West Attempting to Maintain Neocolonial Empire in Africa—Russia
By Kestér Kenn Klomegâh
Mikhail Bogdanov, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation; Special Presidential Representative for the Middle East and Africa, has offered excellent directions into Russia’s policy implementation in Africa within the context of the emerging new world order.
The changing geopolitical situation is often discussed in relation to Africa, officials always attempt to point out what and how Africa should play its role, especially in dealing with external partners.
Russia and China are building a relationship of fair competition in Africa, Bogdanov said in an interview in late February with TASS, adding that Moscow and Beijing do not share the approaches of former Western colonial powers. That said, the Russian side has something to offer to African partners in the economic sense now.
“The policy of Russia, same as China, which is Africa’s time-tested partner, is pragmatic and naturally based on the balance of national interests. We are building an equitable relationship, being respectful of the sovereignty of foreign countries and their integral right to determine their domestic and international policy. Meanwhile, fair competition is always relevant. This is what makes Russia’s fundamental approaches different from those of former Western colonial powers,” he noted.
He says the issue is not about the West’s attention to the continent that has intensified recently but about desperate attempts by the collective West to maintain its neocolonial empire.
“Today, especially after Russia and the West came to a parting of the ways through no fault of ours, Western countries are facing an urgent necessity to replenish essential resources that have been lost, for supporting their industry and for economic development and, if possible, with minimum expenses.
“Their goal in Africa now is to solve existentialist issues, so to say. It can be seen in the tools they use, mostly ‘unsportsmanlike’, including ‘laws’ restricting Russia’s activities in Africa, sanctions, stop lists, threats, blackmail,” he said.
Writing under the title “Russia’s Policy Towards Africa” back in September 2019, Institute of African Studies researcher Olga Kulkova explicitly explained that Russia has greatly strengthened its presence in Africa over the past few years. It has signed new agreements with several countries there, including cooperation in the field of military technology, security and counterterrorism.
On the positive side, this has reinforced Russia’s traditionally friendly ties with its African partners, after its sudden withdrawal from Africa in the early 1990s, which was, indeed, a strategic blunder. But, Russian authorities have become fully aware of these primary policy mistakes. Now is the time to revitalize and rebuild the old ties, and also important to forge new ones. Russia’s policy towards Africa can be described as unique, but it has fewer financial and economic opportunities for implementing its policy on the continent compared to that of China.
Last February, writing under the title “What Africa Expects From Russia”, Valdai Club expert Nourhan ElSheikh clearly noted that the Russian-African partnership is the core of a new multipolar world order that would be more fair and just for all. Africa expects a lot from Russia. Historical cooperation between the two and the huge capabilities that Russia possesses confirm its ability to meet these expectations and move forward together in the future.
Africa is a promising continent with broad prospects for economic growth. It is very rich in both natural and human resources. Africa has 30% of the world’s total minerals, 10% of oil reserves, 8% of gas reserves, and nearly 60% of the world’s untapped agricultural area. By 2040, Africa will have the largest labour force, as a quarter of the world’s population will live there; with young people accounting for more than 60%.
Although Africa possesses all the requirements needed for development and economic breakthroughs, it still suffers from hunger, poverty, poor living standards, and political instability. Over long decades of colonialism, Western countries exploited Africa and drained its wealth without investing in any development. Africa needs fair and balanced partnerships in order to help it face its problems and move toward the future.
African countries deeply trust Russia as a reliable partner. This reliance is rooted in the Soviet era when Moscow was the only supporter of the African national liberation movements. Russia provided the newly independent African countries with economic, military and technical assistance.
Russia is also distinguished by its cooperative rather than competitive approach to the continent. Unlike Western countries, which view Africa as an arena for international competition, Moscow seeks development partnerships based on a win-win principle. It bases its cooperation on mutual respect of interests, non-interference in internal affairs, and consolidating peace and stability.
