Editor’s Note: June 13, 2019

Russia in Africa is less dramatic than it sounds

“Leaked documents reveal Russian effort to exert influence in Africa.” So reads the headline of a story in the UK’s Guardian newspaper this week, detailing Moscow’s objectives on the continent.

It reads like a Cold War spy thriller, with the Kremlin’s strategy reportedly led by a shadowy member of president Vladimir Putin’s inner circle. Goals include ‘strong-arming’ the US, UK and France out of the region and suppressing ‘pro-western’ uprisings.

Stories like this are becoming the norm for coverage of Moscow’s renewed interest in Africa, including efforts to boost economic and diplomatic ties.

The Cold War angle makes for good headlines, but offers little insight.

Russia is a late-comer to Africa, with total trade estimated at around $12bn in 2017. This is less than the continent’s trade with Turkey or India, and not even close to the likes of China and the US. In Investment terms Moscow barely registers. 

Portraying Russia’s engagement as a bid to undermine the West also underplays the agency of African governments, casting them as clueless pawns.

In reality Moscow is joining a growing list of potential international partners from Asia to the Americas, all vying for position. Simply standing out will require work.

Russia’s foray into Africa is a trend worth watching, but it’s not as dramatic as the headlines suggest.

From The Continent

Ethiopia is aiming to award new telecommunications licenses to international mobile operators by the end of 2019, part of a privatization drive. With a population of more than 100m Ethiopia is Africa’s last major untapped market. More: Reuters


Former Algerian prime minister Ahmed Ouyahia has been detained as part of an anti-corruption investigation, following the resignation of longtime president Abdelaziz Bouteflika in April on the back of mass protests. His detention is part of a purge led by the military, aimed at distancing itself from figures associated with Bouteflika, amid continued public pressure for reform. More: Al Jazeera

The Daily Stat

$46bn

Total foreign direct investment to Africa in 2018 according to the newly launched World Investment Report, an 11% increase from the previous year. More: UNCTAD

The Global Perspective

Washington-based private equity firm Emerging Capital Partners (ECP) has paid an undisclosed amount for a majority stake in fintech company Inter Africa Transport Forex.Founded in Mauritius in 2007, the company operates in 10 countries, specializing in payment services for the transport and logistics industry. More: Bloomberg

IBM has launched its Quantum computer program IBM Q in South Africa, in a partnership with the University of the Witwatersrand, in Johannesburg. The network hopes to use quantum computing to solve complex problems, with plans to extend access to 15 other universities in nice countries across Africa. More: TechCrunch

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