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St. Petersburg to Hosts Second African Leaders Summit

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Second African Leaders Summit

By Kester Kenn Klomegah

With high optimism and a desire to strengthen its geopolitical influence, Russian authorities are gearing up to hold the second African leaders summit in St. Petersburg scheduled for early November 2022.

The gathering, as expected, will focus on enhancing further constructive cooperation and advancing integration processes within the framework of the African Union and a number of sub-regional structures.

In their first joint declaration, emerging from the Russia-Africa summit at the initiative of African participants a new dialogue mechanism—the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum—was created.

The declaration stipulated that all top-level meetings take place within its framework once every three years, alternately in Russia and in an African state. It says further that the foreign ministers of Russia and three African countries—the current, future and previous chairpersons of the African Union—will meet for annual consultations.

Understandably, St. Petersburg, the preferred venue, was chosen primarily due to the continuous political instability in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Initially, Moscow bagged hopes on using the Chinese financed and newly constructed African Union headquarters which has modern facilities for large-scale international conferences and the city itself easily accessible with effectively built first-class Ethiopian Airlines network to and from many African countries. An additional advantage is that African government representatives and heads of many international organizations work in this city.

South Africa and Egypt, as possible alternatives, were thoroughly discussed as South Africa and Russia are members of BRICS, and Egypt has excellent post-Soviet relations. Reminding that the first summit held in Sochi was co-chaired by President Vladimir Putin and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who also rotationally during that year headed the African Union.

The large-scale Russia-Africa summit, held in Sochi in October 2019 and described as the first of its kind in the history of Moscow’s relations with Africa, attracted more than 40 African presidents, as well as the heads of major regional associations and organizations.

According to official documents, there were a total of 569 working meetings that resulted in 92 agreements and contracts, and memoranda of understanding signed as part of the summit.

The first summit opened a new page in the history of Russia’s relations with African countries. Sochi witnessed a historic final communiqué and impressive pledges and promises were made in various speeches and discussions.

Last November, a group of 25 leading experts headed by Sergei A. Karaganov, the Honorary Chairman of the Presidium of the Council on Foreign and Defence Policy, released a report that vividly highlighted some spectacular pitfalls and shortcomings in Russia’s approach towards Africa.

It pointed to Russia’s consistent failure in honouring its several agreements and pledges over the years. It decried the increased number of bilateral and high-level meetings that yield little or bring to the fore no definitive results. In addition, insufficient and disorganized Russian African lobbying combined with a lack of “information hygiene” at all levels of public speaking, says the policy report.

Writing early January on the policy outlook and forecast for 2022, Andrey Kortunov, Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC), acknowledged the absolute necessity for consolidating Russia’s positions in Africa.

“A second Russia-Africa summit is planned for the fall of 2022. Its first edition, held in Sochi in October 2019, raised many hopes for the prospects of an expanded Russian presence in Africa. Obviously, the COVID-19 pandemic has made some adjustments to these plans, preventing the parties from reaching the expected levels of trade and investment.

“Nevertheless, Africa still retains a considerable interest in interaction with Russia, which could act as an important balancer of the prevailing influence of the West and China in the countries of the continent,” he opined.

Kortunov suggested, therefore, that 2022 could become a “Year of Africa” for Moscow, a year of converting common political agreements into new practical projects in energy, transport, urban infrastructure, communications, education, public health, and regional security.

Some policy experts expect high symbolism at the 2022 Russia-Africa summit. For example, Andrey Maslov, Head of the Centre for African Studies at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics, said that preparations for the second summit would shape the Russia-African agenda; visits would become more frequent and Africa would receive greater coverage in Russian media.

Instead of measuring the success of the summit by how many African leaders attended, as happened in 2019, the parties will finally give greater attention to the substance of the agenda, which is already under development. Russia should try to increase its presence in Africa while avoiding direct confrontation with other non-regional and foreign players, he underlined.