In this context, Africa looks forward to an active partnership with Russia in confronting its crises and launching economic and social development according to the following priorities. Chief among these is the food crisis, which is considered the most pressing in Africa. More than a third of people in the world who suffer from chronic hunger and undernourishment are in Africa. Cooperation with Russia is crucial in overcoming this existential crisis.
In the short term, this means providing African countries with Russian grain and fertilizers. In the long term, it entails helping Africans in developing their agricultural sector and providing them with the required technology. A number of African countries have fertile soil and sufficient water resources. But they are in dire need of investment in technology, not only to satisfy their nutritional needs but to become regional centres for Russian grain production.
Providing investment and technology for the energy sector is also an African priority. African countries need to exploit their natural resources in the field of energy. This includes oil, gas, new and renewable energy, and hydroelectric power, as many countries in the continent, especially Sub-Saharan ones, suffer from a severe deficit in electricity.
Likewise, cooperation is needed in mining and the extraction of Africa’s huge reserves of minerals. Linked to this is the development of industries that depend on the natural resources that Africa possesses. The same priority can be given to the development of both the education and healthcare sectors, as well as transport infrastructure, especially railways. Ignorance and disease are fundamental challenges to any development efforts in Africa.
In parallel with those development areas, it is necessary to work on ensuring peace and stability. Africa suffers greatly from political instability, as well as from internal and regional armed conflicts. There is no sustainable development without stability and peace.
Russia has played an important role in restoring stability and combating terrorism in a number of African countries, including Mali and the Central African Republic. Russia has actively participated in peacekeeping forces in Africa. It is important to enhance Russia’s role as a guarantor of peace and stability in Africa. African countries rely on Russia as an honest partner that sincerely supports peace and stability.
Many African experts, however, believe that Russia is doing little with investment in Africa. Unlike Western countries, European Union members and Asian countries, which focus particularly on what they want to achieve with Africa, Russia places anti-colonial fight at the core of its policy.
Long before it held its first summit, Russia had made several pledges and promises and held several meetings with several delegations. Records show that 92 bilateral agreements were signed at the end of the Russia-Africa summit in 2019 have not been implemented, and yet officials are still and passionately looking for more agreements with Africa.
Worthy of understanding is the fact that Africa has attained its political independence far back in the 60s, and many of them are striving to diversify their economies, build infrastructure, and modern agriculture to ensure food security and push for industrializing using vibrant human resources. These African countries are ready to cooperate with potential investors with funds for transforming the resources, especially with the evolving African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) initiated by the African Union.
South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA), a policy think tank, also suggested that Africa needs to forge a unified approach to Russia before the 2023 Russia-Africa Summit.
In its researched policy report, the think tank operators have argued that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s visits to Africa, last year and early this year, highlighted the need for the development of a Russian continental strategy to avoid becoming a pawn in global power games.
Those trips have underscored the importance for African countries to develop well-crafted positions when engaging with external powers. Without this, Africa risks being caught up in geopolitical disputes, diminishing its global voice and agency. Lavrov reinforced the criticism of Western policies in Africa.
Russia has been ramping up its military relationships with several African countries for at least a decade. Its approach is often influenced by close ties between Russia’s arms industry and its infamous private security contractor, the Wagner Group. According to Sipri, a Swedish think tank, Russia was the largest arms supplier to Africa in 2021, accounting for 44% of continental imports of major arms. In total, Russia has signed military agreements with more than 20 African countries.
While Russia is not among Africa’s largest trading partners, its presence cannot be discounted. It is estimated that in 2020, Russia’s trade with African countries amounted to more than $14 billion, with Egypt accounting for about 30% of this total. But, while the Russian economy and the size of its military are much larger than that of any single African country, collectively, the continent can hold more sway. In 2021, Africa’s collective GDP was around $2.7 trillion, while Russia’s amounted to about $1.7 trillion.
It is not hard to see why taking sides is problematic for African states. Perhaps, the most important way forward is for African countries to work in cooperation with one another. Thus, developing relationships beyond short-term impact is critical to ensure the continent is not dominated by other global powers’ interests.
