Russian Chamber of Commerce and Business Coordination with African Countries
By Kester Kenn Klomegah
Largely dictated by the results of the first Russia-Africa summit and the persistent economic sanctions by the United States and European Union, Russia is seriously reorganising towards increasing its economic prints in Africa.
Russia is, indeed, putting its house in order, identifying strategies and drawing roadmaps, and most importantly restructuring.
Quite recently, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs created the Secretariat for Russia-Africa Partnership Forum. The Secretariat further established an Association for Economic Cooperation with the African States.
Now, the Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry has restructured the Coordinating Committee for Economic Cooperation with the African States that was established as far back in 2009.
According to historical documents, the Coordinating Committee for Economic Cooperation with African States was created on the initiative of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Russian Federation and Vnesheconombank with the support of the Federation Council and the State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation. It has had support from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Economy and Trade, the Ministry of Natural Resources, as well as the Ministry of Higher Education and Science.
With the participation of representatives of business and expert circles, this committee’s primary task is to consolidate the efforts of business, government and public structures of Russia, facilitate the intensification of economic activities in Africa.
It has the responsibility for adopting a more pragmatic approach to business, for deepening and broadening economic collaborations and for the establishment of direct mutually beneficial contacts between entrepreneurs and companies from Russia and African countries.
During its last meeting, the participants discussed various issues and acknowledged that the committee has achieved little since its establishment. The meeting has also identified factors that have hindered its expected achievements and overall performance since 2009.
Admittedly, a quick assessment for over one decade has shown very little impact and tangible results. The committee’s documents listed more than 150 Russian companies as members, most of them are hardly seen participating in business events in order to get acquainted with investment opportunities in Africa.
Notwithstanding the setbacks down these years, Russians are full of optimism. A completely new team was put in place during the meeting hosted by the Russian Business Chamber.
Russian Senator Igor Morozov was elected as the new Chairman of the Coordinating Committee for Economic Cooperation with African States. He is currently the Deputy Chairman of the Federation Council Committee of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation for Science, Education and Culture.
As President of the Russian Chamber of Chamber and Industry, Sergei Katyrin, put it in remarks at the meeting, “the new leader has the primary task now to accelerate Russia’s economic return to this continent, from which we practically left in the 90s and now it is very difficult to increase presence there in Africa.”
According to Katyrin, Russia’s economic presence in Africa today is significantly inferior in comparison to the positions of leading Western countries and BRICS partners. “It’s time to overcome this yawning gap. Today, we face a difficult task to ensure the activities of Russian entrepreneurship on the African continent in the new conditions, taking into account all the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic.”
“The African continent is of strategic interest for the Russian economy,” explained Katyrin. It is enough to cite just a few figures to understand why this region attracts entrepreneurs. Africa has 30 per cent of the world’s mineral reserves, including 70 per cent – platinum group metals, more than 50 types of precious stones, oil and gas reserves, and so forth.
In 2019, six Sub-Saharan African countries ranked among the top 10 fastest growing economies in the world. The potential of African countries is incomparably greater than the current level of their development. Cooperating with Africa, among other things, will contribute to the implementation of the national project to increase non-resource Russian exports to $250 billion.
Katyrin, however, stressed the necessity to resolve the financial mechanism for business. “We need a state financial mechanism to support the work of Russian business in Africa otherwise it will be very difficult to break through the fierce competition of Western companies with such support. We need to focus on those areas where you can definitely count on success,” he told the meeting.
While pointing to lack of business information and the need to get rid of stereotypes about Africa, Sergei Katyrin emphasized that the maximum intensification of work needed right now for the reason that, due to the general economic recession in the world, new companies from all developed countries are rushing with concrete business to new markets emerging in Africa.
In order to move forward and achieve significant success, the reorganized committee has to make double efforts in providing with Russian and African exporters, in both cases or both ways, basis for acquiring adequate knowledge of trade and investment procedures, rules and regulations as well as the existing market conditions.
There are also complicated certification procedures, expensive logistics, security and guarantee issues, and lack of direct aviation connections affecting the entire process of cooperation. The committee has to deal with these challenging questions as it makes the way for boosting Russia’s economic presence in Africa.
On the other hand, it has to work closely with African counterparts on the challenges and opportunities on the continent. Russia is, so far, a closed market for business executives in many African countries. It is difficult to access the Russian market. Africans are doing brisk business in the United States, in Europe and in Asia. All that is necessary here is for Russia and Africa to make consistent efforts to look for new ways, practical efforts at removing existing obstacles that have impeded trade and investment over the years.
In practical reality, resetting a comprehensive African agenda requires extensive work and decisive leadership. With 54 African Union member countries already signed up for the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), gives an additional signal for foreign players seeking to take advantage of this new opportunity in Africa. An undeniable driving factor for consideration is that the AfCFTA has a lot more on offer besides the fact that it creates a single market of 1.3 billion people.
According to Sergei Katyrin, Russia is gradually overcoming the negative consequences of its retreat from Africa in the 90s. The first Russia-Africa summit and economic forum took place in Sochi in October 2019. During summit discussions, African representatives there constantly raised the question of the need for a more active return of Russia to the continent. Africans still have a nostalgic interest towards Russia and Russians are eager to use that as unifying factor. The Soviet Union has had very close and, in many respects, allied relations with most of the countries during the decolonization of Africa.
