Russia-Africa Trade Turnover Steadily Increasing—Putin

Russia-Africa trade turnover
SOCHI, RUSSIA - JUNE 3, 2022: Macky Sall (L), Senegal's President and African Union Chairperson, and Russia's President Vladimir Putin hold a meeting at the Bocharov Ruchei residence. Mikhail Klimentyev/Russian Presidential Press and Information Office/TASS –осси€. —очи. ѕрезидент –оссии ¬ладимир ѕутин и президент —енегала, председатель јфриканского союза ћаки —аль (справа налево) во врем€ встречи в резиденции "Ѕочаров ручей". ћихаил  лиментьев/пресс-служба президента –‘/“ј——

By Kestér Kenn Klomegâh

Russian President, Mr Vladimir Putin, has hailed the ties between his country and Africa, saying that the development of relations has shown glaring positive results.

He made these remarks when the chairman of the African Union (AU) and Senegalese President, Mr Macky Sall, visited Sochi to discuss ways to avert an impending food crisis on the continent largely due to the Russia-Ukraine crisis that began late February after it was approved as “Special Military Operation” by both the State Duma and the Federation Council; the Lower House and the Upper House of the legislative structure of the Russian Federation respectively.

At the meeting, Mr Putin promised that Russia will continue to develop various aspects of its relations with African countries.

“Africa’s political role in the international arena, in general, is growing. We believe that Africa as a whole and its individual states, with which we traditionally have very good, without any exaggeration, friendly relations, have great prospects, and on this basis, we intend to further develop our relations with Africa as a whole and with its individual states,” the Russian leader said, “noting that, “We are at a new stage of development and attach great importance to our relations with African countries,”

He stated that the trade turnover between both parties has grown, revealing that, “In the first months of this year, it grew by 34 per cent.”

“We are striving to develop humanitarian ties with African countries and we will do everything that depends on us to make this process gain momentum,” he specified, adding that Russia has always taken a great interest in African culture too.

Mr Putin mentioned Russia has always been on Africa’s side, always supported Africa in its fight against colonialism and is attempting to fight rapidly growing neo-colonial tendencies, but for now, only with rhetoric as this requires investing competitively where the neo-colonizers are currently playing economic roles.

He also recalled that the 2019 Russia-Africa summit was held precisely in Sochi. He hosted dozens of African leaders in Sochi in a bid to reassert Russia’s influence on the continent. Though never a colonial power in Africa, Moscow was a crucial player on the continent in the Soviet era, backing independence movements and training a generation of African leaders.

In his remarks, his Senegalese counterpart, lamented the impact of anti-Russian sanctions on Africa, saying they have shattered the global economy, sent prices skyrocketing and generating deep-seated social discontent among the population worldwide.

Nearly all African countries are struggling to contain the impact of the crisis, two years after the coronavirus pandemic had locked them up behind borders and unprecedented climate change compounding difficulties facing the continent. Acknowledging frankly, however, that it is about time to address the lapses in attaining economic independence, African leaders complained bitterly that they become direct victims of the Russia-Ukraine crisis. Russia has consistently brushed aside this accusation and rather blamed Western and European sanctions for the precarious situation that has equally engulfed Africa.

“Anti-Russia sanctions have made this situation worse and now we do not have access to grain from Russia, primarily to wheat. And, most importantly, we do not have access to fertiliser. The situation was bad and now it has become worse, creating a threat to food security in Africa,” he lamented.

Over 40 per cent of wheat consumed in Africa usually comes from Russia and Ukraine. The irreversible fact is that both Ukraine and Russia are major suppliers of wheat and other cereals to Africa, while Russia is a key producer of fertiliser, and it has become necessary, as soon as possible, to find appropriate solutions. Reports say Russia’s blockade of Odessa has harmed Ukrainian food exports.

“As you know, a number of countries voted for resolutions at the United Nations. The position of Africa is very heterogeneous but despite heavy pressure, many countries still did not denounce Russia’s position,” the Senegalese leader explained, adding, “It is also possible to look at Asia, the Middle East and Latin America – we see that the world is closely following the developments and that the countries that are so far away from the hotbed of the conflict are still experiencing its consequences.”

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.

The truth is that 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.

During the Sochi meeting, Mr Sall has at least explained all these and the economic implications, while stressing the important role of Russia in the history of the African continent and expressing hope for expansion of profound cooperation with President Putin.

“Sanctions against Russia worsened the situation with grain and fertiliser supplies to African countries. We have no access to them. This entails consequences from the standpoint of the continent’s food security,” he said, noting that Senegal “supports the release of grain and fertilizers from anti-Russian sanctions.”

Russia’s ties with Africa unexpectedly declined with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and China has emerged as a key foreign power, engaging in infrastructure development and investing in many sectors on the continent. While Russia’s economic footprints are still invisible, the fact still remains that the United States, the European Union and a number of Gulf States are also investing heavily in Africa.

The local Russian media, Nezavisimaya Gazeta reported that talks about the starvation threat in Africa have been going on for a while. Agricultural shipments via Black Sea routes are stalled, particularly because Kyiv has mined the waters around Odessa for fear of Russia trying to seize the port.

In fact, Africa seeks to overcome the shocks due to the coronavirus pandemic, and the economic situation on the continent left much to be desired even before the launch of Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine. Although Russia and Ukraine produce only a third of global wheat and barley exports, much of those are focused on Africa rather than on wealthier countries. This is why logistics and sanctions issues trigger a genuine famine.

“The visit of the African Union’s delegation is actually nothing extraordinary because the parties exchange delegations a couple of times a year. It is during the pandemic that food price issues started to emerge.

“Besides, complications with foreign currency payments and Russia being prevented from making full use of maritime transport are creating additional difficulties. In particular, even if some companies agree to insure Russian vessels, their high rates inevitably affect prices for final customers,” Deputy Director of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute for African Studies Leonid Fituni pointed out.

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