Russia’s Summit on Africa: Challenges, Implications and Beyond

Image

By Kester Kenn Klomegah

With highly expected symbolism, Russia’s primary focus at the forthcoming November summit in St. Petersburg with African leaders, corporate business directors, representatives from the academic community, civil society organizations and media will largely be renewing most of its unfulfilled bilateral agreements and making new pledges that will, as usual, be incorporated into a second joint declaration.

Brilliant speeches reminded of long-standing traditions of friendship and solidarity, how Soviets assisted African countries in their struggle to attain independence and established statehood, and further highlighted neo-colonialism tendencies wide spreading on the continent.

That Russia stands with Africa on matters of strengthening peace and stability on the continent and ensuring regional security. Next is absolute readiness to engage in broadening cooperation in all economic sectors.

While the first summit was described as highly successful due to its spectacular blistering symbolism and has offered the necessary solid impetus for raising to qualitative level the multifaceted relations, especially in the economic spheres with Africa, much has still not been pursued as expected. Behind the shadows of the bilateral agreements, some of the projects were simultaneously assigned to either Western or European investors.

Long before the historic summit, the African foreign minister and delegations had lined up visiting Moscow. Those frequent official visits were intended to show off that Russia is in high demand as indicated in a 150-paged new policy released last November by a group of 25 leading experts headed by Sergei A. Karaganov, the Honorary Chairman of the Presidium of the Council on Foreign and Defence Policy.

The report vividly highlighted some pitfalls and shortcomings in Russia’s approach towards Africa. It further pointed to Russia’s consistent failure in honouring its several agreements and pledges over the years. It decried the increased number of bilateral and high-level meetings that yield little or bring to the fore no definitive results. In addition, insufficient and disorganized Russian African lobbying combined with a lack of “information hygiene” at all levels of public speaking, says the policy report.

There are, indeed, to demonstrate “demand for Russia” in the non-Western world; the formation of ad hoc political alliances with African countries geared towards competition with the collective West. Apart from the absence of a public strategy for the continent, there is a lack of coordination among various state and para-state institutions working with Africa.

Despite the growth of external players’ influence and presence in Africa, Russia has to intensify and redefine its parameters. Russia’s foreign policy strategy regarding Africa has to spell out and incorporate the development needs of African countries.

Unlike most competitors, Russia has to promote an understandable agenda for Africa: working more on sovereignty, continental integration, infrastructure development, human development (education and medicine), security (including the fight against hunger and epidemics), normal universal human values, the idea that people should live with dignity and feel protected.

Nearly all the Russian experts who participated in putting the report together unreservedly agreed with this view. The main advantage of such an agenda is that it may be more oriented to the needs of Africans than those of its Western and European competitors. It is advisable to present such a strategy already at the second Russia-Africa summit and discuss and coordinate it with African partners before that. Along with the strategy, it is advisable to adopt an Action Plan – a practical document that would fill cooperation with substance between summits.

Vsevolod Tkachenko, the Director of the Africa Department of the Russian Foreign Ministry, stated during one of the preparatory meetings, “the African partners expect concrete deeds, maximum substantive ideas and useful proposals.” The current task is to demonstrate results and highlight achievements to the African side. Over the past years, African countries have witnessed many bilateral agreements, memoranda of understanding and pledges.

Russia has to set different narratives about its aspirations and intentions of returning to Africa. The approach has to move from rhetoric and mere declarations of interest. Since the basis of the summit remains the economic interaction between Russia and Africa, “the ideas currently being worked out on new possible instruments to encourage Russian exports to Africa, Russian investments to the continent, such as a fund to support direct investment in Africa, all these deserve special attention,” Tkachenko says.

According to an official report posted on the website, Russia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Sergei Lavrov, during the “Government Hour” in the State Duma on January 26, stated that the “cooperation with African countries has expanded to reach new frontiers. Together with African friends, we are working on preparations for the second Russia-Africa summit scheduled to be held this year.” Previously, for instance, Lavrov explicitly indicated: “Russia’s political ties, in particular, are developing dynamically. But economic cooperation is not as far advanced as political ties.”