According to him, the volume of Russian-African trade increased, for the first time since 2018, diversifying both geographically and in the range of goods traded. Shipments of railway equipment, fertilizers, pipes, high-tech equipment and aluminium are growing and work continues on institutionalizing the interaction between Russia and the African Union.

“A number of conflicts are also causing alarm, primarily those in Ethiopia, Libya, Guinea, Sudan and especially the Republic of Mali where France and the EU are withdrawing their troops. In 2022, Russia will try in various ways to play a stabilizing role for Africa and assist in confronting the main challenges it faces – epidemics, the spread of extremism and conflicts, and hunger,” Maslov told The Moscow Times.

A dialogue would begin on Africa formulating its own climate agenda, he said and added: “Africa is beginning to understand that it does not need a European-style green agenda and will demand compensation from the main polluting countries for the damage the climatic changes have caused to the ecosystems of African countries. Russia is likely to support these demands.”

In an emailed interview, Steven Gruzd, Head of the African Governance and Diplomacy Programme at the South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA), said Russia needs to upgrade or scale up its collaborative engagement with Africa. It has to consider seriously launching more public outreach programmes, especially working with civil society to change public perceptions and the private sector to strengthen its partnership with Africa. In order to achieve this, it has to surmount the challenges, take up the courage and work consistently with both private and public sectors and with an effective Action Plan.

He told IDN: “I would largely agree that there is a divide between what has been pledged and promised at high-level meetings and summits, compared to what has actually materialized on the ground. There is more talk than action, and in most cases, down the years intentions and ideas have been presented as initiatives already in progress. It will be interesting to see what has been concretely achieved in reports at the forthcoming second Russia-Africa summit scheduled for late 2022.”

Despite the challenges, Moscow plans to boost Russia’s presence in Africa noted Gruzd who also heads the Russia-Africa Research Programme initiated last year at SAIIA, South Africa’s premier research institute on international issues. It is an independent, non-government think tank, with a long and proud history of providing thought leadership in Africa.

Without doubts, Russia and African leaders will draw a comprehensive working map based on the discussions in St. Petersburg. The summit achievements will help to consolidate the aspirations of the African continent and African nations as fully as possible, and chart ways for materializing common priorities of Russia and the African countries within the framework of the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

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Cape Town to Host 2022 African Energy Week October 18

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2021 African Energy Week

By Adedapo Adesanya

The annual African Energy Week (AEW) will be taking place on October 18 -22, 2022, in Cape Town, South Africa, the organisers have announced.

The African Energy Chamber (AEC), which organises the event, will bring energy leaders and global stakeholders together for a week of intense dialogue on the African energy sector, with a strong pursuit of making energy poverty history by 2030.

In pursuit of an electrified economy, AEW 2022 will introduce critical topics that cover the entire energy value chain.

Regarding the upstream sector, there will be a focus on exploration, licensing rounds, and remaining competition for investment in 2022 and beyond.

With emerging frontier markets such as Somalia, Kenya, Namibia, Uganda and Côte d’Ivoire gaining increased attention from regional and international players, AEW 2022 will emphasize the potential and current opportunities across Africa’s emerging and mature upstream markets.

On the midstream front, AEW 2022 will offer critical insight into new and existing projects – such as the $6 billion African Renaissance Pipeline Project and the proposed 1,800km Tanzania-Uganda Natural Gas Pipeline Project – introducing lucrative opportunities to investors.

With the scaling up of refinery construction underway across the continent, the conference is committed to increasing investment and enhancing production across key African markets.

The organisers noted that by discussing the challenges and opportunities present across the downstream sector, African stakeholders will collaboratively discuss the future of the African energy industry.

On his part, Mr NJ Ayuk, Executive Chairman of the AEC said, “In 2021, they said it could not be done in Cape Town and we all must go to Dubai.

