Heads of States, high-level representatives of governments, development financing institutions and UN agencies together with representatives of the private sector, non-governmental organizations and academia met today at the United Nations Headquarters to discuss how inclusive and sustainable industrial development can support the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement.
The event was organized by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), the African Union Commission (AUC), the African Development Bank (AfDB), the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
In the next decades, Africa is set to become the youngest and most populous continent in the world, with a working age population expected to grow by around 70 per cent to number 450 million people by 2035. Job creation in Africa is not keeping pace with the growing workforce and large parts of the rural population, the urban poor, women and youth have not benefited from recent economic growth. Unemployment and inequality still remain unacceptably high.
Policymakers now acknowledge that the continent’s economies need to undertake a systematic structural transformation from resource-based economies to more diversified economies, specifically by increasing the shares of manufacturing and agro-related industry in national investment, output, and trade.
The AfCFTA, launched by the AUC in March 2018 in Kigali, Rwanda, has enormous potential for catalyzing this structural transformation, as it will spur industrialization, economic diversification and employment in Africa. It will create a continental market of 1.2 billion consumers and an African GDP of US$2.5 trillion, and is expected to provide great business opportunities for trading enterprises, businesses and consumers.
Welcoming the audience, Amina J. Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, highlighted that “real output growth is estimated to have increased by 3.6 percent in 2017, up from 2.2 percent in 2016, and is poised to accelerate to 4.1 percent in 2018 and 2019,” and added that, “despite this positive economic growth, challenges remain for the achievement of meaningful inclusive and sustainable industrial development for Africa.”
Addressing the New York meeting, LI Yong, the Director General of UNIDO, which is leading the implementation of the Third Industrial Development Decade for Africa(IDDAIII), said that,if the full benefits of the AfCFTA are to be fully realized, industrialization should be the central focus. He predicted that “the successful implementation of the AfCFTA will lead to an increase in demand for goods manufactured by small and medium-sized enterprises.”
Also, the African Union Commissioner for Trade and Industry, Ambassador Albert M. Muchanga, emphasized that “the African Continental Free Trade Area and IDDAIII are complementary, and the alignment will offer win-win outcomes to Africa and the international community.”
All speakers agreed that for the implementation of the AfCTFA to be sustainably successful it will necessarily require further enhanced and concerted efforts by all international and national stakeholders – especially through innovative global partnerships on a multilateral level.
Pierre Guislain, Vice President of the African Development Bank, said that “the private sector has a critical role to play in driving Africa’s industrialization and integration”. He added that “boosting intra-African investment was as important as boosting intra-African trade” and called on governments “to accelerate adoption and implementation of the CFTA and create truly integrated regional markets that have the scale needed for large private investments”. He indicated that industrializing Africa is one of the African Development Bank’s top five lending priorities.
Vera Songwe, Executive Secretary of the UNECA, stressed, “if the AfCFTA is to catalyze Africa’s industrialization through integrated markets then bridging infrastructure gaps and digitalizing economies across the continent is critical!”
Noting that the AfCFTA and industrialization strategies will need to exploit the full agribusiness potential of the continent, José Grazianoda Silva, Director-General of the FAO, said, “Agro-industrial development that connects family farmers, herders and fisher folks to rewarding markets can create opportunities for young people, stimulate greener practices throughout the food system, and deliver healthier and safer food to consumers.”
During the event, it was announced that the following heads of state had agreed to become IDDAIII Champions to actively promote the role of inclusive and sustainable industrial development within the IDDA III framework and to increase awareness of this important initiative at the national, regional and global level: His Excellency Alassane Ouattara, President of the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire; His Excellency Uhuru Kenyatta, President of the Republic of Kenya; Her Excellency Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca, President of the Republic of Malta; His Excellency Mahamadou Issoufou, President of the Republic of Niger; His Excellency Macky Sall, President of the Republic of Senegal; His Excellency Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa, President of the Republic of South Africa; and His Excellency Edgar Chagwa Lungu, President of the Republic of Zambia.
