”Serial acts of suppression” that’s what President Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan called it after Beijing snatched off Burkina Faso; one of the only two countries left for Taipei in Africa.
It has been a loss for Taiwan in Africa in the recent years as the country continues to lose its grip of its allies in the continent. The unceasing cut in diplomatic ties by different African States as a loyalty to China has made it difficult for Taiwan government to keep the country’s presence in the 54 African nations.
There were once 30 African states which had ties to Taiwan. Now there is just one. This is because countries are forced to choose between China or Taiwan under the “one China” policy. Since the Cold War era, China had demanded that countries must choose in favor of one of them and that diplomatic relations with both is not possible.
So far, Beijing has won this diplomatic race. In use of what Taiwan government call ”Dollar Diplomacy”, China has been able to buy off many African nations to its side.
In a media chat the then Kenyan Foreign Minister Amina Mohamed told the news “We don’t have official relations with Taiwan. We believe in the “One China” policy.” To prove her words, Kenyan government helped deport 45 Taiwanese nationals to the Chinese mainland in 2014 on travel fraud charges. A move condemned by the Tai government. Also, Gambia under the then President Yahya Jammeh declared that it would rather work with Beijing than Taipei. In 2016, Gambia and China formed bilateral ties.
Zambia, a strong partner of China in Africa remains under the economic influence of China. In 2006 when it looked like relations will fall apart due to allegations of unfair labor conditions made by the opposition leader now turn president, the Chinese government made it clear that an attempt to switch ties to Taiwan is the end of Chinese investments and businesses in the country.
In 2018, Burkina Faso terminated relations with Taiwan and quickly moved to form new friendship with China. The Foreign Minister Alpha Barry stated that ”the evolution of the world and the defined socio-economic challenges of our region required us to reconsider our position.” The diplomatic server was a major blow to Taiwan foreign policy in Africa.
In truth, the geopolitical influence of China has made it difficult for African countries to remain aligned with Taiwan. China provides attractive foreign loans, aid and scholarships to Africans. China is a major contributor of security forces to the United Nations Mission in Africa, thus helping to promote peace and stability in the region. China also offers technical and health care support mostly at low cost to Africans. Chinese companies come with new innovations, and they are the highest employer of labor in many African countries hence reducing unemployment rate in the continent.
Really, the best many African states could do were to maintain unofficial relations with Taipei. South Africa and Nigeria for instance gave Taiwan a chance to open a Liaison office which serves as a de facto embassy in the country. Indeed anything more will surely affect the political pact with China.
Presently, Taiwan only has one country out of the 54 African States in its favour. The Swaziland. Taiwan has an embassy in Mbabane and Swaziland in Taipei. Globally, Taiwan has ties to 17 countries. Most of which are poor small nations. The issue with Taiwan is that it is not internationally recognized as a State but rather considered as a representative of China. Although Taipei has constantly sent out messages to Beijing that it is now independent of her.
Nevertheless, with economic power, China continues to isolate Taiwan in Africa and across the world making it difficult for the country to relate globally. Although, President Tsai Ing- wen said Taiwan “will not cower at all” in the face of pressure from Beijing.
Africa Diplomatic Front