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.
Algeria Joins Afreximbank as 52nd Member State
By Adedapo Adesanya
The African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) has announced that Algeria has joined the bank as its 52nd Member State.
This is contained in a statement by the bank’s media contact, Mr Amadou Sall, in Abuja on Friday, July 1.
Afreximbank member states rose from 38 in 2015 to 51 in 2021 and with Algeria’s accession, the bank is only three states short of achieving full continental coverage.
The Cairo-based bank disclosed in the statement today that Algeria’s inclusion in the agreement establishing Afreximbank was formalised on June 8, by Presidential Decree No. 22-212.
“The subscription of the country to the shares of Afreximbank as part of its membership in the institution was also authorised by Presidential Decree No. 22-222 on June 14, 2022.
“Algeria becomes a Class A shareholder in the bank and will be represented by the Algerian Ministry of Finance,” the lender said.
Algeria has the ninth-largest population and the fourth-largest economy in Africa.
It is also a member of the African Union (AU), the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and the Greater Arab Trade Area.
According to Mr Benedict Oramah, President and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Afreximbank, “Algeria’s membership of Afreximbank is momentous.”
“It brings Africa’s 4th largest economy within the Afreximbank family.
“It creates a platform for Afreximbank’s AfCFTA intervention to be more impactful and paves the way for deeper cooperation between the bank, the Algerian Government, the Algerian Central Bank and Algerian importers and exporters.”
Mr Oramah said the bank looked forward to a successful partnership that would enable Algeria to firmly establish itself as a strong participant in intra-African trade and investments.
Afreximbank is a Pan-African multilateral financial institution mandated to finance and promote intra-and extra-African trade.
Afreximbank deploys innovative structures to deliver financing solutions that support the transformation of the structure of Africa’s trade, accelerating industrialisation and intra-regional trade, thereby, boosting economic expansion in Africa.
BRICS PLUS verses G-8 in New Global Configuration
By Kestér Kenn Klomegâh
The United States has outstretched its political and economic interests around the world. China has strategically extended its tentacles across both the Atlantic and the Pacific, conquered Africa, and intensified commercial operations in the Central Asia regions including the former Soviet republics – the backyard of the Russian Federation.
Despite its large population of 1.5 billion which many have considered as an impediment, China’s domestic economic reforms and collaborative strategic diplomacy with external countries have made it attain superpower status over the United States. China is strengthening its trade, investment and economic muscles.
Russia has been teaming up with China and India and a few other external countries to establish a new global economic system. Its aim is to break the unipolar system that successive White House administrations have maintained. Due to socialist economic planning and their advancement of the notions of international cooperation and peace even among states with varying social systems, there has been tremendous progress in the areas of international solidarity.
The Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) grouping is a manifestation of the role of Beijing, Moscow and Pretoria along with the other states to craft another order. These new alliances are perceived as a threat to the role of the United States, Britain and the European Union since they are not participant members and cannot directly impact the agendas and goals established by the BRICS.
Russia has some limitations. Its external economic footprint is comparatively weak. Its external policies hardly promote its economic models. The geopolitical reordering of the world cannot simply be achieved through war or challenging the West’s political influence in its various global domains. The economic component is possibly the most significant.
As Dr Ramzy Baroud, a journalist and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle wrote recently “the Middle East, especially the Gulf region, is vital for the current global economic order and is equally critical for any future reshaping of that order. If Moscow is to succeed in redefining the role of Arab economies vis-à-vis the global economy, it would most likely succeed in ensuring that a multipolar economic world takes form. Russia is clearly invested in a new global economic system, but without isolating itself in the process.”
Russia has exited many international organizations, instead of sustaining its membership and using these platforms to propagate its global mission. It has gone into self-isolation, with many heavy-handed criticisms against the United States and Europe.
Russia is currently pushing an initiative for multipolarity. In June 2022, Russian State Duma (the lower house of parliament) Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin wrote on Telegram that the United States and its allies are destroying economic ties by their sanctions policy, but at the same time creating new points of growth in other countries.
“The move by Washington and its allies to cut the existing economic ties has created new points of growth in the world,” he pointed out. According to the parliament speaker, Western sanctions are leading to the establishment of another group of eight nations – China, India, Russia, Indonesia, Brazil, Mexico, Iran and Turkey – that is 24.4% ahead of the old group of developed countries in terms of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and purchasing power parity.
“The United States, with its own hands, has created conditions for countries willing to build an equal dialogue and mutually beneficial relations to actually establish a new G-8 group with Russia,” Volodin noted.
Understandably, there is a Group of Seven (G-7), an inter-governmental political forum, that includes highly developed countries. These are Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States. In addition, the European Union is a non-enumerated member. Its members are the world’s largest IMF advanced economies and the wealthiest liberal democracies. The group is organized around shared values of pluralism and representative government. As of 2020, the collective group accounted for over 50 per cent of global net wealth. Its members are great powers in global affairs and maintain mutually close political, economic, social, legal, environmental, military, religious, cultural, and diplomatic relations.
