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Imaging the Future: A Post-Mugabe Zimbabwe

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In August 2016, amidst anti-government protest, President Robert Gabriel Mugabe made it inescapably clear that there will be no Arab Spring in Zimbabwe. The 92-year-old president has ruled Zimbabwe since its independence in 1980, a time when he was told he had “ the jewel of Africa” in his hands by Presidents Machel and Nyerere of Mozambique, and Tanzania, respectively.

Thirty-six years later, Zimbabwe now resembles an ordinary rock rather than the much-coveted jewel it once was. There is no denying it, for better or worse, Zimbabwe’s politico-economic sphere has been dominated by Mugabe’s ZANU-PF (Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front) since independence. The party has led the country down the path of hyperinflation, laughable corruption and political insecurity due to a lack of good economic and political reforms.

Only after the sharp economic decline from 2000-08 did a strong opposition; The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) emerge. Consequently, the emergence of a strong opposition resulted in the country’s first-ever coalition government in 2009. And due to the coalition government, from 2009-13, there were improved economic policies resulting in a healthy growth for the country. Sadly and predictably, this was short-lived. The MDC were once again in opposition after the highly controversial elections of 2013 that saw ZANU increase its margins. With increased civil unrest, and protests, by any forecast, it would now seem that Zimbabwe is steering full steam ahead towards an iceberg with no signs of stopping, and at the helm is Mugabe. Compounded by internal power struggles within the party, the uncertain leadership succession is likely to result in an unpredictable and violent political transition. The question many political pundits are now asking is what Zimbabwe will look like during, and after this impending interregnum.

Mugabenomics

Much of the protest in Zimbabwe is against the bad economic policies of the regime which have resulted in egregiously high unemployment, unpaid civil and public servants, put simply, the government has no money. The portmanteau word: Mugabenomics, is not a celebration of his economic astuteness, but rather a clear warning against poor economic planning, corruption and over zealous monetary easing. Unlike Abenomics, which sought to stimulate the stagnant Japanese economy through fiscal stimulus, monetary easing (QE) and structural reform; Mugabenomics only had one policy, Quantitative Easing, which inevitably led to devaluation and hyperinflation. Controversially, the cash-strapped government is now in a process of printing yet again more money, but this time a surrogate currency: Bond Notes. These notes are said to hold a 1:1 value as the US dollar, however, this move has been unwelcomed by many zimbabweans as the Bond Notes are practically worthless outside Zimbabwe. Economics Professor, Steve Hanke (Johns Hopkins University) warned the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, explaining that “…bond notes would create chaos”.

We must note that Zimbabwe was not always in this economic state. After gaining independence, the Zimbabwe dollar was more valuable than the US dollar at the exchange rates. Throughout the 1980s, Zimbabwe enjoyed the positive economic growth of 5% GDP growth per year, in the 90s, 4.3%, however, the new millennium saw a decline in GDP. In 2000, there was a sharp decline of 5% in GDP, then 8% in 2001, 12% in 2002 and 18% in 2003. The Mugabe administration continued its policy of printing money in an attempt to revive the dying economy resulting in hyperinflation and mass unemployment. At the height of inflation (2008-09), the inflation rate was an estimated at 79.6 billion% in November, 2008. By 2009, the Zimbabwean dollar was quickly abandoned, and replaced by the US dollar. As a result of hyperinflation, there has not been any substantial Foreign Direct investment (FDI) in the country, only receiving $ 2billionin FDI, barely doing better than war-torn Somalia’s $1.7billion.

