Egypt boosts ties with Burundi — with eye on Turkey

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Feb 25, 2021

CAIRO — As a international coverage precedence for Cairo, Egypt seeks to strengthen its ties with Burundi and the Nile Basin international locations, to restrict Turkey’s expansion in East Africa and shield its nationwide safety from any threats. Egypt and Burundi share a historic relationship as Nile Basin international locations.

Burundian Foreign Affairs Minister Albert Shingiro hosted Egyptian Ambassador to Burundi Yasser Al-Atwi on Feb. 13 within the capital, Bujumbura. During the assembly, the 2 diplomats mentioned methods to strengthen bilateral ties between their international locations.

In the identical week, on Feb. 18, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry obtained a cellphone name from his Burundian counterpart. The dialog touched on the bilateral relations, methods to strengthen them and coordination to carry a joint committee within the coming interval.

These developments, consultants and observers advised Al-Monitor, may also be seen as a part of Egypt’s efforts to dam Turkey’s affect in East Africa.

East Africa has been a significant area for Turkish maneuvers in recent times, with the Red Sea forming a worldwide commerce artery between Asia and Europe. Yet Turkey’s quest to ascertain a foothold within the Nile Basin international locations is seen by Egypt as a risk to its nationwide safety and to that of different Arab international locations. 

Tariq Fahmy, a professor of political science at Cairo University, advised Al-Monitor over the cellphone that strengthening relations with Burundi is one in every of Egypt’s international coverage priorities. “Burundi is an important country for Egypt not only because of the African geographic connection but also because it is one of the Nile Basin countries. Building stronger ties aims to preserve Cairo’s interests, protect its water security, and shrink the presence of Turkey and any forces opposing Egyptian national security.”

Along with its robust relations with Cairo, Fahmy famous that Burundi has robust ties with Turkey, Iran and Israel. He defined that Egypt desires to win Burundi to its aspect on the problem of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) and Egyptian water safety.

He asserted that Turkey’s presence within the African continent, particularly East Africa, began rising considerably in recent times. “This poses a threat to the Egyptian and Arab national security and their strategic interests,” Fahmy warned. “Therefore, Egypt placed on top of its foreign policy priorities boosting ties with the African brotherly countries, intensifying its presence in them and providing them with development support. For this purpose, Egypt seeks stronger coordination with African Union countries, especially the Nile Basin countries such as Burundi, Rwanda, Congo, Sudan, South Sudan and others. This will allow it to preserve water security, curb the influence of Turkey and ward off the threat of any other hostile forces to its interests.”

He continued, “Ethiopia is using Turkey as a trump card to pressure Egypt on the Nile water and the Ethiopian dam issues. Addis Ababa requested Ankara’s mediation in its border dispute crisis with Sudan, in response to Cairo’s support to Khartoum. This pushed Egypt to focus on strengthening its relations with the Nile Basin countries in the recent period. These countries will have a major role in the Nile water crisis by pressuring Ethiopia to stop its water plans, especially after Congo assumed the presidency of the African Union.”

Mona Omar, the previous assistant international minister for African affairs, believes the Egyptian-Burundian relations are robust and historic. She defined, “Ethiopia had called for a framework agreement for the Nile Basin countries, known as the Entebbe Agreement, in 2010, and Egypt and Sudan rejected it due to its severe harm to their water security. Burundi only signed this agreement after the January 25 Revolution of 2011 that toppled the regime of former President Hosni Mubarak. But the Burundian parliament has yet to ratify it as an expression of its support for Egypt and its water security concern. Naturally, Egypt and Burundi will have strong ties. Their relationship is not new; it extends for many years.”

In an unique interview with Al-Monitor, Omar added, “Egypt is keen to train Burundian cadres in all fields to provide them with the necessary expertise that they will transfer to Burundi to push development efforts forward and increase investment. Among African countries, Burundi has the largest number of participants in training courses held by Cairo. Also, Egyptian investors and experts support Burundi in many fields such as energy, agriculture and water.”

She affirmed that Egypt seeks to extend the variety of Egyptian buyers and corporations in Africa to protect its pursuits. “Egypt believes having strong ties with the Nile Basin countries will allow it to reinforce its national security and counter any threats, whether by Turkey or others.”

She stated, “Global powers, not only Turkey, are racing to control the African continent and striving for a presence there. They seek to exploit this continent’s rich wealth and raw resources and to market their products and goods to its population that exceeds 1 billion. Therefore the increasing Egyptian presence in Africa is all the more important.”

Basant Fahmy, a former member of the parliamentary Economic Committee and a professor of economics at Cairo University, believes the Egyptian economic system has gained power. She advised Al-Monitor, “Giant Egyptian companies with experience in energy, agriculture and infrastructure could be the gate to the African continent. The Egyptian economy can fortify the African national economy and preserve its national security from any external threats, whether from Turkey or other regional power.”

She continued, “Egypt has been the gateway and axis of the African continent since ancient times. It has enormous expertise in energy, construction, agriculture and water, and surpasses Turkey.  African countries, especially Burundi, a Nile Basin country, ought to tap on this experience to their own support development efforts. Economic power is one of the most important means for Egypt’s expansion in Africa and for countering any attempts to threaten Cairo’s national security.”

On one other word, Basant confused the necessity to activate the African Continental Free Trade Area settlement that went into impact Jan. 1. She defined that the Egyptian merchandise should be of top quality and fairly priced so as to have the ability to penetrate the African market. “This will bring positive results, not only at the economic level by boosting Egyptian exports, but also at the political, as it will curtail Turkey or other powers’ regional influence,” Basant concluded