Consequences of the G-20 summit. Under what conditions will South Africa become the door to Africa for Ukraine
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Ukraine practically does not work with the African continent: geopolitical realities did not allow to get so far from home. However, at the G-20 summit, Ukrainians were in contact, in particular, with South Africa. Will this country become a door for Ukrainian exports to the Black Continent?
This year, Ukraine was invited to take part in the summit of the G-20 club of the most influential countries in the world. The delegation was formally led by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who was given the opportunity to speak online on Tuesday. Physically, the summit was attended by Ukrainian diplomats led by the Ukrainian Ambassador to Indonesia. And the physical presence in such cases plays a rather important role, because it allows you to establish informal contacts with diplomats of states who “make decisions” in different parts of the world.
An invitation to Bali for our state is an opportunity to establish ties with countries with which it was not possible to conduct common business before. One of these is South Africa, which abstained from the vote of the UN General Assembly on reparations for our state. However, resentment is not the way of diplomacy. The task of this area of human activity is to figure out “why” and try to prevent this in the future.
How does the Republic of South Africa live, what are the interests of one of the most developed states of the African continent? And most importantly, how to establish economic ties between Ukraine and South Africa and what are their benefits?
What path has South Africa traveled in thirty years
South Africa is dissatisfied with its place in the global world and is determined to get more. The state has undergone a transformation from an apartheid regime, in which blacks were segregated along racial lines, to the ideal of left-wing liberal activists, fighters for the rights of blacks and the main partner of the People's Republic of China in Africa.
Regime change in South Africa was received with considerable enthusiasm by the international community. It took place almost simultaneously with the collapse of the communist bloc and seemed to many to be another step towards the global establishment of peace and freedom.
However, as Merle Lipton, a South African researcher from the University of Sussex (UK), notes, the reality turned out to be more complex. In domestic politics, almost all the successors of the legendary Nelson Mandela became participants in corruption scandals, they were accused of abuse of power and even obscurantism (like Thabo Mbeki, who preferred local shamans rather than official medicine in the fight against AIDS).
In its foreign policy, South Africa adheres to the principles of anti-colonialism, subjectivity of Africa and non-interference of the global former metropolises with the “white” leadership in the affairs of the sovereign states of Africa. In practice, this has resulted in cooperation with countries such as Libya, Iran and China.
Over the following decades, South Africa supported the POLISARIO (Popular Front for the Liberation of Seguiet el Hamra and Rio de Oro) in Western Sahara, the Palestine Liberation Organization in the Middle East, and the regime of Robert Mugabe in neighboring Zimbabwe. Such diplomatic overtures somewhat cooled the attitude towards the country on the part of the United States and other leading Western countries, thanks to whose pressure, in fact, the apartheid regime was overthrown.
The country, which was hoped as the embodiment of the aspirations of post-colonial states for freedom, democracy and human rights, has become a defender of authoritarian regimes and an advocate for dictators, as noted in particular in the annual report of Human Rights Watch for 2009 (after 2 years of South Africa's membership in UN Security Council).
China is coming to Africa
Pretoria listened to Chinese pragmatism. In the 90s of the last century, the Celestial Empire began its economic expansion on the African continent – and South Africa became China's gateway to Africa.
In 2010, South Africa was invited to BRICS, an organization where China, the Russian Federation, India and Brazil tried to offer an alternative to the American strategy of global development. Currently, trade within this organization is 59% of imports and 41% of exports of the country (94% of this turnover is carried out with China). According to Chen Xiaodong, Chinese Ambassador to South Africa, trade between the countries in 2021 amounted to $54 billion, of which $33 billion was South African exports, which grew by 60% per year (while overall trade doubled over the year). Such growth figures are predetermined by the exit from the “covid lockdowns” in 2021. However, the high level of economic cooperation between the countries has been maintained for 13 years in a row – all this time China has been the No. 1 economic partner of South Africa. It is interesting that South Africa trades little with its neighbors on the African continent (only 16% of the foreign trade turnover).
In 2013, South Africa joined Xi Jinping's personal initiative, One Belt, One Road (BRI). Thus, South Africa became an active participant in the revived “Non-Aligned Movement”. It is interesting that Chinese experts Molebogeng Mila Monyamane and Mickey Edney recognize the inequality of economic relations, because China mainly exports goods with high added value to South Africa, China mainly makes investments in the same industries, while finances and raw materials are downloaded from South Africa. . with low added value.
