The future of Europe is partly played out in Africa, continent with strong population growth and dynamic economic prospects. It is for this reason that the geopolitical competition between Russians and Westerners continues to sharpen there.. It was further illustrated this summer by the tours of President Emmanuel Macron and the heads of American and Russian diplomacy, Antony Blinken and Sergei Lavrov. Since its annexation of Crimea, in 2014, Moscow concluded more than 20 military cooperation agreements with African countries. in parallel, by deploying in recent years troops from the Wagner mercenary company (Central African Republic, Mali, Libya, Sudan in particular) and practicing intense activity on social networks and in the African media, Russia seeks to destabilize European interests cheaply – and the deeper it gets bogged down in Ukraine, the more she is tempted to do so.
This summer, the endlessly repeated argument by local Moscow propagandists is that inflation and grain shortages are due to Western sanctions against Russia – which, yet, do not strike food products. The political effectiveness of this undermining was measured on Wednesday 2 march when 17 African countries abstained and 8 others refused to take part in the vote on the UN General Assembly resolution condemning the invasion of Ukraine.
The Barkhane force had to pack up not under the blows of its enemies, the jihadists, but because of his inability to win the hearts and minds. France took time to understand the importance of “information warfare”, and therefore the need to be more convincing. in November 2021, the population had mobilized to block a French military convoy in Burkina, amid rumors that Paris was delivering weapons to local jihadists. L’incident, among others, has clearly shown that hostility to France remains a powerful factor in mobilizing African populations. Other rumors widely shared on the networks present France as only interested in local mining resources.
The overwhelming tactical superiority of the French army can do nothing against an insurgency fueled by poor governance and local political conflicts. And she can't erase the negative effects of a disastrous communication, as when Emmanuel Macron had "summoned" the Sahelian leaders to the summit of Pau in 2020. In Mali, it was our own communication weaknesses that Russia and its local partners exploited – and how easily ! – to raise the population against Paris.