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Some Reflections on Russia’s Economic Policy with Africa

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Russia's economic policy

By Kestér Kenn Klomegâh

During the September ceremony to receive foreign ambassadors, Russian leader Vladimir Putin offered spiteful goal-setting policy outlines and some aspects of lofty Russia’s economic policy directions for Africa. Most of these directions considered significant have, over these years, featured prominently in all his previous speeches on Russia’s relations with Africa.

On September 20, in the St Alexander Hall of the Grand Kremlin Palace, Putin received letters of credence from 24 newly-arrived ambassadors, including nine from Africa (Algeria, Egypt, DR Congo, Libya, Mali, Senegal, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda). By tradition, Putin briefly characterised the relations between Russia and countries whose envoys came to the Kremlin ceremony.

In a grandiose style, Putin gave a line-up of cheerful-looking ambassadors a step-by-step account of the global situation, the necessity for Russia’s “special military operation” in neighbouring Ukraine, questions relating to regional security, and economic instability due to rising prices for energy and commodities. He underscored the development of multipolar and more democratic and fair world order had entered its active phase.

“Regrettably, the objective movement towards multipolarity has come up against resistance from those trying to preserve their dominant role in international affairs and to control everything – Latin America, Europe, Asia and Africa,” Putin said.

Referencing the current international situation with an emphasis on the critical regional problems of the African continent and the bilateral relations of African countries whose ambassadors were accredited to the Russian Federation, Putin stressed “the importance of the upcoming second Russia-Africa summit in St. Petersburg in 2023 for strengthening diverse relations between Russia and African countries.”

Putin further touched on Moscow’s efforts to restore its geopolitical foothold on the continent after the historical collapse of the Soviet era. While the summit is considered a significant development for Russia’s power-wielding ambitions, Putin strongly reminded African ambassadors that the second Russia-Africa summit is scheduled to be held in St Petersburg in 2023. “We hope that together we will be able to give a new impetus to the comprehensive development of mutually beneficial cooperation between Russia and the African states,” he said.

Significant to note here that at the far end of the first summit, Russia and Africa issued a joint declaration; among the questions was to hold the summit every three years. Both Russia and Africa could not hold the summit during its third year, and both Russia and Africa failed to choose the summit venue. While reasons were not assigned for this sharp inconsistency, policy experts suggested either the Central African Republic (CAR) or the Republic of Mali could hold the summit. CAR and Mali are “reliable Russia’s partners,” and holding the summit would have resonating effects.

During his speech, Putin invited the President of Algeria Abdelmadjid Tebboune, to visit Russia. Understandably, Algeria is Russia’s second-largest trading partner in Africa regarding trade volume. And trade and economic cooperation continue to develop actively, as well as ties in other areas, including military-technical and cultural ties. Reports say Russia supports Algeria’s balanced regional and international affairs policy and continues to work together towards strengthening stability in the Middle East, North Africa and the Sahara-Sahel region.

“We consistently build friendly relations with Egypt under the fundamental Agreement on Comprehensive Partnership and Strategic Cooperation signed in 2018. We view Egypt as one of our most important partners in Africa and the Arab world. We are in constant contact with President Sisi,” according to Putin.

The intergovernmental commission has been working, promoting trade growth, which increased by more than 40 per cent in the first six months of this year. Large joint projects are being implemented, such as constructing the El Dabaa nuclear power plant and creating a Russian industrial zone near the Suez Canal. There is a regular political dialogue and close foreign policy coordination. Within the general policy framework, Russia does not grant concessionary loans and has not publicly allocated a budget for Africa.

But in this exceptional case, Russia and Egypt signed an agreement, and the total cost of construction is fixed at $30 billion. Russia provides Egypt with a loan of $25 billion, which will cover 85% of the work. The Egyptian side will cover the remaining expenses by attracting private investors. Under the agreement, Egypt is to start payments on the loan, which was provided at 3% per annum, in October 2029.

Ambassador Harouna Samake (Republic of Mali) was among the envoys in the Kremlin and listened attentively as Putin welcomed the intention of the leadership of the Republic of Mali to form a long-term strategic partnership with Russia and develop mutually beneficial ties.

