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Russia Struggling to Explore Africa’s Market

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Russia explore Africa's market

By Kestér Kenn Klomegâh

Building on post-Soviet relations with Africa, Russia has been struggling with strategies on how to establish economic footprints, promote investment and deepen cooperation in Africa. Despite the road map adopted at the end of the first Russia-Africa summit held in October 2019, little has been achieved since then.

In late September, the Regional Chamber of Commerce and Industry welcomed the participants to another round of conferences under the theme “Russia-Africa: Prospects for Cooperation” held in St. Petersburg. That gathering featuring a few interesting Russian enterprises was part of a series of steps to brainstorm and discuss opportunities, developments and challenges in preparing for the forthcoming Russia-Africa summit planned for July 2023.

Additionally, the goal of this St Petersburg conference event was in line with the priorities on how to engage with credible investors who can partner with the government and private sector to exploit the market. It discussed the possibilities of strengthening the partnership between Russia and Africa, as well as issues related to export/import, logistics and peculiarities of working with African partners.

Vice President of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Russian Federation Vladimir Padalko welcomed the participants via video link from Moscow. In the video, Padalko emphatically stated that “preparations for the second Russia-Africa summit, scheduled for July 2023 in St. Petersburg, are in full swing, and we should come to it with concrete results in the form of agreements ready for signing.”

According to him, the Coordinating Committee for Economic Cooperation with African Countries should focus on conducting business missions that would identify specific areas for conducting business cooperation with African countries. It is necessary to help Russians learn what the African market is so they are not afraid of taking investment risks in Africa.

Padalko said that the prejudices that Russians have regarding Africa should be overcome. He referred to his own experience, emphasizing that the first trip to the African continent made him change his mind significantly about the opportunities offered by cooperation with Africa. Russia is trying hard to improve its commercial relations with its African partners. In 2009, it established the Coordinating Committee for Economic Cooperation with sub-Saharan Africa to assist in promoting Russian business interests.

Senator Igor Morozov, Chairman of the Coordinating Committee for Economic Cooperation with African Countries, called for increasing the pace and level of cooperation with African countries by “bringing small and medium-sized businesses to Africa.”

According to him, Russia is far behind in its activity on the African continent from countries such as the United States, Britain, China, France, India, and Turkey. These countries are developing a network of technology parks, working in the continental free trade zone, participating in the development of the infrastructure of African countries, and the construction of roads, bridges and railways.

Senator Morozov further noted that “Russian business does not have the tools to enter Africa ​​and, above all, in the field of the banking system. No other banks give guarantees to Russian businesses. According to him, African countries are interested in the supply of agricultural machinery; in this sense, the Kirov Plant in St. Petersburg may have good opportunities. And in this sense, we should take an example from our Belarusian friends.”

That was not the first time analyzing the development of business and trade relations with Africa. The African market is competitive and complex, therefore, Russian business needs to work thoroughly and systematically in it in order to achieve success.  It is necessary to help interested businesses willing to navigate African realities, find a niche for their work, and learn about the conditions for entering certain markets.

According to Morozov, there is a need for a specialized investment fund to support entrepreneurs. In general, with the prospect of working with African partners for many years, more serious state support is needed and finally suggested that it is necessary to return to barter trade and concessions, which will make it possible to obtain minerals from Africa.

“We need to develop our international payment instruments – sanctions are already being imposed against the Mir system,” he said. A great deal of hope is being placed on the working group for developing new mechanisms in currency regulation and international settlements led by Kremlin aide Maxim Oreshkin, “which is supposed to work out these mechanisms soon,” Morozov said.

“We need to see how we will work within the framework of national currencies” and use them for settlements with African countries, he said. “We need to work in this direction, understanding that SWIFT will never again be [the main system for interbank payments] for us,” Morozov, who also serves on the Federation Council’s Economic Policy Committee, said.

Talks on options for settlements between Russia and African countries in the current economic circumstances are already being held, but “we shouldn’t get ahead of events. African central banks are already beginning to come [to Russia]. Everyone understands that we are leaders in grain exports, leaders in sunflower oil, mineral fertilizers, and it is necessary to settle up,” Morozov.