Many experts have expressed concern about the relationship between Russia and Africa, most often comparing it with other foreign players on the continent within the framework of sustainable development there in Africa. It is about time to make meaningful efforts to implement tons of bilateral agreements already signed with African countries.

“Russia, of course, is not satisfied with this state of affairs. At present diplomacy dominates its approach: a plethora of agreements were signed with many African countries, official visits proliferate apace, but the outcomes remain hardly discernible,” Professor Gerrit Olivier from the Department of Political Sciences, the University of Pretoria in South Africa and a former South African Ambassador to the Russian Federation wrote in an emailed comment.

“While, given its global status, Russia ought to be active in Africa as Western Europe, the European Union, America and China are, it is all but absent, playing a negligible role. Be that as it may, the Kremlin has revived its interest in the African continent and it will be realistic to expect that the spadework it is putting in now will at some stage show more tangible results,” Olivier added.

Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to Russia, Brigadier General (rtd) Nicholas Mike Sango, who has been in his post since July 2015, expresses his views on the relations between Africa and the Russian Federation. While Russia has traditional ties with Africa, its economic footprints are not growing as expected. It has however attempting to transform the much boasted political relations into a more comprehensive and broad economic cooperation, he noted in his conversation with me.

He pointed to the disparity in the level of development, the diversity of cultures and aspirations of the peoples of the two regions, there is a growing realization that Africa is an important partner in the “emerging and sustainable polycentric architecture of the world order” as Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has aptly asserted. But in fact, Africa’s critical mass can only be ignored at great risk, therefore.

For a long time, Russia’s foreign policy on Africa has failed to pronounce itself in practical terms as evidenced by the countable forays into Africa by Russian officials. The Russian Federation has shied away from economic cooperation with Africa, making forays into the few countries that it has engaged in the last few years. African leaders hold Russia in high esteem as evidenced by a large number of African embassies in Moscow. Furthermore, Russia has no colonial legacy in Africa, according to the Zimbabwean diplomat.

Ambassador Sango, who previously held various high-level posts such as military adviser in Zimbabwe’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations, and as an international instructor in the Southern African Development Community (SADC), also said that “Russia has not responded in the manner expected by Africa, as has China, India and South Korea, to name a few. Africa’s expectation is that Russia, while largely in the extractive industry, will steadily transfer technologies for local processing of raw materials as a catalyst for Africa’s development.”

While Russia and Africa have common positions on the global platform, the need to recognize and appreciate the aspirations of the common man cannot be overstated. Africa desires economic upliftment, human security in the form of education, health, shelter as well as security from transnational terrorism among many challenges afflicting Africa. The Russian Federation has the capacity and ability to assist Africa to overcome these challenges leveraging on Africa’s vast resources, Ambassador Sango concluded.

For more than three decades after the Soviet collapse in 1991, Russia has had different degrees of political relations and currently looking forward to building stronger economic cooperation. During these years, the relations have also transited through distinctive phases taking cognizance of challenges and fast-changing global politics.

In an interview discussion for this story, Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration of Ghana explains to this research writer that “Although, for a relationship lasting this long with Africa, one would have expected it to move past where it is now. In short, there is still room for improvement, in fostering particularly stronger economic ties.”

It is hoped that Russia continues consistently to catch up with other active foreign competitors, makes attempts to transform the well-developed political relations with broader economic cooperation in the coming years. Ultimately, emphasis should also be placed on developing ‘people-to-people’ relations, whereby the peoples of both countries would have a better understanding of each other.

Critically not much has been achieved, looking at the Russia-Africa relations from the perspective of regional organizations – especially the Southern African Development Community (SADC), when it was headed by Lawrence Stergomena. Regrettably, she explained during discussions with me that like most of the developing countries, Southern African countries have largely relied on multilateral and regional development financial institutions to fund their development projects.

In this regard, SADC welcomes investors from all over the world. In reality, Russia has not been that visible in the region as compared to China, India or Brazil. On the other hand, it is encouraging that Russia is currently attempting to position itself to be a major partner with Southern Africa, underlined Stergomena, and further explained that the SADC is an inter-governmental organization with its primary goal of deepening socio-economic cooperation and integration in the southern region.