During a detailed telephone conversation in August with Interim President Assimi Goïta, Putin agreed to continue joint efforts in countering international terrorism and religious extremism. He further pledged that Russia would continue to provide the Malian people with comprehensive assistance and support in various ways.

The same diplomatic rhetoric praised Russia’s relations with Uganda, one of Russia’s reliable partners in Africa. The United Republic of Tanzania has listed promising spheres such as peaceful nuclear research, transport, energy and tourism. These spheres have been on Russia’s list for many other African countries.

Over the years, Russia has performed dismally in Africa’s transport and energy sector. In theory, it has expressed heightened interest in exploring and producing oil and gas in Africa. But so far, its investment efforts are not seen in the region. Russia claims the leading position as an energy supplier and is now rapidly diversifying its products at discounted prices to the Asian market. Therefore, it is logical that African leaders should not expect much from the Russian Federation in this oil and gas (energy) sector.

Currently, all African countries have a serious energy crisis. Over 620 million in Sub-Saharan Africa do not have electricity out of 1.3 billion people. In this context, several African countries are exploring nuclear energy as part of the solution. Three decades after the Soviet collapse, not a single nuclear plant has been completed in Africa.

Some still advocate for alternative energy supply. Gabby Asare Otchere-Darko, Founder and Executive Director of Danquah Institute, a non-profit organization that promotes policy initiatives and advocates for Africa’s development, wrote in an email that “Africa needs expertise and knowledge transfer that can assist Africa to develop its physical infrastructure, add value to two of its key resources: natural resources and human capital.”

Russia has respectable expertise in one key area for Africa: energy development. “But, has Russia the courage, for instance, to take on the stalled $8-$10 billion Inga-3 hydropower project on the Congo river? This is the kind of development project that can vividly send out a clear signal to African leaders and governments that Russia is, indeed, ready for business,” he said in an interview discussion.

The renewable energy potential is enormous in Africa, citing the Democratic Republic of Congo Grand Inga Dam. Grand Inga is the world’s largest proposed hydropower scheme. It is a grand vision to develop a continent-wide power system. Grand Inga-3 is expected to have an electricity-generating capacity of about 40,000 megawatts – nearly twice as much as the 20 largest nuclear power stations. The cost of building nuclear power does not make sense when compared to the cost of building renewables or other energy sources to solve energy shortages in Africa.

With high optimism and a high desire to strengthen its geopolitical influence, Russia has engaged in sloganism, and many of its signed agreements have not been implemented. The joint declaration adopted at the first summit is intended to raise the African agenda of Russia’s foreign policy to a new level and remains the main document determining the conceptual framework of Russian-African cooperation. Many remain as submit paperwork. China, Japan, India, the United States, the European Union and other players are progressively implementing their African strategies.

Over the years, Russia has shown high interest in Libya, whose ambassador, Emhemed Almaghrawi (State of Libya), was part of the Kremlin ceremony in September. Over the years, Russia has struggled to improve its bilateral political and economic dialogue and cooperation with that North African country. It has faced many pitfalls and obstacles, though.

“We attach great importance to relations with Libya and are interested in a fair and lasting settlement of the protracted internal conflict in that country. Russia will continue to support Libya’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and help the friendly Libyan people defend their right to a decent life, peace and security. As the internal situation in Libya stabilises, we look forward to resuming bilateral cooperation in various fields,” Putin said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov condemned the Atlantic alliance when he spoke to students at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations in Moscow on September 1. Russia claims it lost billions of dollars in energy, defence, and infrastructure contracts it had negotiated with the removal of Col. Qaddafi. Russia’s state arms exporter lost an estimated $4 billion in Libyan contracts after the UN Security Council imposed an arms embargo on Libya.

Russian Railways had secured a $3 billion contract to build a high-speed rail link from Sirt to Benghazi. Many of these contracts were either signed in Qaddafi’s presence or were organized by him. Russia’s state news agency ITAR-TASS estimates that the country could lose as much as $10 billion in business if Libya’s new leadership challenges the legality of the existing contracts.

As Anna Borshchevskaya, an Ira Weiner Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, observes that military has been part of the foreign policy of the Russian Federation, and Russian authorities have been strengthening military-technical cooperation with some African countries.

