African Market is Very Promising for Russia—Vladimir Padalko
By Kester Kenn Klomegah
Vice-President of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Russian Federation, Mr Vladimir Padalko, has described the African market as very promising for Russian companies, especially those intending to localize their production on the continent blessed with several resources.
In this insightful interview with our Media Executive Kester Kenn Klomegah, he also discussed the existing challenges and emerging prospects especially for strengthening trade and economic relations with Africa, amid unprecedented stringent sanctions by the United States, European Union and their Pacific allies. Here are the interview excerpts:
What can we expect from the second Russia-Africa summit scheduled for this year? Is it worth talking about increasing the level of Russian investment, and strengthening interaction with African businesses?
The second Russia-Africa summit will become an important starting point for cooperation between the Russian Federation and African countries. The economic situation for Russia has now changed dramatically, while most countries on the continent have refrained from participating in anti-Russian sanctions. Therefore, we are talking about the formation of new approaches in a wide field of interaction, adjustment, or rather an expansion of those strategic tasks that were formulated at the first Russia-Africa summit.
Let me remind you that three years ago, priority areas for economic cooperation were identified in a number of industries. These are energy, infrastructure development, especially railway construction, mining and processing of minerals, agriculture, digital technologies, medicine, science and education. These priorities will be voiced at the second summit as well. But I think that the main topic of the upcoming forum will be the formation of new tools for fruitful cooperation between Russia and Africa, including new methods of mutual settlements, logistics routes, media and cultural communication.
How competitive is the current African market for Russian companies and potential investors who have shown interest in Africa?
In recent years, many African countries no longer experience a lack of attention from foreign partners. Unfortunately, today the share of Western states, as well as China, in trade with African countries is much higher than Russia’s. But, nevertheless, our country is able to occupy significant niches in many areas. We sell very popular goods in Africa: fertilizers, oil products, wood products, plastics, rolled metal products, grain, certain types of machinery and equipment, and vehicles.
In turn, African countries are ready to supply the Russian market with a whole range of food products, with the supply of which problems have recently arisen. And in some countries, in particular, South Africa, there are good products in mechanical engineering, chemical, and food industries, which will also be useful for us today. The African market today is very promising for Russia, but also very difficult. Russian business needs to work on it thoroughly and systematically in order to achieve success.
Does the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Russian Federation intend to encourage Russian companies to localize their production in African countries, thereby using one of the most reliable ways to expand trade and economic cooperation?
The Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Russian Federation supports all positive trends in business, including foreign economic activity. The localization of Russian production in African countries is already a mature stage of cooperation when companies understand all the specifics of doing business in a particular country and are confident in the long-term nature of project implementation, and the return on their investments. In my opinion, now for the majority of Russian companies that intend to work in Africa, it is important to create a set of tools that will allow them to confidently develop their business with the countries of the continent.
The Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Russian Federation has already prepared a set of proposals that should seriously help the promotion of Russian business to African markets. The initiatives were discussed and approved at the last meeting of the heads of business councils at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Russian Federation for cooperation with African countries. For example, it is important that Russian banks come to Africa. Now there is only one bank – it is very small for the whole continent. We need settlement banks that would work with different currencies, and not just with dollars and euros.
The President of the Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry Sergey Katyrin, in a letter to the Chairman of the Government of the Russian Federation Mikhail Mishustin, proposed to conclude intergovernmental agreements with African states on the use of national currencies in mutual settlements and payments. It was also proposed to work out the issue of establishing a specialized export-import bank and a trust fund to support the export activities of small and medium-sized businesses in African countries. We really need a Russia-Africa trading house.
In connection with the latest events in the world, international logistics have seriously changed. We need commodity hubs that work for several countries at once. As you can see, we are now at the stage of creating an infrastructure that will allow us to reach a qualitatively new level of cooperation between Russia and Africa.
Business needs vital information, knowledge about the investment climate, and the specifics of work in a particular country. Business needs vital information, knowledge about the investment climate, and the specifics of working in a particular country. Do you think there is an information vacuum between Russia and Africa?
