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Russia’s Diplomacy With Cape Verde

Kester Kenn Klomegah

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Cape Verde’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Communities and Defence, Luis Filipe Lopes Tavares, paid a working visit to Moscow from April 29 to May 1. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov held diplomatic talks with him focusing on bilateral political, trade, economic and people-to-people ties. They also paid special attention to the promotion of mutually beneficial cooperation in energy, the fuel and energy sector, tourism and agriculture. An inter-governmental agreement on ending visa formalities for reciprocal travel was signed.

In his opening statement, Sergei Lavrov, referred to Cape Verde as Russia’s traditional partner in Africa. “We value the friendship. Cooperation is growing between the two countries. I would like bilateral trade and economic cooperation to reach the level of political contacts, which is very high. There are good opportunities for this in various areas, especially tourism. And I hope that the visa-free travel agreement we signed will contribute to the development of tourism in both directions,” Lavrov said.

Both ministers further agreed to take additional measures to step up economic partnership, identify and use all opportunities available, including via direct contacts between members of the business community. They believed through more active involvement of business executives from Cape Verde in frequent corporate events in Russia, such as the St Petersburg International Economic Forum, is one practical way of boosting cooperation between Russia and Cape Verde.   

The substantive part of the official discussion was devoted to the development of tourism, including in the context of the Visa Waiver Agreement between Russia and Cape Verde that was signed.

Lavrov and Tavares stressed that this new visa-free agreement would encourage tourism, as well as cultural and educational exchanges and contacts between people in the two countries.

Over the past ten years (decade), Russia and Cape Verde have achieved very little, if nothing at all, in dealing with previous diplomatic promises and pledges. Undoubtedly, some bilateral agreements were signed but have not been implemented.

In fact, as far back as October 2007 when Cape Verdean Foreign Minister Victor Manuel Barbosa Borges visited Moscow, Lavrov held similar diplomatic talks dedicated to substantively exploring the possibilities of intensifying bilateral relations, which have a long-standing history, in a variety of fields.

“We have an understanding of the necessity to encourage business circles to establish direct links and to explore the capabilities of each other, particularly under the auspices of the chambers of commerce and industry,” Lavrov told his counterpart, then Foreign Minister Victor Borges who visited in October 2007.

Lavrov added: “There are a number of practical projects already.  In particular, a project for the supply of a floating nuclear power station to Cape Verde is in the stage of quite advanced study.  A number of Russia’s regions, including Moscow, St. Petersburg, the Tyumen Region, Tatarstan, and a number of our companies have shown keen interest in tourism projects in Cape Verde.”

On the other hand, during that working visit from October 8-10 in Moscow, Victor Borges had separate working sessions with many senior officials from a number of Russian agencies and organizations.

In December 2010 interview held with the Honorary Consul of Cape Verde in Moscow, Theodore F. Trushin explicitly explained that Russia’s interest in Cape Verde was extremely low, nothing much there that required adequate discussion.

Trushin pointed out that while the Government of Cape Verde has taken enough policies to attract foreign investors, Russian business investors only went forth and back without concrete tangible results. Russian tourism, for example, did not pick up due to multiple reasons including the closure of the consulate by the Russian Foreign Ministry and absence of direct aviation links made it impossible to develop tourism.

As the then Honorary Consul in the Russian Federation, there were official bureaucracy and many other key problems and challenges that remained to overcome in order to make way for strengthening economic cooperation and to improve the overall relations between Russia and Cape Verde.

He described Cape Verde’s future economic prospects as one that depended heavily on foreign aid flows, the encouragement of tourism by other western foreigners, remittances from their own diaspora, outsourcing labor to neighboring African countries.

Theodore F. Trushin told me in that interview that there was little commitment towards development-oriented projects and investment that would help the island of Cape Verde from the Russian Federation.

The Russian tourism industry have still not tapped into Cape Verde. In terms of tourism and other investment sectors have remained relatively unknown, primarily due to inadequate information and lack of publicity in Russia, according to Felly Mbabazi, Executive Director of Safari Tropical Tours, who for nearly 15 years, has directed and organized several Russian group tours to safari in East Africa. East African safari includes Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania. Her company also operates tours to South Africa and other southern African countries.

“Beyond taking advantage of the existing potential to increase mutual relations, Praia and Moscow first need a shared business strategy. There are lot of things to be considered in the tourism business to Cape Verde. For example: distance from Moscow to Cape Verde, quality tourism infrastructure, reasonable prices, attractions like wildlife, white sandy beaches and most importantly tourist safety,” Mbabazi told me during the interview discussion.

For instance in Cape Verde – the European level of service for those who want to relax away from modern civilization or cosmopolitan life, have privacy and explore the underwater world of Islands, attracts sea/windsurfers and those who enjoy great fishing! Cape Verde is one of the centers for windsurfing and for sport fishing. This is possible all year-round in Cape Verde.

In her view, the creation of public-private partnerships and some intensive strategies as well as working on suitable air-links (connectivity) are important if to present Cape Verde as tourism destination for Russians.

The strategic step for the Government of Cape Verde is to design a marketing plan to expose the country to potential middle level Russians with rising income and has growing interest in island tourism, and this has to deal with reliable campaign through the media across Russia, suggested Mbabazi.

Felly Mbabazi, however, expressed optimism that “if Russia intensifies efforts in understanding the country’s development needs, then there could be some flow of effective business operations in agriculture and fishing, and of course, tourism. It needs commitment, investment guarantees or some sort of financial stimulus needed to improve such investment so as to make diplomatic policies more effective than mere declaration of interests.”

