The unstoppable conquest of the African continent by the United Arab Emirates

Unsatisfied with its great influence in the Arab-Muslim world for at least a decade, the United Arab Emirates is now openly attacking sub-Saharan Africa. This is the new geostrategic goal of Mohamed Ben Zayed “MBZ” to secure the future of his country. What has happened in Sudan and what is happening in Ethiopia bodes well for increasingly aggressive Emirati-style interference. Everything in the logic of making the Emirati Confederation not just an Israeli startup nation but also a diplomatic and military agitator on the continent sees a major colonial player enabling it to become what it always was dreamed: a complete power the model of Venice to attack on land and sea.

Sudan has been a key gateway for the Emirates geopolitical micro-confetti in Africa. From December 19, 2018, the demonstrations that will quickly shake Omar el Bashir’s authoritarian regime denounced the great economic and social crisis that the country was going through. For nearly eight months, the Sudanese will protest peacefully, leading to the army’s overthrow of three-decade ruler Al Bashir. The leader of the junta, and who would then head the Interim Military Council, was the famous General Abdelfattah Al Buhrane, who wished to maintain privileged relations with his two historic Gulf allies: Saudi Arabia and the WATER. The same Al Buhrane was already the commander of the Sudanese ground forces deployed on behalf of Riyadh in the war in Yemen.

From January 2019, The UAE will give Sudan $300 million in funding and oil aid, the site recalls Young Africa. A civil political transition is attempting to take place. More than two years later, thehe coup that just ended a long time ago to civilian transition in Sudan means the return of General Abdel Fattah al-Burhanand, the country’s new strongman. This event rings the death knell of democratic hope and restores a military power that will evidently serve the interests of the United Arab Emirates. In fact, Abu Dhabi sees the new situation as a perfect opportunity to continue its business plan in sub-Saharan Africa. It’s the honeymoon between the two countries, although recently dSudanese families have accused a private Emirati security company: “ Black Shield security recruiting young people to become combative soldiers and dying in Libya and Yemen. Parents who never saw their children again.

Ethiopia is also strategic ground for Abu Dhabi in the Horn of Africa. The war between Ethiopia and Eritrea raged for almost twenty years. In late 2018, negotiations came to what appeared to be a lasting peace when no one expected it. It came not only from the protagonists, and in this sensitive region in the Horn of Africa, which is essential for the stability of the Gulf, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar vied for the favor of the Addis Ababa regime. In fact, MBZ has more than a foothold in this country, long torn by war with Eritrea. Riyadh, which dreams of a base in Djibouti, but above all Abu Dhabi, was very interested in helping to resolve the conflict as quickly as possible.

In fact, the Emirati base at Assab in Eritrea, in the unstable context of the Horn of Africa and the Gulf, is a valuable guarantee for MBZ to have control over the entrance to the Strait of Hormuz and the waters of the Gulf of the Indian Ocean. It has also been used in the war in Yemen for years. Externally, Eritrea has made military concessions to the Gulf States as part of its war in Yemen (notably by turning away from Tehran). This made it possible to break its economic and diplomatic isolation, and it was therefore imperative for the regime to agree to negotiations with Ethiopia.

The Ethiopian and Eritrean governments have not alone decided which direction their relations should take. Each leader met with Emirati officials several times before, during and after the reconciliation process. In return, Addis Ababa pledged itself to the UAE and offered them privileged access to natural resources. And the country plunged into a new bloody civil war in Tigray, led by the same Abiy Ahmed, 2019 Nobel Peace Prize winner. The same who announced in July 2019 the deployment of 50,000 workers to MBZ: good labor market, malleable, not very confrontational, with an eye on all those to come Major projects in the Emirates. Finally, another regional strategic advantage for MBZ: DP worldthe flagship of the Emirates port management company, has come to sign a contract for the management of the port of Berbera, the only deep-water port in the entire Horn of Africa.

But Abu Dhabi’s diverse interests in Africa overlap when it comes to conquering the elements. Water is a key issue for the United Arab Emirates. The solutions considered to overcome this “water stress” problem are relatively limited. This has already prompted the United Arab Emirates to invest in the costly process of seawater ‘desalination’. But that’s not enough. You have to go to the source. And beyond the fraternal relationship with Egypt and its mythical river, the Nile, it is necessary to trace its course… into… the Sudan and secure its supply. Khartoum thus reappears as a central figure on the East African chessboard. But in April 2011, shortly after the fall of Hosni Mubarak, Ethiopia launched a pharaonic and strategic project to build a new dam called “Renaissance Dam” on the waters of the Blue Nile. It was therefore necessary to side with all countries trying to control the waters of the River of the Gods, to play the role of mediators to avoid a war that would mean fratricide for all involved.

Food security is now also affecting Abu Dhabi through the land grab, the purchase of agricultural and mining land in Africa to extract raw materials. Almost half of the world’s “captured” land is in Africa. The practice is also accompanied by an indirect appropriation of the resource water. Almost 60% of the water is therefore placed under guardianship, or almost, by companies from countries that practice it land grab. Since 2009, the United Arab Emirates have acquired around 1.3 million hectares of land: 900,000 hectares in Pakistan and almost 400,000 in Sudan. In Mozambique, permit applications for 607,236 hectares are under review. The main promoter of all these “agricultural projects” is the National Holdinga company of the Royal Family of Abu Dhabi.

We didn’t imagine that the Emirates would come to Africa under pseudo-security pretexts to better plunder African soil. This is the reality, however, and MBZ is spectacularly advancing its pawns by draining wealth that goes straight to Dubai and with no transfer to the exploited countries. This smuggling situation involves suspicious financial flows affecting the sovereignty of the African states involved. Without control, the latter lose advantages for their economic development, their own security and the fulfillment of their human potential. The Emirates, which have become masters of tax evasion, pay nothing back to the countries concerned and act like China. Some countries, like Zambia, are increasing security in mining areas to put an end to illegal mining activities. The UAE and China are thus becoming the two largest non-paying regional polluters and they are both in the crosshairs of human rights organizations! Recent rumors seem to prove that illegal immigrants and worse still children are being exploited in these secret Emirati mines. Among the countries, Ghana is the focus of all attention because e.g Human Rights Watch, 100% of the gold extracted from Ghana would come from children on behalf of these big multinational companies, the site recalled RFI. Among these we find Indians, South Africans in the “service” of two companies: Emirates Gold and Kaloti Jewelry International.

Africa has therefore become crucial in the endless pursuit of UAE development. It will be the reservoir of strategic resources for Abu Dhabi’s global projects. Supporting authoritarian men and soldiers who maintain order in countries often teetering on the brink of chaos, soldier and strategist Mohamed Ben Zayed sees a long way to securing his self-sufficiency in anticipation of the end of fossil fuels. It needs water, alternative energy sources, rare earths and metals. He now knows where to draw. To the detriment of peoples and their expressions, in a regional chessboard with an already fragile balance, it favors its relationship with regimes that mistreat its peoples, day by day increasing its power, already political, economic, maritime and terrestrial to now to become also quasi-colonial and imperialist. Sudan and Ethiopia are on the brink of collapse, unfortunately other African countries could soon pay the price.


The author is a researcher in the field of Middle East and Euro-Arab Relations/Terrorism and Radicalization, Lecturer in International Relations, Research Associate at CECID (Free University of Brussels), OMAN (UQAM Montreal) and SAVE BELGIUM (Society Against Violent Extremism).