Speculations are rife about China’s plans for second military base in Africa — Chatham report

Speculations are rife that China may be planning to establish a second military base in Africa, which comes at a time when the United States struggle to maintain its military presence in Niger and African leaders are bluntly articulating and asserting their demands from bilateral partners and multilateral institutions.

According to a new report by Chatham House, for over three decades, every Chinese foreign minister’s first overseas trip of the year has been to Africa, with the current minister Wang Yi having visited Egypt, Tunisia, Togo, and Côte d’Ivoire this January. While every one of these countries is coastal, none of them has featured prominently as potential locations for China’s next military installation in Africa. China’s long-term strategy around bases in Africa is unclear, but countries hosting them must also make political calculations, Chatham’s expert analysis observes.

Since 2012, China has been a significant player across the continent, primarily through extensive infrastructure projects, investments, and diplomatic engagement. Five years later, China marked its military footprint in Africa after it opened a base in Djibouti, with two main declared objectives being combating piracy operations and ensuring freedom of navigation. After a recent fallout with Niger’s military junta, the US military is now exploring other points of presence for a drone base in West Africa.

The report also reminds that while hosting military bases has generated political capital for African governments, they can also be a political liability for African governments that host them. “In any event, China is now facing an increasingly multipolar and assertive Africa that is pushing foreign powers to clarify their security interests as security for whom and from whom,” the report concludes.