Dr Babafemi A. Badejo, Professor of Political Science and International Relations at Chrisland University, Abeokuta, Nigeria, argues that many foreign players and investors are now looking forward to exploring several opportunities in the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which provides unique and valuable access to an integrated African market of over 1.2 billion people. In practical reality, it aims at creating a continental market for goods and services, with free movement of businesspeople and investments in Africa.

Badejo argues further that Russia’s gradual engagement can be boosted by African media popularizing and boosting knowledge on such engagements by Russia. Hosting the next summit would feed very well into popularizing Russia’s efforts at engagement with African leaders. However, promoting relations with the continent of Africa would require more than a one-off event with African leaders who have varying levels of legitimacy from performance or lack of it in their respective countries.

Interestingly, and at the current moment, not much of Russia’s image is promoted by the media in Africa. African media should have the opportunity to report more about Russian corporate presence in Africa and their added value to the realization of the sustainable development goals in Africa. This corporate presence can support the building of the media image of Russia in Africa through involvement with people-at-large oriented activities.

In this final analysis, Russia has to make consistent efforts in building its media network that could further play a key role in strengthening relations with Africa, the academic professor noted in his lengthy discussions on Russia-Africa and concluded that it is Western perception and narrative of Russia that pervades the African media. Russia needs to do more in using media to tell its own story and interest in Africa.

President Vladimir Putin noted at the VTB Capital’s Russia Calling Forum, that many countries had been “stepping up their activities on the African continent” but added that Russia could not cooperate with Africa “as it was in the Soviet period, for political reasons.” In his opinion, cooperation with African countries could be developed on a bilateral basis as well as on a multilateral basis, through the framework of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa).

With its impressive relations, Russia has not pledged publicly concrete funds toward implementing its policy objectives in Africa. Its investment efforts have been limited thus far which some experts attributed to the lack of a system of financing. While Russians are very cautious about making financial commitments, the financial institutions are not closely involved in foreign policy initiatives in Africa.

In addition, experts have identified lack of effective coordination and follow-ups combined with inconsistency are basic factors affecting the entire relations with Africa. While the first summit is still considered as the largest symbolic event in history, many significant issues in the joint declaration have not been pursued and that could lay down a comprehensive strategic roadmap for building the future Russia-African relations.

As publicly known, China, Japan and India have committed funds publicly during their summits, while large investment funds have also come from the United States and European Union, all towards realizing various economic and infrastructure projects and further collaborating in new interesting areas as a greater significant part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Africa.

Share
Related Stories
Image
23-February-2024

Port Harcourt Refinery to be Fully Operational Soon—FG

By Adedapo Adesanya  The federal government has disclosed that the Port Harcourt Refinery should become operational very soon as it has attained 80 per cent completion. The Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Mrs Nkeiruka Onyejeocha, during a tour of the facility, disclosed that the refinery would produce two million litres of Premium Motor Spirit, otherwise known as petrol, and 2.2 million litres of diesel per day upon resuming operations. In a statement by the Director of Press and Public Relations in the Federal Ministry, Mr Olajide Oshundun, it was further stated that the old plant should produce 54,000

Image
22-February-2024

Naira Appreciates at Official Market, Falls at Black Market

By Adedapo Adesanya The Naira appreciated against the United States Dollar in the official market and the and the peer-to-peer (P2P) windows of the foreign exchange (FX) market but depreciated in the parallel market on Wednesday, February 21 as several scare tactics to ease the weakening local currency continues. In the Nigerian Autonomous Foreign Exchange Market (NAFEM), the domestic currency gained 0.6 per cent or N8.66 on the greenback to close at N1,542.58/$1 compared with the previous day’s N1,551.24/$1. However, the Naira maintained stability against the Pound Sterling and the Euro in the spot market in the midweek session at

