• Saturday, April 13, 2024
businessday logo


Russia-Africa summit: African countries embracing partnership for devt.

Russia-Africa summit: African countries embracing partnership for devt.

There now seems to be a shift from going cap-in-hand begging for aids to forging partnerships where hitherto African countries are known to kowtow to the U.S., China and Western countries for aids.

This was demonstrated at the recently concluded Russia-Africa Economic Summit 2023 where many African countries signed partnership agreements with the Russian government and some of its corporations.

The shift from aid to partnership underlined the Russia-Africa Economic Summit 2023 in St. Petersburg, Russia, with the host country seeing African countries as development partners.

Indeed, the words partnership and cooperation resonated throughout the panel discussions at the summit.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, had this to say about the summit: “We had a substantive and engaging exchange of views on the entire range of themes of strategic cooperation between Russia and African countries.

“We have identified the main areas for further joint work and outlined plans to strengthen foreign policy coordination and increase trade and investment flows, as well as industrial cooperation between Russia and the countries of the African continent.

“I firmly believe that the results we have achieved will form a good foundation for the further deepening the Russian-African partnership in the interests of the prosperity and well-being of our peoples.”

The participants declared their commitment to jointly building a new, fairer multipolar architecture of the world order based on the sovereign equality of states and mutually beneficial cooperation.

To demonstrate the shift, a panel session was aptly titled, ‘From Aid to Partnership: Working Together to Fight Epidemics,’ where Ms Anna Popova, Head of Rospotrebnadzor, noted that Russia and Africa had successfully cooperated in epidemic prevention.

“Cooperation between Russia and Africa is capable of moving from assistance to partnership between countries, which will help the continent to gain sovereignty in the field of biological security, strengthen its own potential and remove obstacles to economic development caused by infections,” noted Popova.

The focus of the session was how to ensure the independence of African countries from external assistance in biosecurity, as well as the possibilities of transition from importing anti-epidemic technologies to their development by African countries.

Ms Jane Ruth Aceng, Minister of Health of the Republic of Uganda, emphasised that the partnership would help to promote cooperation in epidemic control, build human capacity and ensure technology transfer.

From internal mechanisms to battle epidemics to best practices in infrastructure development, the summit was an eye opener for many African leaders.

For example, Mr Nikita Stasishin, Deputy Minister of Construction, Housing and Utilities, Russia, said African countries could draw a lesson from the the experience of Russia’s construction sector.

Read also: Military coups in West Africa, Wagner group and threat to Nigerian democracy

In particular, he drew attention to the fact that, “today Russian developers compete not with the cost per square metre, but with the quality of the project.”

This implies, among other things, the creation of a comfortable environment during the integrated development of the territory.

Stasishin said: “On the instructions of the President, an infrastructure menu was launched. This is a huge amount of funds that go towards modernising engineering, transport, utilities and social infrastructure.”

At the same time, he noted the need for a scientific approach to the development of territories: “We have created a huge scientific base with technical solutions for the development of both agglomeration of million-strong cities and single-industry and small towns.

“This is something we could share with African countries.”

It appeared that many African leaders at the Summit heeded the counsel, with Mr Tafadzwa Muguti, Secretary to the administration of the president of Zimbabwe for Provincial Affairs and Devolution for Harare Metropolitan Province, speaking about the prospects for cooperation with Russia in developing the country’s transport sector.

““One of the opportunities to improve transport infrastructure is to intensify partnership relations with the Russian Federation.

“Through cooperation with Russian cities, we could create new masterplans for the development of municipalities,” she said.

Nigeria is not left out of the new wave of partnerships with Russia to develop key infrastructure as its Vice President, Kashim Shettima, engaged stakeholders during the summit to revive the Aluminium Smelter Company of Nigeria.

“The sooner we get this plant back to production, the better for everyone. We need to walk the talk; the Nigerian people deserve better,” Shettima said at a meeting with the management of Russian Aluminium Company, UC RUSAL, and other stakeholders on the sidelines of the Summit.⁣

The meeting was in furtherance of the efforts by the Federal Government to reactivate production lines at ALSCON by re-engaging UC RUSAL and other partners.⁣

Speaking after a presentation by the UC RUSAL management, Shettima noted the enormous benefits of the aluminum company to the economy in terms of energy transition, job creation and its impact on the development of small businesses.