Other options for settlements could be barter and concessions. The outlook for cooperation and possible Russian projects in Africa, Morozov said Russia could offer its competencies in hydropower, electric passenger transport, automobile manufacturing, farm machinery and pharmaceuticals. Afrocom operates with the support of the Federation Council and government institutions, according to the committee’s website.

Associate Professor Ksenia Tabarintseva-Romanova, Ural Federal University, Department of International Relations, acknowledges huge existing challenges and perhaps difficult conditions in the current economic cooperation between Africa and Russia. Creating African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is the most important modern tool for Africa’s economic development. This is unique for exploring and getting acquainted with the opportunities it offers for business cooperation.

She, however, maintains that successful implementation requires a sufficiently high level of economic development in the participating countries, logistical accessibility, and developed industry with the prospect of introducing new technologies. This means that in order for African Continental Free Trade Area to effectively fulfil its tasks, it is necessary to enlist the provision of sustainable investment flows from outside. These investments should be directed toward constructing industrial plants and transport corridors.

Speaking earlier in an interview discussion, Tabarintseva-Romanova pointed out that Russia already has vast experience with the African continent, which now makes it possible to make investments as efficiently as possible, both for the Russian Federation and African countries. In addition, potential African investors and exporters could also explore business collaboration and partnerships in Russia.

Local Russian media, Rossiyskaya Gazeta, also published an interview with Professor Irina Abramova, Director of the Institute of African Studies under the Russian Academy of Sciences, focusing on economic cooperation with Africa. In this interview, Abramova reiterated explicitly that Russians have to do away with negative perceptions and attitudes toward Africa. The change in attitudes has to reflect in all aspects of the relationship between Africa and Africans.

“In Russians’ minds, Africa is synonymous with backwardness, poverty and hunger, which is not true. It is currently one of the most promising regions for foreign investment. It is a tiger ready to pounce. Africa today is in the same situation that China was in the 1990s. Today, China is the world’s number-one economy in purchasing capacity, a strong power which largely determines global development,” she explained.

“Africa is the zone where all big players overlap since its geographic location between the east and the west puts it at the peak of controversy and the big game between all players, meaning between Europe and America, on the one hand, and China, India and other countries, on the other. And if Russia poses as a superpower it will also lose its global influence without indicating its position in Africa,” she said.

According to her, seven African countries, specifically Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, South Africa, Tunisia, Nigeria and Sudan, account for nearly 90% of Russia’s trade. “At the same time, China is present in almost all African countries. Millions of Chinese work in Africa today. It is a good moment for Russia now because Western partners are trying to impose their values on the Africans, while China is dealing with its challenges at the expense of Africa,” the expert stressed.

The middle class is expanding very fast there, already amounting to 250-300 million people, and this constitutes a huge consumer market for products and services, according to her estimation.

Professor Abramova noted that it is a very good market for Russian products. The Chinese understood that long ago and are tapping the African market, having flooded it with their products, though Russia also has opportunities as it is fairly competitive in the energy, infrastructure and agriculture sectors and exporting products such as fertilizers, trucks and aircraft supplies.

The fact that many prominent politicians and businessmen of the African continent graduated from Russian universities and speak Russian well contributes to the strengthening of the Russian-African relationship, the expert said, adding though that a new generation is about to take over in Africa, which is also the reason why Moscow should maintain the existing solid social and cultural ties.

Senator Igor Morozov and Professor Irina Abramova are members of the Kremlin’s Committee assigned to coordinate and prepare for the next Russia-Africa summit in July 2023. Both Russia and Africa had problems finding a suitable African venue for the summit. The joint declaration adopted in Sochi says the summit be held every three years and the venue alternated between Russia and Africa.

Sampson Uwem-Edimo, President of the Nigerian Business Council and General Director of Trailtrans Logistic LLC, delivered a report “Nigeria as a Window to Africa” and further stressed that Russia does not have a common strategy on how to enter African markets, which exists, say, in China or France.

By removing barriers to trade in the region will create new entrepreneurial activities and spur innovations in technology. The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) seeks to create better conditions for investment. On the other hand, Russian corporate directors most often have problems with their business in Africa. The key obstacles ranging from their inconsistencies in own approach and poor knowledge of the local political and business environment. Russians must also invest more in R&D collaborations with their African partners.