The information vacuum definitely exists, and this obstacle should first be removed. One of the most effective tools in this direction is holding exhibitions. Experience indicates that business in Africa shows great interest in them. In connection with this, the CCI of the Russian Federation proposes to redirect the funds allocated for exhibitions in Europe to the organization of exhibitions and business forums in African countries.
But at the same time, it is necessary to work quickly – it takes an average of six months to prepare any exhibition, and the situation in this area can change dramatically. It is also necessary to organize business missions more often, hold roadshows, presentations of Russian companies in African countries. The online format of communication is good, but direct contact, so to speak, on earth is always effective and brings returns.
I would like to note that the CCI of the Russian Federation intends to actively contribute to the expansion of the network of trade representative offices in Africa. Currently, there are only four Russian trade missions operating on the continent; Morocco, Algeria, Egypt and South Africa. There should be more of them.
What do you think are the main problems for foreign players on the African continent, what hinders the development of trade and the influx of Russian investments into African countries?
Trade and economic cooperation is always a bilateral process. African countries need to further develop financial and investment infrastructure, which foreign partners, in our case, Russian ones, will be able to rely on. Do not hope that investors will come, find promising projects on their own and implement them at their own expense. At the same time, the experience of the Soviet Union shows that it is possible and necessary to cooperate with African countries in a broad format.
However, the economic model of interaction is now fundamentally different – no one will recklessly invest. All work is based on a mutually beneficial basis. At the same time, Russia is now living in fundamentally new economic realities. Many communications, logistics, and supply chains have been disrupted. Business is forced to adjust strategies for working with foreign partners and to look for new opportunities for their development. And in this situation, cooperation in friendly areas – with African countries – becomes one of the priorities.
At the end of this exclusive interview, what are your final motivating words and what can you wish for potential clients and partners in Africa?
Africa has changed a lot in recent years. A number of countries show high rates of economic growth, new industries are developing, enterprises are opening, and not in the sphere of primary processing of minerals and agricultural raw materials. The African continent has become a place of expansion for many foreign companies. Russia cannot stand aside from this process. Businesses need to take the initiative and take a certain risk – it is like two sides of a coin. The main thing is that our country has a good mood for the development of cooperation, and this is unambiguous on the part of African countries as well. So, we will succeed. There is a wide field of collaboration ahead.
Global Food Price Index Trends Downward in May
By Adedapo Adesanya
Global food prices dropped in May 2023, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said on Friday.
The FAO Food Price Index (FFPI) averaged 124.3 points in the month under review, down 3.4 points (2.6 per cent) from April and as much as 35.4 points (22.1 per cent) from the all-time high it reached in March 2022.
The decline in May was underpinned by significant drops in the price indices for vegetable oils, cereals and dairy, which were partly counterbalanced by increases in the sugar and meat indices.
The FAO Cereal Price Index averaged 129.7 points in May, down 6.5 points (4.8 per cent) from April and as much as 43.9 points (25.3 per cent) below its record-high value one year ago. International wheat prices declined by 3.5 per cent month-on-month, reflecting prospects for ample global supplies in the upcoming 2023/24 season and the extension of the Black Sea Grain Initiative.
World maize prices fell by 9.8 per cent in May. A favourable outlook for 2023/24 points to a rebound in global supplies, with higher production expected in Brazil and the US, two major exporters, weighed on prices.
A slow pace of US exports and China’s cancelled purchases also exerted downward pressure on world maize prices.
Among other coarse grains, world prices of barley and sorghum also declined, by 9.5 per cent and 9.7 per cent, respectively, influenced by declines in international maize and wheat prices.
By contrast, international prices of rice continued to increase in May, as previous deals with Asian buyers were executed, and supplies tightened in some exporters, such as Viet Nam and Pakistan.
The FAO Vegetable Oil Price Index averaged 118.7 points in May, down 11.3 points (8.7 per cent) month-on-month and standing as much as 48.2 per cent below its year-earlier level. The continued decline in the index reflected lower world prices across palm, soy, rapeseed and sunflower oils.
