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Russia’s Strategic Interest in Eritrea

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Osman Saleh and Sergey Lavrov Russia's strategic interest

By Kester Kenn Klomegah

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has reaffirmed Russia’s strategic interest to make coordinated efforts aimed at building a logistics hub along the coastline of the Republic of Eritrea during diplomatic talks attended by Foreign Minister of the State of Eritrea Osman Saleh who, on April 27, paid a working visit to Moscow.

Ahead of the diplomatic talks, there was the speculation that Russia would use Eritrea but voted against the United Nations resolution on March 2. In late February, Russia started “special military operations” directed at demilitarizing and denazifying in the post-Soviet republic of Ukraine.

After the heated debates and discussions, the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly adopted a resolution demanding that Russia immediately end its military operations in Ukraine. According to reports, the Assembly had all 193 UN Member States in attendance. A total of 141 countries voted in favour of the resolution, which reaffirms Ukrainian sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity.

Reports say that Africa, however, presented a divided front that was reflected in the attitude toward voting. Out of the 35 countries that abstained from voting, 17 (nearly half) were Africans. Twenty-eight African countries voted in favour, seven others did not participate in the vote, while Eritrea backed Russia. Eritrea’s expression of support has policy significance for Russia. It glaringly showcases its expression of traditional friendly interest and solidarity.

With the changing global politics, Russia and Eritrea noted the similarity of views on the main current issues, including the importance of making international affairs more democratic and ensuring the right of nations to choose their own future, their political and socio-economic development paths and models, Lavrov said during the joint media conference.

“We presented our views on the situation in and around Ukraine. We pointed out that the goal of our actions is to protect people from the military threat posed by the Kyiv regime and to demilitarize and denazify that country. We expressed appreciation for Eritrea’s objective and responsible position regarding the situation in Ukraine,” he said.

Highlighting the general developments in the African Horn region, Lavrov reassured Moscow’s continuous contribution towards stronger stability and security in Africa, including on the basis of the African Solutions to African Problems principle.

Both ministers reviewed some aspects of preparations for the second Russia-Africa summit during the third quarter of 2022. On economic cooperation, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in its official media statements, said the agenda for Russia-Eritrea cooperation has a key focus on the implementation of potential joint projects, including the logistics hub in Asmara.

Eritrea, bordered by Ethiopia in the south, Sudan in the west, and Djibouti in the southeast, has an extensive coastline along the Red Sea. It could be the busiest shipping lane, with the controlling access to the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean. The commercial activities revolve around this strategic location as a transit point and the strategic location also makes the country prime for an increased military presence. This is the strategic importance for Russia.

Against this backdrop, Lavrov and Sahel have previously discussed this logistics project. For instance, 0n August 31, 2018, Lavrov held talks with Saleh in the southern city of Sochi. In fact, the year 2018 marked 25 years of diplomatic relations between Russia and Eritrea.

Lavrov spoke extensively about economic cooperation. According to him, Russia’s truck maker KAMAZ was already working in Eritrea, supplying its products to that country, as was Gazprombank Global Resources, which was building cooperation in the banking sector. In the same year 2018, concrete talks were held to build a logistics centre at the port of Eritrea, which makes the world’s class logistics and services hub for maritime transportation through the Suez Canal and definitely set to promote bilateral trade.

Still that same year, Eritrea was interested in opening a Russian language department at one of the universities in the capital of the country, Asmara. Lavrov further indicated: “We agreed to take extra measures to promote promising projects in the sphere of mining and infrastructure development and to supply specialized transport and agricultural equipment to Eritrea.”

According to the official website of the Foreign Ministry, the information posted in 2018 to media questions concerning the Russian side that noted positive trends on the Horn of Africa, and steps being taken by both sides to settle conflicts in the region, Lavrov replied: “we cooperate in many diverse areas: natural resources, all types of energy engineering, including nuclear and hydroelectric energy, and new sources of energy, infrastructure in all its aspects, medicine, the social sphere, transport and many more.”

Regarding the conflicts in the Horn of Africa, Lavrov pointed back in 2018 that “Eritrea and Ethiopia are our longstanding partners. We wish them success in stepping up the normalization process that will benefit all, including the people of both countries, in the economy as well.”

Russia and Eritrea have shown interest in deepening the inter-state dialogue and economic cooperation, objective conditions exist for enhanced interaction between our two countries in the international arena. The Republic of Eritrea plays an important role in sub-regional affairs. As already known, despite its location, it has some competitive advantages and at the same time a number of problems with its neighbour Ethiopia.

The undemarcated border with Ethiopia is the primary external issue facing Eritrea. Its relations with Ethiopia turned from that of cautious mutual tolerance, following the 30-year war for Eritrean independence, to a deadly rivalry that led to the outbreak of hostilities from May 1998 to June 2000 which claimed approximately 70,000 lives from both sides. A peace treaty between both nations was signed on 8 July 2018, formally ending the conflict with Ethiopia.

Eritrea is now a member of the African Union. The Eritrean government previously withdrew its representative to the African Union to protest the AU’s alleged lack of leadership in facilitating the implementation of a binding border decision demarcating the border between Eritrea and Ethiopia. The Eritrean government has since January 2011 appointed an envoy, Tesfa-Alem Tekle, to the African Union.