Overcoming passivity could involve the following steps: Africa urgently needs a Russia strategy. To that end, the AU can — and should — engage with its members in a more structured manner and help them put together joint positions on critical issues related to Russia and other partners, like the US, China, Europe and others.
The first step in this direction should be strengthening the AU’s Partnership Management and Coordination Division. The division can serve as a more appropriate place for reflection on how its member states can better advocate for the continent’s needs and ensure African voices are heard in discussions with countries like Russia.
Russia’s role in Africa is expected to remain controversial and contested. It is clear that Russia knows what it wants from the continent: access to markets, political support and general influence. Now it is time for the continent to clarify what it wants from Russia in return. In the lead-up to the 2023 Russia-Africa Summit, the AU and its member states should strengthen their positions regarding external partnerships. If not, the continent risks being left behind and used as a pawn in an increasingly divided global order.
Russian, African Parliamentarians Stand Against United States in Africa
By Kestér Kenn Klomegâh
Russia and African parliamentarians continue forging solidarity against growing neo-colonial tendencies in Africa. The parliamentarians, far ahead of their symbolic gathering, have intensified political dialogue and support for Russia’s war on neighbouring Ukraine and further expressed readiness to support Africa’s economic development.
Russia has come under stringent economic sanctions from the United States and Europe due to the ‘special military operation’ that it began in February 2022, more than a year that has adversely affected Africa. It has also divided Africa’s voting at the United Nations, with some experts arguing that such sharp divisions, in terms of voting either for or against, abstaining or keeping neutral, could influence Africa’s unity in the continent.
Some policy experts still expect high symbolism at the 2023 Russia-Africa summit as official working visits have become more frequent and Africa receives greater coverage in Russian media. The experts say instead of measuring the success of the summit by African leaders’ attendance, as happened in 2019, the parties give greater attention to the substance of the agenda, which is under development. Russia should try to increase its presence in Africa while avoiding direct confrontation with other non-regional and foreign players.
According to the experts, Russia’s efforts, for now, are not practically showing tangible results. Russia has to open its doors more to African visitors and tourists; these could bring together anyone interested in expanding all-inclusive dialogue and anyone who is ready to help promote initiatives possibly for increasing socio-economic development between Russia and the African states and raising the well-being of their citizens.
That however, undeterred by the pressure from the United States ‘to cancel Russia’ in their relationship, African parliamentarians have arrived in Moscow for a two-day working gathering to methodically develop Russian-African relations in various fields. In addition, to the political dialogue, they are also focusing on economic, cultural, humanitarian and scientific cooperation.
According to the plan, Russian parliamentarians and African colleagues fixed topical issues of the international parliamentary agenda for discussions: parliamentary support of scientific and educational cooperation, a legislative response to economic challenges, indivisible security: capabilities and contributions of parliaments, and neocolonialism of the West: how to prevent the repetition of history.
On March 20, the main conference entitled “Russia-Africa in the multipolar world” at the State Duma (the Pillar Hall of the House of the Unions). More than 40 official parliamentary delegations from almost all African countries have already arrived for the conference. Representatives of the scientific, educational and expert communities from Russia and African countries, members of the State Duma, federal executive authorities, senators of the Federation Council, and chairmen of the legislative bodies of the constituent entities of the Russian Federation.
There was a bilateral meeting of the Chairman of the State Duma, Vyacheslav Volodin and the Speaker of the National Assembly of the Parliament of South Africa, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, at the State Duma. The Speaker stressed that the Republic highly appreciated the dialogue with Russia.
Speaker Volodin noted that attempts by Washington and Brussels to isolate Africa and Russia have failed. He is convinced that the parliaments could do a lot for further development of relations on the principles of respect, non-interference in the internal affairs of other states and mutually beneficial cooperation.