“A major driver for Moscow’s push into Africa is military cooperation more broadly. These often include officer training and the sale of military equipment, though the details are rarely publicly available,” she acknowledges, “and it will continue so in Russia’s relations with Africa.

Russia has made significant arms deals with Angola and Algeria. Reports show that Egypt, Uganda, Tanzania, Somalia, Mali, Sudan and Libya have also bought arms from Russia. Small countries such as Burundi, Botswana, and Rwanda, with distinctively impoverished populations and budgetary limitations, have signed agreements. Russia also provides military training and support; it has defence orders worth $14 billion from African countries.

According to Nezavisimaya Gazeta, quoting military experts, Russia has much to gain by promoting and attempting to dispose of its Soviet-era military equipment in Africa. After all, Russia is self-sufficient and has economic independence, so with enthusiasm, convincing African leaders to purchase fertilizers and grains, thereby pushing them towards depleting their hard-earned revenues.  Without a doubt, African leaders endlessly boast of vast uncultivated lands.

During these months of the Russia-Ukraine crisis and sanctions from the United States, Europe and Pacific allies, Russian diplomacy has repeatedly stressed that Moscow is ready to export 30 million tons of grain and over 20 million tons of fertilizer by the end of 2022.

According to local Russian media reports, the Russian Agriculture Ministry’s Agroexport Federal Centre for Development of Agribusiness Exports, in close partnership collaboration with Trust Technologies and the business expert community, drew up a business plan for the development of exports for agricultural products (grain, dairy, meat and confectionery products) to promising markets of African countries.

The project’s goal is to prepare a practice-oriented model for increasing supplies and enhancing the competitiveness of Russian agricultural goods in the African market. The report says nine African countries have been chosen as target markets for the delivery of agricultural products. These are Angola, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, Nigeria, Tunisia and South Africa.

That report explicitly notes African leaders’ readiness to spend state budgets on food imports; without a doubt, “food security” is the central theme for the 2023 Russia-Africa summit. These countries account for 40% of the continent’s population and one-third of all African imports of agricultural products; Russia estimates to earn some $33 billion from Africa.

In practical terms, a microscopic analysis of Russia’s economic presence gives many interpretations and contradictions. While currently, Russia seems to be soliciting the support of Africa to lead the emerging new world order, Russia still does not recognize that it needs to adopt more public outreach policies to win the minds and hearts of Africans. Its economic footprint on the continent is comparatively weak. Instead of addressing its own investment agenda, it has consistently criticised other foreign players, especially the United States and European countries, that are active in Africa.

Many Russian companies have abandoned their projects in Africa. The latest is the lucrative platinum project contract that was signed for $3 billion in September 2014, the platinum mine is located about 50 km northwest of Harare, the Zimbabwean capital. The Darwendale project involves a consortium of the Rostekhnologii State Corporation, Vneshekonombank and Vi Holding in a joint venture with some private Zimbabwe investors and the Zimbabwean government.

After widely campaigning for the construction of what was referred to as the “Southern Oil&Gas Pipelines” that was supposed to connect three or four southern African countries, Russia’s Rosneft finally abandoned the project. And similarly, State Nuclear Enterprise Rosatom never mentioned again the proposed nuclear plant construction signed by Jacob Zuma of South Africa.

Russia’s Lukoil undertook exploratory feasibility studies in Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Cameroon and Ghana, only to abandon these projects. Nigeria’s Ajeokuta Steel Plant project remains a dream project for Russians. Norilsk Nickel (Nornickel), the Russian mining giant, ceased operations in Botswana. It owned a stake in the Tati Nickel in Botswana, where production was expected to reach its highest level. It has previously given a positive assessment of the possibilities for developing its production assets in South Africa and many African countries. There is a long list of Russian companies that under-performed or performed badly and finally exited Africa.

Just a few weeks before his departure from Moscow, the Zimbabwean ambassador to the Russian Federation, Brigadier General Nicholas Mike Sango, told me in an interview discussion that several issues could strengthen the relationship. One important direction is economic cooperation. African diplomats have consistently been persuading Russia’s businesses to take advantage of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (ACFTA) as an opportunity for Russian businesses to establish footprints on the continent. This view has not found favour with them, and it is hoped over time, it will.

