By Kestér Kenn Klomegâh
The African Union (AU) is planning to wade into the crisis between Russia and Ukraine with a view to finding a lasting solution and averting the looming food shortage that may hit the continent.
On February 24, 2022, Russia invaded its neighbour, Ukraine and this action has sent prices of food, especially cereals and fuel higher in the markets.
On May 18, the AU delegates were supposed to be in Moscow but the trip was aborted. However, the Chairman of the group and President of Senegal, Mr Macky Sall, confirmed at a joint news conference with visiting German Chancellor, Mr Olaf Scholz, that the visit will happen.
“As soon as it’s set, I will go to Moscow and also to Kyiv. We have also accepted to get together all the heads of state of the African Union who want to meet with President (Volodymyr) Zelensky of Ukraine, who had expressed the need to communicate with the African heads of state. That too will be done in the coming weeks,” he said.
The invasion of Ukraine by Russia has divided Africa. In early March, Senegal abstained from voting on a United Nations resolution – overwhelmingly adopted – that called on Russia to withdraw from Ukraine.
The AU, Regional Economic organizations have officially called for the adoption of diplomacy mechanisms and negotiations through which to end the seemly endless crisis between Russia and Ukraine.
Besides the official statements from the AU, Southern African Development Community (SADC ) and Economic Community of West African States, at least, half of the African countries from the continent voted to condemn Russia’s action in the neighbouring republic. According to reports, 17 African countries abstained from voting on the resolution at the United Nations.
Some policy experts say this Africans’ voting scenario at the UN opens a theme for a complete geopolitical study and analysis. There are so many interpretations and geopolitical implications though.
Nevertheless, the African Union, Regional Economic organizations and the African governments are still and distinctively, divided over the Russia-Ukraine crisis due to divergent views and worse, afraid of contradictions and confrontations posed by the crisis and its effects on future relations.
President Cyril Ramaphosa has also come under fierce criticism over the official stand on the Russia-Ukraine crisis.
Prior to the February 24 crisis, Russia indicated strong preparedness and high interest to broaden cooperation in trade and in the economic sectors in Africa. With an invariable commitment to strengthen and develop relations in a positive and constructive manner, and especially in these challenging circumstances, Moscow is still planning for the second Russia-African summit.
Gerrit Olivier, an Emeritus Professor at Pretoria University and former South African Ambassador in Russia and Kazakhstan, said South Africa, a member of BRICS and an economic powerhouse in Africa, abstained from voting against Russia. There have been many conflicting reports about South Africa’s position on the Russia-Ukraine crisis. For many, both inside and outside the country, this was a controversial decision resulting in a rare local public debate about foreign policy.
What followed was indeed a case study of expedient, if not downright ‘Walter Mitty’ diplomacy. First, President Cyril Ramaphosa rushed to telephone Putin, obviously to bask in the reflected glory and honour of speaking to the ‘great man’. Afterwards, he subserviently thanked “His Excellency President Vladimir Putin” for taking his call. At the same time, our ‘great negotiator’ refused official engagement with the local Ukrainian ambassador as well as with ambassadors of the European Union, our biggest trading partners, wrote Professor Gerrit Olivier.
As a direct result of the crisis, Europe has abandoned importing oil and gas from Russia. It has been looking for alternatives in Africa. Sall said Senegal would be ready to supply Europe with liquefied natural gas (LNG) as the continent seeks to wean itself off Russian energy sources. Along with neighbouring Mauritania, Senegal hopes to exploit gas and oil deposits found in the Atlantic in recent years.
Sall has estimated LNG production starting in December 2023 and reaching 10 million tonnes per year in 2030. The Senegalese leader said he had asked Germany to help Senegal develop future projects. Scholz said discussions should continue “in an intensive manner” because it was in our mutual interest to achieve progress.
In late February and early March, Mr Macky Sall, and the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Ms Moussa Faki Mahamat, issued official statements urging both Russia and Ukraine to employ diplomatic means to solve the crisis, and further said they were following closely the developments in the former Soviet republic of Ukraine.
Meanwhile, as a direct result of the “special military operation” launched on February 24, Russia has come under a raft of sanctions imposed by the United States and Canada, the European Union, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and a host of other countries.
Algeria Joins Afreximbank as 52nd Member State
By Adedapo Adesanya
The African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) has announced that Algeria has joined the bank as its 52nd Member State.
This is contained in a statement by the bank’s media contact, Mr Amadou Sall, in Abuja on Friday, July 1.
Afreximbank member states rose from 38 in 2015 to 51 in 2021 and with Algeria’s accession, the bank is only three states short of achieving full continental coverage.
The Cairo-based bank disclosed in the statement today that Algeria’s inclusion in the agreement establishing Afreximbank was formalised on June 8, by Presidential Decree No. 22-212.
