Chinese experience of economic pragmatism, forged by a deep understanding of the mentality of African countries to which we owe the USSR and the restoration of educational and humanitarian programmes, can become a strong basis for development, promising excellent mutual prospects for Russia-Africa relations. Thats according to one of the participants in the recent RussiaAfrica Economic Forum and financial markets expert Bulad Subanov, CEO of Kolyma Refinery.
The African continent is comprised of 54 independent states which are home to 17% of the worlds population. Africa is becoming increasingly visible on the global political agenda as well as a battleground for strategic rivalry between major powers. Rich in natural and human resources, it has become a place where those countries can develop and test out their strategies of economic dominance.
Despite its experience cooperating with African countries during the Soviet era, Russia still falls short compared with its counterparts at the UN Security Council. But it is my view that this drawn-out interval is just a way of putting a strategy in place and regrouping.
Today, the biggest player on the African continent is China, having implemented a policy of commercial diplomacy. I am convinced that careful study of the pros and cons of Chinas 20-year experience will enable Russia to formulate an approach without repeating the mistakes of its Eastern neighbour.
China is Africas largest trading partner, with trade volumes exceeding USD 260 billion. Chinas interest in Africa is dictated by the fact that the continent boasts 83% of the global platinum reserves, along with 45% of the worlds diamonds, 48% of its gold, 40% of its palladium and 42% of its chrome. As well as being rich in natural mineral resources, it also has 60% of the worlds uncultivated agricultural land, a growing domestic market with projected purchasing power and millions of cheap units of labour.
In 2016 alone, according to estimates from EY, China increased its investment in Africa by USD 36.1 billion. Analysts forecast that in 2019, this figure will exceed USD 50 billion, while other investor countries are investing substantially less. There are reasons for that, and if Russia analyzes them, it will create its own strategic presence in Africa. By studying and adapting best practice from other countries working in Africa, Russia can reduce the time it spends on evaluating potential avenues for cooperation.
African countries are interested in exporting ideas, images and relations, and classical education is an independent and historically competitive branch of the Russian economy. The result of providing education will be an increase in the number of qualified specialists loyal to Russia. This sincere loyalty will take the form of a willingness to conduct business with Russian companies, thus facilitating trade and services from Russia, as well as decent attitude to Russia from people who (again, by virtue of education) will over time come to occupy key positions in the political and economic systems of both countries. The return on such long-term investment will be multi-fold.
In terms of Russias strategy, I think the emphasis should be on attempting to influence the mindset of the African people through investment in education, staff training and the creation of skilled positions.
This does not mean renouncing capital investment in infrastructure. On the contrary, it is important that infrastructure is supported by local qualified staff who are trained to provide assistance to Russian specialists.
Russia understands Africas role in the future geopolitical arena and economy. It is a huge continent where new long-term strategies are positioning the country and defining the nature of its relations with Russia and the rest of the world for years to come.