According to him, while Russians hope for brisk business, many African business leaders today are still Western mind-oriented and have various support from the United States and Europe. But the practical reality, Russia could still steadily transfer technologies for local processing of raw materials as a catalyst for Africa’s development.

Uwem-Edimo noted that former colonial powers like France and Great Britain, although they left their colonies, kept control panels in their capitals. The Nigerian businessman, who spoke in Russian, introduced the conference participants to the opportunities and vast potential of the African continent, focusing on Nigeria, which makes up 18 per cent of the continent’s population – 240 million people.

President of the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Vladimir Katenev, also addressed the conference participants with a greeting. The moderator was Ekaterina Lebedeva, Vice-President of the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce and Industry Union, who called on business community representatives to consistently work towards prioritising Africa despite the emerging challenges.

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US-Africa Leaders Summit: Matters Arising and Way Forward

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US-Africa Leaders Summit

By Kestér Kenn Klomegâh

On the eve of the US-Africa Leaders Summit planned for December 13-15 in Washington, the Corporate Council, in partnership with the African Union and the US State Department, hosted discussions which were a combination of online and offline with some experts from the United States and Africa.

Katherine Tai, the 19th United States Trade Representative and Secretary-General Wamkele Wene from the Secretariat of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), Ambassador Rama Yade, Senior Director of the Africa Centre. Taking part was the Dean of the African diplomatic corps in the United States.

This discussion came on the eve of the US-Africa Leaders Summit (ALS), which will advance US-African collaboration on today’s most pressing global and regional priorities. The ALS will reflect the breadth and depth of US partnerships with African governments, businesses, civil society, and citizens-partnerships based on dialogue, respect, and shared values that harness the ingenuity and creativity of American and African people.

There were various themes during the discussion against the difficult geopolitical backdrop of high global economic imbalances slowing direct investment into the continent as well as accelerating shifts in the job market.

Worth noting that the United States – Africa Leaders’ Summit will be hosted by President Joe Biden, and it primarily serves as a demonstration and commitment towards the African continent and further provides the platform for new joint initiatives between the United States and Africa.

The discussion reviewed the current relations as well as possible new initiatives that boost the continent’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, how to bolster food security effectively and to promote investment in various critical sectors, including infrastructure, health and renewable energy, among other priorities.

On the other hand, the discussion also focused on strengthening the African diaspora communities and engaging them in advancing a two-way trade and investment partnership, scaling up innovation and entrepreneurship, and driving advancements in key sectors.

The United States, together with the African diaspora, have a unique opportunity to make sure to change the narrative of trade and focus on inclusion rather than only on market access. Supporting women and youth in identifying opportunities, challenges and also barriers that confront them.

Questions such as what are the challenges that we can confront together and what are the solutions that we can present to heads of state and government to begin to change the previous years of exclusion of young people from mainstream economic activity – of small and medium enterprises from mainstream economic activity to make them partners in their implementation.

The United States understands that African Union and African leaders are looking at regional linkages very strategically and then always around inclusivity. How and what to make better with economic engagement inside and outside, to bring everyone along and not to leave people behind.

The United States already plans to take concrete action to benefit young people, including women, to benefit small medium enterprises and small cum medium enterprises in Africa, creating jobs for over 450 million. And the bulk of that 450 million jobs are young Africans.

The Corporate Council on Africa significantly undertakes tremendous support and even galvanizes the US leadership and engagement in partnership with allies and partners to shape solutions to global challenges in Africa. Its people have a critical role to play in achieving such solutions, Ambassador Tai noted in her discussion.

Nearly the discussants agreed that all would require a combination of private sector activities and governmental actions, and one key governmental framework for Africa is the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). The free trade area promises to deepen economic integration. It creates a single market for goods and services for almost 1.3 billion people across Africa. In fact, 50 African Union members have signed the agreement, 42 members have ratified it, and 39 have deposited their instruments of ratification.

The Secretary General of AfCFTA during the summit will be able to highlight the way forward. The United States intends to fully engage with Africa as the recent Africa strategy says in a 21st-century US-Africa partnership and one aspect of that Africa is friend shoring, which is to say working with reliable partners. It is noted to work within the framework that provides integration between West Africa and East Africa and between North Africa and Southern Africa.