“The subscription of the country to the shares of Afreximbank as part of its membership in the institution was also authorised by Presidential Decree No. 22-222 on June 14, 2022.
“Algeria becomes a Class A shareholder in the bank and will be represented by the Algerian Ministry of Finance,” the lender said.
Algeria has the ninth-largest population and the fourth-largest economy in Africa.
It is also a member of the African Union (AU), the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and the Greater Arab Trade Area.
According to Mr Benedict Oramah, President and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Afreximbank, “Algeria’s membership of Afreximbank is momentous.”
“It brings Africa’s 4th largest economy within the Afreximbank family.
“It creates a platform for Afreximbank’s AfCFTA intervention to be more impactful and paves the way for deeper cooperation between the bank, the Algerian Government, the Algerian Central Bank and Algerian importers and exporters.”
Mr Oramah said the bank looked forward to a successful partnership that would enable Algeria to firmly establish itself as a strong participant in intra-African trade and investments.
Afreximbank is a Pan-African multilateral financial institution mandated to finance and promote intra-and extra-African trade.
Afreximbank deploys innovative structures to deliver financing solutions that support the transformation of the structure of Africa’s trade, accelerating industrialisation and intra-regional trade, thereby, boosting economic expansion in Africa.
BRICS PLUS verses G-8 in New Global Configuration
By Kestér Kenn Klomegâh
The United States has outstretched its political and economic interests around the world. China has strategically extended its tentacles across both the Atlantic and the Pacific, conquered Africa, and intensified commercial operations in the Central Asia regions including the former Soviet republics – the backyard of the Russian Federation.
Despite its large population of 1.5 billion which many have considered as an impediment, China’s domestic economic reforms and collaborative strategic diplomacy with external countries have made it attain superpower status over the United States. China is strengthening its trade, investment and economic muscles.
Russia has been teaming up with China and India and a few other external countries to establish a new global economic system. Its aim is to break the unipolar system that successive White House administrations have maintained. Due to socialist economic planning and their advancement of the notions of international cooperation and peace even among states with varying social systems, there has been tremendous progress in the areas of international solidarity.
The Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) grouping is a manifestation of the role of Beijing, Moscow and Pretoria along with the other states to craft another order. These new alliances are perceived as a threat to the role of the United States, Britain and the European Union since they are not participant members and cannot directly impact the agendas and goals established by the BRICS.
Russia has some limitations. Its external economic footprint is comparatively weak. Its external policies hardly promote its economic models. The geopolitical reordering of the world cannot simply be achieved through war or challenging the West’s political influence in its various global domains. The economic component is possibly the most significant.
As Dr Ramzy Baroud, a journalist and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle wrote recently “the Middle East, especially the Gulf region, is vital for the current global economic order and is equally critical for any future reshaping of that order. If Moscow is to succeed in redefining the role of Arab economies vis-à-vis the global economy, it would most likely succeed in ensuring that a multipolar economic world takes form. Russia is clearly invested in a new global economic system, but without isolating itself in the process.”
Russia has exited many international organizations, instead of sustaining its membership and using these platforms to propagate its global mission. It has gone into self-isolation, with many heavy-handed criticisms against the United States and Europe.
Russia is currently pushing an initiative for multipolarity. In June 2022, Russian State Duma (the lower house of parliament) Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin wrote on Telegram that the United States and its allies are destroying economic ties by their sanctions policy, but at the same time creating new points of growth in other countries.
“The move by Washington and its allies to cut the existing economic ties has created new points of growth in the world,” he pointed out. According to the parliament speaker, Western sanctions are leading to the establishment of another group of eight nations – China, India, Russia, Indonesia, Brazil, Mexico, Iran and Turkey – that is 24.4% ahead of the old group of developed countries in terms of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and purchasing power parity.
“The United States, with its own hands, has created conditions for countries willing to build an equal dialogue and mutually beneficial relations to actually establish a new G-8 group with Russia,” Volodin noted.
Understandably, there is a Group of Seven (G-7), an inter-governmental political forum, that includes highly developed countries. These are Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States. In addition, the European Union is a non-enumerated member. Its members are the world’s largest IMF advanced economies and the wealthiest liberal democracies. The group is organized around shared values of pluralism and representative government. As of 2020, the collective group accounted for over 50 per cent of global net wealth. Its members are great powers in global affairs and maintain mutually close political, economic, social, legal, environmental, military, religious, cultural, and diplomatic relations.
Russia has dismembered itself from the group and remained critical about it arguing that the G-7 has no relevance to exist since its members also meet at the Group of Twenty (G-20). Based on that argument, if the establishment of another new Group of Eight nations – China, India, Russia, Indonesia, Brazil, Mexico, Iran and Turkey – is formed, BRICS – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, it follows, will have to be absorbed by the new Group of Eight organization, and thus pushing out South Africa.
