Welcome to Foreign Policy’s Africa Brief happy to be here. 2023 has been a difficult and turbulent year for African nations facing severe debt, global inflation, and extreme weather events. A devastating 6.8 magnitude earthquake hit Morocco killing and injuring thousands in September, while floods in eastern and southern Africa displaced tens of thousands. Additionally, there have been successful coups in Niger, Gabon, Sierra Leone, and Guinea-Bissau with several other attempts across Africa, creating a so-called junta belt from Guinea to Sudan. These events have led to speculations of U.S. geopolitical competition with Russia and China and Africa’s internal problems as driving factors behind the coups. Niger and Nigeria are experiencing political and economic frustrations, leading to an exodus of educated immigrants. The United States has stepped up its engagement in Africa, but African leaders are seeking support from the Middle East.
South Africa’s decision to host Russian President Vladimir Putin at the BRICS summit and its support for Russia have drawn criticism, adding to the country’s economic and power shortages issues. The death of Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the Wagner Group, has not dislodged the mercenary group from African countries, as it continues to operate in areas facing extreme violence and insecurity. Several African writers have linked military takeovers in the Sahel to Russia and the U.S.’s diminishing influence in the region, but analyses have failed to consider the African perspective. Sudan’s civil war has been intensified by the involvement of rival generals backed by Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, with Russia using Sudan’s gold to fund its war in Ukraine. Egypt is under pressure to open its borders to fleeing Palestinians but fears a mass inflow at a time when its economy is near bankruptcy and facing reforms through a bailout from the International Monetary Fund.