Russia and the African continent are natural trade and economic partners. Russia strives to listen to the needs of Africans, building relationships on the principle of “development not at the expense of, but together with Africa.” We hope that the 2nd Summit, as well as the Russia-Africa Economic and Humanitarian Forum (St. Petersburg, July 26-29, 2023) will give a new impetus to Russian-African cooperation, writes Pavel Kalmychek, Director of the Department for Bipartite Cooperation Development, Ministry of Economic Development of the Russian Federation
The situation around the trade and economic development of Africa in recent decades is characterised by increased attention of major players in the world economy toward the future of this continent.
The reason for the new “scramble for Africa” lies in the significant potential for economic growth, the rich resource base and the growing consumer market of the continent.
Despite the problems of socio-economic nature and political instability in a number of countries, Africa has the potential to become one of the main centres of growth for the world economy.
The Ministry of Economic Development of the Russian Federation coordinates the intergovernmental dialogue with African countries, serving as the secretariat of the intergovernmental commissions (IGCs) on trade, economic, scientific and technical cooperation. To date, the intergovernmental commissions operate with 18 African countries (Algeria, Angola, Congo, Ghana, Guinea, Egypt, Ethiopia, Libya, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Tunisia, Uganda, and Zimbabwe).
In 2022, despite the difficult geopolitical conditions, we held six meetings of the intergovernmental commissions: with Zimbabwe, Sudan, the Republic of the Congo, Algeria, Mozambique and Ethiopia, as well as three online meetings of IGC co-chairs with Algeria, Ethiopia and Tunisia.
Also, the Ministry of Economic Development of Russia is working to expand the geography of the intergovernmental commissions, in particular, the creation of commissions with promising countries is being worked out. The relevant intergovernmental agreement was signed with Tanzania in December last year. We are working on signing similar agreements with a number of other countries in West and East Africa on the side-lines of the second Russia-Africa summit.
The Ministry of Economic Development of Russia, together with interested departments, has developed a roadmap for the implementation of measures necessary to build up Russian-African trade, economic and investment cooperation. The roadmap includes such areas as industry, financial and banking area, education, transport, agriculture and fishery, healthcare, information and communication technologies, and the media.
The early 2000s can be called a “renaissance” of Russian-African trade and economic relations after the decline in the 1990s. Between 2001 and 2011 mutual trade with Africa increased almost eightfold (from 1.6 to 12.1 billion US dollars). In the following decade, the volume of trade increased at a more modest rate: from 2011 to 2021, trade increased 1.5 times (from 12.2 to 17.7 billion US dollars).
In 2022, despite restrictions from unfriendly countries, we managed not only to maintain the volume of trade at the same level, but also to increase it to $17.9 billion US dollars.
In addition to the objective reasons to increase cooperation with Africa, as with a rapidly growing consumer market, this area is of strategic importance in the context of the transfer of Russian export capacities from sanctioned areas. In the context of the forced curtailment of trade cooperation with a number of Western countries, it is important to continue to build up cooperation with our friendly partners, the list of which, of course, includes the vast majority of African countries.
Russia and the African continent are natural trade and economic partners. Deliveries from Russia to the African market (which is dominated by food and energy products) contribute to the solution of two main socio-economic problems that threaten the well-being of Africa — the lack of food and energy security.
But apart from food and energy resources, Russia has something to offer our African partners. In particular, we expect to increase the supply of domestic industrial products, machine tools and vehicles.
Russia can become a major exporter of competencies and technologies for Africa in a wide range of areas, such as geology and subsoil management, efficient agriculture, digitalisation, nuclear and hydroelectric power generation.
In the context of increasing competition for Africa, the principles of building trade and economic relations with the countries of the continent take on special importance.
The memory of the role of the Soviet Union in decolonisation and assistance in subsequent development, as well as a positive image of modern Russia, give our country an enormous potential for trust on the part of Africans, the implementation of which is of mutual interest.
Despite friendly relations with most countries of the continent, today Russia occupies quite a modest position in the import and export of African countries, remaining in the shadow of China, India, the United States and the European Union.
The main task in the foreseeable future is to fill Russian-African relations with real economic content. In this regard, we see several medium term tasks:
More balanced trade cooperation with Africa needs to be achieved. In 2022, Russian exports amounted to $14.8 billion, while imports from Africa to only $3.1 billion. We remain open to African business proposals. In particular, we see an increase in demand for food products from Africa.
There is also a regional imbalance: more than 65% of trade in 2022 was accounted for 6 countries of North Africa (out of 54 countries on the continent). In this regard, it is necessary to intensify our trade cooperation with sub-Saharan Africa.
Another important task is to increase the level of expertise regarding the nature and needs of African markets. The solution to this problem is possible through the involvement of the expert community and representatives of the business community, successfully cooperating with African partners.
We can say with confidence that the potential of Russian-African trade and economic relations is far from exhausted. We hope that the 2nd
Summit, as well as the Russia-Africa Economic and Humanitarian Forum (St. Petersburg, July 26-29, 2023) will give a new impetus to Russian-African cooperation.