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Africa and the possibilities of Russian partnership

Kester Kenn Klomegah

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For more than two decades, Russia has been struggling to regain its Soviet-era economic influence, but such efforts have hit stumbling blocks which policy experts and Russian authorities themselves admittedly attributed to inadequate knowledge of investment and economic possibilities in Africa.

Quite recently, Keir Giles, an associate fellow (on the Russia and Eurasia Program) at Chatham House in London, wrote in an emailed query that “surely lack of knowledge about investment opportunities is one factor holding back economic engagement, but it is certainly not the only one. The problem remains that there are whole sectors of the economy where Russia is simply irrelevant – to take the most obvious example, consumer goods – and so their engagement will always be dwarfed by China.”

“The only exceptions are the traditional strengths of Russia (and the Soviet Union before it) – infrastructure, raw materials and energy. In effect, the lack of engagement is partly a consequence of the failure to develop and diversify since the end of the Soviet Union that is a fundamental challenge to the Russian economy,” the research associate further explained.

Giles recounted the earlier history that “economic collapse at the end of the Soviet Union affected Moscow’s engagement with Africa along with other regions. While Russia was finding its new place in the world, diplomatic representations abroad were cut back harshly and resources focused on those countries seen as essential.”

“Embassies across the continent which had previously been generously staffed were severely cut back or closed. At the same time, military, education and other aid programs for African nations were also cut, even if they never completely disappeared,” he said further in comments.

As a result, Russian expertise and engagement with Africa entered a hiatus, at exactly the same time as China started rapidly to increase investment and presence. Moscow’s recent efforts seek to redress this and catch up – in parallel with, for example, Russia’s return to Latin America – both to find and exploit commercial opportunities, and to foster support from third nations in Russia’s ever more intensive confrontation with the United States and Europe.

“The most conspicuous aspect of Russia’s involvement in Africa is its absence,” says John Endres, chief executive officer of Good Governance Africa from South Africa, adding comparatively that “whereas the Soviet Union was quite extensively engaged in Africa, Russia has almost entirely abandoned the field to other foreign players during the past two decades.”

Interestingly, Russia has more than 40 full-fledged diplomatic representations with competent staff, and has fixed special trade missions to facilitate trade and investment in a number of African countries. And yet economic engagement has faced difficulties down the years.

The Foreign Ministry published the text of deputy foreign minister Mikhail Bogdanov’s speech on its official website in July 2013 in which he highlighted the same old problems facing the development of Russia-African ties at a session of the Urals-Africa economic forum in Yekaterinburg. “One must admit that the practical span of Russian companies’ business operations in Africa falls far below our export capabilities, on the one hand, and the huge natural resources of the huge continent, on the other,” Bogdanov said assertively.

Of course, one of the obstacles has been insufficient knowledge of the economic potential, on the part of Russian entrepreneurs, needs and opportunities of the African region. “Poor knowledge of the African markets’ structure and the characteristics of African customers by the Russian business community remains an undeniable fact. The Africans in their turn are insufficiently informed on the capabilities of potential Russian partners,” Bogdanov stressed in his speech there without suggesting any possible solutions.

Re-echoing deputy minister Bogdanov, professor Irina Abramova, newly-appointed director of the Institute for African Studies under the Russian Academy of Sciences, has also explained thus: “as before, we cannot deny the insufficient knowledge of the Russian business structures specificity of Africa, its requirements, and other parameters. On the other hand, Africans are poorly informed about the possibilities of Russian partnership.”

Similarly, Lyubov Demidova, deputy chairperson from the Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Moscow region), wrote in an emailed response to media interview question that “the main obstacle is insufficient knowledge of the economic potential, on the part of Russian entrepreneurs, needs and opportunities of the African region.” For this, she hopes to help members of the business community of all African countries to address systematically issues of effective cooperation.

“The main task is to shift to a more comprehensive approach, using the extensive territorial network of the Russian Chamber of Commerce. Russia’s business should be provided with full information on economic development in African countries and their needs in order to establish an ongoing Russian-African mutually beneficial business dialogue,”she suggested.

