“We offer equal partnership,” says Lipavský of Angola-Zambia visit
The Czech foreign minister, Jan Lipavský, has just kicked off a working trip to Angola and Zambia. Czech foreign policy is increasingly focused on Africa and Mr. Lipavský says Europe needs to “bring a better offer” if it is to weaken Russian and Chinese influence on the continent.
The Czech minister of foreign affairs, Jan Lipavský, set off from Prague’s Kbely airfield on Monday morning for a five-day visit to Angola and Zambia.
Just before his departure Mr. Lipavský explained why the visit – on which he is accompanied by a Czech business delegation – was taking in those states in particular.
“Those two countries are geographically located together, so it makes sense to make those trips together. In both of them we have a lot of interesting business projects, development projects and human rights projects. And to add to that, in Angola there is a large community of fluent Czech speaking Angolans who studied in Czechoslovakia, so we have a very close connection to both countries. This is the reason for Angola and Zambia.”
Both Russia and China have been exerting increased influence on the African continent in recent years and the Czech foreign policy chief said that Europe had “fallen asleep” in this regard.
He said states like Czechia could succeed by showing more respect to African countries than the Russians and Chinese, whose approach tended to be one-sided.
“We are offering equal partnership – that’s the main message. So it’s not just about countering some other offers, it’s about bringing a better offer for African countries. We respect African countries, we respect their people, we respect their sovereignty, we respect their nature and the wealth of their countries. So this is our approach and I’m sure that Europe and European countries and Czechia have a good offer, in terms of medical healthcare, business development or, for example, nature protection.”
And Mr. Lipavský insisted that Europe can still win hearts and minds in Africa, even though Moscow and Beijing have already made significant inroads in that regard.
“Definitely the Russian invasion of Ukraine was a wake-up call. But it’s never too late and we have to be present in Africa. We have never left Africa, but now we need to pay more attention, definitely.”
The foreign minister’s trip reflects an increased emphasis on Africa in Prague. The minister of the interior, Vít Rakušan, visited Senegal, Ghana and Rwanda around a month and a half ago and Prime Minister Petr Fiala is due to visit the continent later this year.
However, Mr. Lipavský told reporters on Monday, budgetary constraints mean there are no plans for more Czech diplomatic missions in Africa.
The minister’s first stop is Angola, where he will hold talks with his local counterpart and meet graduates of Czech universities.
In Zambia he will also meet the minister of foreign affairs, as well as making a donation to a hospital in Lusaka. He will also launch a human rights seminar in the country’s Southern Province.