By Kestér Kenn Klomegâh
Zimbabwe is a landlocked country located in Southeast Africa and shares borders with South Africa, Botswana, Zambia and Mozambique. It is very rich in mineral resources and is the largest trading partner of South Africa on the continent of Africa.
Russia maintains very friendly relations with Zimbabwe, thanks to ties which evolved during the struggle for independence. Since then, Russia has had a very strong mutual sympathy with and friendly feelings toward the southern African people, government and the country.
Brigadier General Nicholas Mike Sango, Zimbabwean ambassador to the Russian Federation, has held his position since July 2015. He 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).
As Brigadier General Nicholas Sango prepares to leave his post in August, our media executive, Kestér Kenn Klomegâh, conducted this exclusive interview with him to assess and gauge the current climate of relations between Russia and Zimbabwe specifically and Africa generally. The following are excerpts (summarized text) from the long-ranging interview.
As you are about to leave, what would you say generally and concisely about Russia’s policy towards Africa?
Russia’s policy towards Africa has over the last few years evolved in a positive way. The watershed Russia-Africa Summit of 2019 reset Russia’s Soviet-era relations with Africa. Africa fully understands that the transition from the Soviet Union to the present-day Russian Federation was a process and that today Russia is now in a position to influence events on a global scale.
Even that being the case, her institutions and organs, be they political or economic are equally in a transitional mode as they adapt to the Federal policy posture and the emerging realities of the present geo-political environment. Africa in return has responded overwhelmingly to the call by its presence in its fullness at the 2019 Sochi Summit.
Do you feel there are still a number of important tasks which you have not fulfilled or accomplished as Zimbabwean Ambassador to the Russian Federation?
Zimbabwe government’s engagement with the Russian Federation is historically rooted in the new state’s contribution toward Zimbabwe attaining her freedom and nationhood in 1980. This is the foundation of the two countries relations and has a bearing on the two countries’ interactions and cooperation. Relations between the two countries have remained steadfast with collaborations at political and economic spares hallmarked by Russia’s involvement as early as 2014 in the commissioning of the Darwendale Platinum Project followed by ALROSA, the diamond giant setting its footprints on the territory of Zimbabwe.
The President of the Republic of Zimbabwe visited Moscow in 2019. Since then, there have been reciprocal visits by ministers and parliamentarians. In early June 2022, the Chairperson of the Federation Council visited Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe’s military has participated in Army Games over the years and will do in the 2022 ARMY GAMES. Further to these mentioned above, Russia has continued to support human resource development through its government scholarship programmes as well as training other arms of government. Zimbabwe recently hosted the Russia-Zimbabwe Intergovernmental Commission where new cooperative milestones were signed.
Zimbabwe’s foreign policy is anchored on engagement and re-engagement. As Ambassador to Russian Federation, my focus as per the direction of the Zimbabwean President was to promote business-to-business engagement and attract Russian investment in Zimbabwe. While the Darwendale Platinum Project and ALROSA’s entry into the Zimbabwe market, we have not seen other big businesses following the two.
The volume of trade between Zimbabwe and Russia could be better. Perhaps, as an Embassy, we have not made a strong case for importers to look in Zimbabwe’s direction. Or, our own trade and investment institutions have not fully appreciated the potential of the Russian market.
The concern by Russian importers regarding the logistical cost of bringing goods from landlocked countries in the far southern hemisphere is appreciated. This, however, would not inhibit the importation of non-perishable products.
As mentioned earlier on, businesses are still in transitional mode and it is the hope that the emerging world order will in time persuade businesses to look at Africa through the lenses to see the vast opportunities and benefits beckoning.
On the other hand, having established the Russian-Zimbabwe Business Council, it was hoped that businesses of the two countries could speak to each other, and appreciate the strengths and weaknesses as well as opportunities open. Although the benefits are yet to be seen, this remains a work-in-progress.
Has the experience, including all your interactions, changed your initial thoughts when you first arrived at this ambassadorial post in 2015?
Interestingly, my views and perceptions about Russia before and during my stay in the beautiful country have always been grounded in the history and our nation’s journey to nationhood, independence and sovereignty. As a product of the revolutionary struggle and from my government’s direction and policy, Russia was and will always be an ally regardless of the changing temperatures and geo-political environment.
What would you frankly say about Russia’s policy pitfalls in Africa? And what would you suggest especially about steps to take in regaining part of the Soviet-era level of engagement (this time without ideological considerations) with Africa?
There are several issues that could strengthen the relationship. One important direction is economic cooperation. African diplomats have consistently been persuading Russia’s businesses to take advantage of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (ACFTA) as an opportunity for Russian businesses to establish footprints on the continent. This view has not found favour with them and, it is hoped over time it will.