For the past years, only a few of those Russia’s efforts at reviving economic cooperation have been made public. “Russian media write very little about Africa, what is going on there, what are the social and political dynamics in different parts of the continent. Media and NGOs should make big efforts to increase level of mutual knowledge, which can stimulate interest for each other and lead to increased economic interaction as well,” said Fyodor Lukyanov, editor-in-chief of the journal Russia in Global Affairs. Lukyanov is also a member of the State Council on Foreign and Defense Policy.

“To certain extent,” Lukyanov said, “the intensification of non-political contacts may contribute to increased interest. But in Russia’s case, the main drivers of any cooperation are more traditional rather than political interests of the state and economic interest of big companies. Soft power has never been a strong side of Russian policy in the post-Soviet era.”

For the dearth of vital economic information, Russian Foreign Ministry, Department of Press and Information could grant media accreditation to, at least, a few African journalists to work in Russia. That could help bridge the business information gap. Most often, African political leaders and corporate business directors have to depend on western media reports about developments in Russia, according to the views of many policy experts.

O. Igho Natufe, PhD (McGill), research professor at the Centre for Studies of Russian-African Relations and Foreign Policy of African Countries, whose book “Russian Foreign Policy in Search of Lost Influence” published recently, explained that in order to improve overall relationship, Russia has to review its policy strategies and one surest way is to employ the soft power in dealing with Africa. Russian authorities have to acknowledge that the media has a huge role to play, thus frequent exchange of visits by Russian and African journalists as well as regular publications of economic and business reports could help create public business awareness and further raise to an appreciable levels the relationship between the two countries.

Olga Kulkova, a research fellow at the Center for Studies of Russian-African Relations, Institute for African Studies in Moscow, also noted in her opinion article that “in the global struggle for Africa, Russia is sadly far from outpacing its competitors. In terms of stringency of strategic outlook and activeness, the country is seriously lagging behind China, US, EU, India, Brazil.”

For example, at the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) meeting, both China and Africa have fixed a “China-Africa Press Exchange Center” in China to encourage exchanges and visits between Chinese and African media, and China already supports frequent exchange of correspondents by media organizations of the two sides. Most probably, Russian authorities both in the Kremlin and in the Foreign Ministry have to learn from some of these China’s policy directions with Africa!

Kulkova suggested strongly that “Africa needs broader coverage in Russian media. Leading Russian media agencies should release more topical news items and quality analytical articles about the continent, on-the-spot TV reports in order to adequately collaborate with African partners and attract Russian business to Africa. More quality information about modern Russia should be broadcast in African states. Indisputably, it would take a lot of money and efforts, but the result will pay off.”

Russia ought to take that into account if it wants to improve the chances for success in Africa. All the leading foreign countries have been doing that quite efficiently for a long time, Kulkova noted. But is anybody listening to all these?

Besides other factors hindering Russia’s move to Africa, Maxim Matusevich, director of the Russian and East European Studies program at Seton Hall University in New Jersey, says it seems that there are few areas of mutual economic interest between the Russian Federation and sub-Saharan African states. Ironically, many African nations suffer from the same affliction that has negatively impacted western investments in Russia: unfriendly investment climate/s/, unpredictable and capricious regimes, rapacious elites and a lack of rule of law.

Trade experts have also been looking at ways to improve trade relations and economic cooperation with Africa. For instance, Andrey Efimenko, an expert at the Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry said in an exclusive interview with me that CCI of Russia has closely monitored the activities of Russian companies in Africa.

“Unfortunately,” Efimenko regrettably pointed out, “some large Russian companies operating on the African market, has managed to establish itself negatively in a number of countries. This is primarily due to ignorance of cultural peculiarities of the region, the lack of social responsibility, failure to completely fulfill contractual obligations. These cases damage the image of Russia and Russian companies with further entering the African market.”

Russian researchers have their own explanations too. “Until recently, Africa was poorly represented in macro-economic forecasting and research, especially in terms of Russian-African relations,” wrote Professor Aleksei Vasiliev and Evgeny Korendiasov both from the Russian Academy of Sciences, Institute of African Studies (IAS). Professor Vasiliev, a former presidential envoy to African countries and Korendiasov, a former Russian ambassador to the Republic of Mali and Burkina Faso.

They both authored an article published in June 2013 that Russia has officially declared promoting relations with Africa a priority goal. Assurances made by Russian officials in their statements that Africa is “in the mainstream of Russia’s foreign policy” have not been substantiated by systematic practical activities, and the development of relations between Russia and Africa has so far nothing to boast about.”

Without doubts, Russia’s major lines of Russia-African partnership in the long-term perspective include developing investment cooperation, widening Russian companies’ presence in the African markets through increased deliveries of industrial and food products, enhancing Russia’s participation in driving the economic development of Africa. On the other hand, access to Russian market for African countries should also be simplified.

Official statistics on trade and investment are hard to find. Internet search simply found out that Russia’s trade turnover with the countries of sub-Saharan Africa for the period from January to December 2015 was only estimated at US$ 3.3 billion.

Kester Kenn Klomegah is an independent researcher and writer on African affairs in the EurAsian region and former Soviet republics. He wrote previously for African Press Agency, African Executive and Inter Press Service. Earlier, he had worked for The Moscow Times, a reputable English newspaper. Klomegah taught part-time at the Moscow Institute of Modern Journalism. He studied international journalism and mass communication, and later spent a year at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations. He co-authored a book “AIDS/HIV and Men: Taking Risk or Taking Responsibility” published by the London-based Panos Institute. In 2004 and again in 2009, he won the Golden Word Prize for a series of analytical articles on Russia's economic cooperation with African countries.

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Deep-Seated Corruption in Nigeria

Kester Kenn Klomegah

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One of the biggest problems in the African continent is corruption, but in Nigeria, corruption has gotten to a frightening level. It has reached the level whereby government policies and actions decided by incorrigibly corrupt officials. It does not make any difference which party is in power, whether it is the People Democratic Party (PDP) or President Mohamed Buhari led All People Congress (APC).

As a matter of fact, the current President Mohammed Buhari led All People Congress (APC) has taken corruption to a different dangerous dimensional height. Do not be deceived by the noise that this present government is fighting corruption.

Under this APC government, not only that corruption determines all government policies and actions, but also by who is imprisoned and who is not imprisoned, no matter the crime committed. That means it is insignificant who lives and who dies.

The case that comes to mind is that of “One Good Samaritan” in the Nigerian Diaspora who used his personal financial resources to salvage the Niger Delta Amnesty programme in Russia. A programme initiated by President Musa Yaradua to compensate the economic condition of the oil-producing region in Nigeria.

As at today, the Nigerian official authorities are yet to refund the money to the Nigerian in Diaspora.

“We have obtained series of letters written by His Excellency, Ambassador of Nigeria to the Russian Federation Chief Assam E Assam appealing for the immediate refund of the money. The Charge d’Affairs at the Nigerian Embassy Moscow has brought the issue to the attention of Nigerain Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Geoffrey Onyema and the current Nigerian Ambassador to Russia, His Excellency, Professor Steve Ugbah, has also brought the issue to the attention of the Senate President (Hon) Dr. Bukola Saraki,” according to an Embassy official when contacted.

The issue was debated on the Senate floor of National Assembly where all the Senators of the Federal Republic of Nigeria anonymously ordered that the Amnesty office in Abuja make payment without any further delay.

Details are available here. (Senate orders Amnesty programme to refund Russian based Nigerian N217M: www.youtube.com).

All of the authoritative letters written by four previous Nigerian Ambassadors, the letters written by Ministry of Foreign Affairs and including the order by the Senate have not been respected. The Good Samaritan in Diaspora was told that only the intervention of corruption could help resolve the issue and that shows how bad and deep-seated corruption is in Nigeria.

