By Kester Kenn Klomegah
In his message greetings to participants, organizers and guests of the 24th St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF’21) that opens on June 2-5, Russian President Vladimir Putin emphasized that Moscow is interested in closer economic, scientific, and technical cooperation with its foreign partners and ready to share experience in various areas.
While expressing Russia’s readiness and interests in strengthening closer economic cooperation with foreign partners, the Russian president further urged willing parties to build equal, constructive partnerships between members of the global community and expand business ties on a number of levels to effectively tackle the current critical global challenges and achieve sustainable development.
“We are ready to share our experience in areas such as healthcare and digitalization and to work with partners to build better telecommunications, energy, and transport infrastructure. We also recognize the importance of addressing key issues facing the environment and climate,” according to the president’s message released on the official website.
Speaking about the participation of public officials and heads of largest corporations and banks, Putin emphasized the need for open, constructive dialogue to overcome the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, which has severely restricted international ties.
“Other socioeconomic issues such as poverty relief, improving education opportunities, expanding employment and prospects for labour markets, as well as addressing violations of fair competition principles also require careful attention,” he added.
Putin will speak at the plenary session of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) on June 4, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters ahead of the forum opening and added that Putin would also take part in the ensuing discussion.
“There will be a speech by the President at the plenary session and then a moderated discussion with the participation of the Emir of Qatar [Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani] and Chancellor of Austria [Sebastian Kurz],” Peskov said.
Ahead of the opening, the SPIEF’21 group of experts from the leading Russian and foreign universities, scientific institutions, reputable rating agencies, and consulting companies have prepared and released special research and analytical reports on the business agenda. The reports generally reflected the theme, and deal with the renewal of the economy and social life, the overcoming of the challenges of the post-pandemic world order.
St. Petersburg State University of Economics is traditionally interested in business dialogue and advanced educational technologies and is ready to share the experience it has accumulated. The university will be represented by more than 40 experts at the forum.
The largest delegations are from the United States, Qatar and China. According to documents, about 2,000 foreign participants are in the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF). There are also delegations from Germany, France and Italy.
Qatar mounts the biggest cultural and arts stand. It has prepared a large-scale business program, which will be presented at the national pavilion of Qatar.
On the territory, the Doha Hall is a space where the heads of ministries and departments, heads of key companies of the country, representatives of public organizations will discuss the strengthening of economic and political relations between states, business and cultural ties, cooperation in the field of ecology and nature protection, sports and innovation, health care and information technology.
It comes, this year, under the theme Together Again – Economy of New Reality and more than a hundred discussion panels and sessions are planned. Most importantly, the forum is organized with strict adherence to safety measures for preventing the spread of the coronavirus. These measures worked out by the steering committee within the requirements set by the World Health Organization (WHO).
In order to ensure the safety of all participants, PCR testing is carried out exclusively at specialized centres designated by the Federal Service for Surveillance on Consumer Rights Protection and Human Wellbeing (Rospotrebnadzor).
The St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, popularly referred to as SPIEF, brings together international business leaders, government officials and representatives of expert and media communities to discuss various topics and jointly search for effective solutions to the most pressing challenges in Russian and global economies.
The SPIEF is held annually, and since 2006 it has been held under patronage and with the participation of the President of the Russian Federation.
AfDB, Sovereign Investors to Develop Climate Resilient Projects
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.
The Era of Unipolar World Order Has Ended—Putin Tells US, Others
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.
43% of Africa’s Population Lack Access to Electricity—IEA
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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