Although the government has not pronounced incentives for businesses to set sights and venture into Africa, Russian businesses generally view Africa as too risky for their investment. He said that Russia needs to set footprints on the continent by exporting its competitive advantages in engineering and technological advancement to bridge the gap that is retarding Africa’s industrialization and development.

“Worse is that there are too many initiatives by too many quasi-state institutions promoting economic cooperation with Africa saying the same things in different ways, but doing nothing tangible,” he told me during the lengthy pre-departure interview. He served the Republic of Zimbabwe in the Russian Federation from July 2015 to August 2022. He previously held various high-level posts, such as military adviser in Zimbabwe’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations and as an international instructor in the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

There are several similar criticisms from former ambassadors. According to Mandisi Mpahlwa, former South African Ambassador, Sub-Saharan Africa has understandably been low on post-Soviet Russia’s list of priorities, given that Russia is not as dependent on Africa’s natural resources as other major economies. The reason: Soviet and African relations, anchored as they were on the fight to push back the frontiers of colonialism, did not necessarily translate into trade, investment and economic ties, which would have continued seamlessly with post-Soviet Russia.

“Russia’s objective of taking the bilateral relationship with Africa to the next level cannot be realized without a close partnership with the private sector. Africa and Russia are close politically but geographically distant, and the people-to-people ties are still underdeveloped. This translates into a low level of knowledge on both sides of what the other has to offer. There is perhaps also a fear of the unknown in both countries,” Mpahlawa said in an interview after completing his ambassadorial duty in the Russian Federation.

Russia has a lot of policy weaknesses in Africa. Reports indicated that more than 90 agreements were signed at the end of the first Russia-Africa summit. Thousands of bilateral agreements are still on the drawing board, and century-old promises and pledges for supporting sustainable development are authoritatively renewed with African countries. Like a polar deer waking up from its deep slumber, Russia is flashing its geopolitical headlights in all directions on Africa.

Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs website indicates that there have been several top-level bilateral meetings, signing of MoUs and bilateral agreements during the past years. In November 2021, a policy document titled the ‘Situation Analytical Report’ presented at the premises of TASS News Agency was very critical of Russia’s current policy towards Africa.

While the number of high-level meetings has increased, the share of substantive issues and definitive results on the agenda remains small. It explicitly points out the inconsistent approach in dealing with Africa. Russia lacks public outreach policies for Africa. Apart from the absence of a public strategy for the continent, there is a lack of coordination among various state and para-state institutions working with Africa.

Ultimately, actions, not words, will determine if upcoming Russia -Africa Summit and the proposed Africa strategy will reset relations with the continent. The significant fact here is that little has been achieved since the first Russia-Africa summit held in October 2019. According to the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Ambassador-at-Large and head of the Secretariat of the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum, Oleg Ozerov, food security will be one of the top issues on the agenda of the second Russia-Africa Summit.

It is a fact that Russia’s ties with Africa declined with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. In the aftermath of the Soviet Union, Russia continues efforts in search of possible collaboration and opportunities for cooperation in the past years. But most essentially, Russians must understand clearly that little has been achieved in Africa. Several bilateral agreements signed with individual countries are not implemented, while in the previous years, there has been an unprecedented huge number of “working visits” to Africa.

According to our research findings, in stark contrast to key global players, for instance, the United States, China, the European Union and many others, Russia’s policies have little impact on African development paradigms. Russia’s policies have often ignored Africa’s sustainable development questions. Experts have repeatedly suggested Russia adopt an Action Plan – a practical document that would fill cooperation with substance between summits. In conclusion, Russians must strongly remember that Africa’s roadmap is the African Union Agenda 2063.

Dipo Olowookere is a journalist based in Nigeria that has passion for reporting business news stories. At his leisure time, he watches football and supports 3SC of Ibadan. Mr Olowookere can be reached via dipo.olowookere@businesspost.ng

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Russia-Africa Summit: Sergey Lavrov Undertakes Assessment Tour

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Sergey Lavrov

By Kestér Kenn Klomegâh 

Behind lofty summit declarations, several bilateral agreements and thousands of decade-old undelivered pledges, Russia has been stacked due to the  “special military operations” it began in late February in Ukraine. It has achieved little these few years after the symbolic summit held in 2019. With preparations for the next African leaders’ summit, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov plans to undertake two African tours during the first quarter of 2023.

