Professor Vladimir Shubin, the Deputy Director of the Institute for African Studies, told me in an interview that “African leaders also have to pay high attention to and take significant steps in promoting their achievements and highlighting their main developmental needs.”
In an acknowledgement, he said Africa has great potential for bilateral relationships with Russia. But, the relations in many spheres, especially in economic cooperation, are lagging behind.
Shubin, however, pointed to the truth that “Africans have to acknowledge the fact that the world has progressively changed, and they must be seen changing with a similar positive pace. It’s about time Africans take development issues seriously and work progressively towards establishing good governance and drastically seek improvement in the welfare for its large impoverished population.”
Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to Russia, Major General (rtd) Nicholas Mike Sango, told me in an interview discussion that, “For a long time, Russia’s foreign policy on Africa has failed to pronounce itself in practical terms as evidenced by the countable forays into Africa by Russian officials. The Russian Federation has the capacity and ability to assist Africa overcome these challenges leveraging on Africa’s vast resources.”
Sango further expressed his views as follows: “Africa’s expectation is that Russia, while largely in the extractive industry, will steadily transfer technologies for local processing of raw materials as a catalyst for Africa’s development.”
Professor Gerrit Olivier at the Department of Political Sciences, University of Pretoria, and former South African Ambassador to the Russian Federation, said Soviet influence in Africa disappeared almost like a mirage with the collapse of the Soviet system in 1991.
And today, Russia’s influence in Africa, despite efforts towards resuscitation, remains marginal. Many foreign players are involved in building infrastructure, have engaged in agriculture and industry, and Russians only noted for their diplomacy characterized by “frequent official visits” to and from Africa.
Dr Ojijo Al Pascal, Ugandan lawyer and business consultant based in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania in East Africa, wrote an email and suggested that “Russia needs to have its own mega or corporate projects. And it should have them in strategic economic areas.”
Ojijo underlined the fact that Russia, in essence, could use its history of electrifying the Soviet rural areas to help Africa. It could promote the establishment of manufacturing hubs and mega projects, promote its technologies in mutually beneficial spheres while cooperating with individual countries in Africa.
Russia could target priority development projects in Africa. “There are so many investment areas”, says Dr. ShaabaniNzori, a Moscow-based Oil and Gas specialist and Foreign Policy Expert, “What is important is to identify investment sectors and here Russia has the chance to transfer its technology to agriculture and industry in Africa.”
Rex Essenowo, Member of the Board of Trustees of Nigerians in Diaspora Europe and Senior Executive of Asian Africa Trade, a Moscow based business lobbying NGO, said African leaders also have to treat Russia with some kind of objective understanding.
“Apart from sanctions, Russia is struggling with the challenges after the breakdown of the Soviet Union and economic meltdown of the ’90s in the country. Russia, as it seeks to restore and strengthen its position, has very limited human resources specially trained to implement policies in Africa,” he added.
“Nevertheless, diving into muddy waters could be very risky and dangerous for Russia. On the other hand, Russian authorities are studying what the Chinese and other foreign players are doing very closely before even thinking about going into the first five or ten preferred destinations within the next five years in Africa. Watch out my words!”
There has been, for a long time, interest from Russia to revive its old economic ties with Africa. Russia and Russian enterprises are in a much stronger position today to capitalize on this opportunity than a few decades ago.
At the same time, not ignoring the fact that the continued economic sanctions imposed by the West, has made Russia reinforce its strategic partnerships with other regions, and currently on the move towards Africa where it has had good historical ties from the Soviet era.
VyacheslavVolodin, the Chairman of the State Duma, told an instant meeting held with the Ambassadors of African ambassadors in the Russian Federation that Russia would take adequate steps to deliver on pledges and promises with Africa countries. “We propose to move from intentions to concrete steps,” he said.
In an official report posted it’s the ministry’s website, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said: “We have been consistently advocating the strengthening of the legal and democratic principles of the international life, respect for all people’s identity and their right to independently choose ways of their political and socio-economic development.”
The first Russia-Africa summit scheduled to take place in Sochi on October 24 and will be co-chaired by President of Russia Vladimir Putin and President of Egypt Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who currently chairs the African Union.