Russia’s policy on Africa has been clearly pronounced and is consistent with Africa’s position. Challenges arise from the implementation of that forward-looking policy as summarized:
– The government has not pronounced incentives for businesses to set sights and venture into Africa. Russian businesses, in general, view Africa as too risky for their investment. They need a prompt from the government.
– Soviet Union’s African legacy was assisting colonized countries to attain independence. Russia as a country needs to set footprints on the continent by exporting its competitive advantages in engineering and technological advancement to bridge the gap that is retarding Africa’s industrialization and development.
– There are too many initiatives by too many quasi-state institutions promoting economic cooperation with Africa saying the same things in different ways but doing nothing tangible. “Too many cooks spoil the booth.”
– In discussing cooperative mechanisms, it is important to understand what Africa’s needs and its desired destination is. In fact, the Africa Agenda 2063 is Africa’s roadmap. As such the economic cooperation agenda and initiatives must of necessity speak to and focus on the parameters of the AU Agenda 2063.
And finally about the emerging new world order as propagated by China and Russia?
Africa in general refused to condemn Russia for her “special military operation” in Ukraine at the United Nations General Assembly and that shook the Western Powers. The reason is very simple. Speaking as a Zimbabwean, our nation has been bullied and subjected to unilateral coercive measures that have been visited upon us and other poor countries without recourse to the international systems governing good order, human rights and due process. There is one more historical fact – Africa is no longer a colony, of any nation and refuses to be viewed as a secondary state. It is for the above reasons that Africa welcomes multilateralism and the demise of hegemonism perpetuated by so-called “big brothers” – be it social, cultural, ideological or economic. Africa rejects this western perception of Africa.
Australia Begins Process to Introduce Central Bank Digital Currency
By Adedapo Adesanya
As more countries gravitate towards a digital currency, Australia joined the cadre as it announced the beginning of a collaborative effort to review the case for a central bank digital currency (CBDC) in the country.
The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA), Treasury, and other agencies will oversee the research effort designed to explore the potential economic benefits of introducing such a currency in Australia, the RBA said in a statement Tuesday. The project is expected to run for about a year.
Speaking on this, the RBA’s Deputy Governor Michele Bullock said the work “is an important next step in our research on CBDC. We are looking forward to engaging with a wide range of industry participants to better understand the potential benefits a CBDC could bring to Australia.”
The central bank reiterated the research comes in the context of Australia already having “relatively modern and well-functioning payment and settlement systems.”
The RBA is collaborating with the Digital Finance Cooperative Research Centre in the project, while Treasury is participating as a member of the steering committee. The work will involve the development of a “limited-scale pilot that will operate in a ringfenced environment for a period of time.”
Over the course of the next 12 months, interested industry participants will be invited to develop specific use cases that demonstrate how the digital currency could be used to provide innovative and value-added payment and settlement services to households and businesses, the RBA added.
A report on the findings, including an assessment of the various use cases developed, will be published at the conclusion.
Central banks worldwide are acting swiftly to ensure they don’t fall behind as money edges toward its biggest reinvention in centuries with alternative concepts like cryptocurrencies taking hold.
Nigeria is one of the countries at the forefront of a CBDC with the introduction of the eNaira in 2021 with the Digital Euro still under investigation phase while Jamaica began its own testing phase in May. China’s Digital Yuan has been in testing since 2020.
Blockchain technology, as well as events like the coronavirus pandemic, are among the forces pushing consumers to go cashless.
Mozambique Risks Economic Stability Over Russian Oil
By Kestér Kenn Klomegâh
Mozambique risks destabilizing its economy and further losing western development finance if it goes ahead to purchase sanctioned oil from Russia.
With the return of western development finance institutions such International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank and the USAID, and currently showing tremendous support for sustainable development projects and programmes, Mozambique would have to stay focused and stay clear of the complexities and contradictions of the Russia-Ukraine crisis.
Mozambique needs to seriously concentrate on and pursue its plans of exporting liquefied natural gas (LNG), extracted from the Coral South field, off the coast of Palma district, in the northern province of Cabo Delgado, possibly starting this October. It marks an economic turning point and opens a new chapter for its revenue sources.
According to our research, Mozambique will become the first country in East Africa to export LNG. It will be produced on a floating platform, belonging to a consortium led by the Italian energy company, Eni. The platform, built in a Korean shipyard, arrived in Mozambican waters in January and is now anchored in Area Four of the Rovuma Basin, some 40 kilometres from the mainland.