Within the framework of the African Union agenda, the new generation wants to build on the geopolitical partnership dimension in the regional economic communities and with African countries. The point is that there are symmetries, obviously, between the economy and industrial development trajectory and between developing and developed countries.

The African Growth and Opportunity Act offers rules and regulations relating to trade agreements, especially tariff liberalization; this is an important aspect of building sustainable economic cooperation between the two regions.

The United States and its partnering institutions (both public and private) can best work together to spearhead continuous complementary work as it relates to both business security for participating actors and investors and, including, for example, the African diaspora and beyond the industry for things like creative and cultural industries.

The speakers unanimously confirmed the summit as the highest unique platform to determine the geo-economic centres, examine thoroughly the global priorities and challenges, and concretely design the main directions of U.S.-Africa cooperation. It offers, especially in these critical times, an orientation towards the future, at least the next decade, between the African continent and the United States.

US-African Leaders Summit 2022 aims to enhance cooperation on shared global priorities. The heads of state and leaders from across the African continent will converge in Washington DC, within the context of the United States-Africa Leaders’ Summit hosted by President Joseph R. Biden, President of the United States of America.

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AfDB Fund Offers $8.9bn for Vulnerable African Countries

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vulnerable African countries

By Adedapo Adesanya

The African Development Fund (ADF) has agreed to commit a total package of $8.9 billion to its 2023 to 2025 financing cycle to help vulnerable African countries. It is the largest replenishment in the history of the fund.

ADF is the concessional window of the African Development Bank (AfDB) Group, providing grants and soft loans to the continent’s low-income countries.

The $8.9 billion replenishment package includes $8.5 billion in core ADF funding and $429 million for the newly created Climate Action Window.

ADF-16 core funding represents a 14.24 per cent increase over ADF-15 of $7.4 billion. It is a strong endorsement of ADF and its impact in tackling the continent’s multiple development needs, including recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, the effects of climate change, fragility, debt, and economic vulnerabilities.

In a statement, it was disclosed that Algeria and Morocco contributed to the Fund for the first time. They joined Angola, Egypt, and South Africa on the list of contributing African countries.

This was disclosed at the fourth and final meetings of the new replenishment (ADF16) in Morocco.

President of the AfDB, Mr Akinwumi Adesina, applauded the impressive funding package saying, “I am impressed by the huge commitment and efforts of the ADF donor countries in stepping up support for Africa’s low-income countries, especially at this time of great economic, climate and fiscal challenges. This is the power of global partnerships and effective multilateralism in support of Africa.”

This replenishment comes as ADF celebrated its 50th anniversary since its establishment in 1972. The Fund is achieving significant impact, and in the past five years alone, it has helped to connect 15.5 million people to electricity, has given 74 million people access to improved agriculture, and 42 million people access to water and sanitation. In addition, 50 million people have gained access to improved transport. The Fund’s resources are also helping to build and rehabilitate 8,700 kilometres of roads.

ADF-16 will support two strategic frameworks and operational priorities: developing sustainable, climate-resilient and quality infrastructure; and governance, capacity building and sustainable debt management in recipient countries. It will also focus on empowering women and girls as a condition for achieving inclusive and sustainable development.

The ADF-16 replenishment will deliver even more impacts over the next three years. It will help to connect 20 million people to electricity, 24 million people will benefit from improvements in agriculture, access to water and sanitation for 32 million people, and improved access to transport for 15 million people.

Commenting further, Mr Adesina said, “These are impressive development impacts. These expected impacts of the ADF will advance the Sustainable Development Goals and the Agenda 2063 of the African Union. They will allow the African Development Fund to build on its reputation as being ranked the second-best concessional financing institution in the world. We will deliver more, better, efficiently and in partnerships with bilateral and multilateral partners. We will foster a climate-smart, resilient, inclusive, and integrated Africa”.

“African low-income countries are the most vulnerable and least prepared to tackle climate change,” said Mr Adesina.

“The Climate Action Window and the commitment to provide 40 per cent of the core financing of the ADF 16 replenishment towards climate finance will help to build climate resilience in Africa,” he added.

