You and I have the same blood: Russia and Africa converged on electrification | Latest news The Moscow Post
02 October 2023

You and I have the same blood: Russia and Africa converged on electrification

Russia is developing cooperation with one of the most developing world powers.

Russia will help African countries strengthen sovereignty, Russian President Vladimir Putin noted in greeting the participants and guests of the Russia-Africa economic and humanitarian forum, noting that today Africa is becoming one of the poles of the emerging multipolar world, The Moscow Post reports.

The forum's motto is "Technology and Security for Sovereign Development for the Good of Man." Speaking at the plenary session, Vladimir Putin identified the main benchmark for the discussion - strengthening the well-being of citizens, improving their living conditions, solving pressing problems.

The President said that Russia is sincerely interested in further deepening multifaceted trade, investment and humanitarian ties with the continent, the potential of which is obvious. The GDP growth rate of the whole of Africa over the past 20 years exceeds the global ones and amounts to more than 4% per year. The population is approaching 1.5 billion people and is growing, as is the middle class, which is shaping demand for modern goods and services.

Food security

At the end of last year, Russian-African trade reached $18 billion. More than half of Russian supplies to Africa are machinery and equipment, chemical products, as well as food. Trade in agricultural products in 2022 increased by 10% to $6.7 billion, and in the first half of 2023 increased by another 60%.

In 2022, Russian grain exports amounted to 11.5 million tons, and in the first half of the year reached almost 10 million tons, despite the sanctions. Speaking about the decision not to extend the "grain deal," Vladimir Putin announced his readiness to provide Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe, Mali, Somalia, the Central African Republic, and Eritrea with 25-50 thousand tons of grain free of charge, ensuring its free delivery.

Russia is also ready to share with African countries expertise in the field of agricultural production, to assist in the introduction of advanced technologies. In the future, Africa can not only feed itself, but also become an exporter of food.

Assistance in Energy and Industry

Africa is the least electrified continent. Over 40% of the population does not have access to electricity. Energy supply should remain one of the main areas of interaction and assistance from Russia. Vladimir Putin recalled that Soviet and Russian specialists designed and built large power plants in Angola, Egypt, Ethiopia and other countries with a total capacity of 4.6 gigawatts, thus creating a quarter of all African hydropower capacities.

Currently, 16 states in Africa have more than 30 projects with a total capacity of 3.7 gigawatts, which are being implemented or planned with Russian participation. In particular, companies such as RusHydro operate in African countries; in Egypt, Rosatom is building the Ed-Dabaa nuclear power plant.

Oil and gas companies (Gazprom, Lukoil, Zarubezhneft) are engaged in the development of hydrocarbon fields in Algeria, Egypt, Cameroon, Nigeria, and the Republic of the Congo. Over the past two years, Russia has increased exports to Africa of Russian crude oil, petroleum products, and liquefied natural gas by 2.6 times.

A leasing mechanism and an investment fund are being formed to finance infrastructure projects. Concessional lending tools are being developed for the purchase of industrial products in the Russian Federation, its transportation to the continent and after-sales services.

The North-South International Transport Corridor, with access to the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean, will also serve bilateral commodity flows with Africa. In this regard, Russia is interested in creating a transport and logistics center in one of the ports on the east coast of the continent. The Russian Federation can also take part in the development of the African railway network.

From national currencies to the Russian language

To expand trade and economic ties, Vladimir Putin proposed more vigorously switching in financial settlements on trade transactions to national currencies, including the ruble. As one of the leaders in the field of information and communication technologies, Russia is expanding cooperation with African states in the field of information security, artificial intelligence, and the digital economy.

Russia is interested in strengthening ties with regional economic integration associations and structures operating on the continent, including through the EAEU. Moscow intends to expand the network of Russian trade offices operating in Africa, to increase the staff of economic advisers, attaches for agriculture, education, science and information and communication technologies.

Today, almost 35 thousand students from Africa study in Russian universities. The training quota for Africans at the expense of the federal budget of the Russian Federation for three years increased two and a half times and for the next academic year will be more than 4,700 people. The plans are to open branches of leading Russian universities, you can think about opening schools in African countries with teaching subjects in Russian.

Of the Africans currently studying in Russia, more than 10 thousand are trained in medical specialties. Health care and epidemic control are an important area of cooperation. Russia was one of the first to come to the rescue during the coronavirus pandemic, sent millions of Russian tests to African states free of charge, and together with South Africa conducted research on new strains of the dangerous virus.

