Taiwan leader visits last African ally as China boosts influence on continent

AP - Themba Hadebe

On Tuesday, 5 September, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen will visit Eswatini, Taipei's only remaining diplomatic ally in Africa. Meanwhile, Beijing's political influence on the continent continues to grow.

Tsai will head to Eswatini on 5 September, and attend celebrations marking the African nation's independence day and King Mswati III's birthday during the visit, her spokeswoman Olivia Lin said.

She will hold a meeting with the king, visit a local hospital and Taiwan-sponsored projects before returning to Taipei on 8 September.

Eswatini, formerly known as Swaziland, is among only 13 countries world-wide that diplomatically recognise Taiwan (officially "Republic of China") over the communist- ruled People's Republic of China, which claims the self-ruled island as one of its provinces.

In Africa, besides the embassy in Eswatini, Taiwan has only three "representative offices," in South Africa, Somaliland, and Nigeria.

"This is about optics and symbolism and maintaining the last remaining relationships that Taiwan has," Eric Olander, Editor of the China Global South Project, told RFI.

Beijing’s largest diplomatic coup in the decades-old diplomacy war with Taiwan in Africa was when South Africa’s ANC government switched relations to Beijing in 1998.

In the beginning of this century, Taiwan was left with diplomatic relations with only six African countries. But over the years, Beijing managed to snatch Liberia (2003,) Senegal (2005,) Chad (2006, ) Malawi (2008,) Gambia (2013) and Burkina Faso (2018) away from Taiwan. Eswatini is now Taipei’s last remaining diplomatic foothold in Africa.

Read more on RFI English

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