Geopolitical Update : Europe underestimates what is brewing in Africa

by Christian Takushi, Independent Macro Economist. Switzerland  – 2 Aug 2023 (Adapted public release)

In a few days the ultimatum against Niger by the West African Economic Bloc (ECOWAS) led by Nigeria and supported by Western powers runs out. The bloc threatened with sanctions and war unless the military reinstates the former government. My independent assessment is that this ultimatum may actually backfire. It looks like it was not thought through or ECOWAS was asked to do so.

Many in Europe and North America have not paid sufficient attention to Africa in recent years. Even recently many investors shook their heads at the news of the military in coup in Niger just to move on to participating in the recent “rally of all risk assets”. Even in Washington there was little interest in the latest coup in the first two days. Until some unease began to rise across the Atlantic. I wished it would have been a bit of panic – at least we might be waking up. Their weak and overconfident response to the coup is what has led me to change my plans for this week.

European leaders cannot afford to keep making strategic mistakes. Many European thought leaders are blaming Washington for our current predicament, but if we are honest, Washington is driven by tough domestic politics and the current Biden administration is simply taking advantage of our lack of strategic foresight and mistakes to advance US interests and score political points ahead of the US Elections 2024. 

Access Denial – A threat to Europe’s Geostrategy?

The Western powers woke up last week to a reality they had underestimated. In its fury against the West, Russia seems to have taken advantage of rising military juntas in the Sahel and simmering resentment against the West to de facto cut off most of Sub-Saharan Africa from the North by land. A belt that runs coast to coast. With Niger now Russia has closed the last remaining gap – the most painful one, because the European Union had set great hopes in the Trans-Saharan Gas Pipeline that was to be built through Niger. It is not so much the volume – It sends a warning to anybody else building a pipeline to supply energy-trapped Europe. As industry experts confess, the desire to build any pipeline outside of your own territory has dramatically sunk since October 2022. They are now kind of open targets. 

Russia doesn’t need to fully control these six military juntas, their vibrant anti-Western fervour coupled with Russia’s Military and Food Support ensure the ACCESS DENIAL. The rumoured commitment to deploy Wagner’s battle hardened troops does carry weight in Africa.

For many years we have been writing about the Access Denial strategy that Russia and China have been deploying to contain  the West. It is the ideal strategy of a weaker or nascent power. You don’t need to defeat your rival.

All you need to do is to strategically and gradually build up a presence or influence that would allow you to deny access to critical resources or maritime routes or else from your competitor.  This will expose the vulnerabilities of your foe, of which the West has many.

In Africa the resentment against the West is vibrant across the Sahel. But we did the rest to play the region into Russia’s hands and by extension China. Following the invasion of Ukraine the EU and Washington got understandably carried away and demanded in not very diplomatic terms that African and Asian nations join their sanctions, thus implicitly “or face consequences”. Some say in hindsight we lacked a tactful approach. Unfortunately both American and European leaders lost their patience even with rising powers like India – At least this is how it was perceived. This backfired: These nations are not as poor and aid-dependent as 20-30 years ago, so they are zealous about their sovereignty. Some of them have now powerful economies.

Communication and diplomacy has not been our strength. Our leaders did reportedly use threats of sanctions against a number of African nations. That was the final drop in an already practically full bucket. Others say a dam broke. As New Delhi stood its ground and openly called out our “European hypocrisy of continuing to buy huge amounts of Russian Oil, while threatening other nations for buying a fraction of the same” developing nations were emboldened in their defiance. Western leaders began to notice they had gone too far. They sent a large array of delegations to New Delhi to appease Prime Minister Modi, something he greatly enjoyed, but not enough to change its course. The damage was done and the India appeasement offended African leaders.

I think future US historians will look at this period as one in which the West lost much of the Good Will of the rest of the world. One we can no longer enforce at will.

Confused about values?

The current multi-alignment is surprising the West, because some democratic nations are embracing China and even Russia to some extent. In the eyes of the Global East and the South, tired of the West championing values it doesn’t live up to, the time has come for policy pragmatism. If you come to Asia or Africa with Western values, you are likely to see much hesitation or even rejection.

The rest of the world is currently tired of us talking about our values. So the world out there is simply looking at policy common ground or common interests. Just what the BRICS are offering them.

Access Denial across MENA eyes Europe’s trading routes 

Our analysis shows that while our European leaders are awakening to the Access Denial in Africa, they still have not realised the potentially larger Access Denial Belt that is rising across MENA (Northern Africa and Middle East) and that could somehow choke off or constrain, should hostilities break out, the vital Maritime-Land-Energy Routes on which Europe’s prosperity is built upon. Those Routes have become even more important since Europe turned away from Russian Gas. The following map illustrates the nations across MENA that are seeing important common policy ground with the BRICS, Russia or China, or all of them. They are not BRICS allies, but could well become.

Both Saudi Arabia and Egypt want to join the BRICS. If they do, the Security over Europe may change drastically. In case of open hostilities between the West and the BRICS, the latter could signal to consider choking the Suez Canal – even a temporary closure would deal a catastrophic blow to Europe’s energy and supply chain security. The risk premium over European assets would rise significantly.

In our independent assessment all the nations in red color in this map have signalled readiness to make a monetary policy shift or foreign policy shift in favour of the BRICS, China or Russia. This doesn’t mean they share the same values, it looks like a pragmatic policy-oriented approach and – I ascertain – some have done it mainly, because of the possibility to diversify away from the USD. The ones in dark red are African nations under Military Rule.

After the falling away of Saudi Arabia as a Western ally, Europe should have done everything to support Egypt. We didn’t. After months of vacuum Egypt embraced the BRICS. Which doesn’t mean they will not talk to the EU or Washington. It seems our leaders and media don’t seem to fully grasp how the new multi-alignment really works. You go to everybody’s conferences and summits.

It is clear this does not bode well for the future refugee streams headed for Europe. Like seldom before since WW2 European leaders need wisdom.  A lot is at stake and we have been making lots of mistakes. We can’t afford making so many …

Competition amongst Western powers

In my humble opinion, only Paris – thanks to its independent geopolitical analysis capabilities – is aware of the risks at large. Berlin lacks anything comparable to Paris’ intelligence circles and I fully understand why President Macron would never show to Chancellor Scholz the full extent of France’s capabilities. In a way Germany is still trapped in the aftermath of WW2.

Some experts are saying France is out due to what is happening in the Sahel. They may be wrong. In the eyes of cash rich emerging powers a consensus is gathering: Key EM nations want to consider France for security cooperation. Why? Having shown a more independent & sovereign course from Washington through the recent conflicts, France might be able to increase its military exports and geopolitical influence around the world – most likely at the expense of Germany and possibly Britain. Emerging powers say that since Brexit London has been quickly implementing Washington requests. In the non-Western world Germany is seen as not sovereign enough in security issues.

Multi Alignment gathers pace 

Europe’s energy miscalculations continue

Market Impact

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By Christian Takushi MA UZH, Independent Macro Economist and Geopolitical Strategist. Switzerland – Wed 2 Aug 2023.

Research made in Switzerland 

Geopolitical and economic conditions need close monitoring, because they can change suddenly. No part of this analysis should be taken or construed as an investment recommendation. 


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