The causes of such economic degradation can be traced to three main factors; namely war, land reform and corruption. Firstly, in 1997, in an effort to buy political support from the Independence war veterans, the government announced that it would pay bonuses to the veterans equivalent to 3% of the GDP. This, of course, translated into an electoral victory in 2000 where Mugabe won with 48.6% of the votes, compared to MDCs 47%. Moreover, Zimbabwe’s unnecessary involvement in the Second Congo War from 1998 to 2002 badly drained the economy, further weakening an economy that was going through a drought. As a result, Zimbabwe could not pay off its debt to the IMF, World Bank, African Development Bank and other Western states, and thus defaulted on its debts. Secondly, Land Reform policy played a major role in destabilising Zimbabwe. In short, it was the effort to equality redistribute land between black farmers and white Zimbabweans, who at that time made up 5% of the population but owned 70% of the most fertile land. It’s crucial to note that the Land reform was part of the Lancaster House Agreement 1979 and that white farmers were being compensated for their land. The agreement stipulated a 10-year wait before Mugabe’s government could institute land reform, which it did. From 1979-1997 the principle of “willing buyer, willing seller” was applied with Britain providing £44 million to the government for land reform. However, Blair’s Minister for International Development, Ms Clare Short, stated that the “UK did not accept that Britain had a special responsibility to meet the costs of land purchase in Zimbabwe” thus the Blair administration ended all payments.

What followed next was a reaction to the failures to uphold the commitments of Lancaster House, which was the introduction of the “Fast-track Land Reform Programme 2000”; a programme that gained notoriety due to the violent evictions of white Zimbabwean farmers. A referendum held in 2000 denied Mugabe increased powers to confiscate white-owned land, without compensation, by 54.7%, however, the Mugabe administration went on with the programme regardless. Instead of redistributing the land into the hands of black farmers, Mugabe gave most of the land to the top echelons of his government, top generals and war veterans, with some receiving as much as 5-10 farms. The international community (IMF, EU, US and the UK) responded with heavy sanctions on Mugabe’s government which had adverse consequences on the economic. The situation was further exacerbated due to the fact that these new “farmers” had no business or farming experience, thus leading to a sharp fall in food production (-45%) and manufacturing (-29%) resulting in price increase, and mass unemployment (-90%). Now these farms are once again being used as political tools to control those whose have fallen out of favour with the party, like Mr Temba Mliswa, whose farm is being confiscated by the state.

To continue, corruption played a huge role in Zimbabwe’s economic state. Like all African states, Zimbabwe is very resource rich i.e., resources like gold, platinum and diamonds are amongst its main exports. However, the revenues from most of those resources are unaccounted for. The Marange diamond fields produced 13% of the world’s rough diamond, an estimated £15 billion in revenues, however, these revenues never made it back to the exchequer instead lined the pockets of Mugabe and his cronies. The sad thing about this situation is that with this one haul alone, Zimbabwe could have paid off its foreign debt worth £6-8 billion, created jobs, reducing unemployment instead of adding to it by cutting a further 25 000 civil service jobs. Sadly enough, with one of the highest literacy rates, both in the world and in Africa, at 90%, the population is one of Zimbabweans greatest assets. However years of corruption and poor economic planning has seen scores of unemployed graduates and profession, further damaging the economy, and the upcoming leadership succession is unlikely to resolve this issue.

House of cards

The party’s dictatorial behaviour stems from its dominance in the political field, aided by the weaknesses of the opposition parties. However, with the vast majority of the public demanding a regime change, the impending interregnum will be the opportune time for Mugabe’s house of cards to fall. An interregnum is generally described as a period where leadership is either unclear or influx leaving the future unknown. In political terms, Mugabe will leave a massive power vacuum with various factions vying for power and control which, if we look at history, tends to end up violent. In a thinly veiled threat Mugabe warned that “our patience has limits” in reference to the dissatisfied protesters who took to the streets to protest, brandishing the Zimbabwean flag, against Mugabe’s failed economic policies, corruption and wanted a regime change. The Zimbabwe Flag Act has made it illegal for the citizenry to produce, sale and use of the national flag without official permission after activists from the #Thisflag movement turned it into a symbol of anti-government protests. In every sense of the word, Zimbabwe is becoming an Orwellian state.