Interestingly, the Niger Delta Amnesty office in Abuja under the leadership of Professor Charles Dokubo said recently when contacted that his file was missing in their office and could not be traced. The Niger Delta Amnesty programme sent 95 Nigerian students to Russia on various academic courses, before the end of first year preparatory course, 45 of them deported to Nigeria.

The key reason was approach fraught with deep-seated corruption connected with the delay in payment or outright non-payment of all the necessary fees including tuition to the Russian universities. Resultantly, the remaining 50 were served with deportation letters for failure to non-compliance of terms of agreement with the universities on the side of the Amnesty office in Abuja.

On 12 September 2011, the remaining Amnesty students with their deportation letters violently attacked the Nigerian Embassy Moscow damaging property including cars and furniture and inflicting injuries to a number of staff at the Embassy. The Amnesty students occupied the Embassy, protested and demanded for the payment of all necessary fees including their hostel and monthly stipends.

To pacify the rampaging students, the Nigerian Embassy through His Excellency, Maj. Gen. Mai Shelpidi, pleaded with him for financial assistance to enable, at least, pay the Amnesty students’ monthly allowances. The “Good Samaritan” obliged and made available the sum of US$60,000 to the Embassy of Nigeria for the payment of monthly allowances that, in fact, calmed down the protesting students and made them go back to their hostel.

Also available on record is a letter of commendation (an authentic document) given to the “Good Samaritan” by the Embassy of Nigeria. The situation was, indeed, a problem, fast turning into huge embarrassment to Nigerian Embassy Moscow and, of course, the Federal Government of Nigeria.

As the Niger Delta Amnesty students were facing deportation and the problem was fast turning into a huge embarrassment for the Nigerian Embassy and the Federal Government of Nigeria, the authorities pleaded with the Good Samaritan. Mr Patterson Ogon, has taken over as the Coordinator of Niger Delta Amnesty programme Russia, has failed to address the repayment.

The Good Samaritan used his personal resources to salvage the Niger Delta Amnesty programme in Russia only to discover that getting refund of his money would be an uphill task.

As at the time of filing this report, he is preparing with a team of lawyers to take the matter to a Russian court of arbitration. He has solicited the full-fledged support of African community in Russia to stage a massive protest in front of Nigerian Embassy Moscow. The newly arrived Nigerian Ambassador to the Russian Federation, His Excellency, Professor Steve Ughah, has declined to comment when contacted. Next report follows soon.

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The role of nuclear in Zambia’s sustainable economic growth

Kester Kenn Klomegah

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On August 6th, the 92nd annual Agricultural and Commercial Show wrapped up after six entertaining and educational days in Lusaka, Zambia.

Thousands of visitors received information materials about the role of nuclear in Zambia’s sustainable economic growth during the 92nd annual Agricultural and Commercial Show.

The show was officially opened by President Edgar Lungu, who highlighted the importance of the show’s theme, which was ‘sustainable economic empowerment’.

He noted that the theme was directly in line with government’s aspirations espoused in the Second National Agricultural Policy (SNAP) to have an efficient, competitive and sustainable agricultural sector which assures food and nutrition security, increased employment opportunities and incomes.

The Zambian Ministry of Higher Education in collaboration with Russian State Atomic Energy Corporation ROSATOM hosted a dedicated information stand on the future Zambia Center for Nuclear Science and Technology (CNST).

Representatives of ROSATOM and Zambia’s Interim Secretariat on Nuclear Science and Technology (ISNST), constituted by senior officers from various Government Ministries and Institutions, worked on the stand, explaining the specifics and benefits of the future nuclear facility to thousands of Zambian visitors.

The stand provided the public with information on the nuclear technology that is set to assist Zambia to grow and be economically empowered, such as: food irradiation technologies, nuclear medicine (which is already being implemented at the Cancer Diseases Hospital), material science, radioisotope production and mineral identification techniques.

