Brics: Russia bid to reclaim African influence, challenge dollar dominance

Thursday July 20 2023
Ramaphosa and Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) shakes hands with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa. PHOTO | AFP


Following Russia's invasion of Ukraine in early 2022, the Kremlin has stepped up its efforts to actively woo African governments and business leaders away from 'Western interests' and into the Russian Federation’s camp, both politically and economically.

The Kremlin's move comes alongside the Wagner Group's ongoing mercenary operations in several African states, mainly in the form of propping up governments against internal armed opposition in return for access to and exploitation of precious and rare metals and minerals, as well as gemstone deposits such as diamonds and rubies.

Russia's stepped-up efforts to make real friends with more African states have intensified in the wake of Russia's 'Ukraine adventure', as it became increasingly clear to the Kremlin that the 'African lobby' among the 'non-aligned states' would be crucial in avoiding an even more severe curtailment of Russia's dwindling international influence.

Read: The new scramble for Africa

Not only has Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov made a series of almost non-stop visits to African capitals, including two recent visits to South Africa, but a number of high-level summits and meetings of business and political leaders have taken place or are planned. 

Vladimir Putin to skip event


Upcoming and top of that list are the Second Russia-Africa Summit, due to take place in St Petersburg's Expo Forum, on July 27-28, and next month’s heads of state summit of the Brics (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) bloc.

The Brics meeting has avoided the spectre of Russian leader Vladimir Putin being arrested on arrival in host country South Africa, due to an arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes, over the abduction to Russia of tens of thousands of Ukrainian children.

Read: Putin to skip Brics summit in S.Africa amid arrest threat

Having been invited to attend in person by South African leader and current Brics chair, President Cyril Ramaphosa, Putin had been asked to reconsider attending, both by Ramaphosa during the recent effort by African leaders to broker a peace in Ukraine, and again more recently, but was insisting that he “come as usual”, like other Brics leaders attending the summit.

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