Russia and Ukraine: How did Moscow outsmart Kyiv over Africa?

  • Paul Milli
  • Africa Program, Chatham House, London

picture released, Getty Images

Addresses by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to national parliaments around the world have become a staple of the diplomatic calendar over the past few months.

But when he spoke to the African Union last Monday, only four of the continent’s leaders heard his speech, while their assistants or officials reprimanded the rest.

The disappointing turnout rate was another indication of the asymmetric battle Kyiv is facing to win over the African continent, which includes 54 countries, yet is represented by only 10 embassies – a quarter of the Russian diplomatic presence.

Hence, when Zelensky tries to change the African attitude toward the invasion ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin, he has no political or security leverage comparable to that of Russia.