Kester Kenn Klomegah writes frequently about Russia, Africa and the BRICS.
Cote d’Ivoire Abandons Import Substitution Policy, Goes For Russian Grains, Others
By Kestér Kenn Klomegâh
The Republic of Côte d’Ivoire has abandoned its import substitution policy and other economic measures, including the budgetary allocation for modernizing local agriculture and support for boosting domestic agricultural production. It, however, boasts around 64.8 per cent of arable and agricultural land, which largely remains uncultivated.
Arguably, Côte d’Ivoire, located on the Gulf of Guinea (Atlantic Ocean), could support its fishing industry by spending adequate funds on acquiring simple fishing equipment for local people and even start its own large-scale fish ponds but instead plans to increase fish imports into the country.
It was gathered that the West African country might spend an estimated $100 million on exports of Russian food and agricultural products this second quarter of 2023.
The Russian Agriculture Ministry’s Agroexport Center said it was ready to export such products to Côte d’Ivoire as its market is promising for exports, including grain, fish, sunflower and soybean oil, processed grain products and prepared meat products, among others.
Russian exports of agribusiness products to Côte d’Ivoire more than doubled to $41.6 million in 2021 from $18 million a year earlier, the report said. This included 96,100 tonnes of wheat worth $26.2 million, 12,900 tonnes of fish worth $8.7 million, 1,100 tonnes of sunflower oil worth $1.7 million and 400 tonnes of ice cream worth $0.5 million.
Statistics show that imports from the Côte d’Ivoire are far higher and grew to $237.5 million in 2021 from $223.7 million in 2020, although by the volume they dropped to 72,600 tonnes from 74,500 tonnes. These imports included 43,800 tonnes of cocoa beans worth $141.8 million, 18,100 tonnes of cocoa paste worth $69.3 million and 3,400 tonnes of cocoa powder worth $8.5 million.
“The decrease in Russian imports by volume was due to the reduction of purchases of cocoa beans and cocoa powder. At the same time, cocoa paste imports showed significant growth: 27% by volume and 37.2% by value,” the report said.
Around 7.5 million people made up the workforce. The workforce took a hit, especially in the private sector, with numerous economic crises since the 2000s. Decreasing job markets posed a huge issue as unemployment rates grew.
With rising unemployment, especially among the youth, experts suggested the government engage in economic diversification, focus on support for improving local production. Therefore, preliminary solutions proposed to decrease unemployment included diversifying the economy and increasing financial support in addressing domestic food security.
With an estimated population of 29 million, the economy of Côte d’Ivoire has grown faster than that of most other African countries since independence. One possible reason for this might be taxes on exported agriculture. It is the world’s largest exporter of cocoa beans. In 2021, cocoa-bean farmers earned $2.53 billion for cocoa exports. Generally, it is the fourth-largest exporter of general goods in sub-Saharan Africa (following South Africa, Nigeria, and Angola)
By geographical description, Côte d’Ivoire is a country in western sub-Saharan Africa. It borders Liberia and Guinea in the west, Mali and Burkina Faso in the north, Ghana in the east, and the Gulf of Guinea (Atlantic Ocean).
Cote d’Ivoire Launches Startup Act to Support Ecosystem
By Adedapo Adesanya
Nigeria’s West African neighbour, Cote d’Ivoire, may be the latest country in the African continent to get a Startup Act as the Ivorian government unveiled the framework designed to support the country’s most talented start-ups.
The journey began in 2018, and after much deliberations, in August 2021, startup ecosystem players gathered in the capital Yamoussoukro to develop a local law fostering startups in the West African country.
Two years later, the bill was approved by the Ivorian Council of Ministers, the country’s top executive decision-making body.
The bill, among other things, establishes the terms of financing and support for digital startups under Ivorian law. Its special goal is to support the development and sustainability of these vulnerable enterprises’ creative activity until they reach maturity in order to maximise their contribution to the transformation of the national economy and the quality of life of the people.
To give more weight and visibility to young innovative companies, Côte d’Ivoire announced a new legal framework. The Ivorian Startup Act, which is awaiting parliamentary approval, should soon bring a wind of change in the entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Speaking on this recently following a meeting with stakeholders from Tunisia, the first African country to pass a Startup Act, Florence Tahiri Fadika, who is a technical advisor in charge of innovation and change at the country’s Ministry of Communication and the Digital Economy, said, “A meeting with our Tunisian counterparts during a benchmarking study at the end of 2022 accelerated the process. Tunisia is one of the first countries in Africa to have implemented a Startup Act. Their model is inspiring because it is very operational. The benchmarking mission, organized by the NTF V project, enabled us to benefit from Tunisia’s experience and to identify good practices.”
Following Tunisia’s model, the Ivorian Startup Act is driven by a strong political will and intends to bring concrete results.
“While waiting for the law to be officially voted by our assemblies, we are already working to make the Startup Act a tangible reality. The idea is not to copy the Tunisian legislation but to adapt it to the reality of our economy. A mapping study is underway and should enable us to precisely target the needs of our ecosystem,” Fadika said.