At the heat of the Russia-Ukraine crisis and within the context of the current geopolitical and economic changes, Lavrov made a snapshot trip to four African countries from July 24-28 this year. The four African countries on that travel agenda: are Egypt, Ethiopia, Uganda and the Republic of Congo.

In January-February 2023, Lavrov will first focus on North Africa. Why is Maghreb a strategic region for Russia? It is true that despite the appearance of competition between Europe and the United States, between Russia and China, as well as the Gulf States, Russia has intensified its relations aims at raising its influence in the Maghreb.

Worth noting that Egypt already has significant strategic and economic ties with Russia. With the geographical location of Egypt, Lavrov’s frequent visits there have some tacit implications. Last July trip, for instance, concretely aimed at explaining the perspectives for Russia’s actions in neighbouring Ukraine to frame-shape its geo-strategic posture in the region and solicit support from the entire Arab world. It followed US President Joe Biden’s official visit to the Middle East. Biden visited Israel, the Palestinian territories and Saudi Arabia.

Reports from Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs this week indicated that Lavrov plans to undertake two “coordinated working visits” and the first trip will focus on the Arab-speaking North African region popularly referred to as Maghreb. For several decades, the Maghreb region has been a multifaceted conflict region, in fact, one of the most volatile geopolitical frontiers, which includes Mauritania, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya. This vast area inhabited by some 120 million people – 80 per cent of them in Algeria, Egypt and Morocco – is landlocked between the huge Mediterranean Sea and the Sahara Desert.

Historically, Russia has had long-standing good political relations not only in the North but also with sub-Saharan Africa down to Southern Africa since Soviet times, providing tremendous support for liberation movements that culminated in decolonization and, ultimately, the rise of the economies in Africa. The continent is rife with rivalry and competition, attracting foreign players, especially at this time of emerging new global order.

According to official reports, Russia is interested in expanding multifaceted cooperation and making feverish attempts for a collaborative mechanism to upgrade its relations. It seeks to work closely in developing a new architecture necessary for participating in development projects, and promote infrastructure, trade and other viable economic ties. It held the first Russia-Africa summit three years ago, signed many bilateral agreements and issued an impressive joint declaration as a roadmap for future directions.

On the agenda for the second Russia-Africa summit scheduled to be held in St. Petersburg, there are matters relating to building a new global architecture in the context of strengthening multi-polarity and international security, food and energy security, healthcare and humanitarian cooperation, education, science and culture.

With rafts of sanctions imposed on Russia, it becomes expedient for both Russia and Africa to find alternative ways of collaboration (between Russia and Africa) that do not rely on Western currencies or sanctions policy. Of course, illegal sanctions imposed on Russia continue to have a negative impact on foreign economic relations, necessitating an urgent reconfiguration of strategies for pushing further cooperation.

The reports always note that Africa is one of the most important and fastest-growing regions for Russian producers. Moscow understands the significance of engaging and achieving sustainable development there. For example, Russia faces the challenge of promoting the creation of a reliable infrastructure for the production and transportation of African energy products and the development of domestic markets. It faces the challenge of setting its economic influence in the continent admirably.

However, in November 2021, a policy document titled the ‘Situation Analytical Report’ presented at the premises of TASS News Agency was very critical of Russia’s current policy towards Africa. 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 meetings, according to that authoritative report researched and put together by 25 Russian policy experts headed by Professor Sergey Karaganov, Chairman of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy.

The report pointed to the lack of coordination among various state and para-state institutions working with Africa. For the past three decades, Russia has played very little role in Africa’s infrastructure, agriculture and industry. Many bilateral agreements at the top and high political levels have still not been implemented. A lot more important issues have received little attention since the first African leaders’ summit was held in Sochi.

Our monitoring shows that the Russian business community hardly pays attention to the significance to, and makes little effort to leverage the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which provides a unique and valuable platform for businesses to access an integrated African market of over 1.3 billion people.

Nevertheless, Russia brings little to the continent, especially in the economic sectors that badly need investment. An undeniable fact is that many external players have also had long-term relations and continue bolstering political, economic and social ties in the continent.