Image
22-February-2024

NPPAN Targets $10bn Contribution to Nigeria’s GDP via Palm Biomass

By Adedapo Adesanya The federal government will sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Malaysian government to develop palm biomass in the country as part of efforts to utilise one of the undertapped farm produces in the country. Mr Alphosus Inyang, President of the National Palm Produce Association of Nigeria (NPPAN), made this disclosure, saying palm biomass is a multi-billion dollar economy. “Biomass simply means agricultural waste and we are talking about turning waste into wealth,’’ he said in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Wednesday in Abuja. The president said NPPAN was working with

Image
22-February-2024

Investors Recover N165bn as FBN Holdings, BUA Cement, Others Gain

By Dipo Olowookere The bulls recaptured the Nigerian Exchange (NGX) Limited on Wednesday after the bears dominated for two straight days as a result of panic selling due to the macroeconomic environment, especially with the poor performance of the Naira in the foreign exchange (FX) market. During the midweek session, the local bourse finished higher by 0.30 per cent on renewed bargain-hunting activities by investors. This raised the market capitalisation of the domestic exchange by N165 billion to N55.464 trillion from N55.299 trillion, as the All-Share Index (ASI) grew by 301.71 points to 101,362.38 points from 101,060.67 points. Business Post

More Stories
Image
27-August-2019

CBN Warns Loan Seekers Against Scammers

By Adedapo Adesanya The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has warned loan seekers and owners of small-scale businesses to be wary of fraudulent people when trying to access its development finance intervention programmes. In a statement released on Monday and signed by Mr Isaac Okorafor, the apex bank’s director of corporate communications, the bank advised prospective loan seekers to approach their banks to access its programmes. “The attention of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has been drawn to fraudulent messages in the social media circles requesting unsuspecting loan seekers and owners of small-scale businesses to apply for loans provided

Image
01-December-2023

Nigeria Accepts OPEC 1.5mbpd 2024 Oil Output Quota

By Adedapo Adesanya Nigeria will accept and work with a production quota of 1.5 million barrels of crude oil per day in 2024 as the country aims to grow on the back of its oil resources, following a revision done by the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies, OPEC+. According to a statement issued by the Press and Public Relations unit of the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, Thursday’s meeting of the 23-man group addressed crucial aspects, including the completion of assessments by independent sources (IHS, Wood Mackenzie, and Rystad Energy) on the projected production levels for Angola,

Image
03-January-2018

Futures Pointing to Higher Open Ahead of Fed Minutes

By Investors Hub The major U.S. index futures are pointing to a higher opening on Wednesday, with stocks poised to add to the gains posted in the previous session. The markets may continue to benefit from optimism about the economic outlook after Republicans approved a massive tax reform bill last month. Nonetheless, traders may be somewhat reluctant to make significant moves ahead of the release of the minutes of the latest Federal Reserve meeting this afternoon. Following the long, holiday weekend, stocks moved mostly higher during trading on Tuesday. The major averages all closed in positive territory, although the tech-heavy

Image
04-September-2019

SON Seizes N500m Substandard Roofing Sheets in Owerri

By Modupe Gbadeyanka Substandard galvanized roofing sheets and aluminum coils worth about N500 million were recently confiscated by officials of the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) in Owerri and Okigwe areas of Imo State. This was part of the agency’s onslaught on the sale and manufacture of substandard roofing sheets in the country. It was gathered that the galvanized roofing sheets apprehended in Owerri gauged 0.125mm and 0.126mm respectively as against 0.15mm minimum value prescribed in the Nigeria Industrial Standard (NIS). Similarly, at Okigwe, the impounded aluminum coils used for the manufacturing of galvanized roofing sheets showed a non-conformance of

Image
07-June-2022

Elon Musk Threatens to Abandon Twitter Takeover

By Adedapo Adesanya In the latest drama emanating from his planned takeover of Twitter, the world’s richest man, Mr Elon Musk, has threatened to withdraw his bid to buy the social media company, accusing it of failing to provide data on fake accounts. Twitter has committed “a clear material breach” of its “obligations under the merger agreement and Mr Musk reserves his right not to consummate the transaction,” according to a document filed with securities regulators in the United States yesterday. The filing marks an escalation of Mr Musk’s prior statements that have highlighted fake accounts as a threat to

