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Russia Lauds Africa’s Readiness to Step-up Economic Cooperation

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By Kestér Kenn Klomegâh

In its sixth year, the Russia-Africa Business Dialogue was held on June 16 at the 25th St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) with the participation of both top-level Russian and African officials.

The Russia-Africa Business Dialogue was initiated in 2016 as a special platform to examine, review and discuss important topical issues especially those relating to trade and economic cooperation between Russia and Africa.

Professor Irina Abramova, Director of the Institute for African Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences moderated the discussion. It brought together representatives of government and business communities from both Russian and African sides.

Gilberto Da Piedade Verissimo, President of the Commission of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) participated. Delegations from African countries such as Algeria, the Arab Republic of Egypt, the Republic of Mali, the Central African Republic and Zimbabwe. There were also African diplomatic representatives.

With the current changing geopolitical situation in the world, the consistent calls for new world order (multipolar system) and geopolitical rivalry, the top-level speakers gave an insight into economic opportunities, challenges and threats to both Russia and Africa. The speakers highlighted the prospects and possibilities of really transforming economic relationships between Russia and Africa.

More than that, the speakers and discussants noted the mutual interest in developing trade and economic ties between Russia and Africa and identified food and energy security, new methods of financial settlements, cooperation in innovation and technology, health, education and culture, as well as cooperation within the integration alliances as priority areas.

Most of the discussions focused on the same questions that have been raised down the years, and on other different platforms. The key features here are that Russian officials reiterated their dreamy roadmap for cooperating with Africa, while African officials vividly narrated the existing nature and competitive conditions for investment in Africa. In terms of investment, African speakers attempt to lay out the potential sectors that are most in need of foreign corporate partners.

In terms of trade and industry, African speakers have loudly made it clear in their speeches the primary and long-term objectives, and several initiatives aimed at driving economic growth, industrialization and development across Africa. That Russians have to consider seriously the mutual benefits while taking advantage of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which was signed in March 2018 and came into force on January 1, 2021.

The AfCFTA provides a unique and valuable platform for businesses to access an integrated African market of over 1.3 billion people. The growing middle class, among other factors, constitutes a huge market potential in Africa. In order to have an in-depth understanding of these, Russians must at least invest in initial market research and development (R&D) collaborations, as a basis for designing entry strategies, with their African partners.

By considering and accepting the opinions given by African speakers, Russians could be making the first practical step into the real business landscape there in Africa. It is also important to take a comprehensive and broad-based look at emerging opportunities on the continent and study other foreign competitors who are already established in Africa. Therefore, Russians need to rethink how better to engage with African policymakers, businesses, civil society and the African diaspora in order to strengthen its strategic entrepreneurial relationships with Africa.

On the other hand, as Africa gets to the idea of building a new world order, it becomes also important for African leaders, their governments and the public to ensure specific steps and approaches toward supporting the 1.3 billion people with needed public infrastructure and the economy, look forward to becoming continental self-dependent and develop the future for the next generation.

Alexander Pankin, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, extended the greetings from Sergey Lavrov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation.

Despite the unprecedented sanctions and information warfare launched by the United States and its satellites, Russia manages to maintain the entire bilateral cooperation in working order, and to saturate it with a relevant substantive agenda, noted Lavrov. His message reaffirmed that “in these difficult and crucial times the strategic partnership with Africa has become a priority of Russia’s foreign policy. Russia highly appreciates the readiness of Africans to further step-up economic cooperation.”

Lavrov said: “It is in the interests of our peoples to work together to preserve and expand mutually beneficial trade and investment ties under these new conditions. It is important to facilitate the mutual access of Russian and African economic operators to each other’s markets and encourage their participation in large-scale infrastructure projects. The signed agreements and the results will be consolidated at the forthcoming second Russia-Africa summit.”

With the upcoming second Russia-Africa summit, the date and other detailed information are being withheld. But Kremlin Aide Yury Ushakov said in mid-June that both sides are planning, referring to Russia and the African Union.

Putin had talks with Senegalese President Macky Sall, who is also African Union Chairperson, in Sochi on June 3. Russia has always been on Africa’s side in its fight against colonialism, Putin said, reminding again about Soviet assistance that was offered more than 60 years ago. The United Nations declared Africa fully independent in 1960, and the Organization of African Unity (OAU) was formed on 25 May 1963 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Under the chosen theme ‘New Opportunities in a New World’ that reflects the changing global situations, the conference from June 15 to June 18 marked the 25th year of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF). Over the last 24 years, the forum has become a leading global platform for members of the business community to meet and discuss the key economic issues facing Russia, emerging markets, and the world as a whole. Since 2006, it has been held under the auspices of the President of the Russian Federation.

