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The real aims of the United Arab Emirates in Africa.

The country invests its capital also to diversify its oil-based economy. To contain Turkey, Qatar and Iran may cause an increase in the instability of the continent.

For some years now, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has been seen as a relevant geopolitical actor on the African scene. Many believe this to be a good opportunity for the development of the continent, given that the UAE has funds available and is the second-largest investor in Africa after China. But what are the real aims of the Emirates? It has three main identifiable aims.

The first is geo-economic: the continent of Africa represents a considerable opportunity for the Emirates to invest its petrodollars and so diversify its economy presently based on income from oil sales. There are many companies presently operating on African territory in the infrastructure, real estate and industrial sectors.
They are also present in agriculture since this Gulf country is almost totally dependent upon imports to supply its food needs.According to data provided by the Emirates ministry of finance, in 2018, the volume of commerce with Africa was worth around 161 billion dollars and this is bound to increase.

Its second aim is geopolitical. By means of its militarised diplomacy, based upon money, the government of Abu Dhabi is seeking to acquire its own zones of influence. In Egypt, it supported the 2013 military-led coup that brought General Al-Sisi to power. Today, it is still actively supporting General Haftar in the bloody Libyan conflict. However, it was chiefly with the start of the war in Yemen that the UAE monarchy made its military presence felt by its military intervention in that country, close to the Horn of Africa, using its military bases in Eritrea and Somaliland. The latter, a separatist region of Somalia under UAE influence, is being used to destabilise the government of Mogadishu. For the same reason, the UAE gives financial support to the local political opposition.

The third motive is ideological/religious. The UAE is seen as a ‘tolerant’ country from a religious point of view. It has excellent relations with the Vatican State, as shown by the visit of the Pope to Abu Dhabi in February 2019. Last August, they established historical diplomatic relations with Israel. It is actually a very conservative country where religious practice is based upon Salafist Sunniism imported from Saudi Arabia and practised by al-Qaida and its offshoots. Its doctrine rejects all forms of religion different from Salafism and considers the Muslim Brotherhood and Shiites as unbelievers.

This also holds for followers of other faiths. By means of its intense political activism in Africa, the UAE seeks: to stem the religious influence of the Muslim Brotherhood represented by Turkey which, in turn, is spreading its tentacles over the continent; to undermine the political interests of Qatar, an ally of the Turks and supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood; and to oppose the increasingly important presence of Iran – a geopolitically powerful country – on the continent fearing the possible mass conversion of African Muslims to Shiite doctrine.

Mostafa El Ayoubi

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