BERLIN – Russia’s influence on energy and food prices and security will set the stage for Olaf Schulz’s first visit to Africa as German chancellor, starting on Sunday with a three-day tour of Senegal, Niger and South Africa.
The first stop on Scholz’s trip is Senegal, which has billions of cubic meters of gas reserves and is expected to become a major gas producer in the region.
Following the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine, Germany seeks to reduce its heavy dependence on Russia for gas. It could help explore a gas field in Senegal, a government official said on Friday.
The source said Scholz also wanted to discuss possible cooperation in the development of renewable energy. In Senegal, he will visit a solar power plant after meeting with the country’s President Macky Sall and holding a joint press conference.
Germany has invited both Senegal, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the African Union, and South Africa, as guest countries, to attend the G7 summit in June.
Both countries abstained from voting on a UN resolution against Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, which Moscow says is a special military operation to disarm a neighbor that threatens its security.
Ukraine and its Western allies say the war is an unpleasant aggression.
The conflict has disrupted supplies, pushing up food and energy prices in Africa. Russia’s military has cut off exports from Ukrainian ports, the region’s main grain and food supplier. The Kremlin has blamed Western sanctions for raising prices.
Scholz will travel to Niger later on Sunday. The country has played a major role in hosting European special forces to prevent a jihadist uprising across the Sahel, as European relations with neighboring Mali, a military junta, have deteriorated.
The European Union (EU) has suspended its military training mission in Mali, citing a lack of guarantee from Malian authorities that Russia’s Wagner Group’s military contractors would not interfere. The group is under EU sanctions for alleged human rights abuses.
Russia denies any wrongdoing in Mali or any other country where Wagner works. Both Mali and Russia have previously stated that Wagner’s group is not made up of mercenaries but instructors who help local troops with equipment purchased from Russia.
Schulz will meet with German troops in Niger and discuss the long war against al Qaeda and Islamic State-linked insurgents who have killed thousands of people south of the Sahara and left many areas ungovernable.
Scholes is due to travel to Johannesburg on Monday evening, the last leg of his tour. (Reporting by Andreas Rink and Sarah Marsh; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel)