Russia’s ‘Return to Africa’ Sparks Policy Controversy


By Kestér Kenn Klomegâh

During Africa Day, celebrated annually on May 25th, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov reiterated that Moscow’s decision to return to Africa is strategic due to the geopolitical changes, and its return has become a popular post-Soviet slogan in Russia’s establishment. The second Russia-Africa summit in St. Petersburg, due in July, is a strategic decision by Moscow concerning its long-term goal of regaining presence on the continent, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov told the local Russian media TASS.

“This is not a one-time event. It is a strategic decision. It is our long-term policy and practice under the slogan of Russia’s return to Africa. Of course, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, some things were lost. There was stagnation in our relations. Some embassies were closed. Now we are actively working to reopen and restore the work of our embassies,” said Bogdanov.

Extensively speaking on several questions with the media on the eve of Africa Day, the Russian diplomat noted that some African countries were more dependent on Western aid than others, but Russia was not imposing anything on anyone because it proceeded from the sovereign equality of the UN member states. Moscow’s role is to help African countries in the UN Security Council and other UN structures, as well as on a bilateral basis, Bogdanov explained.

“In principle, we have equal, good relations with all countries. With some, of course, they are more advanced,” he added and wished African friends, especially on Africa Day, stronger sovereignty and further development so that economic opportunities support this sovereignty. This will let them strengthen political sovereignty in accordance with their genuine national interests and not listen to some outside noise,” Bogdanov said.

What is referred to as Africa Day is celebrated on May 25, the day on which the Organization of African Unity (now the African Union) was established in 1963. Until 2002, when the organization was transformed, it had been Africa Liberation Day. The African Union’s headquarters are located in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

According to official sources, Mikhail Bogdanov is the Russian President’s Special Presidential Representative for the Middle East and Africa, Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister of the Russian Federation. He has served as Deputy Foreign Minister since June 2011, as Special Presidential envoy for the Middle East since January 2012, and as Special Presidential envoy for the Middle East and Africa since October 2014.

In practical terms, Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov’s critical assessment of Russia’s return to Africa, the goals of signing several bilateral agreements which remain unimplemented, decades-old pledges and promises undelivered, anti-Western rhetoric and hyperbolic criticisms of foreign players which form the main component of Russia’s policy – these indicating the slogan of Russia’s return to Africa. Beyond its traditional rhetoric of Soviet-era assistance rendered to sub-Saharan African countries, Russia has little to show as post-Soviet achievements in contemporary Africa.

At least, Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Foreign Minister Qin Gang have indicated on their side that Africa is not the field for confrontation but rather the field for cooperation to uplift its development to an appreciable level. China has heavily invested in developing infrastructure in different economic sectors. Its slogan ‘win-win’ cooperation and ‘share common future’ have shown visible results across Africa.

During these past years, there have been several meetings of various bilateral intergovernmental commissions and conferences both in Moscow and in Africa. Official visits to and from proliferate only end up with the display of eternal passion for signing documents called Memoranda of Understandings and bilateral agreements with African countries. From the highly-praised historic first summit held in 2019, there are 92 agreements.

Currently, the signs for Russia-African relations are impressive – declarations of intentions have been made, and a lot of important bilateral agreements signed; now it remains to be seen how these intentions and agreements entered into over these years will be implemented in practice, argued Professors Vladimir Shubin and Alexandra Arkhangelskaya from the Institute for African Studies.

“The most significant positive sign is that Russia has moved away from its low-key strategy to strong relations, and authorities are seriously showing readiness to compete with other foreign players. But, Russia needs to find a strategy that reflects the practical interests of Russian business and African development needs,” said Arkhangelskaya, a Lecturer at the Moscow High School of Economics.

Several authentic research reports have criticised Russia’s policy in Africa. As expected, those weaknesses were compiled and incorporated in the ‘Situation Analytical Report’ by 25 policy researchers headed by Professor Sergey Karaganov, Faculty Dean at Moscow’s High School of Economics. This 150-page report was presented in November 2021, offering new directions and recommendations for improving policy methods and approaches with Africa.

With about 1.3 billion people, Africa is a potential market for all consumable goods and services. In the coming decades, there will be accelerated competition between or among external players over access to resources and economic influence in Africa. Despite the growth of external players’ influence and presence in Africa, says the report, Russia has to intensify and redefine its parameters as it has now transcended to the fifth stage. Russia’s Africa policy is roughly divided into four periods, previously after the Soviet collapse in 1991.

