Thứ Tư, Tháng Hai 28, 2024
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Scramble for the Sahel – why France, Russia, China and the United States are interested in the region

The Sahel, a area 3,860km wide located south of the Sahara Desert and stretching east-west around the African continent, has been a focal point of consideration around the globe just lately.

Within the final decade, problems corresponding to terrorism, insecurity and trafficking have characterized the area.

Army takeovers were a big supply of shock within the area and past in the previous couple of years. Since 2020, the area has had four successful coup d’états and 3 failed ones.

The coup in Niger specifically attracted consideration. It’s because Niger was once observed as a “darling of the west” and a fashion for democratic governance within the area.

In spite of the demanding situations going through the area, the scramble for the Sahel stays intense.

The primary actors on this scramble are the European Union, France, Russia, China and the USA.

The EU is determined by Sahelian international locations, particularly Niger, to forestall mass unlawful immigration into the bloc. Niger is a big transit nation within the area. Niger had safety and defence partnerships with the EU till just lately when the country unilaterally cancelled the deals. This can be a supply of shock to the EU.

Why are those overseas powers within the Sahel?

As a scholar in global family members and having researched the area for over a decade, I see the primary causes as follows:

  • availability of herbal sources

  • strategic location of the area in Africa

  • financial pursuits of the international locations concerned within the scramble

  • defence and safety cooperation within the type of hands gross sales.

Overseas powers all have their causes to be concerned within the scramble for the Sahel.


Many of the international locations within the Sahel area had been colonised by way of France. Not like Britain, France has maintained robust hyperlinks with former colonies. They cooperate within the economic system, defence and useful resource extraction, to say a couple of spaces.

France has the first right to shop for any herbal sources found out in all its former colonies. Despite the fact that the connection between France and its former colonies seemed cordial, contemporary coups in Francophone international locations and anti-France sentiments throughout Africa have published the other.

The coups were adopted by way of large demonstrations in opposition to France and in beef up of the putschists.

In spite of those cracks, France is raring to handle its grip on those international locations, particularly referring to army cooperation and useful resource extraction. France was once reluctant to drag its army out of Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger regardless of the international locations severing army partnerships. It continues to extract herbal sources in those international locations.


The relationships between Russia and plenty of Sahelian international locations had been established right through the chilly conflict and colonial technology. Extra just lately, the emphasis by way of western international locations on human rights, particularly right through counterterrorism operations, has driven Sahelian international locations nearer to Russia.

Whilst western allies call for the guideline of regulation, democracy, and human rights in go back for safety and financial beef up, Russia portrays itself otherwise. The invasion of Ukraine by way of Russia in 2022 additionally greater Russia’s hobby within the Sahel as a result of it’s prepared to handle allies in Africa.

Russia has openly backed army regimes in Mali and Burkina Faso and warned in opposition to any army intervention in Niger when the army took energy. Moreover, the Wagner group, the debatable non-public army corporate which is managed by way of Russia, cooperates with some international locations within the Sahel. Niger has cancelled defence agreement with the EU and switched to Russia. All of those elements provide an explanation for Russia’s hobby within the Sahel.


Like Russia, China portrays itself as an alternative choice to the normal best friend (France) of Sahelian international locations. With a mantra of “non-interference” and “respecting sovereignty”, China has entrenched itself as a “spouse” of nations within the Sahel.

The Sahel area is wealthy in herbal sources corresponding to oil, uranium, herbal fuel and lithium. Chinese language state-owned enterprises operate in Niger, Chad, Mali and Burkina Faso.

As an example, Mali doubtlessly has one of the largest lithium reserves on the planet and China’s Ganfeng Lithium has invested closely within the nation. As well as, regardless of China’s building in army {hardware}, many of the guns are untested. China is raring to make use of the conflicts within the Sahel to test its hands merchandise.


In 2019, the USA opened its largest drone base in Africa in Agadez-Niger. A yr earlier than that, I had written in regards to the safety implications of the bottom for the area.

Not like France and China, which each have in depth financial pursuits within the Sahel, the USA has a robust army hobby. Niger, particularly, is strategically situated and the USA can simply fly surveillance and reconnaissance drones from the rustic to hide the Sahel, west and central Africa.

As France is being militarily dislodged by way of its former colonies within the area, the USA has been seeking to fill the void to forestall Russia and China from organising additional army presence.

America took a number of months to label the army takeover in Niger a coup in order to not lose strategic army cooperation and dominance.

The yr 2023 has been specifically difficult for the international locations within the Sahel. With problems starting from financial instability to lack of confidence, the area stays fragile. In spite of the instability and fragility, the scramble for the area stays intense with conventional allies corresponding to France shedding its grip and different powers stepping up.

The Sahel is one to control in 2024 and past.



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