Vladimir Putin also spoke about the program of assistance to combat infections and mobile laboratories, youth exchanges, invited representatives of African countries to the World Youth Festival in Sochi, invited African athletes to take part in the international university sports festival in Yekaterinburg, as well as in the "Games of the Future," which will be held in February-March 2024 in Kazan.

Finally, Vladimir Putin proposed creating a common information space for Russia and Africa in order to broadcast objective, unbiased information about events in the world in a bilateral format.

Africa needs Russia, as does Russia Africa

The task of maintaining "regional and subregional integration" and Russia's ties with the countries of the African continent was formulated in the National Security Strategy of the Russian Federation, adopted in July 2021.

A separate section "Africa" with specific tasks for the development of relations with the countries of the continent appeared quite recently, in the Concept of Foreign Policy of the Russian Federation. Africa appears there as a "distinctive and influential center of world development in the making".

In the list of Russian foreign policy priorities, the African continent is higher than the North American! This reflects Russia's new view of Africa, promises to fill relations with concrete content. But this "priority scale" appeared only at the beginning of 2023!

By this time, Russia retained its place as a significant trading partner only for Egypt. Irina Abramova, director of the Institute of Africa of the Russian Academy of Sciences, expressed herself categorically in an interview with Expert magazine, saying that "for many representatives of Russian business, nurtured within the framework of the liberal concept and focused exclusively on the Western market, Africa was not considered at all as a promising partner".

Perhaps so, but clarification is required. Leading Russian companies with state participation, or simply "big players" (some of them called the president in his speech), have long been operating in a number of African countries. In Tanzania, for example, Russian investments are associated with the Rosatom uranium project, which is building the Ed-Dabaa nuclear power plant in Egypt. In Angola, Alrosa has been a shareholder of Catoca since 1993. Renova mines manganese in South Africa. Lukoil operates in Egypt, Cameroon, Nigeria, offshore Ghana and Congo-Brazzaville.

Severstal participates in the Putu ore project in Liberia. Rusal owns an aluminum smelter in Nigeria and controls about 10% of Guinean bauxite. In gold mining, Russia is represented by Nordgold assets in Burkina Faso and Guinea, GPB Global Resources, M-Invest and Rusdragmet settled in Sudan. RusHydro received a contract for the reconstruction of the Kainji and Jebba hydroelectric power plants in Nigeria with a total capacity of 1.3 GW. Power Machines, Technopromexport and the Hydroproject Institute are showing interest in the continent.

Information, communications and state support

Smaller companies, especially private, very different and not related to raw materials projects, need help in mastering the motley markets of African countries. To begin with, Russian exporters and investors will need information in the form of a database, then communications and custody. And for this we need personnel who, if not "decide everything", then know a lot. There is no way to do without systemic state support.

During the "post-Soviet break," Africa has changed, in some places these changes are striking, but they seem to be "not noticed" at the level of central ministries and departments. The first step at the highest level to resume ties with the states of the African continent was taken in 2019, during the first Russia-Africa Summit in Sochi. Soon a pandemic broke out, SVO and the subsequent anti-Russian sanctions, which also slow down relations.

Forty-four representatives of the countries of the continent took part in that first Summit in Sochi, this year delegations from 49 countries came to St. Petersburg.

Today, the main trading partners of the Russian Federation in Africa include Egypt (trade turnover - $6 billion), Algeria ($3 billion), Morocco ($1.6 billion), Senegal ($1.2 billion), South Africa ($1.4 billion), Nigeria ($0.92 billion), Tunisia ($0.48 billion), Uganda ($0.43 billion), Ivory Coast ($0.39 billion) and Kenya ($0.36 billion). The continent's remaining 44 countries collectively account for less than one-fifth of Russia's trade with Africa.

By comparison, South Africa alone imported nearly $130 billion worth of goods in 2022, while Ivory Coast imported $15 billion. As they say, Russian business has where to grow, there is someone to trade with. According to the Ministry of Industry and Trade of the Russian Federation, Russian trade missions are still operating only in Egypt, Algeria, Morocco and South Africa. But in Ethiopia and Nigeria, trade missions will also soon open. Six in fifty-four is no bad thing!

Photo: "Interfax"

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