EYEAFRICA TV: Moscow, Russia: Russia is determined to expand its presence in Africa, President Vladimir Putin said, as he opened the first Russia-Africa economic forum and summit in Sochi, on the Black Sea, on Wednesday.
He said Moscow is offering systematic development assistance to Africa, announcing a combination of $20-billion debt relief, trade preferences, help in the fight against infectious diseases such as ebola and energy production, mainly nuclear, mining, and educational support, to showcase Russia’s commitment to the continent.
It wasn’t the $60-billion in support which his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping has offered at the equivalent China-Africa summits. But it still drew applause from the Africans in the audience.
Russia is presenting the summit as a return to Africa, after a long relative absence following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. In the Soviet era, Russia gave many African countries, including South Africa, substantial military, financial and political support in fighting colonialism and apartheid.
Putin is now playing catch-up, seeking to make up lost ground in Russia’s relations with Africa, which has already established summit-level relations with many other countries and regions, including China, the European Union, Japan, Turkey, India and South Korea.
About 40 African heads of state and government, including South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and 2,000 companies, among them several from South Africa, are attending the economic forum and summit.
The Russia–Africa Summit was held on 23–24 October 2019 at the Sirius Park of Science and Art. It was co-chaired by Russian President Vladimir Putin and Egyptian President and African Union Chairman Abdelfattah ALSISI.
The Summit is the first event of its kind in the history of Russian-African relations to which the head of every African state and the leaders of major regional associations and organizations have been invited.
“Let’s drink to the success of our joint efforts to develop full-scale mutually beneficial co-operation, wellbeing, peaceful future and prosperity of our countries and people,” Russian president Vladimir Putin said in a toast at the formal summit dinner in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.
For all the warm rhetoric, however, the lack of fully formed deals underscored the gulf in financial firepower between Moscow and Beijing, which last year offered $60bn in financing to African states to fund trade.