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14 February 2020
Irina Abramova

Cooperation between Russia and Africa needs to be targeted

The Russia—Africa Summit and Economic Forum, held in Sochi in 2019, broke new ground in international relations. Russia considers cooperation with African countries to be a foreign policy priority. Russian businesses are actively making their way to prospective markets. Logically, the African track has made it to the agendas of the Roscongress Foundation’s largest events and will be discussed in June at the upcoming St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. Director of the Institute for African Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences Dr. Sc. (Econ) Irina Abramova discusses the measures that should be undertaken for the development of mutually beneficial cooperation.

Cooperation between Russia and Africa must be of a targeted nature; that is, there needs to be a gradual transition to individual work with the continent’s countries. This will serve as proof of Russia’s deep and systematic approach to its policy for enhancing relations with African countries.

We propose that, in addition to the Framework for Russian Policy in Africa and Russia’s renewed Strategy for Foreign Economic Activity, the Russian Federation develop a Trade and Investment Strategy for Africa, identifying partner countries and indicators and setting concrete objectives.

Opening trade representative offices in African states is also important. The time has come to consider increasing the number of intergovernmental commissions with African states that have significant economic potential.

In Sochi, the Institute for African Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences (serving as coordinator), the Roscongress Foundation (serving as operator), and partners from African states signed a Memorandum of Cooperation, aimed at the implementation of major joint projects, primarily in the humanitarian sphere, but also in the realm of trade and investment.

With the support of the Administration of the President of Russia, the financial participation of Rossotrudnichestvo, and with our Institute laying the groundwork for the project, we plan to create a Center for Humanitarian Cooperation with African States to provide information and analytical support, develop programme documents, and prepare expert analysis and recommendations for the Administration of the President of the Russian Federation and other state institutions.

Another possibility is launching a permanent Expert Council on Developing Trade, Economic, and Investment Ties with Developing Countries within the Russian Presidential Administration and creating a Working Group on Cooperation with African States therein.

Areas of economic cooperation have already been identified

When it comes to economic cooperation, our experts recommend focusing on developing investment opportunities in infrastructure, agriculture, and other projects on the continent.

Clearly, in regard to energy and mineral resources, we must focus on making merger and acquisition deals, creating alliances and joint ventures with African partners, and securing ‘resource for market’ and ‘credit for resource’ deals. On the other hand, Russian businesses also have the option of acquiring a foreign company with a strong presence in the country or countries of interest, thereby immediately gaining a foothold in those target countries.

Alliances and strategic cooperation with foreign companies from third-party countries is another way of expanding into Africa. This strategy can be used in countries where, for one reason or another, Russian companies cannot compete with other foreign corporations.

Russian culture in Africa

The African continent remains interested in Russian culture. Many African universities still have Russian language departments. Supporting our cultural centres — of which there are, unfortunately, only eight left — is vital. These options are currently being discussed alongside the creation of Russian-language schools and specialized secondary educational institutions aligned with the presence of Russian products, for example, with the sale of agricultural tech.

There are approximately 17,000 African students studying at Russian universities. Each year, our country only offers 1,800 scholarships to African students. This number is, of course, very small. Russian companies might consider contributing to the number of scholarships. We have also discussed the importance of educating local specialists and developing modern forms of remote education.

The influence of Russian culture, Russian education, and the Russian language serve as the very foundation of the type of soft power that would gain Russia an advantage in Africa for many years to come. In this way, we can help create the African technical and political elite of the future — an elite who are favourably disposed toward our country.

Material prepared by:
Irina Abramova,
Institute for African Studies of the RAS


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