Serially betrayed by Western powers, Africa must seek deeper levels of political and economic cooperation with the new Russia of Vladimir Putin
Russia-Africa Summit: A New Era of Cooperation
by Anicet Gabriel KOTCHOFA, VALDAICLUB
IN THE NEAR FUTURE, a historical event will take place in Sochi – the first Russia-Africa summit. The summit is an initiative of President Vladimir Putin and will open in a new era of cooperation.
Today, Africa is the most promising region in the world. The leading powers seek cooperation with Africa.
Africa today is home to 1.3 billion inhabitants, 55 states, 37 cities with over a million residents, over 30 million square kilometres of territory, and 60% of its land is fertile. Africa is the highest concentration of natural and human resources.
The continent accounts for about 30% of the remaining mineral resources on Earth. According to various estimates, 12% of the world’s oil and 18% of its gas reserves are concentrated there. Proved oil reserves in the African continent total 16.9 billion tonnes. Proved natural gas reserves total 17.5 trillion cubic meters.
Last year, Africa produced 403 million tonnes of oil; 217 billion cubic meters of natural gas are produced annually. The role of Africa will increase.
Tomorrow, East Africa will become a major exporter of hydrocarbons, and by 2040 Tropical Africa could become the largest gas supplier. Shale gas will soon be available in Algeria, Libya, Tunisia, Morocco, Mauritania and Western Sahara.
Moreover, Africa’s potential for renewable energy is enormous. Its hydropower potential is estimated at 13% of the global total.
Africa is the most promising continent in terms of solar energy, due to its geographical location.
Today, Africa is the fastest growing region in the world, and offers enormous potential for foreign investment. Investing in Africa is a popular trend and offers an obvious advantage.
According to the World Bank, the most promising countries in the continent are South Africa, Mauritius, Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia and Nigeria.
The development of democratic processes, growing population and cheap labour attract investors to the sunny continent. African markets today are focused on extensive cooperation with European and Asian partners.
The largest investors are China, India, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, while direct investment from Europe is declining.
At the same time, the number of investment projects is increasing by 20% per year. The extractive industries account for about 30% of investments. The attractiveness of Africa as a place for business is only expected to grow. Investors named Africa the second most promising region in terms of investment attractiveness after Asia.
Of course, there are problems. Major difficulties are connected with deficiencies in infrastructure, logistics, and energy. But high economic growth continues, which indicates the possibility of economic development.
We are on the verge of a new economic miracle – the African miracle.
When we pronounce the word Africa, we are not only talking about hydrocarbons and energy. We are talking about large-scale recreational resources and tourism potential. We are talking about the prospects of industry, infrastructure and logistics. We are talking about a new gigantic market whose consumer activity is growing by leaps and bounds.
The most important wealth of Africa is human capital. By 2100, the population is expected to reach 4.5 billion, and the average age of residents will be 25 years. Africa maintains the highest population growth rate. Most Africans are young, able-bodied, economically active people.
Although 70% of the continent’s population still lives below the poverty line, the growth rate of the African economy is second only to Asia’s, and really resembles the early stages of the Asian economic miracle. Therefore, Africa is the best environment today for building long-term partnerships.
First, it is a continent with a rapidly-developing economy and infrastructure.
Second, over the next 20 years, the workforce of the African continent will play an important role in the world labour market.
And finally, today 40% of the total population of Africa have a secondary or higher education, and this figure is constantly growing.
I would like to draw your attention to the fact that the history of cooperation between Russia and Africa is more than a decade old; It has deep historical roots. The large-scale, multifaceted nature of these relations formed in the days of the Soviet Union.
Thanks to the USSR, many African states gained independence. The Soviet Union maintained close ties with many African states, and had agreements on economic and technical cooperation with 37 countries there.
One of the main areas of cooperation was the provision of economic and technical assistance to African countries, as well as the creation of the oil and gas and energy sectors.
The largest Soviet projects south of the Sahara were implemented in Angola, Guinea, the Republic of Congo, Mali and Nigeria. With the support of the USSR, about 30 power stations with a total capacity of 2.9 million kW were built in Africa.
