Russia-Africa summit to revive ‘mutual interests’: Experts

MOSCOW

As Russia is set to host the first-ever Russia-Africa summit this week, experts see the imminent event as an opportunity to improve the neglected ties between the parties.

Denis Korkodinov from the Russian think tank Center for Strategic Analysis and Political Expertise believes that the upcoming event will pave the way for an unprecedented partnership between Russia and African countries.

“Russia pays great attention to the development of international relations and the assertion of its own geopolitical status as a world power. Such positioning on the world stage implies strengthening Russia’s ties in all parts of the world, including Africa.

“For this reason, over the past two years, Moscow has been actively working to define a new strategy for exerting influence on the African continent,” the director of the think tank said in an exclusive interview with Anadolu Agency.

Korkodinov recalled that the idea to hold a summit was raised by Russian President Vladimir Putin at the 2018 BRICS summit in Johannesburg.

“The purpose of the international event is not only to draw up a road map defining the order of interaction between Russia and Africa in various areas, including trade, energy and defense, but also to fill the existing gaps in relations between the countries,” he said.

Currently, the African countries can be conceived as a free geopolitical niche, where Moscow is able to strengthen its position as much as possible, the expert said.

He asserted that for African leaders, on the other hand, cooperation with Russia is a unique opportunity to significantly increase their international status and to solve many problems in the sphere of energy supply, the development of collective security, and resolution of the humanitarian crisis.

“Russia and Africa need each other. Moscow allows many African leaders to legitimize their own power and receive guarantees of international recognition. In turn, Africa is attractive for Russia because of the huge natural resources. This creates a basis for mutual interest between Russia and Africa,” Korkodinov said.

The international event is ready to host heads of all African states and leaders of major sub-regional associations and organizations for two days.

According to Engin Ozer, director of the international think tank Voice of Africa, the modern Russian approach is different from that of the Soviet era as there is no division by ideological principle between the countries.

“Today Moscow sees countries’ adherence to the ideological values as an unimportant factor. Russia’s leadership tries to build good relations with all the countries from Tanzania to Namibia, without taking into account whether they are socialists or pro-western,” Ozer told Anadolu Agency.

Ozer talked about principal directions of the Russia-Africa cooperation: defense and arm supplies, oil and gas production, mining, and infrastructure projects.

Calling them “traditional directions” in Russia’s relations with African countries, the expert said arms exports and mining are not “original” means for Russia in ties with Africa, as “other countries do the same.”

“I would stress another domain — nuclear plants building, which plays an important role today as Africa increases its demands in energy,” Ozer said.

Nuclear cooperation is considered to be “a partnership of good quality,” he added.

Russia seeks new markets to sell its production despite the U.S. sanctions primarily, and Africa is “very promising” in this regard, according to Ozer.

He said African countries can consider Russia as a creditor, alternative to China and the Western countries.

“In general, the perspective is very good and looks beneficial for both sides. Russia can start its Africa expansion with countries where its position is strong — like Mozambique, freed with the USSR support, Angola, Zimbabwe, Eritrea, Guinea, and the Central African Republic,” he said.

The Russia-Africa summit will be held in two parts. On Wednesday, Putin and his Egyptian counterpart Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, who also heads the African Union, will open an economic forum attended by Russian and African officials and representatives of major businesses.

On Thursday, the leaders and top officials of the African countries will examine the current state and prospects of Russia’s relations with African countries and will discuss the expansion of the economic, political, technical and cultural cooperation.
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