Russian President Putin has noted that his country is ready to assist African partners without any political or other conditions attached to the help. President Putin on Monday expressed the willingness of his country to grant unconditional assistance to African countries. Until recent times, with little invested on the African continent, the Russian president will on Wednesday, October 23 and Thursday October 24 preside over the first “Russia-Africa Summit”; a symbol of Moscow’s growing ambitions in a continent where Chinese and Western powers are several steps ahead. Russia has been at bay since the collapse of the Soviet Union some three decades ago. However, its friendly ties established with African governments during the fight for independence have remained written archives, thus most African leaders and experts see Russia largely as a friend and not an enemy.
Africa as a prize to cherish and protect
In recent times, the African continent has become the most sought and desired place for diverse reasons mostly economic. This can be justified by the presence of so many foreign powers including Turkey, Saudi Arabia, China, Russia, just to name but these. However, there has been much talk about Russia making its way back to the continent after decades of defensible absence. This comeback will be given more impetus at the Russia-Africa Summit billed for October 23 to 24, 2019 in the resort city of Sochi. Over 40 African heads of state and Africa’s influential personalities are expected to attend the first ever Russia-Africa gathering, where more emphasis would be laid on peace, security and development. It also showcases Kremlin’s drive to make its footprint on the African continent. The inaugural summit will be holding under the theme: “Russia and Africa: Uncovering the Potential for Cooperation”. The summit would be chaired by President Vladimir Putin together with Abdel Fattah El Sisi, Egypt’s president who doubles as the African Union chair. For Putin, ‘’it will be a question of showing that he has African interests at heart’’. Putin reiterated that an array of ex-colonial countries are resorting to pressure, intimidation and blackmail of autonomous African governments, adding that ‘’they are using such methods to try to return lost influence and dominance in their former colonies in a new guise and rushing to pump out maximum profits and to exploit the continent’’.
It is worth noting that alongside the Russia-Africa summit, an African Business Forum, expected to attract both African and Russian business leaders, will also hold to boost Russian investments in Africa, and encourage African business interest in Russia.
President Putin however shares a different philosophy, where his partnership with Africa remains mutually beneficial to both parties. As it stands, Russia has wholly embraced the phrase ‘’African solutions for African problems’’. Hence, this platform represents a great milestone for the African Union, prospective entrepreneurs in their quest for sustainable development across the continent. However, the ball remains in African presidents’ court. Their negotiations at the Sochi summit would determine the amount of help to be rendered by the Russian Federation. Like Paul Kagame of Rwanda would put it ‘’ Africa is a treasure to love and cherish, not to give away’’, as such, the first ever Russia-Africa summit is an opportunity for African leaders, small and Medium size enterprises to exploit trade opportunities and explore new markets and take their products to the world.
Trade with Africa
In recent times, Russia’s trade with the African continent has remained timid as compared to other powers present on the continent. According to statistics, China-Africa trade stands at about $200 billion, U.S.-Africa trade equals $61 billion, and EU-Africa trade representing over $300 billion as compared to Russia-Africa trade which stood at just $20 billion in 2018. This indicates that the Kremlin has not been fully engaged on the continent, however, Moscow has been commended for providing security to African states. As per the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the Russian Federation has inked 23 security cooperation deals with African states over the last five years, positing itself as the largest supplier of arms to the continent. Notwithstanding, the Russia-Africa summit has already presented a platform for more trade engagements between Russian industrialists and Africa. More improved trade ties with Africa would be a boost to the dream African Continental Free Trade area. According to experts, it is a good thing for Africa to have more trading partners as it would defeat the idea of trade dominance. It is worth noting that Moscow has been promoting nuclear technology, mining, infrastructure, and oil and gas investment in Africa.
Nonetheless, prospects are high for Africa as far and Russia-Africa summit is concerned. About 250 business magnates from Nigeria have shown interest in attending the economic forum, a platform for networking. Also Zimbabwe sees the Russia-Africa Summit as a new dawn for the country, as more economic deals would be unveiled in Sochi. Russia has vowed a permanent comeback on a continent that is richly blessed with both natural and human resources. As Putin stated in 2018 in South Africa, “Russia has always prioritized the development of ties with African states, a relationship that is based on decades-old traditions of friendship and mutual aid.
Article from AFRIC Editorial
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