Russia preparing for second Africa Summit to build closer ties as it pivots away from the West
Russia is preparing for the second Russia-Africa summit, scheduled for October-November 2022 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, as it steps up its campaign to move closer to the African countries and pivot away from the West due to the latter's extreme sanctions imposed after the start of the war in Ukraine. Russia was already heavily invested in Africa as part of President Vladimir Putin’s policy of fostering ties with the non-aligned nations of the developing world ever since relations with the West soured following Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. But the need to develop deep trade and investment ties in Africa has been given a new urgency since the West has broken off almost all business ties with Russia this year. Better relations with Africa are commercially important as Russia starts searching for new customers to buy its energy, grain and other commodities. The details of the summit will be decided in talks between the African Union, Russian Federation Council Speaker Valentina Matviyenko said at a meeting with the Speaker of Mozambique’s Assembly (parliament), Esperanca Bias, during an official visit to Maputo from May 30 to June 1. "Russia has always provided assistance to Mozambique and it keeps doing so. Russia has deep business ties with Mozambique, but as bne IntelliNews has reported, the business relations do not always run smoothly. The Russia-Africa Summit has been an important platform for promoting Russian interests on the continent and leaders from 48 of Africa’s 54 countries attended the first summit held in the Russian resort city of Sochi in October 2019. The event was supposed to be held annually, but was delayed following the outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in 2020. This year’s summit will be even more important as Russia looks for new markets and to expand existing ones after the West imposed extreme sanction on Russia following its invasion of Ukraine at the end of February.
For its part Africa is keen to keep relations civil, as many countries on the continent depend on Russian grain imports. Sall has also highlighted that the decision to expel Russian banks from the SWIFT financial messaging system could hurt food supplies to the continent, RFI reported. African nations have been among Russia’s most loyal supporters since the conflict in Ukraine started. Matviyenko’s trip to Mozambique was part of preparing the ground for this year’s summit. A co-ordination council has been established under the aegis of the Secretariat of the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum (RAPF). Moscow is poised to build relations of strategic partnership with pan-African organisations and regional integration associations, Lavrov added. Lavrov said that the two most important goals of the summit will be to sign off on a “memorandum of understanding between the government of the Russian Federation and the African Union on basic principles of relations and co-operation” and a “memorandum of understanding between the Eurasian Economic Commission and the African Union on economic co-operation. The Eurasian Economic Commission is the executive body of the Eurasia Economic Union (EEU), Russia’s answer to the European Union. Russia hopes to extend the reach of the EEU down into Africa by co-ordinating with the AU more closely. Progress on building up a North-South free trade area between the EEU and AU has already taken its first concrete step forward after the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) came into effect on January 1 this year.
AfCFTA reduces to zero 95% of all previous intra-Africa tariffs that were imposed on cross-border trade. The free trade regime in Africa will also allow Special Economic Zones (SEZ) to import machinery and parts to make African products such as machinery. With almost all high-tech machinery exports to Russia now banned, using Africa as a production base, which is free to import machinery from Europe, may become a way for Russia to avoid sanctions and buy badly needed equipment it can no longer source from Europe. The importance of the upcoming summit has been bolstered by the booming trade between Russia and Africa, which has soared this year. Afreximbank president Benedict Oramah said in a recent interview with Tass that trade between African countries and Russia has seen considerable progress. “Just six years ago there were exports of some $8bn from Russia and imports to Russia from Africa of $2bn or less. Russia is in the process of establishing a $5bn ecommerce trade portal with African countries, has been targeting Nigeria as a growth market and has a naval base at Port Sudan. The EEU will sign off an agricultural trade deal with the AU, and Egypt is expected to sign off an EEU Free Trade Agreement at the summit. Russia is heavily involved in the African oil and gas industry, but has also been investing in infrastructure, with Russia providing railway equipment to Egypt and developing manufacturing facilities on a continental basis. This story is part of the business new Africa (bna IntelliNews) coverage that launched in September.
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