The meeting concluded with the recognition that the successful implementation of the AfCTFA will require enhanced and concerted efforts to address several critical areas related to industrial development, and issued a call for strategic partnerships with financial institutions and the business sector in order to leverage additional resources for infrastructure, industry and innovation, as well as knowledge, expertise and technology.
The Endless Debate about Russia’s Policy in Africa
Early March 2018, Foreign Affairs Minister Sergey Lavrov said in an interview with Hommes d’Afrique magazine that “our African friends note the need for Russia’s active presence in the region, and more frequently express interest in holding a Russia-African summit. Such a meeting would undoubtedly help deepen our cooperation on the full range of issues.”
He frankly acknowledged that Russia’s economic cooperation was not as far advanced as political ties, but would do well to raise trade and economic ties to a high level of political cooperation by promoting joint activities and to make broader use of the huge potential that exists in Russian-African trade and investment cooperation.
“Definitely, time is needed to solve all those issues,” said Minister Sergey Lavrov, and suggested that the Russia-Africa business dialogue could start with experts’ meetings within the framework of the St Petersburg Economic Forum or the Valdai forum in Russia.
Many African political leaders (presidents, prime ministers and ministers) point to the fact that Africa is not looking for aid, but rather genuine investment and business, high-level talks with top Russian officials have been humble, not very critical, “based on the principles of equality and mutual respect” as a required approach in diplomacy.
During the past decade, at least, from the time of African Union Commission Chairperson Jean Ping to Nkosazana Clarice Dlamini-Zuma and now Moussa Faki Mahamat, all have passionately raised the issue of Russia’s active involvement in economic sectors especially energy, infrastructure, agriculture and industry in Africa.
The fact still remains that negative perceptions deeply persistent among Africans, (political and business elite, middle class and the public), towards Russia. For the two past decades, due to Russia’s low enthusiasm, lack of coordinated comprehensive mechanism and slowness in delivering on skyline investment pledges have been identified as the key factors affecting effective cooperation between Russia and Africa.
London based Business Research and Consultancy firm published a new report about global players set to continue broadening economic and business engagement across Africa. This publication becomes largely important as Russia with its recognizable global status and among BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) dominated headlines that it has played less visible role in sub-Saharan Africa after Soviet’s collapse.
The latest description of Africa, which consists of 54 states, to many experts and investors, is the last frontier. It is the last frontier because it has huge natural resources still untapped, all kinds of emerging business opportunities and constantly growing consumer market due to the increasing population. It has currently become a new business field for global players.
Russia craving to be a powerhouse is comparatively missing out! The following vividly illustrates that point under discussion:
In an exclusive interview, the Executive Secretary of the Southern African Development Community, Stergomena Lawrence Tax, said Russia has a long history of bilateral engagements with the Southern African countries.
“The most recent visit of the Russian Foreign Minister H.E. Sergey Lavrov to the Republics of Angola, Ethiopia, Namibia and Zimbabwe, (as we understand it) was largely focused on signing of economic cooperation agreements to attract Russian investments in key areas such as mining, aviation and energy sectors, as well as fostering military technical cooperation,” she added.
In his statement, Minister Lavrov noted that Russia together with Africa wanted to elevate trade, economic and investment relations to a level that would meet political and trust-based relations. Like most of the developing countries, Southern African countries have, over the years, largely relied on multilateral and regional development financial institutions to fund their development projects.
“In this regard, SADC welcomes investors from all over the world. In reality, Russia has not been that visible in the region as compared to China, India or Brazil. But, it is encouraging that, of recent, Russia has positioned herself to be a major partner with Southern Africa and being part of the BRICS promotes her engagement with the region, particularly in investment in minerals, aviation, defense and energy sectors,” underlined Stergomena Lawrence Tax.
In March 2018, Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, visited the Southern Africa region where he held talks with the Presidents of Angola, Namibia, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.
