GEOPOLITICS

Russia back to Africa: What is in it for Kenya?

While Russia is the Number One supplier of military weapons to Africa, with Kenya being its second trading partner, we continue to hold the short end of the stick with a deficit of $2.3 billion.

In Summary

• Russia-Africa Summit sums up Moscow's reinvigorated role in global politics since Africa has the largest voting bloc at the United Nations. 

• However, the divide and rule policy has been used to weaken Africa’s bargaining power

Kenyan and Russian delegations led by President Vladimir Putin and President Uhuru Kenyatta during bilateral talks in Sochi on October 24
Kenyan and Russian delegations led by President Vladimir Putin and President Uhuru Kenyatta during bilateral talks in Sochi on October 24
Image: PSCU

Geopolitical considerations are critical when assessing the state of Africa’s development, especially due to our colonial history and the ever-changing world order.

However, the continent has always had some leverage since its economies are, to some degree, directly proportional to the size of the population, hence providing a ready market. Our natural resources, combined with huge arable land and a growing population are a big threat/opportunity to global powers.

Currently, we are in bed with China, but Russia has come back knocking after its long absence ever since the end of the Cold War. Having allegedly helped Donald Trump rig elections and recently got credits from the US leader for contributing to the killing of Isis founder Abū Bakr al-Baghdadi, Moscow has just concluded a high-level Russia-Africa Summit in Sochi, attended by 43 African Presidents.

DIVIDE AND RULE STRATEGY

This summit sums up the country’s reinvigorated role in global politics since Africa constitutes the single-most and largest voting bloc at the United Nations.

However, the divide and rule policy has been used as a strategy to weaken Africa’s bargaining power. While Russia is the Number One supplier of military weapons to Africa, with Kenya being its second trading partner, we continue to hold the short end of the stick with a deficit of $2.3 billion.

Over and above military weapons, the country is selling grain to the continent in addition to the deployment of mercenaries in case of an emergent power struggle, thus providing some comfort to any leader who is hell-bent on clinging to power, or is threatened by political competitors. This is not new though.

The French have perfected the art in West Africa through use of a common language, military, coups, and the exercise of a mandatory CFA common currency and foreign reserve deposits, to cushion and stabilize their Central bank.

 

Without this, France would be a Third World country, according to former long-serving French President Francois Mitterand. Moreover, use of the so-called ‘elections technology’, whose gadgets are ostensibly moved from one country to another, to determine who becomes President from a central command centre is a cause to worry. For example, the all too famous servers that were used during the 2017 General Election in Kenya were supplied by a French company, OT-Morpho.

I remember bumping into France’s Ambassador to Kenya at Bomas frantically questioning Nasa’s leadership’s insistence that they be opened. It emerged later on that the passwords to the servers were still being held by the French company a few days to the elections. 

The neo-colonialists have, therefore, devised new ways of control. This is part of the reason why CS Amina Mohamed lost to the Chadian candidate for Africa Union Commission chairmanship (a position since the latter was backed by the French for them to continue their stranglehold on the 14 member CFA union).

NEOCOLONIALISM

Recently, AU ambassador to the UN Arikana Chihombori Quao was sacked after questioning France and its projects of destabilizing many French-speaking African countries. 

Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi had to go because he was funding the AU’s budget up to 53 per cent. He was for self-reliance as he also believed in the development of an African supra-state.

Former Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe was demonised for questioning land transfer agreements the British refused to honour when the time was due.

Rwanda and Ghana are on the radar for showing Africa can have a successful state model and that industries can be developed. At the African level, South African multinationals are expanding to Kenya, with companies such as ABSA (Barclays), Sanlam, Shoprite and many others now resident in Nairobi, replacing homegrown ones such as Nakumatt, Uchumi, etc.

It is important to note that the South African economy is largely in the hands of Afrikaans. On the other hand, the World Bank and IMF rank Kenya as number 67 in the ease of doing business scorecard. However, heretofore many successful local business ventures such as Sportspesa, Betin and Finlays, among other companies, are closing down or are on the verge of doing so.  

If someone is going to have you for dinner, you have them for lunch. This is what is happening to Africa and Kenya. We need to ask ourselves very hard questions. 

President Mwai Kibaki left us with a budget financed at 93 per cent domestically, yet today, we have a budget hole of Sh635 billion while the country is broke.

We have moved from a budget of less than Sh1 trillion to Sh3 trillion in less than 10 years, yet our revenues are not more than Sh1.4 trillion on a good year. Treasury puts it at Sh1.7 trillion but the deficit keeps rolling to the following year.

These are the little foxes that hinder our full potential as a country and as a continent. We are in an extractive externalising economy whose massive borrowing will further expose us to external shocks after crowding out local investors.

Kwa ground vitu ni different.

Mwaura is the senator for persons with disabilties

[email protected]

@mwauraisaac1