Ozerov Sees Huge Economic Benefits in Russia-Africa Relations


By Kester Kenn Klomegah

Russia is consistently working on strengthening multifaceted relations with Africa despite the numerous challenges.

After the first Russia-Africa summit held in Sochi, authorities have been moving to build on this new page in the history of Russia’s relations, based on shared values and interests, with African countries.

Within the framework of the joint declaration adopted in Sochi, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation created a Secretariat of the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum.

On May 18, the Deputy Director of the Department of Africa at the Russian Foreign Ministry, Mr Oleg Borisovich Ozerov, was appointed Ambassador-at-Large and Head of the Secretariat of the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum.

He is a diplomat with extensive experience at the Foreign Ministry, including with Arab and African countries. In 2010-2017, he was Ambassador to Saudi Arabia and in 2011-2017, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.

In this interview with Kester Kenn Klomegah, Mr Ozerov, Ambassador-at-Large and Head of the Secretariat of the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum, talks about the primary tasks of the Secretariat, current efforts at supporting Russian companies to work in Africa and the way forward with Russia-African relations.

Here are the interview excerpts:

Why it has become important, in the first place, to create the Secretariat of the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation?

In October 2019, Sochi hosted the first-ever Russia-Africa Summit, ushering in a new era in the history of Russian-African cooperation. The outcomes of this event are evident in its final declaration. The first few points in the document outline decisions made by the event’s participants concerning the establishment of a Russia-Africa Partnership Forum as the Summit’s supreme body. It also stipulates that annual political consultations will be held between the Foreign Ministers of the Russian Federation and the African States acting as the present, former and future presidents of the African Union.

There needs to be coordinated action between Russian government bodies and economic actors. This is to ensure that the decisions reached at the previous Summit can be implemented, preparations for the next high-level Russian-African meeting made, and diplomatic support provided for communicating with the African Union and government bodies in Africa which oversee foreign policy.

This need for coordinated action has led to the establishment of the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum Secretariat within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation. Incidentally, one of its key objectives will be to organise and conduct the aforementioned political consultations. The first round of these consultations was held in July of this year.

The Secretariat has already held a few meetings. Could you please talk about some of the decisions that have been taken with regards to strengthening cooperation with Africa?

I would like to make a small correction. On September 9 this year, Moscow hosted the official presentation of the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum Secretariat and the Association of Economic Cooperation with the African States.

The senior management of the Secretariat’s working bodies were presented at this event. These included the heads of the coordinating council, research council, public council, and the working media group. These people are, respectively, Chairman of the Board and CEO of the Roscongress Foundation Alexander Stuglev, Director of the Institute for African Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences Irina Abramova, Head of Rossotrudnichestvo Yevgeny Primakov, and Director General of TASS Sergey Mikhailov.

The first meeting of the coordinating council is planned for October this year. The research and public councils should meet accordingly shortly afterwards. Draft resolutions concerning the work of the Secretariat will be discussed at the aforementioned meetings, and the media will be informed of the outcomes in due course.

Is it possible to discuss the roles of the three councils (business, research and public) that were created during the meeting of 9 September?

The decision to set up the councils was taken much earlier, as the concept for the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum Secretariat was being drawn up, which was established, as we know, in June this year. The Secretariat does not have a business council. Issues regarding coordination between federal government bodies and the business sector come under the remit of the coordinating council.

The Association of Economic Cooperation with the African States also performs the role of a business council and operates in close collaboration with the Secretariat.

All three councils are staffed by highly qualified professionals. They include people specializing in international relations, economics and finance, science, business, society and the media, who provide expert support for the Secretariat’s operations.

In your objective view, is there a lot of potential in terms of increasing trade and economic cooperation between the African continent and Russia?

Speaking to the press at the end of the inaugural Russia-Africa Summit, President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin noted that in 2018, Russia’s trade with African states exceeded $20 billion. As pointed out by the Head of State, “It is absolutely feasible to reach higher, and bring the value of trade to, at least, $40 billion over the next few years.”

The official figures to come out of the Sochi Summit pay testament to the enormous potential of economic relations between Russia and Africa. Of particular note is the fact that delegations from 54 African nations took part in the event. Of these, 45 were led by Heads of State and Government. The Summit was also attended by the heads of eight regional organizations in Africa, 109 foreign ministers, and two vice presidents.

