a year.

Analysts believe the main objective of Lavrov’s African tour is to shore up support for Russia in the conflict with Ukraine. At the same time, Lavrov is drumming support for the 2nd Russia-Africa Summit (#RAS2) which is scheduled to take place in St Petersburg in July 2023. The partnership between Russia and African countries currently focuses on a couple of sectors, notably defense and energy.

For instance, Russia, South Africa and China will perform joint naval exercises off Durban in the Indian Ocean in February 2023. As part of the drills, the Russian frigate Admiral Groshkov will demonstrate the Zicon hypersonic missile.

In Angola, Russia lauded the successful launch of the Angolan satellite Angosat-2 by a Russian rocket in October 2022. Furthermore, Rusia and Angola plan to cooperate in the area of nuclear energy. In Mali and Mauritania, Russia reiterated its willingness to provide military expertise and equipment to buttress counterterrorism efforts in the Sahel region.

In Sudan, Minister Lavrov reiterated Moscow’s support for the lifting of UN sanctions. In December 2020 during the Bashir’s regime, Russia signed a 25-year long deal with Sudan to build a naval base on the Red Sea. However, the project has been put on hold since Bashir’s ouster. It is worth noting that the US slapped sanctions against Russian company ‘M Invest’ which was awarded mining concessions for gold in Sudan.

Eritrea is located in the geostrategic region of the Horn of Africa which leads to the Suez Canal. Moscow stands ready to strengthen defense partnerships with Eritrea with negotiations ongoing to establish a Russian military base in the Red Sea.

Russian FM Lavrov thanked African countries for their support and welcomed them to participate in the upcoming Russia-Africa Summit in July 2023.