St Petersburg Forum Offers Unlimited Business Opportunities
By Kester Kenn Klomegah
The 24th St Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF’21), a unique business forum that is highly expected to bring together politicians, corporate business directors and investors from different parts of the world, is set to take place June 2-5 as the epidemiological situation begins to stabilize in Russia.
That, however, the Russian Federal Service for the Oversight of Consumer Protection and Welfare (Rospotrebnadzor) with organizers promise everything in its power to ensure that the event is held with all the necessary measures in place to prevent the spread of coronavirus and strictly in compliance with the recommendations given by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Roscongress Foundation, the organizer, says on its website that it has decided to create new infrastructure for the comfort and safety of participants in view of the coronavirus pandemic. For instance, PCR test conducted at access to the venues, catering, sanitizing the premises, and providing participants and staff with personal protective equipment.
Thermal imaging control will be provided. Medical stations at the venue provided with the necessary equipment and medicines. There will be ambulances and resuscitation vehicles, including teams of English-speaking doctors. All spaces of the site equipped with air recirculation units and decontamination devices, among other measures for all participants visiting the events in St. Petersburg city.
Hans Kluge, Director of the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office for Europe, together with Anna Popova, Head of Federal Service for the Oversight of Consumer Protection and Welfare (Rospotrebnadzor), will hold a special briefing for participants on the pandemic situation and its control in Russia and around the world.
Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the Russian local media that President Vladimir Putin plans to take part in the plenary session of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF). “But Putin will be there in person,” Peskov reaffirmed his earlier statement, and further informed that in-person forum will be held in strict accordance with health and safety measures, the president received the first vaccination shot on March 23 and the second on April 14.
Over the years, this forum has strengthened multifaceted business ties, facilitated broadening relations and the development of cultural dialogue between Russia and many foreign countries. According to Roscongress Foundation, a number of foreign countries, keen on making solid business presentations and equally seek partnership opportunities for mutually beneficial cooperation, have already registered their participation.
Traditional inter-country business dialogues are planned as part of SPIEF featuring representatives of business communities of Italy, Germany, France, the United States, India, Africa, Finland, Japan, Latin America, the Middle East, as well as the EAEU-ASEAN business dialogue. Under the umbrella of SPIEF, international meetings in business room format will be held with the participation of representatives of Roscongress Foundation’s international partners and businesses in the corresponding world regions.
Apart from the main business programme, SPIEF will also host the SME Forum, Youth Economic Forum, SCO, BRICS and ASEAN events, B20 Regional Consultation Forum, Creative Business Forum and Drug Safety and Security Forum, as well as events on Arctic and African agenda.
The central theme of the Forum is A Collective Reckoning of the New Global Economic Reality. The business programme includes more than a hundred events divided into four tracks touching upon the issues of the global and Russian economy, as well as social and technological agenda.
Joining Forces to Advance Development is the key track of the business programme. It includes sessions on economic recovery and international cooperation, discussions on Eurasian integration, the transformation of global trade, the effectiveness of business during the pandemic, global energy market, recovery of the food market, and sustainability of national healthcare systems.
The second theme block of the business programme focuses on national development targets, the anti-crisis agenda for strengthening the long-term potential of the economy, investment climate in Russian regions, shaping of Russian research and technology space, development of the financial market, creation of circular economy, and functioning of strategically important industries.
Discussions under the New Technology Frontiers track will feature the topics of international cooperation in science, digital sovereignty and information security, healthcare digitalization, tech ethics and others.
The Human Factor in Responding to Global Challenges theme block will talk about cultural codes of the new reality, collaboration in international education projects, and new skills and employment models in a post-COVID world. Moreover, there are sessions on the development of creative industries, sport and education.
The Russian Small and Medium-sized Business Forum is an annual event held as part of SPIEF to discuss the current state of small and medium-sized businesses and measures to enhance their role in the Russian economy. It is, however, planned that the focused sessions encompass the key aspects of support and development for small and medium-sized enterprises.
“Small and medium-sized business is the foundation of the economy and a key indicator of the current status of socio-economic development. As we are looking towards the future, it is essential to develop and implement long-term programmes that will give a new impetus to the development of SMEs,” said Anton Kobyakov, Adviser to the Russian President and Executive Secretary of the SPIEF Organizing Committee.
“We plan to discuss all the proposals in details at the SME Forum because they determine how small and medium-sized businesses will thrive in the future. Small and medium business is the largest employer and a guarantor of socioeconomic stability and the dynamic development of society. The development of entrepreneurial education, cooperation among small and big businesses, and the development of youth entrepreneurship, among other issues,” he said.
With a similar view and position, SME Corporation CEO Alexander Isayevich said “Entrepreneurs need to understand how to work in the new economic realities and what support measures the state will continue to provide. In addition, it is crucial for entrepreneurs to have high-quality non-financial services. The sessions, attended by a wide range of experts, will help to find optimal solutions not only for the SME sector but also for the entire economy. We always advocate an open dialogue with business, as this is the principle that underlies our new development strategy.”