The Russia-Africa Economic Forum, which took place alongside the Summit, was attended by more than 6,000 participants from 104 countries and territories. These included more than 1,100 foreign business leaders, 1,400 Russian business leaders, and 2,200 members of official delegations from Russia and abroad. Ninety-two agreements, contracts, and memoranda of understanding were signed worth a total of more than RUB 1 trillion.

I would say that when organising and holding the next high-level Russian-African meeting, one of the main objectives will be to further reinforce the powerful momentum built up in Sochi in 2019 in terms of economic collaboration between Russia and African countries. We are now enjoying comprehensive and enduring collaboration which is founded on long-term programmes.

Doing business is not easy in Africa, but what kind of approach do you envisage adopting when it comes to dealing with such issues?

We see our mission as uniting economic operators from Russia and Africa and facilitating the sharing of information between them. We also aim to ensure there is political and diplomatic support for Russian businesses in African countries. The Secretariat will work in close collaboration with the aforementioned Association of Economic Cooperation with the African States.

We enjoy robust ties and have established communications with relevant Russian ministries and government bodies responsible for foreign trade, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Russian Federation, the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, the Coordinating Committee on Economic Cooperation with Sub-Saharan Africa (AfroCom) and many other organisations.

The task before us is to coordinate the actions of all stakeholders with the aim of effectively promoting Russia’s economic interests in Africa and to foster mutually beneficial cooperation with African nations.

Apart from a corporate business at the state level, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has spoken about developing medium-sized enterprises. Is this part of your plan?

Small and medium-sized enterprises have already been using the AfroCom platform to work together with African countries for a long time. Incidentally, this organisation is planning to soon join the Association of Economic Cooperation with the African States.

Our embassies’ consular departments and trade missions – where they exist – are also providing assistance to small and medium-sized Russian businesses. They are helping them to find partners in African countries and to establish business ties.

In accordance with the decisions made at the inaugural Russia-Africa Summit, we will also help build partnerships for small and medium-sized businesses, and help them to be more active and effective. The plans and strategies, which will be employed to achieve this, will be discussed at the first meeting of the coordinating council this October, as well as at other events.

Looking at current developments and other active foreign players on the African continent, what do you see as the key challenges there?

In terms of intensifying economic collaboration between Russia and African countries, we need to anticipate the technical aspects of having Russian businesspeople, firms, and companies do business on the African continent.

In particular, this means looking at transport accessibility (by air and sea), processes and forms related to mutual settlements, making payments, investment, providing loans, hedging risk, providing legal services and insurance, etc. Work on these aspects must be done immediately, in parallel with work on organising the next Summit.

That said, however, the current coronavirus pandemic is causing considerable difficulties, at the moment. It is affecting international travel and is hindering economic activity across the board, including in African countries.

In terms of competing with other countries on the continent, we are counting on building relations between Russian firms and companies in such a way as to create a sense of camaraderie and solidarity when it comes to withstanding foreign competitors on the African market. This will be another area of focus for the Association of Economic Cooperation with the African States as it works in close collaboration with the Secretariat.

Why do you think Russia’s soft power is not what it was during the days of the Soviet Union?

I cannot say I fully agree with that statement. There are numerous examples of how Russia has achieved notable success through soft power. I would like to particularly draw attention to the fantastic work being done by the Russian news channel, Russia Today, under Margarita Simonyan’s leadership.

And I cannot ignore the fact that in many African countries, a number of important roles within the African Union and a host of other regional organizations are staffed by graduates of Soviet and Russian universities. This says a great deal about the nature of Russian-African partnership. And there is still a high degree of interest among African people in studying in the Russian Federation.

I am also aware that Rossotrudnichestvo (the Federal Agency for the Commonwealth of Independent States, Compatriots Living Abroad and International Humanitarian Cooperation) is working hard to make Russia’s humanitarian presence both more effective and more keenly felt abroad, including in African countries.

What plans do you have in terms of developing cooperation in education, the media and culture over the next few years?

The final declaration of the inaugural Russia-Africa Summit includes an entire section on our collaboration in science, culture, education and social ties.

Rossotrudnichestvo is the main body in Russia responsible for humanitarian cooperation, including with African states. At the next meeting of the public council, we intend to discuss this agenda in detail with Yevgeny Primakov, who heads the organisation. This discussion will take place within the context of implementing the decisions of the Sochi Summit and working towards fulfilling associated objectives.

