Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Meets With Senegal’s President Faye

Bianca Bridger
Bianca Bridger
Bianca holds a degree in Political Science from the University of Otago, New Zealand. As the Africa Desk Chief for Atlas, her expertise spans conflict, politics, and history. She is also the Editor for The ModernInsurgent and has interests in yoga and meditation.

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Mikhail Bogdanov, Russia’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, landed in the Senegalese capital of Dakar today to discuss cooperation in various areas with President Bassirou Faye and Prime Minister Ousmane Sonko. Additionally, in the afternoon, according to an Alliance of Sahel States (AES) communique, the creation of a Chamber of Commerce and Investment of Africa, Russia, and Eurasia (CCIR) which seeks to facilitate trade and investment between Senegalese, Russian and Eurasian companies, is set to be announced later in the day.

What You Need to Know

Bogdanov’s visit follows the appointment of Faye as the ‘facilitator in engagement with the Alliance of Sahel States’ by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) last weekend. Faye was tasked with mediating between the newly created AES, whose member nationsNiger, Burkina Faso, and Maliwithdrew from ECOWAS in January.

An ECOWAS summit on July 7th, which sought to discuss a game plan to reintegrate the AES states back into the economic bloc, was preceded by just one day by an AES summit that announced the creation of a confederation of its member nations; essentially beating back the ECOWAS hope for reintegration.

Faye, who came to power in April, has continued Senegal’s policy of open cooperation, engaging both the United States, Russia, China, the EU, and Middle Eastern nations in multiple sectors such as trade, defense, healthcare, and education.

Similarly to Angola in recent years, Senegal pursues an independent foreign policy, never solidifying itself too far into a given bloc while simultaneously reaping the benefits of its many partnerships. This policy is best evidenced by the country’s decision to largely abstain from votes in the United Nations (UN) seeking to condemn the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine. Senegal is a beneficiary of China’s Belt and Road Initiative as well as an eligible member for the United States African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) which provides African nations with duty-free access to the US market on a variety of products.

While the details of the CCIR have not yet been released, the Chamber is set to act as a vehicle for Senegal to establish deeper trade contacts in Russia, making the realization of projects in the country more streamlined.

In 2022, Chinese exports to Senegal ($1.92B) far topped that of the United States ($365M) and Russia ($294M), while Senegalese exports to the United States reached $504 million, most likely aided through AGOA. Trailing behind was China, who received $144 million in Senegalese goods, and Russia with $12.1 million. 

So, What Now?

The arrival of Deputy Minister Bogdanov just after President Faye was tasked with mediating between the AES states, who have solidified themselves in the Russian bloc against the wishes of ECOWAS and the wider West, highlights Senegal’s pragmatism in the current geopolitical climate.

Increasingly, African nations are choosing to ‘play the game’ of great power competition in Africa, choosing to obtain the most benefits while maintaining autonomy. The cases of Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso highlight the risk in the game, when leaders fall too far into a given bloc. However, since coming to power, Faye, who is one of Africa’s youngest leaders, has pushed for a restructuring of partnerships regarding the extraction of resources as well as shown willingness to tackle corruption and lower the cost of living through economic initiatives.

However, Dmitry Kurakov, Russia’s Ambassador to Senegal, while speaking at an interview in April touched on his country’s interest in establishing a port in the country.

“Russian companies have an interest in the construction of port infrastructure in Senegal, but our specific projects do not yet exist. Yes, they come up with proposals to the Senegalese authorities, but so far they have not concluded any additional contracts. Perhaps, when the extraction of some minerals begins, such an opportunity will be in demand,” said Kurakov.

The statement provides a spotlight into Russian objectives in Africa. As seen in Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, and the Central African Republic, Russia seeks to gain access to mines and minerals, laundering resources such as gold and diamonds in order to effectively circumvent sanctions placed on it by the West. Since coming to power, President Faye and Prime Minister Sonko have critiqued the West, particularly France and the 350 French troops in the country. Alongside calling for a renegotiation of its partnerships with various companies operating in its extractive industries, who are oftentimes Western companies such as BP, Kosmos, Total, and Woodside Energy, the creation of the CCIR is likely to provide Russia an opportunity to establish itself further into Senegal’s extractive industry.