In another interview with (H.E.) Ambassador Major General (rtd) Nicholas Mike Sango who willingly shared his objective views and opinions on a few current issues connecting Russia and Africa. He says there is growing realization that Africa is an important partner in the “emerging and sustainable polycentric architecture of the world order” as Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has aptly asserted.
“For a long time, Russia’s foreign policy on Africa has failed to pronounce itself in practical terms as evidenced by the countable forays into Africa by Russian officials. Africa desires economic upliftment, human security in the form of education, health, shelter as well as security from transnational terrorism among many challenges afflicting Africa. The Russian Federation has the capacity and ability to assist Africa overcome these challenges leveraging on Africa’s vast resources,” Ambassador Mike Sango told me during the discussion.
“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 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.”
Kelvin Dewey Stubborn, South African based Senior Analyst on BRICS and African policy, argues that “notwithstanding some of the pessimistic and critical positions of experts, a number of foreign players have admirable success stories. Brazil, India and China are very visible on the continent, but the question is if these countries can have multilateral agreements and a meaningful unified BRICS foreign policy in Africa? Foreign players have their individual interests and varying investment directions.”
Some experts still argue that it is never too late for Russia to enter the business game but what it requires is to move away from old Soviet stereotypes, prioritize corporate projects and adopt a new policy strategy for the continent – a market of some 350 million middle-class Africans, according to him.
Of course, Russia has to risk by investing and recognizing the importance of cooperation on key potential investment issues and to work closely with African leaders on the challenges and opportunities on the continent, Professor Andy Kwawukume, wrote in an interview comments from London. He explicitly noted that Russians have been trying to re-stage a comeback over the past few years that was a commendable step forward.
Nearly a decade ago, Kwawukume, a Norwegian trained African graduate, underlined the fact that “there is enough room and gaps in Africa for Russian investors to fill too, in a meaningful way, which could benefit all parties involved. The poor and low level of infrastructural development in Africa constitutes a huge business for Russian construction companies to step in. Energy is another sector Russians could help in developing.”
Kwawukume explained that over the past few years, business summits have become increasingly common and interactive platform for dialoguing, that Russian officials should consider using its Russian trained African graduates as bridges to stimulate business cooperation. Really, what Russia needs is a multi-layered agenda for Africa.
In a similar argument, Dr Ojijo Al Pascal, Ugandan lawyer and business consultant based in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania in East Africa, suggested that “Russia needs to have its own mega or corporate projects. And it should have them in strategic economic areas.”
Russia, in essence, could use its history of electrifying the Soviet rural areas to help Africa. It could promote the establishment of manufacturing hubs and mega projects, promote its technologies in mutually beneficial spheres while cooperating with individual countries in Africa.
Nearly all the experts mentioned in this article have explained that many foreign countries, notably the United States, European Union members, China, India and Japan, have effectively used their institutional structures, have regularly made financial commitments and have adopted strategies in pursuit of their key economic policy goals and interests in Africa.
There are chances to turn the business tide only if Russians can come with a different mix of economic incentives, without doubt, they will be taking off from the track where the former USSR left after the collapse of the Soviet era. The time has come to make meaningful efforts to implement tons of agreements already signed on bilateral basis with Africa countries.
Professor Gerrit Olivier at the Department of Political Sciences, University of Pretoria, and former South African Ambassador to the Russian Federation, wrote me in email discussion, already five years ago, that important though is the fact that the Soviet Union never tried to colonize Africa. Soviet influence in Africa disappeared almost like a mirage with the collapse of the Soviet system in 1991. And today, Russian influence in Africa, despite efforts towards resuscitation, remains marginal.
While, given its global status, it ought to be active in Africa as Western Europe, the European Union, America and China are, it is all but absent, playing a negligible role, according to the views of the retired diplomat.
“Russia, of course, is not satisfied with this state of affairs. At present ‘paper diplomacy’ dominates its approach: plethora of agreements are been entered into with South Africa and various other states in Africa, official visits from Moscow proliferate apace, but the outcomes remain hardly discernible. Be that as it may, the Kremlin has revived its interest in the African continent and it will be realistic to expect that the spade work it is putting in now will at some stage show more tangible results,” Professor Olivier wrote from Pretoria in South Africa.