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AfDB, Sovereign Investors to Develop Climate Resilient Projects

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By Adedapo Adesanya

The African Development Bank (AfDB), Africa50 and Africa Sovereign Investors Forum (ASIF) have signed a letter of intent to collaborate on developing green and climate resilient infrastructure projects across Africa.

The three entities will work together to galvanize financing and drive the development of skills and expertise within the infrastructure sector.

The signing took place on June 20, 2022, in Rabat, Morocco, during an event to launch the Africa Sovereign Investors Forum.

Under the high patronage of His Majesty King Mohammed VI of the Kingdom of Morocco, 10 African sovereign investors including Nigeria, agreed to set up the Forum.

The newly formed platform will accelerate coordination to mobilize patient capital for the continent’s development.

The signatories are Agaciro Development Fund of Rwanda, Fonds Souverain de Djibouti, Fonds Gabonais d’Investissements Stratégiques (FGIS), Fonds Souverain d’Investissements Stratégiques (FONSIS) of Senegal, Fundo Soberano de Angola (FSDEA), Ghana Infrastructure Investment Fund, (GIIF), Ithmar Capital (Morocco), Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) and The Sovereign Fund of Egypt (TSFE).

Africa50 CEO, Mr Alain Ebobissé signed for his organization, African Development Bank Vice-President for Private Sector, Infrastructure and Industrialization, Mr Solomon Quaynor, signed on behalf of the Bank, and Ithmar Capital CEO, Mr Obaid Amrane, who will serve as the inaugural chair of ASIF, signed on the new initiative’s behalf.

Me Ebobissé said: “this is an important step to building strong collaboration between the right stakeholders to meet the substantial infrastructure financing needs of Africa. We must make key regional infrastructure projects attractive and bankable for both global and African private investors and today’s signing will go a long way to address the continent’s infrastructure deficit.

“It is therefore important that we leverage the strength of the African sovereign wealth funds on the continent, who manage significant domestic savings, to drive the growth of Africa’s economies through the development and successful implementation of strategic infrastructure”.

On his part, Mr Quaynor said: “The African Development Bank’s partnership with ASIF and Africa50 would enable stronger collaborations on project development and co-financing, mobilization of capital to fund resilient, green and sustainable infrastructure and identification of investment opportunities to promote Africa’s infrastructure and industrialization.

“This is a key part of the Bank’s strategy to harness the estimated $2 trillion of assets under management from African institutional investors including sovereign wealth funds, pension funds and insurance companies for the continent’s infrastructure and industrialization,” he said.

Mr Amrane said “ASIF main objective is to accelerate the development of investment opportunities and to mobilize patient capital. As sovereign investors, we see strong complementarities with African Development Bank and Africa50, especially since our visions are aligned with regard to project preparation and capital mobilization.

“We are pleased today to formalize ASIF, AfDB and Africa50’s mutual desire to collaborate together, for we have a common objective to foster investment in climate-resilient projects, among others, according to our respective mandate.”

The collaboration agreement will also seek to address the identification and preparation of projects, a critical success factor in attracting financing to any project.

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The Era of Unipolar World Order Has Ended—Putin Tells US, Others

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By Kestér Kenn Klomegâh

At the plenary session of the 25th year of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF), Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin, lambasted the United States and its Western and European allies, wholeheartedly predicted the end of the unipolar system and bristled at the idea of creating a new global order that might ensure equality and drastically change living standards of impoverished millions around the world.

Putin believes that the United States sees itself as a “messenger of God on Earth”, who has interests but no responsibility. “The United States is ostensibly unaware that over the past decades, new powerful centres have emerged around the globe and their voice is heard ever louder. Each of them is developing its own political system and public institutions and implements its own model of economic growth and, of course, has the right to protect them and to ensure national sovereignty,” Putin stressed.

While emphasizing the problems currently faced by the world’s economy at large, unfair competition among states, trade and financial wars, sanctions, restrictions, and so on, he asserted that the era of the unipolar world order has ended. The United States for the sake of ambitions and in the name of preserving outdated geopolitical illusions really don’t understand that the world based on such dogmas is definitely unsustainable.