He stressed that relations between Russia and the Republic of South Africa were developing with the help of cooperation between the presidents of the two states. “We have great capabilities, and we should use the parliamentary dimension to do everything to enhance our cooperation in various areas,” added Volodin. He suggested preparing and signing a relevant agreement between the State Duma and the National Assembly of the Parliament of South Africa, as well as creating a high-level commission. Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula supported his suggestion.
Mapisa-Nqakula thanked Vyacheslav Volodin for sending the invitation to take part in the Parliamentary Conference before adding “It is very important for us that Russia gives priority to the African continent. Many countries consider Africa as a great possibility to get African resources. But taking into account the history of our cooperation, we, like many other African countries, believe that Russia has other, more genuine interests in Africa.”
“Our cooperation started decades ago. And we felt your support in the worst times for us, during apartheid. We understand that now it is a difficult time for Russia as a country. But I would like to assure you that South Africa will continue cooperation and discuss areas of cooperation that are important for us. We look forward to its start,” said Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula.
The speakers also discussed issues of cooperation within the framework of the BRICS, as it is South Africa’s chairmanship. “For us, the cooperation between the parliaments within the BRICS framework is very important, as we can discuss issues of common interest,” emphasized the Speaker of the National Assembly of the Parliament of South Africa.
“Our Conference will be an important stage in the process of preparing for the second Russia-Africa summit, which is planned to be held in Saint Petersburg this summer with the participation of the heads of state,” concluded the Chairman of the State Duma.
According to reports monitored by this author, there are 17 specialized working groups that focus on various areas of cooperation between Russia and Africa. The expectation is that these working would come up with useful initiatives to be incorporated into an action plan for 2023-2026 and further cement the entire complex of relations between Russia and the African countries.
Russian President Vladimir Putin will speak at the Russia-Africa parliamentary conference on Monday, Kremlin aide Yury Ushakov told reporters. “On March 20, when the president receives the Chinese leader, he will address the 2nd parliamentary conference Russia-Africa,” Ushakov, who heads the organizing committee of the summit, said, adding that the event would pave the way for the 2nd Russia-Africa summit, scheduled to take place from July 27-28 in St. Petersburg, second largest city of Russia.
Moldcell Begins Digital Financial Services in Moldova
By Aduragbemi Omiyale
One of the leading mobile network operators in Moldova, Moldcell, has commenced digital financial services in the country through a digital wallet known as Moldcell Money, bringing a new level of convenience and security to its customers.
The service, which is available through the moldcell money app, allows subscribers of any mobile network in the country to easily transfer money and pay for services directly from their mobile wallet.
This financial service is supported by Comviva, the global leader in digital financial solutions, which has deployed its flagship mobiquity Pay platform to make the service seamless.
Users can make payments with their mobile numbers without the need for bank cards or cash and can transfer money to any mobile phone number or pay for services directly from the mobile app. The service also provides the ability to transfer money using an SMS code or through any Moldcell Center store, ensuring the safety of personal data and instant payment.
“Our solution, moldcell money, is the first fintech service on the telecommunications market in Moldova, the purpose of which is to offer subscribers of all communication networks a wide range of financial services.
“The solution consists of three main components: the moldcell money mobile application, which offers various services such as payments, bills, loans, government payments, gaming payments, money transfers to loved ones and bonuses; financial services available in direct Moldcell stores throughout the country, which makes transfers and payments convenient, simple and accessible; possibility to make payments with Moldcell number exclusively for Moldcell subscribers, offering an additional advantage of comfort and simplicity,” the Mobile Financial Services and Business Innovation Director at Moldcell, Olga Pavlic, said.
“Comviva has been the industry leader in the payment space, and our work on this market-first project in the region shall set the stage for many more exciting developments in the payments space in the region.
“We are thrilled to partner with Moldcell in their digitization initiative that will offer a modern, digital-first and secure way to manage payments,” the Chief Transformation Officer for Digital Financial Solutions at Comviva, Srinivas Nidugondi, stated.
