Lose the global south | Opinion

They were all invited, but almost none attended. When Volodymyr Zelensky started the video conference he had arranged for the 55 African Union leaders on June 20, only four of them were on the other side of the screen. Nothing to do with the expectation that he had achieved in the European Parliament or the United States Congress. Despite the disappointment, the Ukrainian president continued with his script: he denounced the Russian invasion of his country and accused Moscow of causing a food catastrophe in Africa. Since the war began, tons of fertilizers and cereals that are the main livelihood of millions of Africans have been blocked in Ukraine and Russia. That, added to skyrocketing fuel prices, makes the situation increasingly unsustainable. And yet, for this drama, African countries do not blame Russia, but the West, for imposing sanctions on Moscow.

Why can’t Zelensky get Africa on his side? When the condemnation of the Russian invasion was voted at the United Nations in March, Eritrea refused to do so. Another twenty African countries preferred to abstain. India did the same in various votes on Russia. New Delhi argued that it should guarantee the safety of its 20,000 students in Ukraine, but what has weighed on its dependence on weapons, once Soviet and now Russian. Since the 1960s, Moscow has sold India about 70% of its arsenal. If we look at the BRICS, that acronym that became fashionable twenty years ago to talk about emerging economies (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), none have imposed sanctions on Moscow for invading Ukraine.

The pandemic, and then the war, have returned us to the time of the blocs. The West emerges stronger from the NATO summit, although it may lose the “global south” (countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America). Many have been building relationships with China and Russia for years. With nuances, for its leaders neither Russia is an “acute and direct threat” nor China a “strategic challenge”. On the contrary, what irritates them is that the West uses double standards to measure which conflicts are fair and which are not, and which refugees deserve shelter.

In order not to lose the global south, concrete offers must be made to it. Beijing is the main creditor of many countries and has included them in the New Silk Road, its gigantic infrastructure plan to gain international influence. Moscow sends fuel, wheat, weapons and mercenaries. Neither of the two powers asks for democratic standards or transparency from the West. And so they have won loyalties, capitalizing on bad local leadership, necessity and, let us not forget, mistrust of the West.

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