Largely due to Africa’s growing reputation as a region for commerce, over the past few years China, India, Japan, and the European Union all have hosted regional meetings similar to the U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit.
According to the Business Research and Consultancy firm’s survey conducted between January 2016 and June 2018, it has become significant that the existing Memorandum of Understanding (MoUs) Russia has signed with African countries and together with various economic agreements reached by the joint Business Councils could provide solid framework for raising vigorously its economic influence to an appreciable levels in Africa.
Russia’s Response Falls Behind Africa’s Expectations
Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to Russia, Major General (rtd) Nicholas Mike Sango, was one of the African envoys to attend a recent meeting with Russian legislators to exchange views on common problems, common issues for the African continent and the Russian Federation. After the State Duma meeting, Kester Kenn Klomegah fixed this interview with (H.E.) Ambassador Sango who willingly shared his views on a few current issues connecting Russia and Africa.
Aside from the inter-parliamentary conference, what important issues came up at the meeting with Russian legislators held recently in the State Duma?
The meeting of the Chairman of the State Duma (lower chamber of Russian legislators) and African Ambassadors in October was a welcome first initiative towards the convening of the Russia-Africa Parliamentary Forum. This initiative was informed by the recognition that despite the geographical locations of the two institutions, the disparity in the level of development, the diversity of cultures and aspirations of the peoples of the two regions, there is growing realization that Africa is an important partner in the “emerging and sustainable polycentric architecture of the world order” as Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has aptly asserted. In fact, Africa’s critical mass can only be ignored at great risk therefore.
State Duma proposes to move away from intentions to concrete steps. Does it imply that Russia has unfulfilled promises and pledges in Africa? What are your objective views about this?
For a long time, Russia’s foreign policy on Africa has failed to pronounce itself in practical terms as evidenced by the countable forays into Africa by Russian officials. The Russia-Africa Parliamentary Forum can only achieve the desired objectives if anchored on a solid policy framework.
What would African leaders prefer: the development of political relations or expansion of genuine economic partnership?
While Russia and Africa have common positions on the global platform, the need to recognize and appreciate the aspirations of the common man cannot be overstated. Africa desires economic upliftment, human security in the form of education, health, shelter as well as security from transnational terrorism among many challenges afflicting Africa. The Russian Federation has the capacity and ability to assist Africa overcome these challenges leveraging on Africa’s vast resources.
Despite the historical social and political relations, the Russian Federation has shied away from economic cooperation with Africa, making forays into the few countries that she has engaged in the last few years. African leaders hold Russia in high esteem as evidenced by the large number of African embassies in Moscow. Russia has no colonial legacy in Africa.
Unfortunately, the former colonial masters continue to exploit African resources because, despite the “Look East Policy” adopted by Africa, Russia has not responded in the manner expected by Africa, as has China, India and South Korea, to name a few. Africa’s expectation is that Russia, while largely in the extractive industry, will steadily transfer technologies for local processing of raw materials as a catalyst for Africa’s development.
At least, over the past decade Russia has signed various bilateral agreements and MoUs nearly with all African countries. Do you think there have been challenges in implementing these agreements?
The Russian Federation has signed bilateral agreements with a number of African countries. These agreements, of necessity require strong government support anchored on a social policy that promotes a two-way beneficiation. African products other than from a few north African countries and South Africa find their way into the Russian market. As a result, trade figures between Russia and Africa are anchored on selective countries even though a number of bilateral agreements with other African countries are in place.
State Duma talk about Russian media presence in Africa. What steps can we take to raise African media representation in the Russian Federation?
The Sochi International Olympics and the FIFA international football extravaganza surprised many Africans on the level of development of the Federation. There is a dearth of information about the country. Russia-Africa issues are reported by third parties and often not in good light. Is this not a moment that Russia has coverage on Africa by being permanently present in the continent? Even the strongest foreign policies, if not sold out by the media, will definitely not succeed.
