The recent visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Russia amidst the ongoing Ukraine conflict holds significant implications for Africa, given the historical connections between Africa’s independence and the support of China and Russia.
While Western countries are pressuring African nations to condemn Russia’s actions in Ukraine, many African nations are seeking to strengthen their relationships with China and Russia to increase their global influence and bolster their economies.
This is particularly true for Southern African countries like Zimbabwe and South Africa, whose current ruling parties have strong ties to China and the former Soviet Union. Zimbabwe, in particular, has benefited twice from looking east – first during its liberation struggle and later when it faced Western sanctions after reclaiming land from colonial British farmers.
The longstanding connections between Africa’s independence and the support of China and Russia have played a crucial role in shaping African foreign policy. In recent years, China and Russia have emerged as vital partners for Africa, providing significant investment and support for infrastructure development, energy projects, and other initiatives.
Unlike Western countries, which often attach conditions to their aid and investment, China and Russia have adopted a more hands-off approach, allowing African nations to determine their development paths. This approach has been welcomed by many African countries, which see it as a departure from the paternalistic policies of the past.
As African nations seek to increase their global influence and economic growth, they are increasingly looking towards the East. China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has become a major focus of its engagement with Africa, aimed at promoting economic growth and regional integration.
African countries have shown eagerness to participate in the BRI, viewing it as an opportunity to enhance their economies and infrastructure. Additionally, China and Russia have been crucial partners for African countries facing economic sanctions or other challenges from Western nations. For instance, China has made substantial investments in Zimbabwe’s infrastructure and mining sectors, while Russia has provided military and economic support.
In contrast, Western countries have often faced criticism for their policies towards Africa, which are seen as promoting dependency and perpetuating poverty. Many African leaders have accused Western countries of imposing their values and interests on African nations, rather than respecting their sovereignty and allowing them to determine their developmental pathways.
However, some Western countries have begun to adopt a more partnership-based approach, recognising the importance of African agency and ownership in development initiatives.
Overall, the recent visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Russia highlights the growing importance of China and Russia as partners for Africa, particularly in the face of Western pressure and criticism.
While there are certainly challenges and risks associated with this approach, many African nations see it as a way to break free from the constraints of the past and build a more prosperous and modern Africa.