Russia has dismembered itself from the group and remained critical about it arguing that the G-7 has no relevance to exist since its members also meet at the Group of Twenty (G-20). Based on that argument, if the establishment of another new Group of Eight nations – China, India, Russia, Indonesia, Brazil, Mexico, Iran and Turkey – is formed, BRICS – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, it follows, will have to be absorbed by the new Group of Eight organization, and thus pushing out South Africa.
Indonesia which will host the G-20 summit in Bali this November is doing its best to insulate the meeting from politics. Whether Indonesia will arbitrate between angry clashing superpowers is simply unpredictable. The chances of a sudden rapprochement between the United States and China – let alone between the US and Russia – are exceedingly low.
Russia and China’s strategic alliance is strengthening and China has resisted so many attempts for excluding Russia from international organizations. Both are staunch members of BRICS.
Dr Pankaj Kumar Jha, Professor at O. P. Jindal Global University in Sonipat, Haryana, observes that China and India border conflict will continue influencing BRICS. However, India and China are cooperating to develop alternate financial structures, cohesive guidelines within Asia and the global south on many issues such as trade, investment and developing an understanding so that the dominance of the West could be reduced to a minimum in global financial architecture, he said and added, “the foundation of cooperation in BRICS brings potential resources and critical development requirements under one umbrella.”
Questions about the future of BRICS remain especially when new world order is being discussed. Drawing inspiration from Quad plus, BRICS countries are also discussing BRICS plus format. The formation of the new grouping G-8 is primarily a fusion of BRICS and VISTA (Vietnam, Indonesia, South Africa, Turkey, Argentina). The formation is primarily to connect BRICS to middle-income and middle-power countries, according to his explanation.
Dr Pankaj Kumar Jha concluded his argument: “This geopolitical configuration is in exploratory phases, undoubtedly meant to bring a new axis of Russia-China but the inclusion of Mexico, Indonesia and Turkey. How much successful this grouping would be is still a matter of conjecture. From a geopolitical point of view, much would depend on how sanctions on Russia and the post-coronavirus recovery of China shape up.”
Professor Aslan Abashidze, Head of the Department of International Law of the Russian University of Peoples’ Friendship and Member of the Scientific Advisory Board under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs observes that in general, international associations emerge on the basis of prerequisites that may be of a different nature: political, defensive, cultural, et cetera. The emergence of such “para-organizations” as the Group of Seven (G-7), Group of Eight (G-8), and Group of Twenty (G-20) is associated with the inability of international institutions at the global level to meet the increased needs of modern development in the face of growing challenges in the form of pandemics, financial crisis et cetera.
The process of searching for new models by the states dissatisfied with the United States policy has started, which means the end of the dominance of the United States in all spheres of international relations. At some point, the West, headed by the United States, will have to negotiate new models of international economic and other relations, based on new international treaties that ensure equality of all states.
According to Professor Abashidze, “Russia, China and India will establish trade relations on national currencies and therefore it will be attractive and beneficial to other states, not only from the Asia-Pacific region but also from Latin America, the Middle East and Africa.”
The emerging new coalition group is coming up at a crucial time when over the last two decades, the United States, Britain, the European Union (EU) countries and their allies globally, have been embroiled in numerous imperialist interventions resulting in destabilization, military interventions, proxy wars and the expansion of western imperialism throughout Africa, Asia and Latin America.
Nigeria to Benefit from AfDB $2m Electricity Research Fund
By Adedapo Adesanya
Nigeria is set to benefit from a technical assistance grant of $2 million to fund research that will contribute to electricity reforms in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
The grant from the African Development Fund, the concessional window of the African Development Bank Group (AfDB), will go to the ECOWAS Regional Electricity Regulatory Authority. The fund was signed by the board of the financial institution on Friday, June 24.
The ultimate objective is to stimulate cross-border electricity trade and improve energy access in the 15 countries covering about 6.1 million km² in the region – Benin, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Côte d’Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo.
The electricity research fund has five components. The first involves selecting electricity regulatory principles and key performance indicators from the bank’s flagship Electricity Regulatory Index for Africa report, to be adopted by the ECOWAS Regional Electricity Regulatory Authority.
As part of this component, the project will build capacity in Nigeria and other member countries for collecting and reporting on these indicators on a common platform.
The second component will involve conducting a study in order to update a comparative analysis of electricity tariffs and their underlying drivers across the electricity value chain of ECOWAS.
The third involves developing a centralized database management system that will provide a platform for digitally collecting relevant energy information from member countries, storing it, and disseminating them on a common digital platform.
The fourth component will assess and identify project bottlenecks and risks in ECOWAS member countries and recommend a coherent approach to progressively address ground-level barriers to investment in the power sector in pre- and post-establishment phases of the regional electricity market.
The final component focuses on programme management and capacity building, which will be co-financed with the Regional Electricity Regulatory Authority. All components of the project will include gender-disaggregated data.
Speaking on the plan, Mr Solomon Sarpong, project team leader at the AfDB, said the project will help boost electricity supply and make it a viable investment sector to serve a population of about 360 million in the bloc.
“Ultimately, this project will facilitate regional electricity trade and help improve access to electricity.
“It will address major causes of fragility, such as infrastructure bottlenecks, youth unemployment, environmental challenges, gender inequalities, and regional development imbalances,” he said.
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