In his opinion, “we are witnessing objective processes and truly revolutionary tectonic changes,” in the world. “After claiming victory in the Cold War, the United States declared it was the messenger of God on Earth, who has no obligations, but only interests – and these interests are sacrosanct,” Putin said. A world order based on the dogmas of unipolarity is unstable. Western elites are largely “clinging to ghosts of the past,” thinking that Western dominance is “an unchangeable and everlasting thing. Nothing lasts forever.”

New world order is still emerging but it’s clear that its rules will be created by those “who aren’t moving along a path set out by others.” “Only strong and sovereign states can have a say in this emerging world order or they will have to become or remain colonies with no rights,” Putin noted.

He further described as “thoughtless” and “insane” unprecedented sanctions imposed on Russia by a number of Western countries. “The idea was clear: crush the Russian economy violently, in a swoop, and deal a blow to industries, finance and living standards of people by destroying business chains, forcibly pulling Western companies out of the Russian market and freezing domestic assets,” he said.

Putin highlighted six principles constituting the basis for the development of the national economy during the forum. These are openness, reliance on freedoms of entrepreneurship, balanced macroeconomic policy, social justice, advanced development of infrastructure and achievement of technological sovereignty.

State sovereignty cannot be partial or fragmentary in the 21st century, all of its elements have equal importance. They reinforce and complement each other. That is why it is important not only to defend the political sovereignty and national identity but also to strengthen everything that ensures the country’s economic independence, its self-sustainability and independence in the matters of finances, workforce and technology,” Putin explained.

The president said that Russia changed in recent years through a planned effort to create a sustainable macroeconomic structure, ensure food security, enable import substitution and establish its own payment system.

Nevertheless, the sanctions have brought about “numerous difficult tasks” that Russia has to solve, he continued. “On the other hand, this situation creates new opportunities for us. We are saying this quite often, but this is really so. All of this will be an incentive to build an economy whose technological, production, workforce and scientific independence and potential is full rather than partial,” Putin said.

In a clear and concise but tense language, he expressed optimism that Russia would become stronger than before, taking advantage of emerging opportunities and new initiatives to build a better economy. With Russia under wide sanctions after sending troops into Ukraine, Putin spoke at length acknowledging the economic difficulties Russia faces as it tries to promote itself to international businesses, and the evolutionary processes in the new global configuration.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, by video link, took part in a plenary meeting together with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev. The forum brought representatives from Latin America, Africa and mostly Asia. There were a number of international organizations as well as representatives from more than 90 countries, compared to 140 countries during the pre-corona pandemic years.

Under the chosen theme ‘New Opportunities in a New World’ that reflects the changing global situations, the conference from June 15 to June 18 marked the 25th year of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) since its establishment. Over the last 24 years, the forum has become a leading global platform for members of the business community to meet and discuss the key economic issues facing Russia, emerging markets, and the world as a whole. Since 2006, has been held under the auspices of the President of the Russian Federation.

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43% of Africa’s Population Lack Access to Electricity—IEA

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By Adedapo Adesanya

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has said that $25 billion in annual investments could bring full access to electricity to Africa by 2030.

This is as the number of Africans with access to electricity fell during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Paris-based agency said Monday.

The IEA said 600 million people, or 43 per cent of the continent’s population, lack access to electricity — mostly in sub-Saharan Africa.

The number of people living without electricity increased by four per cent, or 25 million people, between 2019 and 2021, after a decade of progress.

According to IEA chief, Mr Fatih Birol, speaking ahead of the release of the agency’s African Energy Outlook 2022.

He said before COVID, there had been “lots of good developments in countries such as Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda.

“But because of Covid and the economic difficulties, we see that this positive trend is reversing now,” Mr Birol said.

It was also revealed that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has added to the economic strains on Africa from the COVID pandemic, as the conflict has sent the prices of energy, food and other commodities soaring.

“When I look at 2022, with the high energy prices and the economic burden on the African countries, I don’t see many reasons to be hopeful,” Mr Birol said.

But Africa could get universal access to electricity by the end of the decade with $25 billion in annual investment, according to the IEA.

Countries need to give international financial institutions, especially development banks, a “strong mandate” to make Africa and clean energy on the continent “an absolute priority”, Mr Birol said.

“It’s not the case now,” he added.

Africa is facing more severe effects from climate change than most other parts of the world, despite emitting less energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) than any other region, the IEA said.

“We have to see a huge amount of investment coming in Africa in all parts of the energy system, but the most important one will be clean energy options,” Mr Birol added.

“We would need to double the energy investments to reach our energy and climate goals.”

Renewables — including solar, wind, hydropower and geothermal — could account for over 80 per cent of new power generation capacity in Africa by 2030, the IEA report said.

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