Of course, Russia aims at restoring and regaining part of its Soviet-era influence but has problems with planning and tackling its set tasks and lack of confidence in fulfilling its policy targets. The most important aspect is how to make strategic efforts more practical, more consistent and more effective with African countries. Without these fundamental factors, it would therefore be an illusionary dream considering a multifaceted partnership with Africa.

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Russia’s Cultural Diplomacy in Multipolar World: Perspectives and Challenges for Africa

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multipolar world

By Kestér Kenn Klomegâh

After careful research to find the meaning and implications of the term “multipolar world” often used these days, the free dictionary and englopedia offer insights as a system of world order in which the majority of leading global powers coordinate and commonly agree on economic, political and cultural influence and acceptable directions.

Both dictionaries further explain that countries have multipolar approaches to foreign policy. Participating countries necessarily conceive multiple centres of power or influence in the world and have a multipolar approach to foreign policy. A multipolar world could mean various differences in thoughts, views and ideas regarding anything in particular that different people desire to do across the world.

It appears from several reports that China and Russia intend to lead the new world order. Speeches from both sides are extremely critical of “based rules and regulations” given by the United States and Europe. The United States’ global dictatorship might end so that the unipolar would then become a multi-polar world, in which democracy could actually thrive.

In practical terms and in order to lead a multipolar system requires an outward, broad and integrative approach. While China, to a large extent, has portrayed this practical approach which is readily seen around the world, Russia’s method is full of slogans and highly limited. With the emerging new global order, China appears more open and integrative than Russia. Despite the fact that it madly advocates for creating and ultimate establishment of this multipolar world, Russia exits significantly from the global stage, thus isolating itself and further contributing towards its own “cancel culture” instead of the opposite.

Whether people like it or not, the United States will conveniently operate within the emerging multipolar system. It has the instruments to operate within the framework of multilateralism and an integrative multicultural environment. The United States is and remains an “indispensable” power. Russia and a few of its allies in this evolutionary process, without adopting cautious steps and strategic approach, will definitely remain “dispensable” in the end.

In order to deepen our understanding of the emerging multipolar world, it is useful to make comparisons. The United States’ new strategy acknowledges that Africa will shape the future – not just the future of the African people but of the world. And as such deals with civil society, women and the youth, which it refers to as the megaphone of governance. These have an influence on policies and processes engaging policy-makers.

It further works in various directions closely with the African Union, and one more new direction is the African diaspora. The United States has the largest African diaspora with social inroads and business inter-linkages and a hugely significant impact on developments inside Africa. In contrast, Russia has grossly ignored the African diaspora and even those African professional specialists it has indeed trained from Soviet times to and currently. In the emerging new multipolar world, to overlook these would be a sad mistake from a policy perspective.

Russians seriously brush aside the relevance and the role of culture, for that matter, soft power in foreign policy while advocating for this emerging new order. Examining, in broad terms, all aspects of culture that basically includes continuing the struggle for self-determination, for creating the grounded opportunity to live in peace and preserving one’s valuable traditions. Language, of course, plays its unifying role.

Some contradictions and different interpretations might exist. On the other hand, there are divergent views and different perceptions relating to the current geopolitical changes, but frankly speaking, the study of foreign languages, including English, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, and the emerging interest in the Chinese and Russian languages, has been a long part of people’s lives, especially those who hope to move across borders and dream to have smooth interactions with other nationals from different countries around the world.

For the past three decades since the collapse of the Soviet era, Russian language studies have been low, for example, among the African population, primarily due to a lack of overwhelming interest and adequate motivation, and a lack of consistent interactive cultural activities by Russian authorities, experts at the Africa Studies Institute frequently say, and warmheartedly admit that things have slow with Russia’s return to Africa.

Most Africans prefer to study foreign languages to ensure smooth participation in interstate activities such as trade and in order to maintain relationships with people abroad. Foreign countries, for example, Britain, the United States, European countries and now China, are their traditional favourites. There are always interactive programmes and cultural activities throughout the year operated by foreign missions and NGOs.

