By: Manlio Graziano
A Coup Against the "West"
The recent coup d'état in Niger is the latest evidence of an ongoing process of fading French and American influence in West Africa. After the numerous coups in the region in recent years, the nature of the trend has become unequivocal: it reflects a political adjustment to the relative decline of the old powers and to the progressive economic rise of China.
France and the United States are still hoping (or pretending to hope) that what they call the “last bastion of democracy” in the region will resist. Democracy as well as the “fight against jihadism” have very little to do with what is going on in Niger -- or in Mali, Burkina Faso, the Central African Republic, and so on.
The real issue is the competition with China, and how to contain it.
Putsches in Western African countries since 2020
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It seems that Russia is the northern star for the Nigerien putschists and their passionate supporters in the country. Even as the military was seizing power in Niamey, Vladimir Putin was opening a summit in St. Petersburg with African heads of state who are looking for alternatives to “Western” influence, or at least hoping to find the leverage to play on several tables -- a sort of Indian-style policy of “multi-alignment,” if on a much smaller scale.
Obviously, Russia – and especially a Russia stuck in the war in Ukraine – will not be able to play a lasting political role in Africa (or anywhere else, for that matter), simply because she lacks the means to afford it.
But this trend, this cautious movement away from the West, can pave the way for China, which has no interest in direct involvement in any military action, but which certainly has the economic means to establish its influence, possibly for years to come.
Any loss of “Western” influence in the region is certainly welcomed in Beijing, as is the involvement of Russia, which is increasingly playing on behalf of China -- a subservient role which Moscow may find itself forced to play in the near future.
The opinions expressed in this article is of the author alone. The Spykman Center provides a neutral and non-partisan platform to learn how to make geopolitical analysis. It acknowledges how diverse perspectives impact geopolitical analyses, without necessarily endorsing them.