As part of the Youth Day programme, the most promising undergraduate and postgraduate students, as well as young scientists from Russia’s leading universities and scientific organizations will participate in the St. Petersburg Forum.
“It has become a good tradition for talented young scientists and students to take part in SPIEF, it is a leading business event that brings together unique experts from all areas of the economy. Participation opens up limitless opportunities for young people to exchange experience and gain new knowledge,” said Andrey Fursenko, Aide to the President of the Russian Federation.
There will also be large-scale different cultural events. For instance, Qatar plans an exhibition – “Qatar between Land and Sea, Art and Legacy” – this exhibition is a great opportunity for people from around the world to explore the very precious elements of the Qatari and Middle Eastern tradition and lifestyle, such as handmade carpets and artefacts, pearls, and antique jewellery, which makes it a magical journey through history.
St Petersburg forum is highly considered an important step forward in developing and strengthening investment‑related collaboration. As one of the biggest economic forums in Russia, it yearly gathers several thousands of participants, including representatives of ministries and government bodies, financial and investment organizations, startups, and tech and innovation companies, and representatives of the media.
Despite the adjustments made due to the pandemic, there are for all participants interesting and useful initiatives for comprehensive interaction as the key objective is to create opportunities and friendly conditions to consolidate links between Russia and the world.
Russia not Addressing Sustainable Development Goals in Africa—Nyongesa
By Kestér Kenn Klomegâh
liThis short but insightful interview conducted by Kestér Kenn Klomegâh with George Nyongesa, a Senior Associate at the Africa Policy Institute in Nairobi, Kenya, and a Tutorial Fellow and PhD candidate at the University of Nairobi, focused concretely on Russia and Africa relations, Russia’s ineffective policy strategies and challenges in implementing its policy goals in African countries. Here are the excerpts.
Historically, Russian influence on African countries has largely pivoted around hypersonic anti-Western rhetoric; but does such still have relevance in post-colonial and independent African countries
Russia has long had cordial relations with many African countries thanks to ties established during the Soviet era, where their shared mistrust of the West and similar economic and ideological goals frequently led to alignments. However, the nostalgia for the former Soviet Union is waning along with the generation of African leaders who benefited from it. This fact continues to undermine Russia’s relevance and perceived usefulness to Africa, especially among the new crop of leaders.
Generally, the younger African generations, who make up a sizable portion of the continent’s population, grew up when Russia had only a semblance of the gravitas of the former Soviet Union. This is noteworthy because the African continent is fast transitioning towards democracy and development. Against this background, the invasion of Crimea and Ukraine has not done much to win Russia the respect of African countries. Besides, numerous new issues arose following the fall of the Soviet Union, and this seems to have overshadowed Russia’s strategic position to work with Africa. Since then, a lot has been lost, and no doubt other powers, especially the Westerners, Europeans and Asians, jumped in to fill the void.
What next for Russia in Africa?
In a nutshell, it is imperative that Russia takes its foreign economic policy initiatives seriously as it seeks an assertive posture on the global stage, even as it juggles its efforts to regain influence in Africa. In the past, anti-western rhetoric worked easy magic in building alignment, but currently, the majority of the continent is largely focused on democratization and economic emancipation.
For this reason, representatives from the United States, the European Union, and even the Gulf States discuss Africa from various angles, but their main focus is on how to establish their economic presence on the continent. For instance, following their previous EU-AU summit, both parties reached a consensus on a number of infrastructure and investment projects. In particular, the EU already has an investment program that they claim would create links, not dependencies, at a cost of €300 billion ($340 billion) to finance new investment initiatives that are similar to China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
As competing global powers continue to court Africa, it is interesting to note that Russia rarely discusses the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). The AfCFTA could, at the very least, provide a framework for economic diplomacy towards resetting commercial ties between Russia and Africa. As things currently stand, Russia’s geopolitical stake in the continent of Africa is barely noticeable. For instance, Russian direct investment into Africa is significantly less than that of Europe and North America, totalling less than 1%. Also, Russian direct assistance is scarce, largely symbolic and frequently takes the form of in-kind donations to humanitarian crises or forgiveness of debt. In addition, compared to Africa’s large trading partners like Europe and the United States, trade between Russia and Africa in 2020 totalled $14 billion, or about 2% of the continent’s overall trade.
In summary, it seems the strongest aspect of Russia’s relations with Africa should be robust economic cooperation. If Russia’s foreign economic agency paid attention to AfCFTA, which promises to create a single borderless market, they would find numerous potential opportunities for “win-win” cooperation. It is the Chinese strategic style which challenges Western and European powers even as it capitalizes on localization, production and marketing of consumer goods and services across Africa.
Adesina Says Climate Finance Dearth “Choking” Africa
By Adedapo Adesanya
The President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Mr Akinwumi Adesina, has lamented that a lack of adequate financing for tackling climate change in Africa has become dire and is “choking” the continent.