“At the same time, we are developing construction projects for new technology parks and start-up campuses,” she said. “Under the Startup Act, eligible start-ups will be able to benefit from state-of-the-art infrastructure and numerous amenities in order to succeed both regionally and internationally.”
The beneficiary start-ups will be able to access new opportunities in terms of training, financing, promotion, and access to public contracts and international markets.
When it becomes a law, the country will join Tunisia (April 2018), Senegal (December 2019), and Nigeria (October 2022) as African countries with startups backing the legislation.
Africa is Against Economic Colonization—Mudenda
By Kestér Kenn Klomegâh
Parliamentarians from Russia and Africa discussed issues of development of economic cooperation during the first day of their conference March 19 to 20, in Moscow.
The objectives of the conference are to strengthen parliamentary cooperation with African countries in the conditions of formation of a multipolar world, to develop relations and develop common approaches to legal regulation in the economy, science and education and security.
Round table discussions on the topic “Legislative Response to Economic Challenges” was held as part of the International Parliamentary Conference Russia-Africa events.
First Deputy Chairman of the State Duma, Alexander Zhukov, stressed that Africa “is a rapidly developing region with great prospects and that Russia is currently actively working to enhance cooperation with the countries of the African continent.”
“Unlike many Western countries, Russia does not have colonial experience, and the contribution of the Soviet Union to the liberation of African countries from colonial dependence is also well known to everyone,” he explained.
“An important part of the cooperation should be the exchange of legislative experience with African countries in key areas,” he said.
“Our mutual economic interests include investments, cooperation within production chains, cooperation in strategic infrastructure projects, energy, medicine, financial technologies, and that, of course, along with the traditional supply of grain and fertilizers,” said the First Deputy Chairman of the State Duma.
Africa stands for an equal partnership
Jacob Mudenda, the Speaker of the National Assembly of the Republic of Zimbabwe, stressed that there should be a “specific approach” to provide a legislative response to economic challenges.
“Africa has resources, including those that cannot be found in other countries, even in developed ones. That is why Africa is the best investment option,” he said.
“Africa is against economic colonization; Africa stands for equal partnership,” said Jacob Mudenda.
Speaking about legislative issues, he said that the continent needed infrastructure and its development, such as road improvements, rail and air transport.
“If there is no infrastructure, it will be impossible to trade even with developed countries such as Russia and with Africa,” said the Speaker of the National Assembly of the Republic of Zimbabwe.
He also noted the necessity to develop the energy sector for industry and sufficient water for agriculture.
The Chairman of the State Duma Committee on Energy, Pavel Zavalny, said that signing intergovernmental agreements was an important tool of political support for enhancing energy cooperation between Russia and African countries.
He emphasized that energy was one of the most promising areas of economic cooperation between Russia and African states. Economic growth and energy demand are shifting to Asia and Africa in global economic and geopolitical transformation conditions.
“One of the tools for intensifying economic cooperation is political support. Currently, there have been established economic cooperation with 14 countries of the continent at the state level, there were created high-level bilateral commissions, and signed intergovernmental agreements,” stressed Zavalny.
“The development and harmonization of energy legislation can play an important role in enhancing mutually beneficial energy cooperation between Russia and African countries. And that is the work that we should do in the interests of our nations,” concluded the Chairman of the State Duma Committee on Energy.
Multipolar world instead of hegemony
Jean-François Buzonni, a deputy spokesman assistant for the Union of the Congolese Nation (Congo) political party, said he was very pleased that Russia had turned its attention to the African continent, “which for many years has been under the yoke of Western countries.”
“The world no longer lives under the hegemony of one country. We see the transformation processes of a multipolar world,” he stressed.
“I am glad that Russia is seeking to develop equal partnership relations with the countries of the region for the common benefit,” added Jean-François Buzonni.
Transition to national systems of settlement
According to Maxim Topilin, the Chairman of the Committee on Economic Policy, the sanctions and pressure that Russia is experiencing just prove that “any situation in which a country maintains its independent position can lead to the destruction of all economic ties.”
“That should be a lesson to us,” he added.
Topilin said that in relations between Russia and Africa, it is necessary to focus on national systems of settlement. “It is very important not to be based on those standard principles, use those currencies that we used in the framework of joint projects,” he said.
Topilin is convinced that for further cooperation between Russia and Africa, it is necessary to create new international organizations. “We should think about new supranational institutions for recognition, certification, and admission to the markets of certain goods. There is a lot of work that should be done,” said the Chairman of the Committee on Economic Policy.
Topilin also recalled that a draft law on Islamic banking was being prepared for the second reading, and members of the State Duma plan to adopt it during the spring session. “From the point of view of cooperation with Islamic countries, that definitely will be a very serious breakthrough in the financial strategy,” he added.
More than 40 parliamentary delegations from African countries arrived at the conference, which was also attended by members of the State Duma, senators of the Federation Council, and representatives of the educational and business community. The conference was held just a few months before the second Russia-Africa summit, which is planned to be held in July 2023 in Saint Petersburg.
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