Related Stories

AfDB Urges Nordic, Irish Entrepreneurs to Consider Africa

By Adedapo Adesanya The African Development Bank Group (AfDB) has urged entrepreneurs in Nordic countries and Ireland to make Africa their business and investment destination. According to a statement, the call was made by the lender’s Chief Economist, Mr Kevin Chika Urama, on a spate of official visits to Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Norway, and Sweden between September 25 – 29. He said Africa’s population boom is projected to make it the world’s most populous region by the end of the century, with up to 3.4 billion people offering huge business and investment opportunities to the rest of the world. “With


Fostering Intra-African Trade: Challenges and Perspectives

By Professor Maurice Okoli Over the past few years, African Union, the continental organization, has made intra-African trade its newest flagship and has created the Intra-African Trade Fair (IATF), which provides a unique and valuable platform for potential investors to support the continent’s transformation through industrialisation and export development, for businesses to access adequate trade and market information, and operate in an integrated single African market of over 1.4 billion people with a combined gross domestic product of over $3.5 trillion under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). Organized by the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), in collaboration with the


Jailed Iranian Activist Narges Mohammad Wins Nobel Peace Prize

By Adedapo Adesanya The Nobel Committee has awarded the 2023 Nobel Peace Prize to jailed Iranian activist, Ms Narges Mohammadi, for her fight against the oppression of women in Iran and her fight to promote human rights and freedom for all. In a statement announced on Friday, Ms Mohammadi was recognised for her brave struggle which has seen her arrested 13 times, convicted five times, and sentenced to a total of 31 years in prison and 154 lashes. As of the moment of her recognition for the prize, Ms Mohammadi is still in prison after her role in the largest


Nigeria Stable in New African Instability Risk Index

By Adedapo Adesanya The SBM Intelligence African Country Instability Risk Report Index (ACIRI) has ranked Nigeria as a stable African country based on select macro indicators benchmarks. The report which was published on Monday assesses the political, economic and social factors contributing to Sub-Saharan Africa’s political instability. It provides a framework for assessing the risk of coups d’état using factors such as ethnic tension, the country’s history of coups, dominant ethnic groups, economic concentration, ageing leaders and monoproduct, bi-product or multi-product economies. The 47 Sub-Saharan sub-region of Africa’s 55 countries were ranked on four benchmarks – leadership and governance, geopolitics,

More Stories

European Stocks Fall Thursday

By Investors Hub European stocks have declined on Thursday as a slew of negative catalysts have sapped investors’ appetite for risk. A summit between President Donald Trump and the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un ended with no agreement after North Korea reportedly wanted all sanctions lifted, something the U.S. was not prepared to do. The British pound has hit fresh multi-month highs against both the dollar and euro on reports that Brexit could be delayed by up to two years. Spain’s Amadeus IT Group SA has fallen sharply after reporting a 1 percent increase in its adjusted profit for fiscal


Assets Management Act Second Reading

By Dipo Olowookere A bill for an Act to establish and regulate the Nigerian Assets Management Agency has scaled second reading in the House of Representatives. The bill, sponsored by a member of the lower parliament, Mr Jones Onyereri, seeks to address the threat to the economy, by providing managerial services to law enforcement agencies in relation to property seized, which are connected with designated criminal offences. The bill hopes to establish a body that will be charged with the responsibility of managing all government assets, including those seized by federal security bodies. However, the bill did not go down


Naira Appreciates to N740 On CBN Intervention

By Adedapo Adesanya The Naira appreciated against the US Dollar in the Investors and Exporters (I&E) of the foreign exchange market on Wednesday, July 26, as the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) said it was intervening in the market, adding that the volatility in the market would soon be moderate. In the official market, the domestic currency gained N51.34 or 6.5 per cent against the greenback to close at N740.08/$1 compared with the preceding session’s N791.42/$1. “We have started intervening, and we’ve been doing it for a while, and we will continue to intervene to bring the markets to the


