On Thursday, September 8, the president Andrzej Duda ended a three-day visit to West Africa. She found herself on her trail Nigeria, Ivory Coast and Senegal. It is the longest trip to this region of the world by the Polish head of state. What are its goals and potential Polish-African cooperation? What opportunities has our country not used so far?
– The goals of this visit are important to us, especially in the context of energy diversification. Nigeria and Senegal are prospective exporters gas and oil. We want to pave these paths, just like other European countries, says the minister in an interview with Interia Paweł Szrot. – We are interested not only in broad economic cooperation, but also in sharing our perspective on war in Ukrainewhich is Russia’s colonial conflict. She is responsible for the food crisis in Africa. The countries of the region with fresh independence traditions should understand this – adds the head of the President’s Cabinet.
This is the second trip Andrzej Duda to sub-Saharan Africa; earlier, in May 2017, the president visited Ethiopia, which was on the campaign trail for Poland’s entry as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council. Previously only Aleksander Kwasniewski in September 2002 he went to the Earth Summit in the capital of South Africa – Johannesburg.
According to experts, the neglected relations with the second largest continent in the world since the beginning of the 1990s – with the dynamically changing geopolitical balance of power – should be gradually rebuilt. – Poland needs a strategy of relations with the Global South and it is necessary to define itself not only in the context of the immediate foreign countries, but also other regions of the world. I am not saying that we should compete with Great Britain, France or China, but Turkey and Malaysia are countries that are actively and effectively involved in the region – argues prof. Andrzej Polusan Africanist from the University of Wrocław.
One of the levels of economic exchange and the offer directed by Poland to developing African countries may be our geophysical offer – price competitive with Western countries. In front of those present oil prices and hydrocarbons, it would be difficult for Polish entities wishing to operate in the area of oil and gas production to enter Nigeria, especially in the absence of experience in this market. It is worth recalling that in the past, the late Jan Kulczyk.
– Africa does not end with Nigeria. After the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, Poland must look for ways to diversify its energy supply sources, Orlen recently probed opportunities in Angola. In my opinion, the most promising market in this area is East Africa – I would like the gas projects developed in Tanzania and Mozambique to be also in the orbit of Polish interests. But West Africa, to which the president went, is not only gas, but also the rich deposits of phosphates and phosphates in Senegal, needed for the production of fertilizers – explains Prof. Polus.
What, apart from energy cooperation, can Poland offer to African countries? As an economy, we are competitive in the arms, technology and food markets. From the former, due to lower delivery costs, in Uganda, Poland is being replaced by equipment imported from Russia. Experts argue that the problem with the permanent presence of companies from Central and Eastern Europe in Africa is the lack of large, well-established investments that would entail new ones. One such attempt was, for example, the investment of KGHM in the Democratic Republic of Congo, from which the copper giant finally withdrew. The Polish-African Economic Forum held in March 2022 showed, however, that the potential for pursuing common interests is significant.
Poland can – and is already doing – export technology and IT solutions to Africa. – Polish companies conduct commercial activities in this field – e.g. in the tourism industry in Nigeria, but also implement government orders, e.g. they help in improving public administration in Ethiopia – says Interia, an expert of the Polish Institute of International Affairs, Jędrzej Czerep.
Our interlocutors point out that despite the revival of Polish-African relations, the scale of their unused potential is significant. – I believe that there is a real chance for the development of trade relations with Africa. This is important, for example in terms of energy resources and technology exchange. Nevertheless, Poland has work to do compared to Western European countries that are slowly working through the colonial past. Poland had a strong presence on the continent during the People’s Republic of Poland, which was later abandoned. I hope it will change – says Serge Nkounkou from Congo, an entrepreneur who graduated from the University of Warsaw and currently lives in Poland.
– The unused potential has always been to activate the graduates of Polish universities in Africa from the 1970s and 1980s, who know our language and have a fondness for our country. In the 1990s, when all attention was turned towards the Euro-Atlantic, that bond broke. It started to be rebuilt a few years ago when PAIH’s foreign trade offices were established, when people started looking for these people, but there are never too many activities in this area – adds Jędrzej Czerep from PISM.
As Serge Nkounkou argues, “Poland, despite the fact that it once educated and still educates a group of students from Africa, does not use their potential”. – They return to the country after Polish universities, some later occupy high positions in administration or business – unfortunately, practically no one talks to them later. And yet it is a very good contact in building economic and political cooperation – says Interia. Meanwhile, our country still has a good image on the continent. He was not a colonizer, he helped economically, in Ethiopia many politicians still remember, for example, Polish tractors from Ursus. This is the foundation on which to build – our interlocutors agree.
To do this wisely, however, remember that Africa is not a “state” but a complex ethno-political organism that should not be generalized or judged through the prism of Anglo-Saxon and European experiences.
– What Africa does not want today is to be brought before an ultimatum: either the West or Russia. There is no uniform attitude towards the war in Ukraine here, which was evident, for example, in the vote on the resolution condemning Russian aggression at the UN forum. Some African states left the vote, many abstained, Eritrea voted against condemnation of Russia, and Kenya was the loudest invasion of the Sub-Saharan states. However, we must not forget that Africa views Russia differently from Europe, due to the support of the Soviet Union during the decolonization period and in the fight against apartheid. This sentiment is still alive so far, it is believed that Russia has never been a colonial state, which of course is not entirely true. Hence the role of Poland, which should explain that the Kremlin, when fighting Ukraine, de facto behaves like a colonizer, and Russian colonialism did not take the form of overseas colonialism; although in the Horn of Africa there was for a short time a Russian colony – New Moscow – founded with the support of tsarism … – explains prof. Andrzej Polus.
It is this element – apart from the economy and energy – that was intentionally emphasized during the Polish president’s trip abroad. – Supporting Ukraine by Poland is not limited to providing political, military and economic support as well as helping refugees. Poland is also committed – and President Andrzej Duda does it personally – to combat Russian propaganda, which attempts to show the armed conflict in Africa caused by Russia as part of the fight against American and European imperialism. In Africa, Russia accuses Ukraine and the West of causing a food crisis. We must show the point of leadership for Ukraine and Poland, which have been fighting against Russian imperialism for centuries, says Sławomir Dębski, director of PISM, in an interview with Interia.
Marcin Makowski, Interia