Image
09-July-2022

Deconstructing the Reintroduced National Water Resources Bill

By Jerome-Mario Chijioke Utomi There is no doubt anymore that in Nigeria’s leadership corridor, once a direction is chosen, instead of examining the process meticulously and setting the right course; one that will allow us to overcome storm and reach safety before we can progress and achieve our goals, we obstinately persist with the execution of such plans regardless of a minor or major shift in circumstance. An eloquent example of the above assertion is the controversial water resources bill recently reintroduced in the House of Representatives and sponsored by the Chairman of the House Committee on Water Resources, Sada

Image
25-October-2018

AfDB Unveils $500m Insurance Deal

By Dipo Olowookere A $500 million credit insurance deal has been signed between the African Development Bank (AfDB) and African Trade Insurance Agency (ATI). This transaction is expected to have an important demonstration effect to encourage similar institutions to invest more on the continent in the future. While ATI will be the direct insurer facing the African Development Bank, the transaction involves the participation of a number of Lloyd’s & Company private reinsurers who will share the risk on African financial institutions. This vehicle will enable many insurance companies operating outside Africa to participate in the financing of development in

Image
20-December-2023

BUA Forays into Energy Market With LNG

By Adedapo Adesanya One of Africa’s largest foods, mining, manufacturing, and industrial conglomerates, BUA Group, has set its sights on the energy market with its focus on gas as it signed an agreement to establish a mini Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) plant in Nigeria. The company signed a deal with CIMC ENRIC, a global leader in the energy equipment industry, in partnership with Axxela, for the establishment of a 700-ton-per-day mini LNG project in Lagos on Monday. According to a statement, this strategic agreement marks a significant milestone in BUA Group’s expansion into the energy sector and reaffirms its commitment

Ad
Ad
Recent Stories
Image
23-February-2024

Applications Open for AIG Public Leaders Programme

By Aduragbemi Omiyale Eligible African public servants have been urged to submit their applications for the AIG Public Leaders Programme Cohort 4 before Tuesday, April 30, 2024. This call for entries was made by Aig-Imoukhuede Foundation and the applications are to be filed through www.aigimoukhuedefoundation.org/leaders-programme, a statement disclosed. Applicants must be working in the public sector in Africa, with a minimum of seven years of active service, at grade levels 12-17, and aged between 35-50 years at the time of application. The AIG Public Leaders Programme is tailored for senior public leaders and delivered in partnership with the Blavatnik School

Image
23-February-2024

Okpe Leaders Want Completion of Sapele Polytechnic, University in Orerokpe

By Henry Ovie The Delta State Governor, Mr Sheriff Oborevwori, has been tasked to make efforts to complete the Sapele Polytechnic, which was started by the administration of Mr Emmanuel Uduaghan. This call was made by some prominent leaders from the Okpe kingdom, who said the completion of the school and the establishment of a university in Orerokpe would assuage, “to some extent,” the people of the areas, who they said have been “historically neglected.” On Thursday, the leaders held a crucial meeting of the National Executive Council (NEC) of the Okpe Union worldwide. They commended Mr Oborevwori for responding

Image
23-February-2024

HabariPay Take-on-Squad Hackathon 1.0 Produces Three Winners

By Modupe Gbadeyanka Three winners have emerged in the inaugural Take-on-Squad Hackathon 1.0 coding event organised by HabariPay Limited after intense collaboration, innovation, and problem-solving at the GTCO Training Complex, Tayo’s Plaza, Abeokuta, Ogun State, from January 18 to 20, 2024. Business Post reports that the three winning teams are Team Within, Team X, and Team Storepoint. Each team was selected based on real-world applicability, technical creativity, user experience, and teamwork. Team Storepoint, represented by Haruna Faruk and Ladipo Samuel from the University of Lagos, secured third position and a prize of N1 million. Their winning solution, Storepoint, facilitates quick