He made this known while addressing journalists at a media lunch organized to kick off the 2023 Annual Meetings of the lender in the Egyptian resort city of Sharm El Sheikh.
Mr Adesina called out developed nations for not honouring the $100 billion climate finance pledge they made to developing countries.
“Africa is being short-changed in climate finance. Africa is choking,” he told newsmen.
“Your role as the media is very important to help carry the news – the news of efforts being made, challenges being faced, and the fierce urgency of now in getting much-needed climate finance to Africa,” the bank chief said.
The bank group’s Annual Meetings will allow the bank’s Board of Governors, African leaders and development partners to explore practical ways of “mobilizing private sector financing for climate and green growth in Africa,” in line with the theme of this year’s meetings.
Mr Adesina said the theme was chosen to draw attention to the urgent need for climate finance, hammering that Africa will need $2.7 trillion by 2030 to finance its climate change needs.
“Anywhere you look in Africa today, climate change is causing havoc,” Mr Adesina said. “In the Sahel, hotter temperatures are drying up limited water, causing water stress for crops and livestock and worsening food insecurity.”
The former Nigerian agric minister said that in vast areas of East and Southern Africa, and in the Horn of Africa, a combination of droughts and floods is causing massive losses of people and infrastructure, leading to rising numbers of refugees.
“There is still much to do, as Africa’s private sector climate financing will need to increase by 36 per cent annually,” he said.
Mr Adesina said, “If Africa had that money, the Sahel would have electricity. If Africa had that money, we would recharge the Chad basin, which has provided livelihoods for millions of people in Chad, Nigeria, Niger and Cameroon. Everything will change in all those countries; we will green the Sahel. We will insure every single African country against catastrophic weather events.”
Mr Adesina told the journalists, “Africa’s measured natural capital alone is estimated to be worth $6.2 trillion,” which, if well harnessed, can spur more rapid economic growth and wealth generation.
He spoke about the Bank’s flagship Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT) scheme that provides heat-tolerant seed varieties to increase yield in crops such as wheat.
He also gave the example of Ethiopia, which is now self-sufficient in wheat production and plans to export the surplus to neighbouring countries.
AfDB is spearheading climate adaptation efforts across the continent and has devoted 63 per cent of its climate finance, the highest among all multilateral development banks.
It plans to support millions of farmers, enabling them to access climate-resistant seeds. The institution has also launched the Desert to Power initiative to develop 10,000 megawatts of solar power to benefit nearly 250 million people across the Sahel.
The bank and the Global Center for Adaptation have launched the African Adaptation Acceleration Program (AAAP) to mobilize $25 billion to support Africa’s adaptation to climate change.
It has also established Alliance for Green Infrastructure (AGIA), in partnership with other institutions, to mobilize $10 billion in private investment for green infrastructure in Africa.
Nigerians Worry as UK Changes Student Visa Policy to Cut Net Migration
By Adedapo Adesanya
New government restrictions to student visa routes that will substantially cut net migration by restricting the ability for international students to take family members to the United Kingdom have raised worries among Nigerians.
Under the new proposals made on Tuesday, only students on postgraduate courses designated as research programmes can bring dependants to the UK while they study.
The UK Office of National Statistics (ONS) estimated that net migration was over 500,000 from June 2021 to June 2022.
Nigerians have always sought the UK as a prime destination, and many use the switch role, the UK claims to have seen an unprecedented rise in the number of student dependents being brought into the country with visas.
Although partly attributed to the rise in temporary factors, such as the UK’s Ukraine and Hong Kong schemes, last year almost half a million student visas were issued while the number of dependants of overseas students has increased by 750 per cent since 2019, to 136,000 people.
“Last year, 59,053 Nigerian students brought over 60,923 relatives,” the report noted.
The UK government on Tuesday announced the measures that will prevent students from switching “out of the student route into work routes” before their studies have been completed.
There will also be “improved and more enforcement activity” and a clamp down on “unscrupulous agents” using education as a cover for immigration, according to a government statement.
The UK Home Secretary, Ms Suella Braverman, said in a written statement to the UK parliament that overseas students played an important part in supporting the UK economy but added that it should not come at the cost of the government’s “commitment to the public to lower overall migration and ensure that migration to the UK is highly skilled and therefore provides the most benefit”.
Ms Braverman said the proposals struck the “right balance” and would likely see net migration “fall to pre-pandemic levels in the medium term”.
The new reforms will come into effect for students starting in January next year.
The UK government said it would, however, work with the higher education sector to explore alternative options to ensure the brightest and best students can continue to bring dependents when they study at the UK’s world-leading universities.
Following the UK leaving the European Union, the Tory-led government introduced a points-based immigration system, giving the government full control of the country’s borders.
This was designed to flex to the needs of the economy and labour market and ensure the country has the skills and talent needed by UK businesses and the National Health Service (NHS).
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