Russian business in Africa: Interview with Sello Rasethaba

As Russia moves to strengthen its economic profile, the number of African business directors are increasingly attracted to business and economic events, one of which is the yearly St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. This forum, one of the annual international platforms, brings together political, industry and business leaders to discuss the most pressing issues affecting global economics, development and finance.

For foreign participants, including Africans, the forum is very useful for networking and discussing business strategies, it serves as an important study platform useful for deepening knowledge about the economy and possible ways of transacting business in Russia. In this emailed interview made by Kester Kenn Klomegah, South African business tycoon, Sello Rasethaba, discusses a few current trends in Russia business with Africa.

As one of the participants at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF2018) held late May, what were some of the significant questions raised during the roundtable discussions on Russia and Africa?

Sello Rasethaba: How is Russia going to establish a thriving trade relationship with Africa that benefits all and sundry. Russia has to consider practical strategies in consultation with African countries.

In your view, looking at Russia’s economic power, its global status and as a staunch member of BRICS bloc, how would you assess its current investment and business engagement with Africa?
SR: The current investment and business engagement with Africa is on the increase. But, we have to do more if both parties are mutually willing to do so.

Some policy experts have attributed Russia’s economic policy setbacks to the lack of a system of financing. For instance, China has set up China Africa Development Fund as one major source of support for implementing its infrastructure projects in Africa. What are your views about this?
SR: Russia together with African countries must setup sovereign wealth funds using the resources power of those countries.

At this stage when Russia is feverishly struggling to raise its economic profile through dialogue and consultations at the state level, do you suggest that Russia’s financial institutions, especially the banks, get involved in financing corporate projects on the continent?
SR: Russia must aggressively support initiatives such as the establishment of the BRICS Ratings Agency and the New International Payment System advocated by the BRICS Business Council to ease the finance of corporate projects in Africa.

Could you please explain the possible reasons why Africa business is extremely low or completely absent, compared to Asian countries, in the Russian Federation?
SR: There are so many unknowns, it’s crucial that Russia has a clear vision of the relationship it wants with Africa.

What would you say about the prospects of Eurasian Economic Community (Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan)? Explain what African countries can make out of this economic bloc!

SR: Russia must emulate the Africa Outreach programme aimed at involving the whole of Africa in BRICS and equally involve Eurasian Economic Community (Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan) and that will be a very powerful economic community.

Kester Kenn Klomegah
Kester Kenn Klomegah
MD Africa Editor 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.