Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa during a signing ceremony following their talks in the Kremlin in Moscow. Picture: AFP/SERGEI CHIRIKOV
Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa during a signing ceremony following their talks in the Kremlin in Moscow. Picture: AFP/SERGEI CHIRIKOV

1. Charity begins at home

China’s aid to the home regions of African leaders nearly tripled after they assumed power, according to a Quartz report. Though President Xi Jinping insists Chinese aid to Africa — which rose to $15bn in 2018 — is free of conditions, the political ties are difficult to hide. The news website cited a study in the Journal of Development Economics that shows the birth regions of African presidents received nearly three times the aid inflows from Beijing in the years when those leaders were in power as they did at other times.

The study looked at development projects between 2000 and 2012 in 49 nations including SA.

2. Gamble on Africa

Russia is also building relations with African rulers, striking military deals and grooming new leaders and undercover agents to bolster its presence on the continent, according to a Guardian exposé. Russian President Vladimir Putin showed little interest in Africa in the 2000s. But Western sanctions imposed in 2014 have forced Moscow to seek new geopolitical friends and business opportunities. Leaked documents show that one aim is to "strong-arm" the US and former colonial powers out of the region. Another is to see off "pro-Western" uprisings.

3. Trump too toxic for tree

The Paris climate accord, Iran, the role of the EU, trade … the list of quarrels between US President Donald Trump and his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, is getting longer. The symbol of that relationship has become a French oak tree, planted with fanfare on the White House lawn a year ago — at the high point of the bromance between the two — which Le Monde reports has now died.

Last year Macron tweeted during a state visit to Washington, DC that the tree would be "a reminder … of these ties that bind us". Now it’s a symbol of pursed lips, stiff handshakes and angry tweets.