International palm oil prices fell markedly from April, as protracted weak global import purchases coincided with expectations of rising outputs in major producing countries.
In the meantime, world soyoil prices dropped for the sixth consecutive month, largely underpinned by the persistent pressure from a bumper soybean crop in Brazil and higher-than-expected stocks in the US, where higher supplies of alternative feedstock partially replaced the uptake from the biodiesel industry. As for rapeseed and sunflower oils, international prices continued to decline on ample global supplies.
The FAO Dairy Price Index averaged 118.7 points in May, down 3.9 points (3.2 per cent) from April and standing 25.5 points (17.7 per cent) below its corresponding value in 2022.
The decline in May was led by a steep drop in international cheese prices, principally due to ample export availabilities, including from inventories, amid seasonally high milk production in the northern hemisphere.
Following 10 consecutive monthly declines, international price quotations for milk powders rebounded, reflecting an upturn in purchases by North Asian buyers and seasonally falling milk supplies in Oceania.
Meanwhile, butter prices rose slightly, as increased price quotations for supplies from Oceania, due to high purchases by Southeast Asian buyers and seasonally falling milk supplies, were almost offset by a decline in European prices on high export availabilities.
The FAO Meat Price Index averaged 117.9 points in May, up 1.1 points (1.0 per cent) from April, marking the fourth consecutive monthly increase, but still 5.0 points (4.1 per cent) below its value in the corresponding month last year.
International poultry meat prices increased further in May, driven by the continued high import demand, especially from Asia, and some concerns over potential short-term supply challenges due to widespread avian flu outbreaks.
World bovine meat prices increased slightly, underpinned by higher global demand for Brazilian supplies and persistent supply tightness in the US despite the continued high cattle slaughter in Australia. Pig meat prices rose for the fourth successive month, although only marginally, as supply limitations stemming from high production costs and animal diseases elsewhere boosted demand for Brazilian supplies. Meanwhile, world ovine meat prices fell on high export availabilities from Oceania.
The FAO Sugar Price Index averaged 157.6 points in May, up 8.2 points (5.5 per cent) from April, marking the fourth consecutive monthly increase, and as much as 37.3 points (30.9 per cent) above its value a year ago.
Rising concerns over how the development of the El Niño phenomenon may affect the 2023/24 crops, together with lower-than-earlier-expected global availabilities in the 2022/23 season, triggered the increase in international sugar prices in May. Shipping delays amid strong competition from soybean and maize in Brazil also supported the increase in world sugar prices.
However, the positive outlook for the 2023 sugarcane crops in Brazil, along with improved weather conditions benefiting the progress of the harvest, prevented larger monthly price gains. Lower international crude oil prices and a cut in fuel prices in Brazil further contributed to limiting the month-on-month increase in world sugar prices.
Kenyan Entrepreneurs to Access Funds with Hustler Group Loan
By Adedapo Adesanya
Kenyan entrepreneurs will access more loans with the launch of Hustler Group Loan, the second product of the Financial Inclusion Fund, an initiative of the President William Ruto administration.
President Ruto said this would boost the hustler spirit and deepen financial inclusion in the country since the Fund has witnessed 42.5 million transactions through which 20.2 million Kenyans have accessed about Sh30 billion.
He also noted that enterprises will now have access to affordable and accessible financing to spur their growth.
The birth of the Hustler Group Loan follows the launch of the Hustler Fund early in the year; out of the Sh30 billion, Sh19.7 billion has been repaid.
“Not a single shilling has been stolen through corruption,“ President Ruto insisted.
He said he was keen on ensuring that businesses access affordable credit.
“That is the route to ensuring that enterprises grow, generate more earnings and create more jobs for millions of underprivileged Kenyans,” the President said on Thursday, June 1, in Moi Stadium Embu during the Madaraka Day celebrations.