Article 59 of the Zimbabwean Constitution explicitly states that “[E]very person has the right to demonstrate and to present petitions, but these rights must be exercised peacefully”, the government has met the peaceful protesters with brutality, arbitrary imprisonment and fines of up to $200 (when most people live on $2 per day). To make matters worse, when Mugabe recently opened parliament, he introduced a new cybersecurity bill designed to monitor the internet and social media in order to find and arrest “dissidents”, violating the Article 61 of the Constitution (freedom of expression). In an ironic twist and a bid to control the citizenry, Mugabe is both, constraining the freedoms he and the early ZANU-PF so valiantly fought for, and setting up the regime for a violent overthrow.

Robert Mugabe is most likely to hand-pick his next successor to continue his policies, though, admittedly, none will have his political astuteness. During this uncertain time, one of five events may happen;

1. Business as usual. ZANU-PF has been the only dominant political force in Zimbabwe for decades, winning elections by hook or crook. Also, in rural areas, there is still strong support for ZANU-PF, and considering the president’s age, people may prefer the devil they know as he is entering his twilight. Furthermore, factions within ZANU-PF (Generation 40) are attempting to make Mugabe president-for-life. This scenario will be much welcomed by Mugabe as it will save him from being called up to the Hague for the egregious human rights violations.

2.Infighting. The warring factions of ZANU-PF are sharpening their swords for battle. Already we have seen those who no longer agree with the party, like Mr Agrippah Mutambara, have his farms confiscated. Furthermore, the fiercely loyal War veterans have abandoned Mugabe accusing him of being a dictator, already setting the stage for messy leadership succession. On the other hand, The Zanu-PF Generation 40, (G40) are working hard to ensure Mugabe should be made President for life, and/or that dynastic politics continue with Grace Mugabe taking up the mantle. In direct competition with them, is the so-called Lacoste Faction (due to the T-shirts they wore to an event) whose goal is to crown the VP, Emmerson Mnangagwa, President as he is seen to be a stabilising figure and favourable to the Chinese. The infighting will serve one of two ends, the first being the disbandment of the party as opined by the political scientist, Ibbo Mandaza. The downside to this is that these factions were contained within the party, now have free, political violence is likely to ensue across the country. Second, it will serve to consolidate and concentrate power in the hands of ZANU-PF which will lead to a one party state, in all but name leading to further constraints on civil liberties and violent crackdowns on any opposition.

3.Civil War. Due to Southern Africa, as a whole, being relatively peaceful in comparison to its North or Western counterparts, this is highly unlikely to occur. Furthermore, Zimbabwe’s neighbours and trading partners in Southern African Development Community (SADC) will push for a peaceful political transition as, (a) the civil war will be bad for business for the whole region, (b) the resulting displacement of people will put major economic strains and increase xenophobic attacks as seen in South Africa , and (c) the spill from the civil war will result in neighbouring states being inadvertently dragged into the war and used as proxy bases. However, if we look at the Gukurahundi operation (1983-87) in which the army’s Fifth Brigade (answerable to the president only) identified and eliminated suspected anti-government elements among the Ndebele community resulting in up to 80 000 deaths, something like this is plausible.

4.Opposition landslide. The upcoming election of 2018, in which the ageing president is standing in, will allow the electorate to vent their frustration against the ruling party. This, in turn, will result in the lifting of some sanctions by the West and the IMF, perhaps debt forgiveness, allowing Zimbabwe to rebuild itself economically and politically. However, if history is anything but a teacher, Mugabe will employ the same tricks he used to win previous elections such as intimidation, electoral fraud and having the dead vote for him. Though this will be the most peaceful event, the election will be highly contested.