Interpreted from different perspectives, Russia has not been a major economic giant in Africa compared to Western and European countries and China. Due to this historical truth, Africans have little interest in studying the Russian language and its culture. The Russian language itself does not sound attractive in terms of its economic opportunity, and therefore, Africans prefer to study languages that readily offer opportunities. China is making huge contributions to the continent, and this has made Africans see the need to understand the language in order to have better interaction with them.

The obvious worst-case scenario is that the Russian government has not created the necessary conditions and reasons to study the language simply because it has little influence in the continent. Besides that, the trade and commercial links between Russia and Africa are quite negligible, so there is no desperate demand for the Russian language for businessmen. Admittedly, Russia is not a welcoming holiday destination for African elites and the middle class, which is twice the total population of Russia and constitutes 40% of the 1.3 billion population of Africa. Travel and tourism is an increasingly huge business, and the unique geographical landscapes and changing attractiveness of Moscow, St Petersburg and Sochi – are unknown to the African elite and the growing middle class.

With the current evolving political and cultural processes, the West and Europe will still have a strong classical grip on Africa, influencing everything first from culture and tourism and moving onward to politics and economics. Perhaps, Russia has to play the correct strategic openness and welcome African travellers, tourists and visitors. Closing doors in these critical times might negatively distract Africa’s support for Russia.

The worrying tendency is that Rossotrudnichestvo, an agency under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, pays little attention to educational and cultural questions in Africa, compared to its assertive counterparts – USAID, Alliance Française de France, The Goethe Institute, British Council, Instituto Cervantes that operate throughout the world.

Another Russian organization – Russkiy Mir Foundation, which is directly responsible for promoting the Russian language and culture abroad, does extremely little in sub-Saharan Africa. In addition, cultural officers work in all 38 Russian embassies in Africa.

Russia appears quite removed from Africa’s development issues, it is only mentioned in limited areas like weapons and military equipment supplies to French-speaking West Africa. Nowadays, China is being viewed as a strong strategic partner in Africa, given its (China’s) strong footprints in diverse economic sectors. China has more than 20 Confucius Centers and a party school in Africa. Western and European, and China support civil society, youth programmes and women’s issues – these are completely not on Russia’s radar.

Russia allegedly allows its own ‘cancel culture’ and significantly not by the United States and its European allies. In practical terms, creating a multipolar system deals largely with cultural and social orientation, it deals with public perceptions through openness and friendliness. At this new historical reawakening stage, Russia has reviewed itself and tried to focus on building relations, both with substance, trustful and refined approach and strategically engaging with civil society, youth organizations and non-state institutions in Africa.

By and large, Russia has to intensify its people-to-people connections, soft power and cultural diplomacy with Africa. There is a huge cultural gap in new thinking, working with young professionals and associations to promote people-to-people diplomacy through business links, cultural exchanges and competitions. As Russia charts loudly for the multipolar system, this has to reflect in its current foreign policy and approach, especially towards the developing world, in Latin America, Asia and Africa.

Late October, during the final plenary session of the 19th meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club, the focus was on matters related to the changing geopolitics and civilisation diversity, the new world order and its future developments. Under the theme, A Post-Hegemonic World: Justice and Security for Everyone, the four-day-long interactive meeting brought academic experts and researchers, politicians, diplomats and economists from Russia and 40 foreign countries.

President Vladimir Putin discussed, at considerable length, so many controversial questions. According to him, classic liberal ideology itself today has changed beyond recognition. They predicted the end of the United States’ global dominance but fell short in proposing an appropriate Russian template – the principles and mechanisms – for realizing the lofty idea and approach to establishing a multipolar world.

Putin did not say anything about Russia becoming a power but awarded that position to China. Giants like China, India and Indonesia with large populations are showing economic growth; in Africa, large countries – some of them with a population of 200 million – are emerging and making progress, as well as countries in Latin America.

According to him, Russia still has friends around the world. He mentioned that in Central America and Africa, Russian flags are flying everywhere. “There are flags in European countries and in the United States too; we have many supporters there. By the way, a large proportion of the US population adheres to traditional values, and they are with us, we know this,” he added in his assertive conversation at the Valdai gathering.