Comoros President Azali Assoumani, Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua, Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi, Cabinet Secretaries, Embu Governor Cecily Mbarire, MPs, Former President of Niger Issoufou Mahamadou, among others, were present.
The Kenyan President also said he was keen on enhancing food production through subsidising production.
He said five million farmers have registered and benefited from the government’s subsidised fertilisers.
“As a result of these interventions, farmers have been able to plant 200,000 additional acres of food this year,” he said.
On health, the president explained that the government would reform the National Health Insurance Fund to meet the needs of Kenyans.
He noted that he was committed to delivering Universal Health Coverage.
He said the government has collaborated with counties to recruit community health promoters to deepen this goal.
“These promoters will facilitate early detection of conditions for referral to further attention.”
On his part, the Deputy President said the government had initiated practical measures that would put more money in the people’s pockets.
Mr Gachagua said he would lead town hall meetings with farmers to develop sustainable plans to uplift them.
Imagine the Strategic Partnership between Asmara and Moscow
By Kestér Kenn Klomegâh
In this extremely poor Eritrea nation located in the Horn of Africa, with a population of 3.6 million, what factors could attract to strengthen cooperation in the spheres highlighted by Russian President Vladimir Putin during a meeting with President of the State of Eritrea Isaias Afwerki at the Kremlin.
According to reports from the Kremlin on May 31, Putin referred to the fact that Eritrea has recently marked 30 years of independence. This was when the two countries established diplomatic relations too.
Russia is attracted due to its highly strategic location. Eritrea is bordered to the northeast and east by the Red Sea, Sudan to the west, Ethiopia to the south, and Djibouti to the southeast. The undemarcated border with Ethiopia is the primary external issue currently facing Eritrea. Geopolitical history informed us that Eritrea’s relations with Ethiopia turned from that of cautious mutual tolerance, following the 30-year war for Eritrean independence, to a deadly rivalry that led to the outbreak of hostilities from May 1998 to June 2000 that claimed approximately 70,000 lives from both sides.
Despite the differences between Ethiopia and Eritrea, Russia maintains good relations with the two. But the main significance, as stressed during the meeting, was trade and economic relations which deserve primary attention. There could only be a few, of course not a lot, of potential in many areas. From our studies, agriculture makes up 11 per cent of the wider economy’s value and is the main economic activity in Eritrea.
In 2013, the pickup in growth had been attributed to the commencement of full operations in the gold and silver Bisha mined by Canadian Nevsun Resources, the production of cement from the cement factory in Massawa and investment in Eritrea’s copper and zinc. Chinese are very active in the mining sector, and the Australians operate Colluli potash mining. In 2020, the IMF estimated Eritrea’s GDP at $2.1 billion.
With that economic background, however, Russia sees an opportunity to develop trade and economic ties between the two countries. “Of course, we must, first of all, pay attention to the development of trade and economic ties, here we have good prospects in many areas,” Putin said.
As expected, there was a display of passion for packing official documents. After a series of substantive consultations on partnership and intensive preparations between Asmara and Moscow, the delegation signed several intergovernmental agreements. “I am sure that our talks today will be successful and will benefit the development of relations between the Russian Federation and Eritrea,” Putin stressed.
The trade turnover between Russia and Eritrea in 2022 amounted to $13.5 mln, including $11.5 mln from wheat exports, according to materials for the talks between Putin and Isaias Afwerki in the Kremlin.
“The trade turnover between Russia and Eritrea in 2022 amounted to $13.521 mln (exports: $12.745 mln, including $11.5 mln – wheat (27,500 tons); imports: $776,000),” the statement said.
In 2021, the trade turnover between the two countries amounted to $9.314 mln. Exports of wheat amounted to $8.125 mln, oil products – $175,000, and sulfates – $888,000. At the same time, imports of ready-made clothes reached $126,000.
According to the statement, Eritrea is highly interested in strengthening ties with Ural Automobile Plant and Kamaz. In 2018, Kamaz delivered 56 cars and 5 buses valued at around $5 million to Eritrea.