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UK’s Royal Mint Releases King Charles III Coins

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Royal Mint king charles

By Adedapo Adesanya

On Friday, Britain’s Royal Mint unveiled King Charles III’s official effigy that will appear on coins following his accession to the throne.

The effigy is the work of British sculptor, Mr Martin Jennings, and was personally approved by the new king.

The first coins bearing the king’s portrait will be a special £5 coin and a 50 pence coin commemorating the life of Queen Elizabeth II.

Mr Jennings said his portrait was sculpted from a photograph of King Charles, in which he is facing left on the coin, in keeping with a tradition that sees each successive monarch switch profile.

In line with royal tradition, King Charles’ portrait faces to the left, the opposite direction to his late mother.

He is not wearing a crown, which previous kings also did not, though Queen Elizabeth II did in the five coins produced during her reign.

“It is the smallest work I have created, but it is humbling to know it will be seen and held by people around the world for centuries to come,” he said.

The text on the new coin says “CHARLES III • D • G • REX • F • D • 5 POUNDS • 2022,” a shortening of the Latin “King Charles III, by the Grace of God, Defender of the Faith.”

The existing 29 billion coins featuring the queen in circulation in the UK, as well as in Commonwealth countries, including Australia, New Zealand and Canada, will remain legal tender and be phased out naturally and over time with use.

The image of King Charles will begin to appear on coins in circulation and on commemorative pieces in the coming months, the Royal Mint said in a statement.

Two new portraits of Elizabeth will feature on the reverse of the commemorative five pound coin.

The Royal Mint has been responsible for depicting monarchs on coins for over 1,100 years since Alfred the Great.

Queen Elizabeth II died on September 8 following a record-breaking 70 years on the throne.

Mr Kevin Clancy, director of the Royal Mint Museum, said the late queen had appeared on more coins than any other British monarch.

“Over the coming years, it will become common for people to find coins bearing His Majesty and Queen Elizabeth II’s effigy in their change,” he said.

The Royal Mint said historically, it had been commonplace for coins featuring the effigies of different monarchs to co-circulate.

“This ensures a smooth transition, with minimal environmental impact and cost.”

There are currently around 27 billion coins circulating in the UK bearing the effigy of Queen Elizabeth II.

“These will be replaced over time as they become damaged or worn and to meet demand for additional coins,” the Royal Mint added.

The Royal Mint, which has made coins featuring the monarch for over 1,100 years and is Britain’s oldest company, said it would be available to collectors next week and in general use before the end of the year.

King Charles ascended to the throne following the death of Queen Elizabeth II, his mother and earlier this week, the palace said the cause of death recorded on her birth certificate was “old age.”

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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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UST, Luna Founder Dodges Arrest as Interpol Issues Red Notice

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Luna TerraUST

By Adedapo Adesanya

In what is the latest scandal in the cryptocurrency industry, Mr Do Kwon, the founder of Terraform Labs, has said that he is not on the run from South Korean authorities after the country’s prosecutors’ office said it had received an international arrest warrant on him.

Mr Kwon’s company was behind the algorithmic stablecoin TerraUSD or UST and its sister token Luna which, combined, were worth around $60 billion and in May collapsed to near-to-nothing.

The collapse of Terra cryptocurrency (Luna) and the so-called stablecoin TerraUSD (UST) wiped out investors’ money, prompting an uproar that caused the prosecutors to launch investigations into Kwon and his colleagues.

South Korea has been seeking Mr Kwon’s arrest since earlier this month. But prosecutors in the country have alleged that he is on the run.

On Tuesday, a spokesperson for the Seoul Southern District Prosecutors’ Office in South Korea’s capital city said that global law enforcement agency Interpol has issued a “Red Notice” for Mr Kwon.

Red Notices are issued for fugitives wanted either for prosecution or to serve a sentence, according to Interpol. The notice is a request to law enforcement worldwide to locate and arrest the person in question. This could then lead to extradition.

Mr Kwon, however, said he was not on the run, using his Twitter account to hit back at authorities.

“I’m writing code in my living room hbu,” Mr Kwon tweeted in reply to someone asking about his whereabouts.

Mr Kwon insisted he is making “zero effort to hide,” saying he goes on walks and to malls.

He also said he does not see his name on Interpol’s “Red Notice” list, a statement that can be contested since the international agency does not always make these notices public.

While Mr Kwon’s Twitter location says he is in Singapore, the Singapore Police Force said that Mr Kwon was not in the country earlier this month.

The South Korean prosecutors said the purpose of the Red Notice is to locate Kwon, bring him back to South Korea and then officials will decide within 48 hours whether to issue an arrest warrant for him.

South Korea issued an arrest warrant for the founder earlier this month, a move that saw many investors sell their positions in the revived Luna token.

“We are in the process of defending ourselves in multiple jurisdictions — we have held ourselves to an extremely high bar of integrity and look forward to clarifying the truth over the next few months,” Mr Kwon said in a tweet this month.

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