On the other hand, China is the largest investor in South Africa and is actively creating jobs in the country. So, in 2021, China invested $25 billion out of $41.15 billion of total foreign direct investment in the country. They mainly concerned transport infrastructure, as well as industry. The Chinese company Beijing Automotive Industry holding is one of the largest investors in the South African economy. The countries are developing cooperation on tourism. The PRC finances educational projects in South Africa, including the study of the Chinese language.
However, not all investments and projects are successful. So in 2014, the then President Zuma launched a joint investment project with China to build nuclear power plants until 2030. It should be noted that the technical support of the project was to be carried out by Rosatom. However, the current president of South Africa has already abandoned this project, allegedly because of its poor profitability.
Despite close ties with China, South Africa also maintains active economic relations with the European Union – one of its ten strategic partners worldwide (the EU accounts for 22% of South Africa's foreign trade). This makes certain adjustments in foreign policy.
In the end, South Africa condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine as an act of gross violation of international law, but withdrew its initiative a few days later. Elizabeth Sidiropoulos, executive director of the South African Institute of International Affairs, attributed the attack to an attempt to maintain neutrality. In Africa, they are wary and suspicious of the former mother countries in the form of a collective event, so there is a certain distrust of their initiatives. Another reason is cited by the local opposition, pointing to a possible corruption trail extending in this matter from the connections of the pro-government party with Moscow since Soviet times.
South Africa in its policy towards Ukraine is trying to sit on two chairs – to maintain friendship with China (hence one of its key allies at that time) and at the same time to preserve international law – which South Africa is interested in as a state with the weakest army in the world. In general, South Africa is in favor of reforming the United Nations in the hope of gaining a permanent seat on the expanded Security Council of a reformed UN.
Such an attempt to maneuver between raindrops has led to ambiguous consequences. South Africa got into the G-20 and BRICS, but the question is whether it is an independent player at least on the African continent, or an authorized representative of China, there is no clear answer.
How to make friends between Pretoria and Kyiv
For Ukraine, South Africa can also, under certain circumstances, become the door to Africa. Our country has significant exports to this part of the world. The range of exported goods is vital food, which theoretically even opens up the prospects for a certain influence in the region. But for this, our diplomacy should step up work in this direction.
After all, the trade turnover between the two states is only about $100 million, while Ukraine imported almost twice as much as it exported from South Africa. For comparison with the EU, which is Ukraine's key trading partner in the same 2020, the trade turnover was at the level of $48.1 billion. However, in the case of South Africa, in the near future it would be good to reach the level of cooperation with Egypt ($2.093 billion in 2021. ).
Ukraine's “African diplomatic breakthrough” occurred already in the course of an active military campaign. Before the invasion, Russian officials bluntly stated that one way or another, most countries in the world would choose cooperation with Moscow instead of insignificant Ukraine. It is obvious that, in particular, Africa was also meant, many countries of which will indeed without a doubt choose bread (in the literal sense of the word), and not value priorities.
If even the most developed South Africa demonstrates the advantage of such narratives in its politics, then what can we say about others. The G-20 summit has become another platform, one might say, an opportunity for Ukrainian diplomacy to prove itself in this region as well. After all, if Ukraine has at least some cooperation with the Arab part of Africa, then the South remains a real Terra Incognita for our state. And this is a promising market filled by our competitors.
Previously, Russia used the beaten paths of the former USSR. Now the doors are opening for Ukraine to export food, extractive industry products, the military-industrial complex, and, in the end, the same nuclear technologies. In 2022, the world has turned around 180 degrees and is returning to nuclear energy. Why shouldn't our energy atom try to finish what Rosatom could not do? Pretoria is an ideal partner to start a relationship, because despite the cooperation with China, it has established interaction with the EU. At the same time, it is a country with a market economy and a democratic system (by American standards, it is almost ideal in this regard), so it will be much easier for Kyiv to find a common language with it than with dictators like Robert Mugabe, who has now been replaced in Zimbabwe not less authoritarian Emmerson. .
In general, Ukraine is just beginning to get acquainted with the African continent. Our state has something to offer these countries from the already mentioned food to cooperation in the military sphere. In the end, potential African partners need to remember that a significant proportion of the aid they received from the USSR was Ukrainian-made. The Russian Federation, in its desire to restore the USSR, is the same metropolis that seeks to reincarnate its status, against which all the countries of the African continent are fighting so hard.