“With massive support from the City of Cape Town, the government of South Africa IOC’s and NOC’s and alternative energy companies, we demonstrated that Africa is ready and capable to hold a continent-wide energy event in Africa and we held the largest event on the continent. Even in the midst of the pandemic, AEW took place, ushering in a new era of safe, accessible, and industry-focused events.

“This year will be huge for the African energy industry. We expect a range of investments to be made and developments to take off that will drive the continent’s economic advancement.

“During this year’s edition of AEW, an emphasis will be placed on finance, natural gas, electrification, hydrogen, upstream and a just transition as we believe these sectors have a specific role to play in Africa.

“By developing our gas resources, Africa can meet the growing demand for energy while reducing emissions. From AEW 2022, we will be going to COP27 to meet with global leaders and discuss African energy – from Cape to Cairo.”

The organisers noted that as the continent continues to deal with reduced funding for hydrocarbon projects, AEW 2022 will offer new insights into how Africa’s oil and gas projects can raise capital in a post-COVID-19, energy transition context.

Accordingly, panel discussions and investor forums will place a focus on finance, enabling environments, and the role that African Energy Banks will play in financing the future of the industry. By introducing African stakeholders to innovative capital raising, AEW 2022 is committed to the growth of African oil and gas.

Regarding gas, the Chamber noted that Africa is not only rich with resources but opportunities. Markets such as Nigeria, Mozambique, Mauritania, Senegal, Tanzania, Equatorial Guinea, the Republic of the Congo, and Ghana have significant untapped resources.

Already, there has been an influx in investment and development within the gas sector, and yet a range of opportunities remain, particularly within the gas-to-power and Liquefied Natural Gas space.

AEW 2022, therefore, has placed a strong emphasis on the role that gas will play in electrifying Africa, driving socio-economic growth and industrialization for years to come. By introducing project profiles, highlighting key discoveries, and emphasizing how gas will drive a just transition in Africa, AEW 2022 has placed gas at the centre of its programme agenda.

The recent move by the European Union to label certain gas projects as green is likely to usher in a new wave of investment in Africa and AEW 2022 will be the place where deals in this area will be made.

The development of resources such as gas, hydrogen and renewables according to the organisers will ensure Africa adheres to global climate mitigation targets while at the same time driving economic growth.

During the summit, speakers will highlight key opportunities across Africa’s renewable energy space, providing insight into potential markets such as the Congo, Mozambique, the Gambia, Kenya, Angola, and Libya, all rich with renewable resources.

Additionally, the programme will emphasize the role that hydrogen will play in Africa by detailing high potential markets and projects such as Hive Hydrogen’s green ammonia plant in South Africa and the $9.4 billion green hydrogen project in Namibia.

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Intra African Trade Could Reach $300bn in 2025—Akinwuntan

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Intra African Trade

By Aduragbemi Omiyale

The Managing Director/Regional Executive of Ecobank Nigeria, Mr Patrick Akinwuntan, has projected that intra Africa trade could reach $300 billion by 2025.

He gave this forecast during an interview with Arise TV while speaking on the recently launched Pan-African Payment and Settlement System (PAPSS).

He described the payment platform developed by Afreximbank as a good development, noting that it will serve as a backbone through which all the countries in Africa are able to actualize transactions done within the free trade area, adding that it will also create employment, wealth, and deliver values to exporters on the continent.

“This common payment platform will enable Africa to move intra trade from the current 16 per cent, representing $70 billion to the range of 50-55 per cent in the next two to three years. This is huge because we could be talking about $300 billion intra African trade close to 15 per cent of Africa GDP.

“Besides, PAPSS will also eliminate payment delays, third party currencies as well as benefit households, small businesses, and financial institutions. This is a positive development for intra Africa trade. It is a step in the right direction. It will promote cross border trade for African exporters, liberalize payments and will deliver payment that delivers value. Africa is here for real business. Africa is ready. Let’s go for it,” he said.

