By Kester Kenn Klomegah
On March 19, under the Chairmanship of Yury Ushakov, an aide to the Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Organizing Committee on Russia-Africa, held its first meeting in Moscow. The Organizing Committee, established by a presidential decree, has been given the responsibility of preparing for and holding the Russia-Africa summit in October 2019 in Sochi.
The meeting was attended by representatives of the Administration of the President of the Russian Federation, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Russian Ministry of Finance, the Russian Ministry of Economic Development, the Russian Ministry of Industry and Trade, the Administration of Krasnodar Territory, Russian Export Center, the Roscongress Foundation and many others.
The meeting participants discussed issues related to organizational preparations for the Russia–Africa events as well as the participation of the heads of Africa states and representatives of the Russian and international business community, state institutions and governments.
The meeting participants further discussed the main preparation stages of the business program and the forthcoming meetings between the African leaders and the Russian business community, thanks to which Russia’s interaction with African countries will receive state and broad public support.
The Russia–Africa summit is expected to be attended by roughly 3,000 African businessmen, according to the official meeting report.
Anton Kobyakov, Adviser to the President of the Russian Federation, reported on the preparation progress. “It should be noted that this is an event of unprecedented scale, which has never been held before in the USSR or in Russia. The summit will be a strategically important step towards creating the most favourable conditions to develop the trade and economic relations and diversify the forms and areas of Russia–African cooperation. Economies of most African countries develop progressively, and Africa will play an increasing role in the system of Russia’s foreign economic relations in the long term, as the region becomes more and more attractive for trade and investment,” Kobyakov said.
In his contribution at the meeting, Krasnodar Governor Veniamin Kondratyev stressed that “Sochi has repeatedly proved its full commitment to hosting major international events. We will do everything in our power to ensure functioning of the entire urban infrastructure and to maintain an atmosphere of hospitality and a high level of service, which Russia has repeatedly shown when hosting guests from all over the world.”
The Roscongress Foundation together with Russian Export Center are the key institutions responsible for preparation and holding of the events for the general shareholder meeting of the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) and the business conference.
“Afreximbank, being one of the continent’s largest supranational financial institutions, has held the general meeting of shareholders outside of Africa only once in its history. This undoubtedly shows the tremendous interest from the African side to develop mutually beneficial cooperation with Russia, and it will allow us to maximize the potential of these events to establish and strengthen bilateral and multilateral business relations,” according to Andrey Slepnev, Head of the Russian Export Center, who attended the meeting.
Mikhail Bogdanov, Special Representative of the Russian President to the Middle East and African countries, and Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, said in his speech: “Africans pin high hopes on the summit, particularly in terms of securing a course for developing constructive cooperation with Russia in solving global and regional problems, creating fair and balanced system of international relations, ensuring peace and security including joint efforts to counter terrorist threat.”
Bogdanov informed the meeting that a sizeable package of agreements in trade, economic and investment spheres and a number of other multilateral documents planned to be signed at the summit. The final document of the meeting in Sochi will be the Declaration of the first Russia–Africa summit, providing for a long-term partnership.
This first Russia-Africa summit will definitely enhance mutual multifaceted ties, reshape diplomatic relationship and significantly to roll-out ways to increase effectiveness of cooperation between Russia and Africa. Russia has traditionally prioritized developing relations with African countries. Trade and economic relations as well as investment projects with the countries of the African continent offer enormous potential. Major Russian businesses view Africa as a promising place for investment. The energy and mining sectors along with agriculture, manufacturing, transport, and infrastructure pose the greatest interest.
As a way to realize the target goals, a preliminary Russia-Africa Business Dialogue as part of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) will take place on June 6–8, and will be followed by the annual shareholders meeting of African Export-Import Bank. Russian Export Center became a shareholder in December 2017.
The African Export-Import Bank and the Russian Export Center along with SPIEF will lay the foundation for continuing the dialogue between countries at a high level as part of major subsequent business events. The Roscongress Foundation, established in 2007, is a socially oriented non-financial development institution and a major organizer of international business conventions, exhibitions and public events. The idea to hold a Russia-Africa summit was initiated by President Vladimir Putin at the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) summit in Johannesburg in July 2018.
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