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Egypt turns back to Africa

Cairo, which has just taken the presidency of the African Union, is counting on this year to restore its political and economic influence on the continent.

By Hélène Sallon Posted today at 06:30, updated at 07:20

Time to Reading 4 min.

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Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sissi addresses members of the African Union in Adis Ababa on February 10, 2019.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sissi addresses members of the African Union in Adis-Ababa on February 10, 2019. TIKSA NEGERI / REUTERS

Analysis. The year 2019 will be resolutely African for Egypt. As the country prepares to host the African Cup of Nations at the end of June, President Abdel Fattah Al-Sissi, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, chaired his presidency on 10 and 11 February. African Union (AU). A year to realize his re-engagement on the African scene and restore the political and economic influence of Egypt, after decades of distance from Africa. "His ambition is very political: he wants to show that he is able to succeed in a presidency on crisis resolution and a trade agenda"says a Western diplomat. If Egypt has made the fight against terrorism, migration, development and economic integration its priorities, it is less expected on the reform of the AU.

Since taking office in 2013, Mr. Sissi has been working to restructure Egypt's African policy. The gap had widened with the continent. While Cairo was more oriented towards the Arab world and the West since the presidency of Anwar Sadat (1970-1981), Mr. Sissi has returned to "Summit diplomacy", shunned by former dictator Hosni Mubarak (1981-2011), after an assassination attempt against him in Addis Ababa in 1995. "President Sissi is serious about Africa because there is a stake in internal political stability and national security, as well as legitimization," Yasmine Farouk, associate researcher at the Carnegie Center.

Read also The African Union wants to take a hand in Libya

The upheavals that took place in the country and the region in 2011 made this refocusing inevitable. "The strategic depth of Egypt is in Africa and its interests have been threatened in many ways: the Nile water issue, the security situation in the Red Sea and the terrorist threat on the border with Libya"explicit Amira Abdel-Halim, Center for Political and Strategic Studies (CEPS)Al-Ahram. The loss of influence of Egypt in Africa and the increased military and strategic presence of its regional rivals – Gulf countries, Turkey, Israel – have defeated its traditional hegemonic policy, seen as arrogant in Africa as his only interests.

A strategy of entrism in the institutions of the AU

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