A mixture of poor economic planning, corruption and overzealous monetary easing has eroded trust in Zimbabwe’s political and financial systems, at this stage, people just want something new. Consequently, this internal power struggle will end up eating the country exposing deadly fissures, ostracizing old faithful retainers and dividing allegiances. If anything is to be taken way from this, dear reader, is that ZANU-PF is Robert Mugabe and Robert Mugabe is ZANU-PF. In his 36 years in power, he has not received any credible challenge from within the party proving that either (a), as long as the upper echelons of the party receive their cut, they will be quite and obedient, (b) none of them have the political astuteness to overthrow him and successfully run the country, and (c) if they do, they are too scared to challenge someone with seemingly endless power. Despite efforts by the opposition and the protesters, I have a feeling that the upcoming election in 2018 is most likely going to be rigged leading yet to another ZANU victory. Regardless of people’s own personal feeling towards Mr Mugabe, he has come to define and shape Zimbabwean politics for generations to come. The sad conclusion is that history will not absolve Mr Mugabe. History will remember him as a great liberator of a by-gone era, who, like many in his era, stayed in power for too long. An authoritarian dictator who drove the economy and the country into the ground, violated many human rights, and a leader who often mistook his own personal interest to that of the country. His song will not be that of a glorious revolutionary legacy but rather, one of absolute power corrupting, absolutely.

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Does the Regime change in Algeria and Sudan signals the advent of “Arab Spring 2.0”?

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With the ouster of Abdelaziz Bouteflika as the president of Algeria and removal of Omar al-Bashir, as the president of Sudan – some scholars are arguing that the world is about to witness a new phase of change or the “Arab Spring 2.0” that might impact the political stability in the whole Middle East region. On April 2, 2019, months-long public protests forced the exit of president Bouteflika, and on April 11, 2019, Sudan’s president al-Bashir was ousted from power by the military. The fall of longstanding regimes in Algeria and Sudan has generated anxiety among the other authoritarian regimes in the region – fearing how the protests and sudden regime change in two important member countries of “Arab League” would impact the wider Arab-world or the Middle East region.

The original “Arab Spring” was a series of mass level anti-government protests and uprising that first started in Tunisia in December 2010. Later on, the uprising in Tunisia ignited protests against the authoritarian regimes in many Arab countries. Effective use social media platforms and large-scale participation of the youth – with men and women playing equal part was one of the the salient features of original “Arab Spring”. Similarly, in Algeria and in Sudan – youth – both men and women have effectively used social media in spreading the message and motivating people to come out for participating in the protests. Particularly, women have played a pivotal role in bringing the people to the streets. The key role of women protestors in the ouster of Bouteflika and al-Bashir is a massively exciting and stimulating moment which could open a window of opportunity for women to play more active role in the domestic politics of Arab countries. Moreover, youth’s persistent demand for the change of entire political leadership in Algeria and in Sudan might trigger a chain reaction in the neighbouring Arab countries to unleash the “Arab Spring 2.0”. However, this factor could also push the authoritarian regimes of the region; Saudi Arabia or Egypt or Iran – to take more strict or punitive measures against any kind of political protests to ensure that no more leaders would be forced to leave the office.

The original or first “Arab Spring” was met with a heavy-handed response and a massive crackdown against the protests was started in many Arab countries which resulted in the arrests and prisons of large numbers of protestors. After almost a decade, the tendency to suppress the opposition through oppressive means is still a key tool of various authoritarian regimes in the Arab/Middle East countries – whether it is Saudi Arabia showing an intent to reform but contradicting its claims by killing the journalists like Jamal Khashoggi and by arresting women rights activists like Samar Badawi, or Egypt which continues to arrest journalists and civil society activists like Esraa Abdelfattahh or Ibrahim Al-Husseini or Iran which is crushing the opposing voices and protests with the methods of repression.

Nearly a decade after the first “Arab Spring”, a whole new generation is coming of age in the Arab/Middle East countries. With the memories of protests and uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain and Syria are still fresh in their minds a key question is facing them; will the mass civil society uprising that toppled the oppressive and authoritarian regimes of Bouteflika and al-Bashir inspire this new generation in the Arab/Middle East countries to stage similar popular uprisings against the authoritarian rulers in their own countries? Looking at the chaos and instability in Libya, Syria and Yemen that followed by the Arab Spring, the majority answer to this question might be negative.