Cooperation in the field of education played a big role. Thousands and thousands of African specialists received excellent educations in the USSR and Russia. Many of these graduates have become prominent figures in politics, economics and public life.
Currently, more than 18,000 foreign students are studying in Russia (in China, the figure is about 75,000, and France has 65,000).
Together we will solve the problem of attracting African youth to study in Russia more actively.
That’s right – through youth, through students and graduates – Russia can and should return to Africa, find new friends there, create international teams. For those Africans who graduated from Soviet and Russian universities, Russia will never be a stranger, and Russian initiatives will always be a priority.
So what should Russia’s strategy be in Africa today?
Of course, Russia, as before, must rely on the younger generation of Africa. First, it is necessary to invest in youth projects, in education and in science. Yes, Russia has friends in Africa. But even more friends will appear if we develop international educational cooperation, continue to train specialists for the African continent, and strengthen ties with graduates from Soviet and Russian universities in African countries.
Second, I would like to propose the creation of a separate investment fund under the auspices of Russia to support various sectors of the African economy.
Third, we must not forget about the role of social projects in mass perception, in promoting the brand of Russia. It is necessary to finance social initiatives in Africa and thereby draw attention to partnership with Russia.
Today, Russia can offer African countries not only cooperation in the oil and gas sector, but also the joint implementation of projects in the following areas:
– renewable energy;
– infrastructure and logistics;
– industry and high technology production;
– innovative technologies;
– IT and communications;
– security and cybersecurity;
– the digital economy;
– tourism and recreational resources;
– agriculture (Lisco).
For the active development of the agricultural sector, it is necessary to carry out a series of measures to increase land fertility, infrastructure development, and the correct use of mineral fertilisers.
Today, Africa urgently needs Russian investment, technology, infrastructure solutions and educational opportunities.
Western and Eastern players demonstrate high activity in the African market. Therefore, it is necessary to strengthen Russia’s position in African countries. But Russia should not return to Africa and operate in the same way the USA, China and other countries do.
Russia will help:
• establish equal conditions for cooperation, mutually beneficial cooperation;
• balance the presence of other powers;
• make the game on the African continent fair and open.
I am convinced that in preparing for the Russian-African summit, we need to demonstrate all the possibilities of cooperation between Russia and the nations of Africa.
The upcoming summit and the accompanying business forum should lay the necessary groundwork for increasing trade, economic interaction, and innovation exchanges, as well as the expansion of cooperation in banking and the stimulation of business circles to implement mutually-beneficial projects.
These days differ from those when Africa was being used by the former colonial powers. Today, countries such as China, India, Brazil, and Turkey have real interests in Africa and their growing influence allows them to maintain their positions.
The struggle of foreign powers in Africa is not only for the control of raw materials, but also for political influence over the continent.
The arrival of new players in Africa provides an opportunity for the continent to choose the best partners, while taking their own interests into account.
I would like to mention the main trends in the development of cooperation between the African continent and Russia:
• The development of partnerships between our countries in order to strengthen the global economy, as well as to ensure global security and the prevention of conflicts.
• The exchange of experiences and integration in the humanitarian and educational fields. Holding joint meetings, forums on various socio-economic problems.
• Political cooperation: the introduction and active development of democratic governance mechanisms, joint counteraction against political instability and the main challenges of our time, such as climate change, energy security, food security, etc.
Summing up, I want to say that the African continent is the continent of the future, and there is no doubt about it.
The continent is open for cooperation, and we will be happy to support any of Russia’s initiatives and proposals. Modern Africa will build relations with partners on the basis of mutual respect, friendship and the implementation of mutually beneficial projects.
But given the intense competition among investors, you need to go to Africa right now!
… 153 years ago, in 1866, Fyodor Tyutchev wrote the famous lines: “Russia cannot be understood with the mind alone, No ordinary yardstick can span her greatness: She stands alone, unique – In Russia, one can only believe.” I do not want to argue with this great poet, but it seems to me that in 38 years, I’ve begun to understand Russia and, of course, believe in it.
I believe that over time Russia, will solve all its problems and take a leading position in the international arena and in Africa. And its image in the world for all will be the most striking and attractive.