Putin, along the line, argued that the support for multipolar order largely exists in the global south. Russia is not the enemy and has never had any evil intentions as regards the European countries and the United States. He appreciated Africa’s struggle for independence and against colonialism. These absolutely unique relations were forged during the years when the Soviet Union and Russia supported African countries in their fight for freedom.

In this context and in relation to Africa, Natalia Zaiser, Founder of the African Business Initiative Union, apparently talked about the new historical stage need to establish new or different institutions of international partnership.

Her series of questions to Putin: “Mr President, what is your vision of a new international partnership institution? Which basis of parities is Russia ready to offer at the international level? Which mechanisms, tools and personalities are needed to acquire new allies, partners and friends, not at a declarative level but at the level of unquestionable responsibility in terms of agreements? Do you think we should also change or build up other approaches within the future international partnership?”

Putin’s answer was: “We must, and we can focus on cooperation, primarily, with countries which have sovereignty in taking fundamental decisions. This is my first point. My second point is that we need to reach a consensus on each of these decisions. Third, we need to secure a balance of interests. Part of which institutions can we do this? Of course, these are primarily universal international organizations, and number one is with the United Nations.”

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EU, IFC Launch €25m Fund to Rebuild Ukraine

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IFC Market Integrity

By Adedapo Adesanya

A new agreement between the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and Ukraine’s Energy Efficiency Fund will channel up to €25 million in EU funds to help homeowners’ associations restore war-damaged residential buildings, the organisations announced on Monday.

The effort will support Ukrainian families amid the ongoing war and boost the resilience of Ukraine’s residential sector. Since February 24, the conflict in Ukraine has substantially damaged or destroyed the homes of 2.4 million Ukrainians, according to the Ministry for Communities and Territories Development of Ukraine.

The Kyiv School of Economics estimates that the total number of the affected housing stock in Ukraine is up to 136,000 buildings or 40 per cent of the total number of residential buildings, including almost 16,000 multi-apartment buildings. As it stands, there is not enough public and private financing to rebuild the sector.

IFC will support the Energy Efficiency Fund’s Restoration Program by channelling the EU grants to homeowners’ associations across Ukraine, covering the costs of restoring multifamily buildings that did not suffer structural damage.

The programme will cover the replacement of windows, doors, roofs, and walls, among other elements, and IFC will also help the Fund with a pipeline of reconstruction projects as well as support beneficiaries with the application process.

A €5 million pilot phase is being rolled out in Kyiv, Zhytomyr, Sumy, and Chernihiv, larger cities in northern and central Ukraine that have come under increased attacks over the last two months.

Speaking on this, Mr Yehor Farenyuk, director of the state-owned Energy Efficiency Fund, said, “This programme launched by the Energy Efficiency Fund provides vital support to homeowners’ associations to help them restore buildings damaged by Russia’s military aggression.

“This is substantial support for many war-affected Ukrainians since the program will cover 100 per cent of the cost of all construction materials and work. We are very grateful to our partners — the EU and IFC — for their engagement and support, and we hope to continue our fruitful cooperation in this area.

“Rebuilding efforts in war-torn Ukraine cannot and should not be stalled,” said Ms Rana Karadsheh, IFC’s Regional Director for Europe. “We are grateful to the EU for their ongoing assistance, enabling us to provide vital support to Ukraine during these challenging times. We are committed to supporting Ukrainians and their efforts to restore residential and other economic sectors devastated by the war.

“The EU stands with Ukraine as it fights off Russia’s aggression and supports its people. We are happy to join forces with our trusted partners Ukraine’s Energy Efficiency Fund and IFC to help rebuild Ukrainian’s homes that were destroyed by Russia,” said Ms Katarína Mathernová, Deputy Director General of the Directorate General for Neighbourhood & Enlargement Negotiations and Head of the Support Group for Ukraine at the European Commission.”

Since October 2019, the original Ukraine Energy Efficiency Fund Program, led by IFC in partnership with the EU, has channelled grants worth nearly €15 million into energy-efficient renovations of 229 residential buildings in Ukraine, of which 109 are fully completed, with the remaining 120 projects continuing to implement the energy efficiency modernizations amid the war.

As part of IFC’s broader response to the war in Ukraine, in October, IFC launched another €25 million EU-supported programme to help municipalities to renovate municipally owned buildings to host internally displaced people.

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