“In my view, the global order, which is on the cusp of a radical transformation, requires an objective appraisal and mutual consultations on the timeless subject matter and phenomena of paramount importance and significance. The common assessment that we undertake will, in turn, revitalise the formulation of programmes and partnerships that we chart on,” Isaias Afwerki said during the meeting.
Isaias Afwerki believes that Russia was the primary competitor and rival of the policy of encirclement and containment by the forces of domination from the early 1990s, and its global impact in the past 30 years was considerable indeed. Russia did not undertake, at the outset, all the necessary preparations for effective resistance.
An integrated and comprehensive strategy of resistance was not accordingly set in motion. But with time, as the latent policy of containment against China becomes more transparent, international awareness of the free people has increased.
“It is imperative to expand and deepen this awareness, chart out a comprehensive strategy and concrete plans that encompass all fields, create dynamic mechanisms, marshal the necessary resources to ascertain the advent of and transit to a civilised international order of mutual respect, cooperation, complementarity and prosperity, where justice and the rule of law prevail. This is not an option but an obligation,” he explicitly pointed out to Putin.
It is important to remember that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov visited Eritrea in January 2023. He said the agenda for Russia-Eritrea cooperation focuses on implementing potential joint projects, including the logistics hub in Asmara. At a meeting at that time, Afwerki and Lavrov also discussed the radical changes in the international situation and key directions for the development of Russian-Eritrean relations. Lavrov reported to Putin about the results of his African tour at a Security Council meeting.
Afwerki has been president since 1993, when Eritrea gained independence from Ethiopia. He is the first and the only person to hold the post. Sergey Lavrov visited Eritrea in January as he toured Africa. The commercial activities revolve around this strategic location as a transit point, and the strategic location also makes the country prime for an increased military presence. This is the strategic importance for Russia.
Lavrov spoke extensively about economic cooperation. According to him, Russia’s truck maker KAMAZ was already working in Eritrea, supplying its products to that country, as was Gazprombank Global Resources, which was building cooperation in the banking sector. In the same year, 2018, concrete talks were held to build a logistics centre at the port of Eritrea, which makes the world’s class logistics and services hub for maritime transportation through the Suez Canal and is definitely set to promote bilateral trade.
Still that same year, Eritrea was interested in opening a Russian language department at one of the universities in the capital of the country, Asmara. Lavrov further indicated: “We agreed to take extra measures to promote promising projects in the sphere of mining and infrastructure development and to supply specialized transport and agricultural equipment to Eritrea.”
In April 2022, Eritrea’s top diplomat, Osman Saleh, made a quick reciprocal visit to Moscow to receive honour and congratulations for opposing the resolution in New York. That was in March 2022; Eritrea was one of the countries who voted against the resolution condemning Russia over the situation in Ukraine at the United Nations.
Eritrea is now a member of the African Union. The Eritrean government previously withdrew its representative to the African Union to protest the AU’s alleged lack of leadership in facilitating the implementation of a binding border decision demarcating the border between Eritrea and Ethiopia. Eritrea is also a member of the United Nations.
Latest News on Business Post
- CSCS Plans Payment of N1.37 Dividend to Shareholders June 4, 2023
- SERAP Demands Missing $2.1bn, N3.1trn Subsidy Payments Probe June 4, 2023
- Cryptocurrency Trading Strategies: Tips for Maximizing Profits June 4, 2023
- HealthXP Unveils App to Revolutionise Healthcare Delivery in Africa June 4, 2023
- Unity Bank Grows Gross Earnings to N57bn in 2022 as Customer Deposits Rise June 4, 2023
- Hullabaloo of Nigeria’s Democratic Transitions June 4, 2023
- Governor Akeredolu Not Dead–Ondo Commissioner June 3, 2023
- Three Securities Shore Up NASD Market Capitalisation by N14.99bn June 3, 2023
- Naira Falls at P2P, Gains at Black Market, Stable at Official Market June 3, 2023
- Oil Closes 2% Higher Ahead Crucial OPEC+ Meeting June 3, 2023