This is the first deep-water platform in the world to operate at a water depth of about two thousand meters. The Coral South project is expected to produce 3.4 million tons of LNG per year over its estimated 25-year lifespan.
A second project is planned for Area One of the Rovuma Basin, where the operator is the French company TotalEnergies. The planned LNG plants for this project, are onshore, in the Afungi Peninsula of the Palma district. The jihadists seized Palma town in March 2021, and TotalEnergies withdrew all of its staff from the district. Subsequently, the Mozambican defence and security forces and their Rwandan allies drove the terrorists out of both Palma and the neighbouring district of Mocimboa da Praia.
The current global economic situation is changing, and competition and rivalry for markets are also at their height. During the past months, Russia has cut its export of gas as a reciprocal action against European Union members and has redirected its search for new clients in the Asian region. It has already offered discounted prices to China and India, and now looking beyond Africa.
United States Special Envoy to the United Nations, Thomas-Greenfield, has made one point clear in her speeches with African leaders that “African nations are free to buy grain from Russia but could face consequences if they trade in U.S.-sanctioned commodities such as oil from Russia.”
“Countries can buy Russian agricultural products, including fertilizer and wheat,” Linda Thomas-Greenfield said. But she added that “if a country decides to engage with Russia, where there are sanctions, then they are breaking those sanctions. We caution countries not to break those sanctions because then … they stand the chance of having actions taken against them.”
Russian Ambassador to Mozambique, Alexander Surikov, after a meeting with the Confederation of Economic Associations of Mozambique (CTA), had proposed that the Mozambican authorities could buy Russian oil in roubles after Moscow presented the option to Maputo. Ambassador Surikov further expressed Russian companies’ continuing interest in investing in Mozambique. Likewise, the possibility was raised of Russia opening a bank in Mozambique focused on supporting bilateral trade and investment.
Russia previously had a VTB bank in Maputo, later involved in opaque deals. It was a financial scandal involving three fraudulent security-linked companies, and two banks – Credit Suisse and VTB of Russia, relating to illicit loan guarantees issued by the government under former President Armando Guebuza. Until today, it is popularly referred to as the “Hidden Debts” scandal involving US$2.7 billion (€2.3 million), the financial scandal that happened in 2013.
In the aftermath, financial institutions exited, projects were abandoned and this southern African country has struggled to rebound economically. Now they are returning with new financial assistance programmes that would promote sustainable and inclusive growth and long-term macroeconomic stability.
In the context of the current cereal crisis, one other issue that the ambassador raised was how Mozambican companies could have direct access to Russian wheat suppliers. In this regard, it was not clear how Russian wheat would enter the market and how it would be paid for because Mozambique uses principally the US dollar in its foreign transactions, and Russia cannot conduct transactions using the US currency due to the sanctions imposed following the invasion of Ukraine.
“The rouble and the medical are worthy currencies that do not need the benevolence of some other countries that control the international system,” the Russian diplomat explained, adding that Moscow wanted to strengthen cooperation with Maputo.
Nonetheless, Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy of Mozambique, Carlos Zacarias, admittedly the possibility of buying Russian oil in roubles. “I am sure that we will study and verify the feasibility of this offer from Russia. If it is viable, for sure Russian oil will be acquired in roubles,” Carlos Zacarias said.
Mozambique’s receptivity to the Russian proposal stems from the fact that the world is experiencing a peculiar moment, characterized by great volatility in oil prices on the international market as a result of the Russia-Ukraine war.
Mozambique was among the countries that abstained on two resolutions that were voted on by the General Assembly of the United Nations, one condemning Russia for the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine as a consequence of the war and the other suspending Moscow from the Human Rights Council.
The Mozambican Liberation Front (Frelimo, the ruling party) was an ally of Moscow during the time of the former USSR and received military support during the struggle against Portuguese colonialism and economic aid after independence in 1975.
Mozambique and Russia have admirable political relations. Mozambique has to focus on trade and economic development with external partners. According to data provided by CTA, the annual volume of economic transactions between Mozambique and Russia is estimated to be, at least, US$100 million (€98.5 million at current exchange rates).
Experts aptly point to the fact that there is a tremendous opportunity window for Mozambique. With partners including ExxonMobil Corp., China National Petroleum Corp. and Mozambican state-owned Empresa Nacional de Hidrocarbonetos, Mozambique has to move towards its own energy development. These past few years, experts have also reiterated adopting a suitable mechanism, mapping out strategies and utilizing financial support for sustainable development.
Mozambique has considerable gas resources and the right decision is to move toward both an onshore concept and an offshore concept. The ultimate goal has to establish connectivity between its resource exploration and national development. The idea is to foster economic relations based on its domestic development priorities. And consequently, it has to determine influential external investment partners ready to invest funds and, in practical terms, committed to supporting sustainable development in the country.