Image
23-February-2024

Group Mourns OAU’s Veterinary Technologist Olabode Olawuyi

By Modupe Gbadeyanka The Nigeria Biodiversity Conservation Alliance (NBCA) has expressed sadness over the death of the Veterinary Technologist of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State, Mr Olabode Olawuyi, a few days ago. Mr Olawuyi was fatally mauled by a lion at the Zoological Garden of the institution. In a statement signed by the National President of the Nigerian Association of Zoological Gardens and Wildlife Parks (NAZAP), Mr Dipo Bali, the group said the deceased was a man who was dedicated to his job and the organisations he belonged to in his lifetime. Mr Olawuyi, apart from being a

Image
23-February-2024

NUPENG Seeks EFCC Support to Tackle Illegal Oil Bunkering

By Adedapo Adesanya Following its fight against foreign exchange speculators and hoarders, the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) has sought the collaboration of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in the fight against illegal oil bunkering in the country. The collaboration was sought when the National President of NUPENG, Mr Williams Akporeha, led members of his executive council to the corporate headquarters of the anti-graft agency on a courtesy visit. Mr Akporeha mentioned the challenges involved in the movement of petroleum products across the country and appealed to the EFCC to always come to the

Image
23-February-2024

SON Launches Facility to Test Quality of Generators, Transformers

By Adedapo Adesanya The Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) has inaugurated a facility to test generators and power transformers sold in the Nigerian electricity market. Speaking at the inauguration of SON Mobile Generators Testing Laboratory and Mobile Transformer Equipment on Thursday, the Director-General of the agency, Mr Ifeanyi Okeke, said it was no longer business as usual for assemblers and importers of these products. He said it was important for these products to meet the quality benchmarks, stressing that buyers must have value for their money. According to him, all information supplied on generators and transformers will be verified and

Image
23-February-2024

Port Harcourt Refinery to be Fully Operational Soon—FG

By Adedapo Adesanya  The federal government has disclosed that the Port Harcourt Refinery should become operational very soon as it has attained 80 per cent completion. The Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Mrs Nkeiruka Onyejeocha, during a tour of the facility, disclosed that the refinery would produce two million litres of Premium Motor Spirit, otherwise known as petrol, and 2.2 million litres of diesel per day upon resuming operations. In a statement by the Director of Press and Public Relations in the Federal Ministry, Mr Olajide Oshundun, it was further stated that the old plant should produce 54,000

Image
23-February-2024

Nigeria Moves to Crash Cooking Gas Price

 By Adedapo Adesanya Nigeria is considering taking a major step aimed at crashing the price of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG), also known as cooking gas, to ease the sufferings of its citizens. The Minister of State Petroleum Resources (Gas), Mr Ekperikpe Ekpo, speaking at the opening of its Internal Stakeholders’ Workshop on Thursday in Abuja, disclosed that the government would most likely ban the exportation of the commodity to keep the price lower than its current level. Currently, prices range between N1,300 per kg to N1,400 per kg. “All LPG produced within the country will have to be domesticated and

Image
23-February-2024

How MultiChoice Empowers Nigerian Youth Through Creative Investment

As global populations age, Africa remains a bastion of youthful promise, with around 70% of the continent’s population below the age of 30. This youthful demographic can be an asset – but only if it is developed, by empowering young people through training, and by giving them a stake in the growth of their countries’ economies. Helping to develop young people’s abilities and expanding the pool of skills is also in the interests of industry and big business. Over the years, the Federal government of Nigeria embarked on youth empowerment initiatives to harness the skills and energy of Nigerian youths

Image
23-February-2024

Eva Adelaja Girls’ At 60: Old Students Donate to Orphanage, Thrill Students

By Adedapo Adesanya It has been an eventful celebration at the ongoing 6oth Anniversary of Eva Adelaja Girls’ Secondary Grammar School, Bariga, Lagos. The event was planned to celebrate the institution established by the late educator, Mrs Evangeline Adebayo Adelaja, in 1964. Particular resplendent in this celebration are the alumni of the school, the Eva Adelaja Girls’ Secondary Grammar School Old Girls’ Association, which have been on the ground to ensure that the planned activities go smoothly. The event, which kicked off with the Praise Day and Community Hymn Singing held at Chapel of Christ the Light in Alausa, Ikeja,