Indeed, Africa’s media should equally find space to operate in Russia. Because of limited resources, Russia should equally make it easier for African journalists to operate on her territory. The Russia-Africa Parliamentary Forum as a precursor to the Russia-Africa Forum should lay the necessary foundation for deeper and holistic Russia-Africa political, cultural and economic cooperation for mutual benefit of the peoples of the two friendly institutions.
The Truth About Russia And Africa: Interview with Prof. Vladimir Shubin
Professor Vladimir Shubin, the Deputy Director of the Institute for African Studies [IAS], Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow, has raised some serious issues in Russian-African relations that need careful consideration. In the first place, inside Africa there is clear evidence that most of the political leaders are now reacting to post-Soviet politics and emerging economic possibilities in Russia. President Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin authorities have also moved progressively with a new phase in consolidating political ties at the state levels with Africa. In order to maintain this relationship, African countries have to pay high attention to and take significant steps in promoting their achievements and highlighting their most development needs.
Professor Shubin’s interview on political relations between Russia and Africa as well as the economic cooperation will attract more and more practically academic discussions. Such scholarly contributions, in essence, help deepen understanding of the problems that mitigate in building solid relationship or partnership with Russia. In the past, the emphasis was strongly put on political ideology, but now, that has largely changed and it’s obvious that increased economic cooperation is the main determining factor especially in the fields of mining, transportation, infrastructure construction, industry, agriculture and tourism.
These have to be placed [step by step] on a new basis of mutual interests. What is abundantly clear is how to stimulate African governments into exploring investment opportunities in Russia and Russian investors into Africa within some framework of mutual-cooperation. It is also worthy to say that Russia has played roles in Africa and Africans have to work towards good governance, adopt good development strategies and seek an improved welfare for the population. Equally interesting is Asian States are moving faster than Africa and consequently the development gap is widening.
As correctly pointed out by Professor Vladimir Shubin in wide-ranging interview discussion with Kester Kenn Klomegah, certain developments and approaches, however, provide basis for criticisms and for pessimistic views as to what extent, these ideas can be realised for Africa. The world continues watching developments.
In the cold war era, Africa was an ideological playing field for the United States and the then Soviet Union, but all these have changed after the Soviet collapse. What are your comments relating to the relationship between Russia and Africa?
Indeed, the style of work and its intensity are quite different in the case of the first president Boris Yeltsin and his successor Vladimir Putin. I would not attribute the reasons of the marked changes just to personalities. One should not look at Russia today as something “monolithic” tightly directed from the Kremlin, as the USSR used to be at some stage. There are different political forces competing for the power in the country or, at least, for the influence over it. These forces represent interests of various diverse political and social groups that also need to be carefully analysed within a particular context.
This is true for the foreign policy as well, even if according to “Yeltsin’s Constitution” of 1993, the President determines the main foreign policy directions. In respect to Africa, there are significant forces in Russia, which stand for further development of bilateral relations and a stronger economic cooperation. They include not only traditional friends of Africa on the left side of the political spectrum, but take Russian industrialists who are interested in exporting their manufactured goods to African countries or in exploring its mineral resources.
Does Kremlin have an agenda for Africa? How would you defend the affirmative position, citing examples?
That is quite interesting. I have never heard about a special Moscow’s “agenda” for Africa, but one should proceed from the “Concept of the Foreign Policy of the Russian Federation” approved by Putin soon after his election to the post. Africa occupies a decent, albeit modest place. Putin several times spoke about Russia’s involvement in African affairs. Putin said: “As to Russia, traditionally with the African continent, we’ve got very good relations. We subtly feel all the problems of the African continent…I must say Russia’s contribution is very noticeable in dealing with the problems of Africa.”
Among other things related to the writing off part of the debts of African countries, Russia makes very great contributions: we take part in humanitarian programmes and, in particular, in the health programmes for fighting AIDS. We grant African countries a considerable amount of scholarships for studying in higher educational institutions in Russia and plan to carry on this programme in future. Russia’s assistance to African countries is multi-pronged and we are convinced that this activity ultimately meets the national interests of the Russian Federation.