Now in the fifth stage, still marking time to leverage to the next when it would begin to show visible results. While the number of high-level meetings has increased, the share of substantive issues on the agenda remains small. There are few definitive results from such various meetings and conferences. Apart from the absence of a public strategy for the continent, there is a shortage of qualified personnel and a lack of coordination among various state and para-state institutions working with Africa. The report lists insufficient and disorganized Russian-African lobbying, combined with the lack of “information hygiene” at all levels of public speaking, among the main flaws of Russia’s current African policy.

Another policy report, titled ‘Ways to Increase the Efficiency of Russia’s African Strategy under the Crisis of the Existing World Order’ (ISSN 1019-3316, Herald of the Russian Academy of Sciences, 2022), co-authored by Professors Irina O. Abramova and Leonid L. Fituni castigated or reprimanded authorities who are squeezed between illusions and realities with policy ambitions in Africa. Against the backdrop of geopolitical changes and great power competition, Russian authorities need to have an insight/understanding into the practical investment and economic possibilities on the continent.

The authors said that: “It is time for Russia, which over the past 30 years has unsuccessfully sought to become part of the West, to abandon illusions and reconsider its foreign economic and policy strategy, reorienting itself to states that are turning from outsiders into significant players in the international political and economic space and are willing to interact with our country on a mutually beneficial and equal basis.”

In addition, the report underlined the fact that Russia’s elite demonstrates a somewhat arrogant attitude toward Africa. High-ranking officials have often used the phrase ‘We (that is, Russia) are not Africa’ to oppose attempts at changing the status quo to change the approach toward Africa. Despite the thoughtless imposition of the idea that Africa is the most backward and problematic region of the world in Russian public opinion, qualified Africanists – including Western experts, call Africa the continent of the 21st century: attributing this to the stable growth rates of the African economy over the past 20 years, and the colossal resource and human potential of the African region.

The report acknowledges the fact that African countries consider Russia as a reliable economic partner, and it is necessary to interact with African public and private businesses on a mutually beneficial basis. In this regard, Russian initiatives should be supported by real steps and not be limited to verbal declarations about the “return of Russia to Africa,” especially after the Sochi gathering, which was described as very symbolic.

The authors, however, warned that due to the failure on Russia’s side to show financial commitment, African leaders and elites from the Anglophone, Francophone and Lusophone nations will still be loyal and inseparably linked by nostalgic post-colonial master relationships. And this relates to the furtherance of economic investment and development, education and training – all to be controlled by the former colonial powers as African leaders choose development partners with funds to invest in the economy.

South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA) has its latest policy report on Russia-African relations. It shows the dimensions of Russian power projection in Africa and new frontiers of Russian influence and provides a roadmap towards understanding how Russia is perceived in Africa. It highlights narratives about anti-colonialism and describes how Russian elites transmit these sources of solidarity to their African public. To seek long-term influence, Russian elites have often used elements of anti-colonialism as part of the current policy to control the perceptions of Africans and primarily as new tactics for power projection in Africa.

The reports delved into the historical fact that after the collapse of the Soviet era, already over three decades, Russia is resurgent in Africa. While Russia has been struggling to make inroads into Africa these years, the only symbolic event was the first Russia-Africa summit held in Sochi, which fêted heads of state from 43 African countries and showcased Moscow’s great power ambitions.

The authors further wrote that “Russia’s growing assertiveness in Africa is a driver of instability and that its approach to governance encourages pernicious practices, such as kleptocracy and autocracy promotion, and the dearth of scholarship on Moscow’s post-1991 activities in Africa is striking.” Records further show that Russia kept a low profile for two decades after the Soviet collapse. Russia’s expanding influence in Africa is compelling, but further examination reveals a murkier picture. Despite Putin’s lofty trade targets, Russia’s trade with Africa is just $20 billion, lower than that of India or Turkey.

In the context of a multipolar geopolitical order, Russia’s image of cooperation could be seen as highly enticing, but it is also based on illusions. Better still, Russia’s posture is a clash between illusions and reality. “Russia, it appears, is a neo-colonial power dressed in anti-colonial clothes,” says the report. Simply put, Moscow’s strategic incapability, inconsistency and dominating opaque relations are adversely affecting sustainable developments in Africa. Thus far, Russia looks more like a ‘virtual great power’ than a genuine challenger to European, American and Chinese influence.

Of course, Russian-African relations have been based on long-standing traditions of friendship and solidarity, created when the Soviet Union supported the struggle of African peoples against colonialism. Since Africans are struggling to transform their economy and take care of the 1.3 billion population, the bulk is still impoverished. African leaders must remember their election campaign pledges made to the electorate while still holding political power.