Nigeria Considers 30-Year Economic Growth Plan

By Adedapo Adesanya Nigeria’s Minister of Finance, Budget, and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, has said federal government was formulating a 20 to 30-year growth plan aimed at enhancing national and economic development. The Minister, in a chat with newsmen in Abuja on Monday, stated that the country may consider a development plan which may have a 5-year medium plan where the annual budgets would be drawn from. “Just like the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) that was a 5-year medium plan and will be expiring in 2020, the plan will be strategic and well cut so the budget


Friesland WAMCO Lifts NASD Exchange by 0.14%

By Adedapo Adesanya Friesland Wamco Plc ended the first day of the new trading week as the only price gainer on the NASD Over the Counter (OTC) Securities Exchange, helping to push the market to a positive territory. At the close of transactions on Monday, November 25, 2019 at the NASD OTC market, share price of the popular milk maker appreciated by 74 Kobo or 0.57 percent to N128.72 per share from N127.98 per share. This spurred the key parameters, the NASD Unlisted Security Index (NSI) and the market capitalisation to close strong yesterday after closing flat at the end


Nigerian Beer Manufacturers Launch Underage Drinking Scheme

By Dipo Olowookere As part of ways to break the culture of underage drinking and reduce alcohol-related harm among Nigerian youths, makers of beer under the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) have teamed up to launch what it called a SMASHED program. The initiative, done under the Beer Sectoral Group (BSG) of MAN with support of the Collingwood Learning Incorporated and Thespian Theatre, is endorsed by the Federal Ministry of Health and backed by local health and education authorities in the country. The scheme started in May 2019 in Edo State and is expected to move on to Anambra and


NASCON Slashes Dividend to N1 After 17% Drop in Profit

By Modupe Gbadeyanka One of the companies owned by Dangote Industries Limited, NASCON Allied Industries Plc, last week, released its financial statements for the year ended December 31, 2018. A glance through the performance of the salt manufacturing company showed that the reveneu generated in the year under consideration declined to N25.8 billion from N27.1 billion. It was observed that the rise in the cost of sales during the year affected the gross profit netted by the company. Business Post reports that the cost of sales went up to N18 billion from N17.1 billion, which reduced the gross profit to


National Assembly Reforming Obsolete Market Laws—Saraki

**Says “Nigeria Ready for Business, Global Competition” By Dipo Olowookere Senate President, Mr Bukola Saraki, has disclosed that efforts were being made by the National Assembly (NASS), especially the Senate, to reform some obsolete laws dragging the growth of the Nigerian economy backward. Mr Saraki, speaking in Lagos last Sunday at the 11th Annual Business Law Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Section on Business Law, said this move was necessary to prepare the country’s economy for global market. He noted that at the resumption of the 8th NASS, which clocked two this month, the state of the Nigerian

Recent Stories

COP28: Lagos Signs Waste Project Investment Deals

By Adedapo Adesanya The Lagos State Government has signed two deals bordering on waste management at the ongoing 28th session of the Conference of Parties (COP28) in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. According to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, waste conversion initiatives, which the state pitched at the global climate summit, have attracted significant interest from investors. These are the Advanced Garbage Collection and Waste-to-Energy project and the building of a new sewage treatment plant. Mr Sanwo-Olu confirmed the deals on Sunday at an event held at Nigeria Pavilion, where he also presented Phase Two of the Lagos State Climate Adaptation and Resilience


Afreximbank’s Oramah Emerges Forbes Africa 2023 Person of the Year

By Adedapo Adesanya The President of the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), Professor Benedict Oramah, has been recognised with the Forbes Africa magazine 2023 Person of The Year award. At a well-attended award ceremony in Cairo, which also included the unveiling of the cover for Forbes Africa’s December 2023/January 2024 edition featuring Mr Oramah as cover personality, Mr Rakesh Wahi, Forbes Africa Founder and Publisher, and Ms Roberta Naicker, Managing Director, said that the award recognised the stellar accomplishments of leading Africans contributing to the development of the continent. “With a career spanning three decades at Afreximbank, Prof. Benedict Oramah is


Army Apologises for Bombing Kaduna Villagers by Mistake

By Modupe Gbadeyanka The Nigerian Army has claimed responsibility for the killing of some villagers of Tudun Biri in Kaduna in an air strike. Reports earlier went viral that operatives of the Nigerian Air Force bombed the villagers during a Maulud celebration but authorities of the air force debunked the reports, saying its men were never involved in such. However, the Nigerian Army has said it was involved in the bombing, which it said was a mistake because it was going after some terrorists in the area. The Kaduna State government, in a statement issued on Monday by its Overseeing