Georgia Senate Rejects Sports Betting Proposal
Georgia’s state senate has refused to pass legislation legalizing and regulating sports betting within its borders. The defeat of Senate Bill 57 is one of several efforts to legalize sports betting for Georgians in recent times in the midst of the fight against illegal gambling. Despite the opposition of some parties within the state, the proposed legislation to legalize sports betting in Atlanta has the support of various business groups and professional sports teams.
Opponents of the Bill
Senate Bill 57 was defeated by a vote of 37-19 in the Senate. The bill would have required the state lottery to offer horse racing sports betting as long as the track paid out winnings rather than using a wagering pool system. The traditional system of pari-mutuel wagering allows the odds to be adjusted until the race begins.
The bill received insufficient support in the chamber before the Legislature’s internal deadline, lowering its chances of becoming law. Such bills, on the other hand, can be resurrected as part of other legislation if their language is placed in other bills that have already passed a chamber.
The failure of Senate Bill 57 is the second of four failed sports betting legalization efforts in the state. Several other Georgia legislators have tried to expand gambling in the state for years, but have made no progress since voters approved the state lottery in 1992.
Many people believe that Georgia will eventually have to legalize some forms of sports betting and US online gaming sites because it is already legal in 34 other states, albeit with limited in-person gambling options.
Backing the Bill’s Rejection
The 19 voters thought Georgia should legalize sports betting because it could generate more revenue by legalizing forms of gambling that are currently illegal. According to Sen. Brandon Beach, a Republican from Alpharetta, Georgia, there is a lot of unregulated sports betting going on in underground markets via bookies, which are more harmful to individuals.
The 37 opponents, on the other hand, had a different opinion. They all agreed that Georgia should not expand its gambling options beyond the state lottery. They believe it will generate enough revenue to fund prekindergarten programs and college scholarships. The lottery generates approximately $1.5 billion in revenue each year.
According to Sen. Marty Harbin, a Republican from Tyrone, gambling involves winners and losers, which means that even when the game is played fairly, there must be a loser. As a result, the house or establishment hosting the gambling activity almost always makes a profit.
If Senate Bill 57 is passed, the proceeds from horse racing sports betting would be used to fund college scholarships and preschool programs, which the lottery is already required to fund under the state constitution.
Senate Bill 57 Support Base and Future Prospects
Several individuals and organizations supported the proposed legislation and were disappointed by its failure. The bill was sponsored by Statesboro Republican Senator Billy Hickman, a horse owner, and racer. He argued that legalizing horse racing betting would have a greater economic impact than other forms of sports gambling because it would benefit farmers and horse breeders.
Earlier this year, former Georgia Supreme Court Justice Harold Melton wrote an opinion on behalf of the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce stating that sports betting could be legalized in Georgia without requiring a constitutional amendment.
Bill Cowsert, Chairman of the Senate Regulated Industries Committee, is also a supporter of allowing sports betting in Georgia. Prior to that, he attempted to persuade voters to amend the state constitution to legalize sports betting and to establish a gaming commission to oversee and regulate the practice.
Cowsert expressed disappointment that the bill was rejected by the Senate. He went on to explain that the Senate has clearly stated that they do not want sports betting to be legalized in 2023.
Sports betting is not permissible under the state constitution, according to Congressional analysts. Because the provisions in the state constitution were ambiguous, Legislative Counsel Director Rick Ruskell advised in 2019 that a constitutional amendment be introduced to legalize sports betting.
Sports betting supporters claim that it has the potential to generate $30 million to $100 million in annual revenue for the state. Opponents, including those who believe gambling is immoral, addictive, and contributes to criminal activity, have argued that these figures are exaggerated, leaving them in a bind.
The failure of Senate Bill 57 to pass in Georgia’s Senate demonstrates that the state is not yet willing to make the transition to regulated sports betting. However, the current wave of legislation in the United States and elsewhere suggests that change is possible in the near future. Currently, there is the issue that many Georgians are still gambling with unregulated providers, most of which are offshore providers. This translates to the state losing a lot of money. The legalization bill may have failed for the time being, but it will not be the last time it is introduced.
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