Although the people of Algeria and Sudan deserve huge appreciation but the events and happenings in both countries indicate that the regime change has only resulted in the change of faces and there has been no headway made to bring the real democracy. In Algeria, Abdelkadar Bensalah a longtime ally of Bouteflika and the Senate speaker has been brought in to oversee an interim government for 90 days, and in Sudan – Vice President Lieutenant General Awad ibn Auf seized the power with a promise to hold the elections after two years. On Saturday 13 April, bending to public pressure Gen. ibn Auf reversed his decision to head the Sudan military council and named Lt. Gen. Abdel Fattah Abdelrahman Burhan as his successor but the military stated that it will stay in power for two years.

Governments and people in the Arab-world have learned the lessons from the first “Arab Spring” and they are looking at the recent developments through the lens of firstuprising to shape their policy and response. Accordingly, it is more likely that the developments in Algeria and Sudan may not spark a similar kind of chain reaction which was triggered bythe popular uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt or Libya. A key reason whythe developments in Algeria and Sudan might have less impact in the Middle East region is that the majority of international community which supported the first “Arab Spring” in a misperceived sense of “democratic triumphalism”, is now much more cautious in its response towards the current uprisings. A careful response of international community shows that they have also learned the lessons from the events of Syria, Libya, Yemen and Egypt. Moreover, international community encouraged the uprisings in Egypt and Libya because both countries were important centers of power in the Middle East and North Africa. Historically, Egypt has remained a traditional centre of power in the Middle East and Libya being a leading Arab country and an important member of African Union has remained a regional power in North Africa. Although, the people have forced the regime change in both countries but these changes are controlled or “pacted transitions” which are brokered by the real power holders of both countries therefore the chances for a second phase of Arab uprising are very low.

From an external perspective, key international actors are carefully observing and monitoring the changes and developments caused by the fall of Bouteflika and al-Bashir regimes. France and Italy are concerned that the exit of Bouteflika might generate instability in the whole region of North Africa. A key reason for their anxiety is the fear that a prolonged political instability in Algeria might bring a rise in the “cross-Mediterranean” migration to Europe. The ouster of al-Bashir could engender some instability in “Horn of Africa”. This is true in the sense that Sudan is part of region which is equally important for Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and also for Iran and Israel.

Russia is also keeping a close eye on what is happening Algeria and Sudan as it might have some short-term geopolitical consequences for Moscow which is very keen to develop military and political ties with both countries. In 2006, Russian president Vladimir Putin visited Algeria. During Putin’s visit Russia signed major arms deal with Algeria. In July 2018, Russian ambassador to Algeria revealed that Algeria purchases almost 50 per cent of Russia’s total arms sales to Africa. On March 19, 2019, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov expressed Russia’s concerns over the mass protests in Algeria, declaring the situation as an attempt to undermine the political stability of Algeria. Similarly, on 16 March, 2019, Deputy Foreign Minister of Russia and Special Presidential Envoy for the Middle East and Africa, Mikhail Bogdanov during his visit to Sudan stressed Russia’s confidence in Al-Bashir’s leadership and stated that Russia has strong desire to strengthen its economic, political and military ties with Sudan.

Although the longstanding regimes have been removed from Algeria and Sudan but the situation both countries is still critical and precarious. The protestors are still out in the streets of Algiers and Khartoum fearing that the people in the new administrations are longtime allies of both Bouteflika and al-Bashir. The interim administration in both countries insist that they do not wish to stay in power for long time and the future of the countries will be decided by the people. But at the same, the military leaders of both countries have warned the people that they will not allow anyone to undermine the national security. This shows that the real power is still in the hands of the influential military leadership of both countries and they still holds the key to broke any agreement that will decide the future political setup in Algeria and Sudan.

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Libya: Will the U.N. Appeal for a halt to the March on Tripoli be heard?

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With the administrative-political situation in Libya badly stalemated and a meeting for negotiations to be held 14-16 April unlikely to make progress, on Thursday 4 April 2019, General Khalifa Hafter, one of the key players in the drama decided to start a “March on Tripoli” and to take overall power by force.

