Russia Readies to Boost Cooperation with Mozambique
By Kester Kenn Klomegah
President Vladimir Putin has held an extended meeting with the visiting Mozambican leader Filipe Nyusi in the Kremlin where both discussed bilateral cooperation between the two countries. The leaders further discussed issues related to the current international and regional issues.
The visit, first for Mozambican leader after the collapse of the Soviet empire, was part of the consolidation and deepening of the existing relations of friendship and cooperation between Mozambique and Russia. Mozambique is a natural, time-tested and long-standing partner, the Soviet Union played an important role in Mozambique.
Diplomatic relations between the two countries were established on June 25, 1975, on the day Mozambique declared its independence. The Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation between the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of Mozambique was signed in 1977.
“On the commercial and economic side our relations are still modest,” Putin said after signing the accords. “But we have good prospects.” Putin noted in his talks that there are issues related to the situation in the region, where a number of acute problems are being addressed by various countries.
Following the talks, Putin and Nyusi witnessed the exchange of documents signed during the official visit of the President of Mozambique to Russia. Russian companies, among them are Rosneft, UAZ, GAZ, Kamaz, Inter Rao – Export and Gazprombank, have an active interest in cooperation with Mozambican partners.
Mozambique has been looking to develop natural gas reserves that could make the African state a major exporter of liquified natural gas. As far back in 2015, the Russian oil and gas company Rosneft and US energy giant ExxonMobil received licenses for the development of three gas-rich deepwater blocks off the coast of Mozambique. The state-owned Qatar Petroleum company and Italy’s Eni oil and gas company later joined the project.
In October 2018, these companies signed concession contracts for hydrocarbon exploration and production with the government of Mozambique. Rosneft’s share in the projects is 20 percent. In July 2019, a mining and processing complex was launched in the city of Pebane, a province of Zambezia, for the exploitation, Primary treatment, and export of titanium and zirconium products from Tazetta Resources, which is part of the East Minerals international holding, controlled by a number of Russian investors.
Reports said that Mozambique’s National Hydrocarbon Company (ENH) was looking for more than US$2 billion to meet its project commitments. During the Moscow visit, Filipe Nyusi also held discussions, with representatives of Russian bank Gazprombank, which was dedicated to financing oil and gas sector projects in Mozambique.
“We have natural resources and we expect Russian investments to use those resources for the good of the people,” Nyusi said in an interview with local Russian news agency, published on the eve of his meeting with Putin.
There has been an increasing interest of the Russian business community in building a partnership with Mozambique, which matches Maputo’s intention to attract Russian investment and technical assistance.
Russia and Mozambique have re-affirmed commitment to promoting trade and economic cooperation, and believed that joint efforts in geological exploration and mineral extraction as well as telecommunications, energy and agriculture could possibly be the main priorities in the renewed bilateral relationship.
On August 21, the Russian-Mozambique Business Forum was held at the World Trade Center as part of the working visit of the President Nyusi and his delegation to Moscow.
The forum, aimed at reviewing and identifying potential spheres for strengthening bilateral economic cooperation between Russia and Mozambique, was organized jointly by the Embassy of Mozambique and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Russian Federation with the support of the Moscow International Trade Center.
Vice President of the Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Vladimir Padalko, noted that the African continent as a whole and Mozambique, in particular, are gaining increasing importance in the system of foreign economic relations of and are strategic interest to the Russian Federation.
The two countries currently maintain trade and economic relations. The Russian-Mozambique intergovernmental commission on trade and economic cooperation was established in March 2018. Its first meeting was held in Maputo in April 2018. The volume of trade between Russia and Mozambique in 2018 amounted to US$115 million. In the first half of 2019, trade increased by 32 percent compared to the same period in 2018.
The speech of the leader was, indeed, reassuring and offered hope. Mozambique’s economy is alive and well, judging by the volume of investments currently flowing in various sectors from many foreign sources, according to Filipe Nyusi, and added he would do his best to pursue the best strategies to improve the business environment in Mozambique, with the help of the business sector of the Russian Federation.
As a unique strategy, Moscow seems to prioritize and focus primarily on the southern African region. Mozambican leader’s visit followed that of South Africa, Zimbabwe, Angola and the Congo to meet President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin since that beginning of 2019.
In October 2018, for instance, Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the Russian Federation signed a new Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) at an investment forum that aimed at creating a unified regional platform to share with potential Russian businesses, information on investment opportunities and the investment climate in the SADC Region.
The MoU envisages strengthening ties in a broad range of fields and shows that SADC remains as one of Russia’s key partners in Africa. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Executive Secretary of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), Stergomena Lawrence Tax, signed for the Russian Federation and SADC, respectively.
On her part, the SADC Executive Secretary noted that “Russia and Africa have been partners for many years, and expressed a desire to achieve a new level in their relations.” She said it was encouraging that, in recent times, Russia had been repositioning itself to be a major partner with Southern Africa.
In an interview with the Hommes d’Afrique magazine, Minister Lavrov stressed: “At present, Russia’s relations with African countries are progressing both on a bilateral basis and along the line of African regional organizations, primarily the African Union and the Southern African Development Community.” Mozambique, among 16 southern African countries, is a member of the SADC. Russia has a long history of bilateral engagements with the Southern African countries, which constitute the Southern African Development Community.