⁣Ghana is also leveraging the Russia-Africa Summit to develop its transport infrastructure.

Mr Desmond Boateng, Chief Director, Ministry of Railways Development of the Republic of Ghana, said at the summit that the country had embarked on a 4,000 kilometre railway project to connect West African countries.

“We are ready to negotiate with the Russian private sector to find the best ways to create an effective mechanism for mutually beneficial cooperation within the framework of this large-scale project.

“Now 250 kilometres have been built, but when all the lines are built, the railway will provide links to Burkina Faso, Togo, Cote d’Ivoire and other countries on the African continent,” said Boateng.

To demonstrate their seriousness, some African countries signed numerous Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) and cooperation during the Russia-Africa summit.

This, as part of the Forum’s business programme, a memorandum was signed between Russian Export Centre (REC) and the Agency for Promotion of Investment and Exports of Mozambique (APIEX).

According to the agreements, the parties will organise business missions and educational events aimed at fostering business development and strengthening economic cooperation between the two countries.

“The memorandum is an important step in the development of economic ties between Russia and Mozambique.

“This cooperation will enable enterprises from both nations to effectively penetrate each other’s markets and bolster the irrespective positions.

“It is also planned to exchange information on major projects in order to attract companies,” said Nikita Gusakov, Senior Vice President of the REC.

He said special attention would be paid to the exchange of analytical materials on priority sectors of cooperation.

“This will enable the parties to stay abreast of current trends and developments in vital sectors of the economy.

“As a result, this collaboration will foster the creation of new opportunities for Russian exports.

“Currently, there is a balance in foreign trade turnover between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Mozambique, demonstrating the complementarity of exports and imports between the two nations.

“Russia remains a major supplier of agricultural and chemical products to the Mozambican market, while Mozambique is one of the suppliers of rare earth metals and tobacco products to Russia’s market,” he said.

In addition, a memorandum was signed with Multi-Services EtMateriel Industriel (MSMI) SARL (Cameroon).

The main objective of the agreement is to jointly promote Russian industrial equipment in the Central African markets, especially in Cameroon.

It is anticipated that REC and MSMI will engage in active information exchange concerning major government projects while also extending support to Russian companies aiming to enter the Cameroon market.

Currently, Cameroon is undergoing significant industrial growth and implementing crucial infrastructure projects, offering favourable opportunities for Russian companies to compete with other global players in this region.

“Cameroon is one of the leading economies in Central Africa and offers a wide range of investment opportunities. The volume of REC Group’s supported exports to Cameroon last year totaled 19.6 million dollars.

“The joint efforts of the REC and MSMI will allow Russian companies to increase their presence in this promising market and strengthen their positions,” said Dmitry Prokhorenko, Director for Development of the REC’s Foreign Network.

It appears REC is on a rampage, revving Russia’s shipments of mineral fertiliser to Africa.

Facilitating this increase is REC’s Senior Vice-President, Mr Nikita Gusakov, who spoke at the session, “Stabilising the Fertiliser Market to Eradicate Hunger in African Countries”.

Gusakov touched on increasing trade between Russia and Africa and the need to carry out settlements with African counterparties in currencies other than the dollar or euro and connect to alternative channels of communication between financial institutions.

He said some transactions were already being made in yuan, and in the medium term, the ruble may also be an option.

He added that the first contracts had already been concluded in Russia’s national currency.

According to him, to incorporate local currencies in a more systematic way, it will be necessary to develop financial infrastructure and the share of goods imported from Africa.

He said this would make it possible for more transactions to be conducted in the national currency later and gradually decrease the number of financial transactions carried out in the currency of a third party.

He added that trade deficit could also be offset by investment, with the financing companies received from exports to Africa being invested on the continent.

The Second Russia–Africa Economic and Humanitarian Forum, organised by Roscongress Foundation was, indeed, a game changer for many African countries, if they walk the talk.


Salif Atojoko writes from News Agency of Nigeria