Most of the significant buildings in Libyan cities were built by Italians during the Fascist  period when Libya was an Italian colony.  Thus, General Hafter has patterned himself on Mussolini’s 1922 “March on Rome”.  In 1922, the diplomats of most States looked away when Mussolini marched or the diplomats  took it as a domestic affair.

liby01In 2019, the “March on Tripoli” has drawn more international attention and concern.  The U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres met with Hafter a few hours before the March began.  Guterres was in Libya  to facilitate the 14-16 April meeting on which his Special Representative Ghassan Salomé  has been working for some time in the hope of drawing a road map for long-delayed elections.  On Friday 5 April, the U.N. Security Council held a closed-door emergency meeting.  The Security Council called for a halt to the March on Tripoli and the deescalation of the growing armed conflict.

The Security Council recognized the real possibilities of broader armed conflict and its consequences on the civilian population.  In the recent past the Libyan armed factions have violated the laws of war and have a sad record of abuses against civilians.

We will now have to see if Khalifa Hafter is more open to international appeals than was Benito Mussolini.   My impression is that the goal of holding overall power is stronger than the respect of international law. However, even a successful “March on Tripoli” will not create the conditions for an administration of a culturally and geographically-diverse country. New and appropriate constitutional structures must be developed.

There cannot be a return to the earlier Italian colonial structures, nor to the forms of government at independence developed by King Idris al Sanussi which depended largely on his role as a religious leader using religious orders, nor the complicated pattern of “direct democracy” developed by Muammar  al Qadhafi. The Association of World Citizens has proposed the possibility of  con-federal structures.

The post 2011 Libyan society faces large and complex issues.  Resolving the institutional, economic and political issues is urgent and cannot be settled by elections alone. There are three distinct regions which must have some degree of autonomy: Tripolitania and Cyrenaica both bordering the Mediterranean and Fezzan in the southern Sahara. Within each of the three regions there are differing and often rival tribal societies which are in practice more kinship lines than organized tribes. [1] There are differing economic interests and there are differing ideologies ranging from “Arab Socialism” to the Islamist ideology of the Islamic State which has spread from its Syrian-Iraqi base.

The situation is critical, and the next few days may be crucial for the future of the country.

 [1] See J. Davis. Libyan Politics, Tribes and Revolution (London: I.B. Tauris, 1987)

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Russia and Angola: Stuck Between Diplomatic Rhetoric and Business Reality

Kester Kenn Klomegah

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Russian President Vladimir Putin held talks at the Kremlin with President of Angola leader João Lourenço on strengthening cooperation in trade, the economy and culture, as well as current international and regional matters.

“Angola is a reliable and old partner. We need to consider what we need to do, without delay, to stimulate our trade and economic ties. There are interesting fields of activity, such as the diamond industry, fisheries and space exploration. There are also cultural spheres, such as education and the training of personnel,” Putin told the Angolan President at the meeting.

On his part, the Angolan leader João Lourenço added: “We have come to Russia on an official visit to strengthen our ties and cooperation and, if possible, to promote interaction between our countries. Russia is doing splendidly in the spheres of mineral resources, education, healthcare and defence. But we would like to know about Russia’s potential in other fields so we can promote cooperation in these areas of the Angolan economy.”

He informed further that his opening speech at the Angola-Russia Forum in Moscow was designed to attract the interest of Russian business people to investing in the Angolan economy, and finally added “many countries are doing this, and we are confident that Russia can help with economic diversification.”

Putin and Lourenço signed a joint communique after their consultations. The number of bilateral documents signed included the intergovernmental agreements on the peaceful exploration and use of space, and on fishery and aquaculture, as well as documents on cooperation in diamond mining and processing.

Consultations continue on draft agreements on cooperation in the peaceful use of outer space and nuclear energy, commercial shipping, mutual protection of classified information, simplified access to Angola’s ports for Russian warships, as well as agreements involving Russia’s Justice Ministry, Ministry of Industry and Trade and Communications Ministry, according to the Kremlin Press Service.