Unlike Western countries, European Union members and Asian countries, which focus particularly on what they want to achieve with Africa, Russia places the anti-colonial fight at the core of its policy. In short, Russia knows what it wants from the continent: access to markets, political support against Ukraine and general influence in the continent. It is time for African leaders to clarify what it wants concretely from Russia during the July 2023 Russia-Africa summit.

Related Stories

Adesina Seeks More Investment in Africa’s Renewable Energy

By Adedapo Adesanya African Development Bank (AfDB) President, Mr Akinwumi Adesina, has called for investments in renewable energy in Africa, pointing out the continent’s rich energy mix. In his keynote address (on September 4) during a session on Harnessing Africa’s renewable energy potential’, held at the ongoing Africa Climate Summit in Nairobi, Kenya, Mr Adesina stressed that “Every economy can only go as far as the energy it produces.” Mr Adesina underlined Africa’s tremendous potential in energy—from hydro and wind power, solar, to geothermal—which remains untapped in the face of a staggering electricity deficit on the continent. Africa has an


Coup: AU Suspends Gabon After Military Ousts Ali Bongo

By Adedapo Adesanya The African Union (AU) has suspended Gabon’s participation in all of its activities following Wednesday’s military takeover. The decision followed a meeting on Thursday of the bloc’s Peace and Security Council. The military in Gabon on Wednesday (August 29) seized power and placed President Ali Bongo, 64, under house arrest. The AU said it strongly condemns the junta, which is the ninth on the continent in the last three years. After the takeover, the Gabonese junta said it would phase in what it is calling transitional institutions after the removal of President Bongo, who had held onto


Gabon: New Leader Promises Reforms After Ali Bongo Ouster

By Adedapo Adesanya The leader of the coup that ousted Gabon’s President, Mr Ali Bongo, Mr Brice Oligui Nguema, has promised to bring reforms as he was sworn in as interim president of the central African country on Monday. In Africa’s ninth coup in three years, army officers led by Mr Nguema (a general) seized power on August 30, minutes after an announcement that Mr Bongo had won his third term election in his 14 years as president. According to reports, Mr Nguema, a cousin of the deposed Garbonese leader, was given a standing ovation by military officers and officials


Why Egypt, Ethiopia’s Inclusion in BRICS is Strategic—Arnold Boateng

Kestér Kenn Klomegâh South Africa hosted the 15th BRICS summit from August 22 to 24. The BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) members have thoroughly discussed a wide range of significant issues, including the bloc’s expansion, common currency, investment and trade, the bloc’s strategy and geo-policy. We already know that BRICS members consistently champion the rights and interests of Africa and also play an increasing role and influence in the global governance system – particularly international financial and economic organisations. Holding the 15th summit, especially this crucial time, within the context of the emerging multipolar world, BRICS discussed

More Stories

Asha Mweru Mbowa to Lead AMI Enterprise as Managing Director

By Modupe Gbadeyanka A leading business learning company, African Management Institute (AMI), has appointed Mrs Asha Mweru Mbowa as the Managing Director of its newly launched AMI Enterprise, a new division dedicated to boosting workplace and professional skills for growth-stage and established companies. The Kenyan national was promoted to the new position from her role as AMI’s Director of Operations and Talent, where she oversaw a 118 per cent growth of AMI employees from 2020 to 2022. Her promotion continues the precedent set by AMI in which women represent over 60 per cent of all senior leadership positions at AMI.


SEC Mulls e-Dividend Fee in Bank Charges

By Adedapo Adesanya The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has urged the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to include electronic Dividend Mandate Management System (e-DMMS) charges in its Guideline for Bank Charges. The Acting Director-General of the SEC, Ms Mary Uduk, made this disclosure at the end of the Second Quarter Capital Market Committee Meeting (CMC) in Lagos during the weekend. She explained that the CBN has published charges for the banks, which means that any transactions carried out by any bank has an established charge. The agency also announced that considerable progress has been made in the implementation of


Unlisted Securities Market Closes 0.59% in Positive Territory

By Adedapo Adesanya The unlisted securities trading on the NASD Over-the-Counter (OTC) Securities Exchange ended on a positive note on Monday, February 20, with a 0.59 per cent appreciation. The growth was boosted by two stocks, which bolstered the market capitalisation of the bourse by N5.53 billion during the session to N941.47 billion from N935.94 billion. In the same vein, they raised the NASD Unlisted Securities Index (NSI) by 4.2 points to wrap the session at 716.48 points compared with 712.28 points in the previous session. According to data from the exchange, FrieslandCampina Wamco Nigeria Plc topped the gainers’ chart