Indonesia which will host the G-20 summit in Bali this November is doing its best to insulate the meeting from politics. Whether Indonesia will arbitrate between angry clashing superpowers is simply unpredictable. The chances of a sudden rapprochement between the United States and China – let alone between the US and Russia – are exceedingly low.
Russia and China’s strategic alliance is strengthening and China has resisted so many attempts for excluding Russia from international organizations. Both are staunch members of BRICS.
Dr Pankaj Kumar Jha, Professor at O. P. Jindal Global University in Sonipat, Haryana, observes that China and India border conflict will continue influencing BRICS. However, India and China are cooperating to develop alternate financial structures, cohesive guidelines within Asia and the global south on many issues such as trade, investment and developing an understanding so that the dominance of the West could be reduced to a minimum in global financial architecture, he said and added, “the foundation of cooperation in BRICS brings potential resources and critical development requirements under one umbrella.”
Questions about the future of BRICS remain especially when new world order is being discussed. Drawing inspiration from Quad plus, BRICS countries are also discussing BRICS plus format. The formation of the new grouping G-8 is primarily a fusion of BRICS and VISTA (Vietnam, Indonesia, South Africa, Turkey, Argentina). The formation is primarily to connect BRICS to middle-income and middle-power countries, according to his explanation.
Dr Pankaj Kumar Jha concluded his argument: “This geopolitical configuration is in exploratory phases, undoubtedly meant to bring a new axis of Russia-China but the inclusion of Mexico, Indonesia and Turkey. How much successful this grouping would be is still a matter of conjecture. From a geopolitical point of view, much would depend on how sanctions on Russia and the post-coronavirus recovery of China shape up.”
Professor Aslan Abashidze, Head of the Department of International Law of the Russian University of Peoples’ Friendship and Member of the Scientific Advisory Board under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs observes that in general, international associations emerge on the basis of prerequisites that may be of a different nature: political, defensive, cultural, et cetera. The emergence of such “para-organizations” as the Group of Seven (G-7), Group of Eight (G-8), and Group of Twenty (G-20) is associated with the inability of international institutions at the global level to meet the increased needs of modern development in the face of growing challenges in the form of pandemics, financial crisis et cetera.
The process of searching for new models by the states dissatisfied with the United States policy has started, which means the end of the dominance of the United States in all spheres of international relations. At some point, the West, headed by the United States, will have to negotiate new models of international economic and other relations, based on new international treaties that ensure equality of all states.
According to Professor Abashidze, “Russia, China and India will establish trade relations on national currencies and therefore it will be attractive and beneficial to other states, not only from the Asia-Pacific region but also from Latin America, the Middle East and Africa.”
The emerging new coalition group is coming up at a crucial time when over the last two decades, the United States, Britain, the European Union (EU) countries and their allies globally, have been embroiled in numerous imperialist interventions resulting in destabilization, military interventions, proxy wars and the expansion of western imperialism throughout Africa, Asia and Latin America.
Nigeria to Benefit from AfDB $2m Electricity Research Fund
By Adedapo Adesanya
Nigeria is set to benefit from a technical assistance grant of $2 million to fund research that will contribute to electricity reforms in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
The grant from the African Development Fund, the concessional window of the African Development Bank Group (AfDB), will go to the ECOWAS Regional Electricity Regulatory Authority. The fund was signed by the board of the financial institution on Friday, June 24.
The ultimate objective is to stimulate cross-border electricity trade and improve energy access in the 15 countries covering about 6.1 million km² in the region – Benin, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Côte d’Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo.
The electricity research fund has five components. The first involves selecting electricity regulatory principles and key performance indicators from the bank’s flagship Electricity Regulatory Index for Africa report, to be adopted by the ECOWAS Regional Electricity Regulatory Authority.
As part of this component, the project will build capacity in Nigeria and other member countries for collecting and reporting on these indicators on a common platform.
The second component will involve conducting a study in order to update a comparative analysis of electricity tariffs and their underlying drivers across the electricity value chain of ECOWAS.
The third involves developing a centralized database management system that will provide a platform for digitally collecting relevant energy information from member countries, storing it, and disseminating them on a common digital platform.
The fourth component will assess and identify project bottlenecks and risks in ECOWAS member countries and recommend a coherent approach to progressively address ground-level barriers to investment in the power sector in pre- and post-establishment phases of the regional electricity market.
The final component focuses on programme management and capacity building, which will be co-financed with the Regional Electricity Regulatory Authority. All components of the project will include gender-disaggregated data.
Speaking on the plan, Mr Solomon Sarpong, project team leader at the AfDB, said the project will help boost electricity supply and make it a viable investment sector to serve a population of about 360 million in the bloc.
“Ultimately, this project will facilitate regional electricity trade and help improve access to electricity.
“It will address major causes of fragility, such as infrastructure bottlenecks, youth unemployment, environmental challenges, gender inequalities, and regional development imbalances,” he said.
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