The Mozambique LNG offshore project, valued at around $20 billion, aims to extract about 13.12 million tonnes of recoverable gas over 25 years and generate profits of US$60.8 billion, half of which will go to the Mozambican state.
The process to achieve this task has started and would generate 14,000 possible jobs in phases – first creating 5,000 jobs for Mozambicans in the construction phase and 1,200 in the operational phase, with a plan to train 2,500 technicians and so forth. These projects also have a great capacity to create indirect jobs, with foreign labour decreasing throughout the project and Mozambican labour increasing. Most of these jobs are expected to be provided by contractors and subcontractors.
Several corporate projects came to a halt due to armed insurgency in 2017 in Cabo Delgado province. The entry of foreign troops to support Mozambican forces in mid-2021 has improved the security situation. Since July 2021, an offensive by government troops was fixed, with the support of Rwandans and later by the Standby Joint Force consisting of forces from members of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
Cabo Delgado province, located in northern Mozambique, is rich in natural gas. Although the gas from the three projects approved so far has a destination, Mozambique has proven reserves of over 180 trillion cubic feet, according to data from the Ministry of Mineral Resources and Energy. With an approximate population of 30 million, Mozambique is endowed with natural resources. It is a member of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) and the African Union.
ECOWAS Creates Committee as Nigeria Cries Foul Over Recruitment
By Adedapo Adesanya
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Parliament has appointed an independent ad-hoc committee to investigate allegations of recruitment malpractice at the parliament.
This is as it also directed the suspension of the ongoing recruitment exercises, pending the outcome of the investigation by the independent panel.
Nigeria had raised worry earlier and even threatened to withdraw its membership of ECOWAS if the regional body does not suspend the ongoing recruitment exercise as recently directed in the 2022 First Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Parliament in Abuja.
Nigerian representatives at the parliament had issued the threat when some principal officers in the regional bloc defiled the directives and embarked on the alleged illegal recruitment of their relatives and cronies.
Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament, Mr Sidie Mohamed Tunis in a statement said having received written complaints from the 1st Deputy Speaker, Honourable Ahmed Idris Wase, and the Permanent Representative of Nigeria to the ECOWAS Commission, Ambassador Musa Sani Nuhu, concerning the ongoing recruitment exercise at the ECOWAS Parliament, had appointed an Independent Adhoc Committee to investigate allegations of marginalization and malpractice against Nigerian candidates in the ongoing recruitment process.
The action of the Speaker is in conformity to Rule thirty-three (33) and thirty-four (34) of the Rules of Procedures of the Parliament which provides that a Special Committee may be set up to address specific matters.
The Speaker, in response to pressing emergencies, can set up an Adhoc committee, in consultation with the Bureau, and inform Parliament at its next session.
The ad-hoc committee would be headed by Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume, the Chairman of the Committee on Administration, Finance, and Budget.
Other Members of the Committee include Lynda Chuba Ikpeazu – Nigeria; Fatoumatta Njai – The Gambia; Amadou Djibo Ali – Niger; Kounon Nahou Agbandao -Togo.
Others are, Caramo Camara -Guinea Bissau; Moussokora Chantal Fanny – Cote d’ Ivoire and Mr Arboncana Oumarou Dicko – Clerk to the Committee.
The terms of Reference of the team are Investigate allegations of inappropriate conduct in the ongoing recruitment process at the ECOWAS Parliament; Investigate allegations of marginalization of Nigerian Candidates in the current recruitment process; Investigate and determine if indeed the plenary adopted any Resolution concerning the subject matter (Recruitment of Staff), using normal parliamentary procedure.
It was disclosed that “In the execution of its mandate, the Committee shall be granted access to all documents relating to the recruitment exercise and work with the Advisory Committee on Recruitment and Promotions at the ECOWAS Parliament, to under-study and review the exercise. The Adhoc Committee would be guided by the provisions of the Supplementary Act and the ECOWAS Staff Regulations.
“The work of the ad-hoc Committee is expected to commence on 22nd August 2022 and its findings are expected to be reported to the Speaker in one week, following which a Bureau meeting will be convened to consider the report for onward submission to the Plenary.
“The ECOWAS Parliament, under the leadership of Right Honourable Dr Sidie Mohamed Tunis, affirms its stern commitment to fair labour practices and is devoted to upholding and protecting the rights of all Citizens of the Community to aspire for positions in any Community Institution, in line with the provisions of the ECOWAS Staff Regulations and all related Protocols.”
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