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World Food Prices Remain Flat in November 2022

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prices of foodstuffs

By Adedapo Adesanya

Global food prices remained virtually unchanged for the second month in November 2022, according to the latest numbers from the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

The FAO Food Price Index (FFPI) averaged 135.7 points in November 2022, virtually unchanged from October, with month-on-month decreases in the price indices for cereals, dairy and meat, nearly offsetting increases in those of vegetable oils and sugar. At this level, the index stood only marginally above (0.3 per cent) its corresponding value in November 2021.

The FAO Cereal Price Index averaged 150.4 points in November, down 1.9 points (1.3 per cent) from October but still 9.0 points (6.3 per cent) above its value a year ago. World wheat prices registered a 2.8 per cent decline during the month of November, mostly driven by the rejoining of the Russian Federation in the Black Sea Grain Initiative and the extension of the agreement, subdued import demand for supplies from the United States of America due to uncompetitive prices, and greater competition in global markets with increased shipments from the Russian Federation.

International prices of coarse grains also eased in November, down 1.0 per cent from October. Maize prices declined by 1.7 per cent month-on-month, also influenced by developments in the Black Sea Grain Initiative, while improved transport on the Mississippi River in the United States of America weighed on prices as well.

International prices of sorghum declined by 1.2 per cent in November in tandem with maize prices, while those of barley increased by 2.5 per cent. International rice prices moved up by another 2.3 per cent in November, influenced by currency appreciations against the United States dollar for some Asian suppliers and good buying interest.

The FAO Vegetable Oil Price Index averaged 154.7 points in November, up 3.4 points (2.3 per cent) after declining for seven consecutive months. The increase was driven by higher international palm and soy oil prices, more than offsetting lower rapeseed and sunflower oil quotations.

International palm oil prices rebounded in November, supported by renewed global import demand owing to competitive prices relative to those of other edible oils, as well as concerns over lower production potentials due to excessive rainfall in parts of major growing regions in Southeast Asia.

Meanwhile, world soyoil values rose slightly, chiefly underpinned by persistent, robust demand from the biodiesel sector, particularly in the United States of America. By contrast, international rapeseed and sunflower oil prices dropped in November, weighed by, respectively, expected ample global supplies and the extension of the Black Sea Grain Initiative.

The FAO Dairy Price Index averaged 137.5 points in November, down 1.7 points (1.2 per cent) from October, marking the fifth consecutive monthly decline, but remained 11.6 points (9.2 per cent) above its value a year ago.

In November, international price quotations for skim milk powders fell the most, reflecting lower import demand, as buyers were well covered for their near-term needs coupled with increased export availabilities in Europe.

Whole milk powder prices dropped substantially, principally due to lower buying interest from China, only partially compensated by higher purchases by Southeast Asian countries.

Meanwhile, world butter prices declined on weak import demand, impacted by high retail prices and market uncertainties about consumer purchases in the months ahead.

By contrast, international cheese prices increased, underpinned by a steady import demand and less buoyant export availabilities from leading producing countries in Western Europe.

The FAO Meat Price Index averaged 117.1 points in November, down 1.1 points (0.9 per cent) from October, also marking the fifth consecutive monthly decline, but remained 4.6 points (4.1 per cent) above its value a year ago.

In November, international bovine meat prices fell for the fifth month in a row, as increased export supplies from Australia added to already high supplies from Brazil, notwithstanding China’s continuing strong import demand.

By contrast, world prices of all other meat types rebounded, with the price of ovine meat rising the most, driven by solid import demand, despite seasonally rising supplies from Oceania.

International poultry meat prices also recovered, reflecting tighter global export supplies amid production setbacks in many large producing countries due to intensified avian influenza outbreaks.

Meanwhile, pig meat prices rose on a surge in demand ahead of the upcoming holiday period and the impact of currency movements.

The FAO Sugar Price Index averaged 114.3 points in November, up 5.7 points (5.2 per cent) from October, marking the first increase after six consecutive monthly declines.

The November rebound was mostly related to strong buying amid prevailing tight global sugar supplies due to harvest delays in key producing countries and the announcement by India of a lower sugar export quota. Higher ethanol prices in Brazil, raising concerns over a greater use of sugarcane to produce ethanol, exerted further upward pressure on world sugar prices.

Despite the November increase, international sugar price quotations remained 5.9 points (4.9 per cent) below their levels in the same month of last year, weighed down by prospects of ample global supplies in the 2022/23 season.

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