“Spanish diplomacy has certainly gained ground in recent years in Africa, particularly in the economic sector and thanks to a growing entrepreneurial presence. But other European states are much more active on the continent,” says Ainhoa Marín, specialist in sub-Saharan Africa at the Elcano Institute (Madrid). “Spain, continues the researcher, remains essentially focused on its usual themes of concern: migratory flows, cooperation, defence, fishing agreements. »
Spain in the reconquest of Africa
By launching the Africa III Plan in 2019, the right-wing government (People’s Party, PP) of Mariano Rajoy has nevertheless endowed Madrid with a real policy African. In 2021, the Foco África 2023 program came to support this plan: it provides for 250 concrete actions to be carried out over two years, ranging from strengthening diplomatic and cultural relations to supporting private sector investment in Africa.
Foco África has in recent months been the subject of an internal audit at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the results of which have not yet been disclosed. Among its main actions, the first edition of the Visitors from Africa Program enabled six young African entrepreneurs to travel to Spain at the end of September to meet Spanish peers.
Proof of Madrid’s growing interest in Africa, the Mesa África platform meets several times a year to coordinate the strategies of public administration and civil society (NGOs, think thanks, private sector, etc.) on the continent. Set up within the framework of Plan Afrique III, this tool has no equivalent in any other department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Its last meeting, last July, resulted in a whole series of recommendations on the emancipation of women and the presence of Spanish companies in Africa. Another session is planned by the end of the year.
If the right came to power…
Despite these advances, recent events have slightly shifted Spain’s attention to the Maghreb and to Ukraine at war, against a backdrop of the energy crisis. “The government’s interest in sub-Saharan Africa has suffered. It has decreased significantly in recent months, ”regrets Ainhoa Marín, who nevertheless hopes that the continent will be one of the priorities of the Spanish government when Madrid takes over the rotating presidency of the European Union, in the second half of 2023.
Spain – Africa: “Morocco is our first trading partner on the continent”
Could Spain’s African policy be affected by the upcoming elections? Polling institutes give the opposition party (PP, right) the winner of the general elections at the end of 2023 for the moment. It has already won, this year, one of the largest regions of the country, the Andalusia, traditional stronghold of the left for decades.
Would a change of political color necessarily lead to a change of course? “If the right came to power, it would probably ensure the continuity of the African policy of which it is itself at the origin, indicates Ainhoa Marín. It could of course adopt another approach, but maintaining the Africa III Plan seems acquired “.