Russian and African leaders see potential for economic cooperation to grow

Africa

Russian President Vladimir Putin, center, pose for a photo with the heads of African news agencies on the sideline of Russia-Africa summit in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia, Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019. (Mikhail Metzel, TASS News Agency Pool Photo via AP)

For years, Russia has been quietly expanding its presence in Africa. But on Wednesday, its intentions were made abundantly clear.

CGTN’s Julia Chapman reports.

From mining to military training, Russia said it has plenty to offer the continent.

But President Vladimir Putin said there’s still lots of room for growth.

“Russia-Africa trade more than doubled over the past five years and exceeded $20 billion. Is that a lot or a little A colleague of ours said this is a good figure. I cannot agree with this. I think it is way too little,” Putin said. 

40% of Russia’s trade with Africa is with Egypt. As a testament to that strong relationship, President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi is co-chairing the summit. And he is far from the only senior dignitary in attendance.

The leaders of nearly every African country are attending this forum in Sochi. It goes to show that despite Russia’s comparatively limited investment in the continent, it’s a country that Africa is ready to do business with.

President Putin said unlike other partners, Russia does not attach strings to its investments in the continent. Critics said the conditions are simply different ones. But the agreements being signed at the summit suggest African leaders are comfortable with the trade-off.

Vasily Kashin from Higher School of Economics believes, Russian advantage is that Russia is not seen by any of the Africans as a threat because the U.S. and China are huge superpowers and the locals are concerned about one or another superpower monopolising their economy or getting too much influence. There is no danger of Russia getting too much influence because Russia has a relatively small presence.

After this event, however, that presence looks set to grow. President Putin pledged to double trade with Africa in the next five years, looking to expand economic partnerships beyond the mainstays of nuclear power and arms deals. That promise was met with enthusiasm at the summit. In Africa, it seems that Russia has found many willing partners.

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