The materials were prepared by ROSATOM, ISNST and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Dmitri Shornikov, CEO of Rosatom Central and Southern Africa, explained the future benefits of the Center and expressed the importance of educating the public on these benefits: “It is very important for the Zambian citizens to understand that the future Center will empower agriculture, medicine and industry, thanks to wide application of radiation technologies.”

“The CNST will also promote the growth of national education and science through the training of highly qualified experts in various fields. It represents the new stepping stone for Zambian scientific, economic and technological growth. Similar facilities have been contributing to more than 50 countries’ around the world for more than 60 years. Currently, there are 245 working research reactors in the world with 58 units operated in Russia”.

Mr. Reuben Katebe, National Coordinator of the ISNST noted that the Center was directly in line with the theme of the show as well as government’s policy and that it would help the agricultural sector to grow sustainably and ensure food security: “The use of radiation for food preservation will improve food safety and create conditions for the increase of Zambian agricultural exports. We hope that our information stand helped many farmers to understand all the benefits that the Center will bring to them.”

Apart from agriculture, healthcare will also benefit from the Center’s activities like single use medical product sterilization,” said Mr. Katebe: “The radioisotopes produced here will be used to diagnose and treat primarily cancer and cardiac diseases. This Center will increase availability of high-tech nuclear medicine for Zambia’s population.”

For reference
State Atomic Energy Corporation Rosatom and the Republic of Zambia signed a general contract for the construction of a Center for Nuclear Science and Technology (CNST). The signing took place during the 10th international Atomexpo-2018 forum in Sochi. Construction of the center is the first joint project of Russia and Zambia in the field of nuclear technologies.

The center will be located 10 kilometers away from the capital of Zambia, Lusaka. The CNST will include a nuclear research facility based on a multipurpose research water-cooled reactor of up to 10 MW, a state of the art laboratory complex, multipurpose irradiation center as well as a cyclotron-based nuclear medicine center.

The project will be implemented in several stages within 3-6 years from the work commencement date under the contract. Rosatom has built more than 120 research reactors in Russia and abroad.

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China- Africa Framework: Strategic Cooperation

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The Forum for China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), built up to link relations between the two states, is due to hold its next meeting later this year. This evaluates what the benefits from that meeting will be on this developing, active, and mutual relationship. China’s engagement in African states goes back several years. In the last decade, from the mid-1950s to late 1970s based more on spontaneous confidentiality than that of 1980s and the period after the cold war. currently, the relationship sets up more on pragmatic economic considerations and cooperation. China is already Africa’s third largest trading partner. This multi-leveled partnership between China and Africa is both intricate and active. As China and its African participants arrange everything for the next FOCAC summit.

What does China want in Africa?

China’s relationship with African countries is very active, some perspectives have sustained stable. The most significant of these are the principles and outcomes of Chinese foreign policy through African and other developing countries. According to the Beijing’s Africa Policy issued in January 2006, China will: China-Africa friendship, will be proceeding from the basic benefits of both the Chinese and African peoples, build up and develop a new kind of strategic partnership with the African continent, presenting political equality and mutual trust, economic win-win cooperation and cultural exchange

The fundamental laws and aims for leading Chinese foreign policy in Africa as set out in this arrangement of government policy are: (1) Goodwill, friendship, honesty and equality; (2) Mutual benefit, cooperation and common prosperity; (3) Common mutuality, support and close reciprocity; and(4) Learning from each other and pursing, sharing common development. This mostly is the government expression of how it views, and ambitions, to manage its relationship with the African continent.

While the Chinese policy announcements are mostly clear; there is still skepticism about what China wants in Africa. Take the principle of non-intervention, one of the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, which have been regularly highlighted guidance of Chinese foreign policy in one hand, and its Africa policy in the other. The most significant examples are Sudan and Zimbabwe. In current years, Sudan has seen a conflict of perspectives, with the US and other superpowers placing pressure on Beijing government to use its impact in Sudan over the condition in Darfur, and China responding that it is preferable to help in continued development in such states, and determining them this way. Therefore Beijing’s commitment to non-interference in African domestic affairs and its intention to establish partnerships based on cooperation and mutual respect have been generally welcomed by leaders of the African continent, just as it has got some critiques from the West especially the US.

