Africa and Middle East Senior AssociateResearch Division:
Megatrends Afrika Project Director
2017-2020 Research Fellow, Institute for Strategic Research (IRSEM), Paris
2011-2015 Head of the research project »Local Arenas of Power Sharing«, sponsored by the DFG
2001-2003 Research Fellow at the Institute for African Affairs, Hamburg
Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, policy-makers have increasingly viewed Western interests as being challenged by rival actors, including in Africa. This obscures Africa’s growing autonomy in the international order. Redefining European relations with Africa through the prism of strategic competition disproportionately focuses on challenges rather than opportunities.
After nearly a decade of military intervention, France has withdrawn its soldiers from Mali. The departure not only symbolises a failure of French intervention policy, argue Benedikt Erforth (IDOS) and Denis Tull (SWP) in this Megatrends Afrika Spotlight, but also reflects Europe’s foreign policy weakness. Yet, a more muted French footprint could also be an opportunity to build a more balanced and credible approach towards the Sahel.
The EU is reluctant to face the uncomfortable truth that its CSDP missions in Mali, especially EUTM, have failed to make a lasting impact. Its recent Strategic Review puts the blame on geopolitical competition with Russia rather than self-introspection. In this Megatrends Afrika Spotlight, Denis Tull (SWP) argues that the EU should take stock of its security force assistance before expanding its activities to Mali’s neighbouring countries.
Mali currently hosts the German Bundeswehr’s largest foreign deployment. Some 1,400 soldiers are involved in the United Nations Stabilization Mission (MINUSMA) and the European Training Mission (EUTM Mali). Many other member states of the European Union (EU) as well as the United Kingdom (UK) are also heavily involved in Mali militarily, but also politically and in terms of development policy. Regarding a possible extension of both missions, doubts not only hang over their effectiveness, but also their political licence and framework. Mali’s military government, in power since 2020, has adopted a confrontational course towards Western and regional partners, thus putting cooperation to a severe test.
Conditions for a continued German involvement in the EU mission to Mali look poor. The UN mission, however, could become even more important.