Fire Razes Phil Hallmark Supermarket In Edo

By Modupe Gbadeyanka Tragedy was let loose on Sunday morning in Benin City, the Edo State capital, when fire gutted the popular Phil Hallmark Supermarket in the ancient city. Eyewitnesses claimed that the inferno started at about 3:05am on Sunday, December 11, 2016, destroying items worth millions of Naira. Phil Hallmark Supermarket, located along Sapele Road close to the Kada Plaza roundabout, is arguably the biggest mall in Benin City. However, the cause of the inferno is yet to be known, but the fire completely burnt down one part of the twin building.


COVID-19 Cases in Africa Near 13,000 in 52 Countries

By Adedapo Adeesanya Coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in Africa neared 13,000 on Saturday, the Africa Centre for Diseases Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) has said. The agency disclosed that as at Saturday, April 11 – 12,973 cases were confirmed across the continent with a total of 693 deaths on record and 2,064 recoveries. Globally there are 1.7 million cases, with 103,790 deaths and 388,684 recoveries. A further breakdown showed that out of the 54 countries in Africa, 52 countries have reported cases of the virus, while only two countries – Lesotho and Comoros have been spared for now. Nigeria, as at


Ganduje Seals $3b Investment Deals with 10 Firms

By Dipo Olowookere The second edition of the Kano Economic and Investment Summit, which ended on Wednesday, May 24, 2017, can in every ramification be said to be largely successful going by the worth of deals sealed by the state government through the event. Not less than 10 local and international investors used the occasion to sign formal bilateral agreements with the state government under the leadership of Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje for investment in various economic sub-sectors in the state. It was gathered that the biggest of all was the sealing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the state


Why Investors Should Quickly Buy These Stocks

By Dipo Olowookere Retail investors in the Nigerian equities market have been urged to jump into train to take advantage of the low prices some stocks are presently trading. Giving this advice was Managing Director of APT Securities, Mr Garba Kurfi, in an interview with Vanguard Newspapers. Mr Kurfi said, “I think the retail investors should take advantage of the market. Most of the stocks are trading in lower Price/Earnings (PE) ratio and when you look at the earnings, most of them are trading at PE (x) ratio of 3.4, which is far below what is obtainable in other frontier


Nigeria’s Foreign Debt Hits $15.4b as Domestic Debt Rises to $40.9b

By Dipo Olowookere Data released yesterday by the Debt Management Office (DMO) showed that Nigeria’s external debt profile has increased to $15.35 billion. This figure, according to the debt office, is what the Africa’s largest economy owes as at September 30, 2017. This amount also reflects a marginal rise of 1.9 percent from $15.05 billion the foreign debt closed as at June 30, 2017. A breakdown of the details as released by the DMO on Tuesday showed that Nigeria owes international financial institutions a total of $9.9 billion. These bodies include World Bank, African Development Bank (AfDB) and others. Also,

Recent Stories

September PMI: Nigeria’s Business Activity Improves

By Modupe Gbadeyanka Nigeria’s business activity improved in September despite cost pressures limiting demand, according to the latest Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) released by Stanbic IBTC Bank Plc. The lender said in the period under review, the private sector had a reading of 51.1 points compared with the 50.2 points achieved in August 2023. It was the rise in business activity in the country was influenced by the growth in order, though the rates of expansion in each were only modest. New orders increased for the sixth month running in September as some firms signalled an improvement in demand. While


Agostini, Two Others Win 2023 Nobel Prize in Physics for Attosecond Pulses

By Adedapo Adesanya Three scientists will share the Nobel Prize in Physics as the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences recognised Pierre Agostini, Ferenc Krausz and Anne L’Huillier as this year’s recipients for experimental methods that generate attosecond pulses of light for the study of electron dynamics in matter. The three Nobel Laureates in Physics 2023 were recognised for their experiments, which have given humanity new tools for exploring the world of electrons inside atoms and molecules. BREAKING NEWSThe Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has decided to award the 2023 #NobelPrize in Physics to Pierre Agostini, Ferenc Krausz and Anne L’Huillier


Nigeria Targets 22% ICT Contribution to GDP by 2027

By Adedapo Adesanya Nigeria plans to increase the net contribution of the telecommunications sector to the gross domestic product (GDP) by 22 per cent by the end of 2027. This is part of efforts announced by the Minister of Communications, Innovation and Digital Economy, Mr Bosun Tijani, in the ministry’s 31-page Strategic Blueprint document titled Accelerating our Collective Prosperity through Technical Efficiency, seen by Business Post. In the document, the ministry noted that “As telecommunications continues to evolve in line with new technology and associated opportunities, it is critical to revamp our national approach to account for changing imperatives and