To some extent does China manage Sino-Africa relations?

Yet, Chinese national interests in Africa are multi-aspects and multi-leveled, so the aspects who engage in China’s Africa policy making and implementation are generally diverse. This faces great challenges for China’s management capability, which is the real reason why FOCAC was established. Similar to the different trend of China’s interests and outcomes in Africa, we can highlight many types of aspects who have a sound in China’s Africa policy-making and performance. First of all and most important type of aspect is the government, both central and provincial, including officials–diplomats and other state-owned enterprises. Secondly coves several private corporations and their representatives in Africa. Inspired by the Chinese government’s “Go Out” policy, these private entrepreneurs chanced to Africa in seek of business opportunities. The third and importantly significant aspect is individuals, both influential middle-businessmen and the general Chinese laborers in Africa, which may amount to somehow a million people by 2009.

With the number of aspects rising, the traditional decision-making and strategy implementation system is under great pressure. In term of policymaking, power is centered at the top, in the Office of the Foreign Affairs of the Communist Party of China (CCP) Central Committee and the Foreign Affairs Office of the State Council. The top engine of executive power is the State Council, which includes the premier, vice premiers, and ministers. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs points out Chinese leaders and helps implement African policy. It cuts responsibility between a unit for Sub-Saharan Africa and one for West Asia and North Africa. The Ministry of Commerce plays a significant job in trade, aid, and investment. It has a Department of Foreign Aid. China’s State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (SASAC) is equally ranked with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Commerce. SASAC is either mostly owns a state-owned enterprise (SOE) or sustains a supervising share of stock in a public SOE, several of which function in Africa. SASAC has branch offices in African countries. China’s Export-Import Bank is the only state-owned firm that allocates official economic assistance in the frame of low-interest loans, export credits, and guarantees. Additionally, The CCP’s International Department communicates with African representative to lay the pillars for business trading and diplomatic cooperation, encourage visits and to ensure that policies are implemented in accordance with CCP strategic goals.

What are the Challenges of China In Africa?

Under the policy of FOCAC and its follow-up perspectives, China has adopted its Africa policy-making and implementation and made several contributions to African development. However, the challenge of China-Africa relation is based on two main aspects. The first, the Chinese economic slowdown decreases the resources that are likely accessible for the next FOCAC meeting. Xi Jing ping said at G20 summit that China will, within its goodwill and potentiality, carry on to enhance its aid to Africa, decrease or cancel African states’ debts, enlarge its trade and enhance business investment in Africa, achieving the commitments it made during the Beijing Summit of the Forum on China- Africa Cooperation in 2017. On the other hand, because China’s economy now is export-oriented, the situation will greatly reduce the volume of China-Africa trade due to the western states’ needs decreasing. For instance, 50% of Sudan’s oil exports ship to China, but this number does not mean that this oil is bought by Chinese consumers. As a matter of fact, China National Petroleum Corporation(CNPC), the company which subdues the oil transactions between China and Sudan, does not sell the oil imported from Sudan on the Chinese domestic market. Instead, CNPC sells it on the international market for many profits. And in 2006, Japan was the largest single recipient of Sudanese oil. Now, because of the economic problem, the needs of the international market have dropped off.

Conclusion

The last decade has observed a key and very important enhance in China’s engagement in Africa. FOCAC was built up and is now working, as the main means by which to manage dialogue and talk between different African countries and China over where the general direction of this partnership should go. Basically, it gives an integrative foundation for treating Africa as a single actor, which will surely promote the identity-building of Africa and differentiate itself from other relationship. In the coming years, China will surely enhance its interests in the African continent. Therefore. the FOCAC process provides Africa a new opportunity for a partnership with China and the prospect of a long-term win-win partnership with the world’s largest-growing economy.

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