Further, Mr Akinwuntan disclosed that “Ecobank is a supporter of this initiative. Today, we can reach up to 35 countries because we already have a Pan African switch, and we are already connected to PAPSS.

“I call for the collaboration of all stakeholders to achieve the desired objectives; we have the key industry sectors that deals on Pan African trade.

“We need to go through with them, helping them to see the practical possibilities. We have a responsibility to take this message to them that if they want to do any transaction across Africa, they don’t need to look for an international bank. PAPSS will work the same way NIBSS works in Nigeria.”

PAPSS is expected to boost intra-African trade by transforming and facilitating payment, clearing and settlement for cross-border trade across Africa.

At the launch, Prof. Benedict Oramah, the President and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Afreximbank, said “we are eager to build upon AfCFTA’s creation of a single market throughout Africa.  PAPSS provides the state-of-the-art financial market infrastructure connecting African markets to each other, thereby, enabling instant cross-border payments in respective local African currencies for cross-border trade.

“Afreximbank as the main settlement agent for PAPSS, provides settlement guarantees on the payment system and overdraft facilities to all settlement agents, in partnership with Africa’s participating Central Banks.

“PAPSS will effectively eliminate Africa’s financial borders, formalise and integrate Africa’s payment systems, and play a major role in facilitating and accelerating the huge AfCFTA-induced growth curve in intra-African trade,” he stated.

Also speaking at the event, PAPSS’s Chief Executive Officer, Mr Mike Ogbalu, emphasised that the payment system was not designed to compete with or replace existing payment systems.

He said it would facilitate the connectivity level that brings all payments systems together into one network that was interoperable, efficient and affordable.

“PAPSS is designed to make our currencies regain value to domesticate intra-Africa payments in this journey toward African prosperity. This is done while providing the superhighway which connects others to reach every part of this continent as we seek to create the Africa that we want,” he said.

The PAPSS pilot in WAMZ central banks has been completed and all six central banks have tested and gone through the trial operations.

In the last week of August 2021, all the central banks became live on the system and have since been sending through live transactions across the WAMZ region.

PAPSS has been successfully piloted in the six countries of the West African Monetary Zone, and promises to deliver multiple advantages and efficiencies to intra-African trade payments. As a major supporter of this initiative, Ecobank is already connected to PAPSS.

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Russia Proposes Complete Ban on Cryptocurrencies

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Cryptocurrencies

By Adedapo Adesanya

The Russian central bank has proposed a complete ban on cryptocurrencies in the country.

The proposal emphasized that crypto is extremely volatile and has helped to spread fraudulent activities in the country, adding that it is also a potential risk to the country’s national economy.

Director of the Bank of Russia, Ms Elizaveta Danilova, during a presentation, said that a complete ban would mean no mining, trading, or usage of crypto in the country.

However, owning cryptocurrencies would still be legal.

The report also suggested that the government should introduce punishments for individuals who buy or sell products/services using crypto.

The central bank, which is planning to issue its own digital currency, said crypto assets becoming widespread would limit the sovereignty of monetary policy, with higher interest rates needed to contain inflation.

This isn’t the first time the Bank of Russia has gone after cryptos as it had banned mutual funds from investing in any cryptocurrencies.

In 2019, the country blamed cryptocurrencies for spreading money launching and terror financing.

However, the government legalized crypto in 2020, although banning their use as payments.

The move is the latest in a global cryptocurrency crackdown as governments from Asia to the United States worry that privately operated and highly volatile digital currencies could undermine their control of financial and monetary systems.

With the total ban of the asset by China, Russia witnessed a rise in crypto mining and this move has already triggered investors to dump their coins.

In September, China intensified its crackdown on cryptocurrencies with a blanket ban on all crypto transactions and mining, hitting bitcoin and other major coins and pressuring crypto and blockchain-related stocks.

Market analysts note that although the Bank of Russia’s proposal can cause significant worry for its crypto traders and miners, it’s still not confirmed if the government will follow through with a total ban.

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