Union Bank, Fate Foundation Empower SMEs in Nigeria

By Modupe Gbadeyanka Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in Nigeria recently had the opportunity to gain more knowledge on how to scale their operations at a training organised by the Fate Foundation Alumni Conference. The event, in its 8th edition, was bankrolled by one of the leading financial institutions in the country, Union Bank of Nigeria Plc. It was gathered that at the programme, participants, including chief executive officers of major businesses, SME and MSME owners, exhibitors, and Fate Foundation Alumni shared knowledge on crucial topical subjects essential for entrepreneurial growth and success from seasoned entrepreneurial leaders and influencers. At


Stock Market Witnesses N30.379 billion Transactions in Four Days

By Dipo Olowookere Transactions worth N30.379 billion were recorded at the Nigerian Exchange (NGX) Limited last week, which had four trading sessions due to the public holiday observed last Wednesday for Eid-el Maulud. Data obtained by Business Post showed that the stock market posted these trades from the sale of 3.911 billion shares in 38,536 deals. When compared with the preceding week, which had five trading days, the value of transactions weakened by 36.00 per cent, as investors bought and sold 2.933 billion shares valued at N47.449 billion in 44,654 deals. A breakdown indicated that the financial services industry led


Schneider Electric Shares Insights on Improving Customer Satisfaction

In recognition of Customer Service Week 2023 (October 2 – 6), Schneider Electric shares valuable insights on improving customer satisfaction. Ajibola Akindele, Country President, Schneider Electric, West Africa, shares strategies and insights on how Schneider Electric has built long-lasting customer relations over the years through customer satisfaction. How would you describe Customer Service? The heart of Schneider Electric is its customer service. It represents our guiding principles and is essential to how we conduct business every day. At Schneider Electric, we consider providing exceptional customer service to be more than just a department, but rather a part of who we


NDIC Begins Payment of N16.18bn to Depositors of 20 Failed Banks

By Adedapo Adesanya The Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) has disclosed playing N16.18 billion in liquidation dividends to depositors, creditors, and stakeholders of 20 banks in liquidation. According to a statement from the corporation’s Director of Communication and Public Affairs, Mr Bashir Nuhu, this follows impressive recoveries from debtors and the realisation of assets of banks in liquidation. As a result, the NDIC, which is responsible for protecting depositors and guaranteeing the settlement of insured funds when a deposit-taking financial institution can no longer repay their deposits, said it had commenced verification and payment of stakeholders covered by the declarations


NASD Index Rises 0.83% in Week 39

By Adedapo Adesanya The NASD Over-the-Counter (OTC) Securities Exchange closed Week 39 mixed as the unlisted securities index rose by 0.83 per cent, while the market capitalisation depreciated by 2.63 per cent after VFD Group Plc finally delisted after three years of trading on the platform. According to data from the bourse, the NASD index went up by 6.70 points to 815.65 points from 808.95 points, while the value of the exchange shrank by N30 billion to N1.110 trillion from N1.140 trillion. In the week, Nipco Plc improved its value by 9.8 per cent to close at N95.00 per share


Norwegian Start-up Invests $13m in WATT Renewable

By Aduragbemi Omiyale A Norwegian start-up, Empower New Energy, has injected about $13 million into a Nigerian hybrid solar solutions provider, WATT Renewable Corporation, to reduce the country’s carbon footprint through innovative technologies. A statement from WATT said the funds would be used to improve the renewable energy portfolio, adding an impressive 8MW of installed generating capacity and 14.3MWh of storage capacity through end-to-end services and operation of towers in Nigeria. The firm stated that this is set to make a substantial impact on the availability and reliability of clean energy in the region and reduce the consumption of diesel


Naira Value Appreciates at P2P as Bitcoin Trades Above $27000

By Adedapo Adesanya The Naira appreciated against the US Dollar in the Peer-2-Peer (P2P) wing of the foreign exchange market on Monday, October 2, as the official market, the Investors and Exporters (I&E) window closed for the Independence Day holiday. In the P2P segment, the Nigerian Naira appreciated against the American currency by N3 to sell at N998/$1 compared with the preceding session’s value of N1,001/$1. In the same vein, the local currency improved its value against the US Dollar on Tuesday by N1 to sell at N1001/$1 versus the previous session’s exchange rate of N1002/$1. During the Independence Day