OTC Securities Exchange Reports 0.41% Improvement in Week 48

By Adedapo Adesanya The NASD Over-the-Counter (OTC) Securities Exchange appreciated by 0.41 per cent in Week 48, with the market capitalisation gaining N4.77 billion to settle at N1.166 trillion from the N1.162 trillion it ended in Week 47, and the NASD Unlisted Security Index (NSI) rising by 3.52 points to 860.81 points from 857.29 points in the previous week. In the five-day trading week, the total volume of stocks traded slumped by 69.1 per cent to 4.22 million units from 13.6 million in the preceding week and equally, the value of shares dropped by 69.6 per cent to N41.4 million


UNICAL Students Kick Against Tuition Fees Hike

By Bliss Okperan Students of the University of Calabar (UNICAL) have taken to the streets in protest against the increment of tuition fees by over 100 per cent. The aggrieved students, who marched around the school premises, took their protest to the main gate of the institution, causing traffic gridlock along the Etta-Agbor and Mary Slessor roads in Calabar Municipality LGA. The protesters took placards with various inscriptions to kick against the decision of the management to increase their fees as well as other charges, asking for an immediate reversal. Some of the inscriptions read, “return to the old fees”,


AfDB Provides $1bn to Insure 40 million Farmers in Nigeria, Others

By Adedapo Adesanya The African Development Bank Group (AfDB) has revealed that a $1 billion facility would be used to provide insurance to more than 40 million farmers across the continent against severe impacts of climate change. Initially unveiled at the Africa Climate Summit held in Nairobi in September, the Africa Climate Risk Insurance Facility for Adaptation (ACRIFA) brings together governments, development agencies, the insurance sector and the private sector, said the president of the bank, Mr Akinwumi Adesina, while speaking during a side event at COP28 in Dubai. He said ACRIFA aims to mobilise $1 billion of concessionary financing,


Fear Grips Opay, PalmPay Users Over New CBN Directive

By Bliss Okperan Users of neo banks like Opay, Carbon, Kuda, Moniepoint, and PalmPay, among others, are worried over the new directive of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), which intends to freeze bank accounts not linked to a Bank Verification Number (BVN) and a National Identity Number (NIN). Last week, the apex bank directed deposit money banks (DMBs) to place a “Post No Debit (PND)’ on any accounts with BVN and NIN from next year. For most neo banks, account numbers are opened with just users’ phone numbers without the BVN, unlike the traditional banks. However, they cannot make


Stakeholders Advocate Investments in Nigerian Tech Talents at Tekifest’23

By Adedapo Adesanya Stakeholders in the tech industry have advocated more investments in resources to boost the training of Nigerian youths in digital technology skills. This call was made by some top speakers and panellists at Tekifest’23, a coming together of tech minds focused on exploring the future of work, technology, innovation, and tech excellence, which took place on November 29 at The Zone, Gbagada in Lagos. Organised by Tekisite, the non-profit organization dedicated to training teenagers in digital technology skills in suburban communities, the event themed The Future Of Jobs: Talent Pipeline Investment hammered the need to take advantage


UNICAL Raises Tuition by 100%

By Bliss Okperan The University of Calabar (UNICAL), Cross River State, has increase its tuition for undergraduates by over 100 per cent. A statement issued on Monday disclosed that the upward review of the fees was taken at an emergency meeting of the university’s Senate on Friday. In the statement issued by the school’s spokesman, Mr Effiong Eyo, it was disclosed that the management implemented this increase because of the current economic realities and the need to maintain the academic standard which the university was known for. The statement added that the new fees would be effective in the 2022-2023


Nollywood’s Sylvester Madu Returns to Nigeria After Fatal Attack in Cameroon

By Modupe Gbadeyanka A popular Nigerian movie actor, Mr Sylvester Made, has returned to Nigeria after he survived a fatal attack in Cameroon some days ago. The Nollywood star had travelled to the neighbouring country for a movie job when some hoodlums attacked a fun spot where he had gone after shooting a film in the Bamenda region of Cameroon on Monday, November 25, 2023. It was gathered that the attackers stormed the location where the actor had gone to have fun after the day’s job and were asking for a settlement for bringing the Nigerian into the country. A