Why is Saudi Arabia attempting to expand its influence in Africa?
Saudi Arabia has sought for years to expand its influence in African countries, competing with smaller Arab nations in the Persian Gulf such as the UAE and Qatar, which have invested in various parts of the continent.
Saudi Arabia has intensified its financial and diplomatic activities in Africa in recent years to diversify its international alliances and infiltrate the continent.
In reality, Riyadh’s infiltration efforts began years ago, given the continent's political, economic and trade significance.
It seems that Saudi Arabia has recently focused on expanding its relations in East Africa, a region that includes Somalia, Djibouti, Eritrea and Ethiopia, due to their proximity.
The main considerations of Saudi Arabia towards this region are strategic and security.
In May, Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman said Riyadh will support African countries with investments and loans worth about $1 billion this year to “help their economies recover” from the COVID-19 pandemic.
He also said the kingdom's sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund (PIF), had invested around $4 billion in the energy, mining, telecoms, food and other sectors in Africa and that it would continue to look for opportunities in other sectors in the continent.
In today’s multi-polar world, Africa is no longer a land of exploitation. It's rather a hub of business activity and investments. It contains about 30% of the world's rich mineral reserves and more than 21 oil-producing countries.
African population stands today at 1.2 billion which is expected to grow by more than 500 million by 2030. According to researchers at the Brookings Institute, more than 80% of this growth is concentrated in urban areas making Africa the fastest urbanizing region in the world.
It is also noteworthy that about half of Africa’s population are followers of Islam, which Saudi Arabia has sought to capitalize on
Saudi Arabia, the largest oil exporter in the world, is facing many economic and political challenges, and is seeking to cover up its internal and regional problems by using its religious and political influence in Africa to invest in the continent for its own interests.