Before their final departure from the Kremlin, João Lourenço presented Vladimir Putin with a high Angolan award – the Order of Agostinho Neto, the first President of Angola – as a sign of gratitude for the years of support for the Republic of Angola.

Agostinho Neto Order is the highest distinction of the Angolan State with a single degree, granted to nationals and foreigners, in particular Heads of State and Government, political leaders and other heavyweight individuals.

Earlier at the Angolan-Russian Forum, the Angolan leader said that political and diplomatic relations with Russia were “excellent and privileged” but asked for more Russian private investment.

In his objective assessment about economic engagement by foreign players, only few Russian companies are comparatively operating in the Angolan market and limited solely to the exploration and production of diamonds, to the financial system and to the construction of hydroelectric dams.

“Angola wants to change that scenario through public-private partnerships or by creating Angolan-Russian companies with a focus on the manufacturing industry, agro-industry, fishing, energy, tourism, geology and mining, among other sectors,” he added.

Lourenço, however, recalled the long-lasting tradition of “friendship and solidarity” between the two countries, which have remained firm and strong despite the great changes the world has seen in the last decades. Angola counts with Russia’s solidarity and support at a time when it must guarantee economic cooperation and sustainable development, the president said.

Russia-Angolan interaction in the Kremlin has attracted attention of a former Russian diplomat. “Angola is a priority area of Russia’s cooperation in Africa. To begin with, that was the case since the time when Angola fought for its independence. Secondly, this is due to Angola’s huge economic potential,” explained Sergei Nenashev, who served as Russia’s Ambassador to Angola from 2007-2012.

“Now the country lives off oil, gas and, partially, diamonds. On the other hand, Angola has vast resources. Today, Russia and Angola maintain ties in all areas of interstate relations, including culture, education, personnel training, military-technical, financial and economic cooperation.” the former Ambassador told the Kommersant daily newspaper.

Russians like historical references. As expected, the local Russian media were awashed with articles highlighting Russia’s historical contributions to the independence of Angola, the development and strengthening of friendly relations with the country during the Soviet era. That Russia has promoted political dialogue, including the exchange of visits at the high levels, as well as trade and economic cooperation and cultural relations between the two countries.

Media reports offered a number of examples of many areas of cooperation. But Russian companies, at least over the past ten years, have made little results or impact on development of the country. Alrosa is involved in diamond mining in Angola’s largest Catoka deposit. Global Resources is involved in geological prospecting. Rosneft has won a tender for working in Angola. Russia and Angolan companies are cooperating on high technology.

Itar-Tass reported that Russian truck-maker Kamaz may organize assembly of trucks in Angola and Russian Railways may participate in upgrading the rail infrastructure in this country. Russian Railways (RZD) in restoring and upgrading the railroad infrastructure are among looking-forward cooperation projects.

But, Professors Vladimir Shubin and Alexandra Archangelskaya from the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute for African Studies, have argued that “both Russia and Angola still need to be more strategic in aligning their interests, and more proactive in carving out efficient bilateral instruments and mechanisms in order to promote economic exchanges and reap the benefits of a fully-fledged partnership.”

Cooperation between Angola and Russia date back to 1976, when the two countries signed a treaty of friendship and cooperation. But official figures are still staggering, trade between the two countries stood at US$500 million in 2016, 15 times higher than that of 2012 (US$25 million).

Angola has diamonds, oil, gold, copper and a rich wildlife, forest and fossil fuels. Since independence, oil and diamonds have been the most important economic resource. It’s a member of the Southern African Development Community, an inter-governmental organization that has made its goal to further socio-economic cooperation and integration as well as political and security cooperation among 16 Southern African States.

The Republic of Angola is a country in south-central Africa, the seventh largest by territorial size and bordered by Namibia to the south, Democratic Republic of Congo to the north and Zambia to the east, and on the west the South Atlantic Ocean.

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