What would you like to suggest if you were to advice Kremlin administration’s policy approach towards African countries? And, your opinions about the future of Russian-African relations?
Africa has a great potential for our bilateral relationships. Truly and firstly, in the political sphere there are hardly any sharp controversies between Russia and African countries. Agreeably, the relations in other spheres, especially in economic cooperation, are lagging behind. Thus, the bilateral trade is many times less than that of China, India and many foreign countries with Africa.
I am not sure that “Kremlin administrators” often ask for advice from the academic community. But some steps are evidently overdue, such as Putin’s working visit to Africa, south of the Sahara. Russian banks are making initial steps in operating in Africa, while the lack of credit facilities has been the major obstacle to successful development of economic ties. However, Russia needs genuine and objective information about modern Africa, and here both state and private mass media linger a lot.
Has Russia identified its role in any of African regional organisation’s programme aimed towards the development goals of Africa?
One should always remember that Moscow feels the problems of the African continent, perhaps better than some other “developed countries” – both because of its history of cooperation with African countries and because it often faces similar development problems. However, with these trends, I am not sure that the African diplomacy pays enough attention to Russia. Moreover, I think that a considerably good part of it is under the influence of the Western propaganda, does it best to portray Moscow as backyard of Europe. On the other hand, Moscow’s capacity to carry out practical steps in cooperation with African countries is limited by its own internal economic problems
Nevertheless, we can mention Russia’s continuous active involvement practically in all UN peace-keeping missions in Africa, Russia’s significant contributions to the international fund on combating HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, Malaria and other diseases as Russia’s indication of interest in Africa, but we also want African leaders to show, with clarity, their interests in Russia. It should not be just one-way traffic.
In your critical assessment, what African leaders be seen doing if really they want to get out of their multiple problems and practically get integrated into the global community?
It is not for a Russian academic to give an advice to African governments. However, some things look obvious. Africa can play an important and fair role in the “globalising world” only if the continent really “globalise” itself, first by effectively strengthening its continental and regional cooperation to be able to speak in one voice. All true friends of Africa welcomed the creation of the African Union, but it remains to be seen how practically effective this organisation will be.
Unfortunately, some of the recent events and developments there and the African Union’s political approach do not allow us to be too optimistic. There are a lot of pessimism about how far the African Union idea can go and what it can achieve for the continent. This depends largely on the political attitudes of the people themselves. The funniest thing is that whenever there are problems in Africa, the leaders fly to Europe in search of assistance.
Do the African politicians realised that they have or must help Africa to develop? For example, even after the establishment of the African Union there were appeals for outside forces to solve intra-African conflicts. Even more disturbing is a lack of consistency in the approach to the most crucial international issues. Africans have to acknowledge the fact that the world has progressively changed and they must be seen changing with the similar positive pace. It’s about time Africans have to take development issues seriously and work progressively towards establishing good governance and drastically seek improvement in the welfare for its large impoverished population.
Relations are supposed to be a two-way road [street]. Do you think some African political leaders are also not up to expectations in their relations with Russia? What should they be seen doing in order to raise friendly ties with Russia?
I cannot say that African leaders do their best in developing bilateral relations. Truly and passionately, they come to Russia more often than ten years ago, but a lot still have to be done. Perhaps, one of the reasons why some African leaders “written off” Russia is the lack of information about Russia, or rather plenty of distorted information they have received from the Western media coverage of Russia. Moreover, some of foreign journalists writing from here for African media cause damage to the bilateral relations.
Now and then, speaking to African diplomats in Moscow, I often joke: “Some of you are accredited not to Russia, but to the African diplomatic corps” in Moscow. Definitely, it is a bitter joke, but it reflects the reality. While some of the embassies are actively promoting their countries and are winning friends for Africa, others are hardly visible, even for African scholars here.
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