With information on trade and investment still sparse, the Public Relations department of the Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCI), in an emailed response to a media query, has only described Cape Verde as tiny and insignificant business deal for Russia.

Vladimir Padalko, the Vice-President of the CCI of Russia, in a separate interview, explained that despite the fact there has been low investment and business, Russia and Cape Verde still have firm commitment in continuing to strengthen friendship and cooperation ties, and this could be complemented by intensive trade and economic exchanges in future. 

While expressing optimism, Padalko stressed: “It’s now the Year of Africa in Russia. The CCI of Russia holds an important mini-business session May 22 as part of the preparation for Sochi. In October a full-fledged Russia-Africa business dialogue will be devoted for building important bridges between Russia and the African world.”

The Cape Verde Peninsula is off the coast of Northwest Africa. Since the early 1990s, Cape Verde has been a stable representative democracy, and remains one of the most developed and democratic countries in Africa.

Lacking natural resources, its developing economy is mostly service-oriented, with a growing focus on tourism and foreign investment. Its population of around 540,000 is mostly of mixed European, Moorish, Arab and African heritage, and predominantly Roman Catholic, reflecting the legacy of Portuguese rule. A sizeable diaspora community exists across the world, slightly outnumbering inhabitants on the islands. Cape Verde is a member of the African Union. *Cape Verde is an English translation for Cabo Verde.

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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Africa

Ethiopia and Russia Need to Catch Up

Kester Kenn Klomegah

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“There is a need to catch up. We agreed to hold meetings regularly,” Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said at a media conference after diplomatic talks with his counterpart, Gedu Andargachew in Moscow. According to official reports, Lavrov and Andargachew held wide-ranging talks that were constructive and substantive, and focused on broadening cooperation between Russia and Ethiopia.

Ethiopia is one of Russia’s main partners in Africa. Both countries are tied by years of solidarity with the African countries in their fight for independence and decolonization. The creation of the African Union headquartered in the capital of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa, was the culmination of the decolonization processes in Africa.

Throughout their partnership, they have gained extensive experience in mutually beneficial cooperation that meets the interests of both countries in various areas. As a result, Lavrov said they both agreed to stimulate the work of the joint economic commission and to encourage it to implement joint investment projects across a variety of fields, including energy, such as hydrocarbon energy, hydroelectric energy and nuclear energy.

They further noted the importance and interest of companies such as Rosatom, Inter RAO, GPB Global Resources, Russian Railways, KAMAZ and UAZ in working in Ethiopia.

There is a potential for cooperation between Russia and Ethiopia in science and education. Russia pledged to support biological research under the Joint Russian-Ethiopian Biological Expedition, which has been operating there for more 30 years.

Many Ethiopian students study at Russian universities, including civilian universities and those operated by the Defence Ministry and the Interior Ministry. Russia will expand this practice. And at the request from the Ethiopian government, Moscow will conduct two specialized courses for Ethiopian diplomats at the Foreign Ministry’s Diplomatic Academy next year.

With regard to other promising areas of interaction, which has a rich history, include military-technical and military cooperation. Ethiopian Minister of National Defence, Aisha Mussa, took part in the talks as part of the delegation. Discussions here was about agreeing on additional regulatory documents which will allow more effectively to promote cooperation in supplying military equipment and in other areas.

Lavrov and Andargachew exchanged views on regional and global questions. “We are on the same page on most issues, consistently advocate for strengthening fair and democratic principles of international relations, and searching for collective answers to large-scale challenges and threats, and respecting the right of each nation to independently determine its future,” top Russian diplomat said.

With regard to the African countries and the African continent, Lavrov and Andargachew strongly support the idea that Africans should have the decisive role in deciding on the paths to resolve African problems. There is no alternative to resolving these crises, or crises in any other part of the world, through peaceful political means, while relying on an inclusive national dialogue. The situation in Africa and the goals that need to be vigorously addressed in order to overcome several crises and conflicts, primarily, on the Horn of Africa, South Sudan and Somalia. 

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Africans Must Focus on What Unites Them Not What Separates Them

MD Staff

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The majority of South Africans are appalled at the attacks on African migrants and refugees in the country by South Africans, said its Finance Minister Tito Mboweni at the opening plenary of the World Economic Forum on Africa.

“We welcome all Africans who have come to this conference; we welcome all Africans who live in South Africa. We are all Africans. We need to tell our people that what they are doing is wrong. These artificial barriers we have created and the hatred among ourselves must really become a thing of the past,” he said.

Responding to a question about the African Continental Free Trade Area, Mboweni said if Africa wants the free movement of goods, it also needs to ensure the free movement of people. “If free movement is supposed to happen, one cannot be in a position where you allow this person and not the other.”

Mboweni was standing in for Cyril Ramaphosa, President of South Africa, who was at Parliament to address protestors demanding action from the government on violence against women. Elsie Kanza, Head of Africa at the World Economic Forum, said that addressing systemic violence against women is a top priority for the meeting and she urged all leaders to act against the problem.

Amina Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, said leaders at all levels, not just at the political level, must “dig deep to bring back social cohesion. We need to look at what binds us and not what separates us.”

Speaking on the issue of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, Mohammed said that, while advances in technology are exciting, “the picture has shadows as well as light.”

Mohammed said technology is moving faster than the world’s ability to manage its impact and it is adding to the uncertainty of a world already unsettled by challenges such as climate change. “If governments cannot proactively manage the impacts, it will make our growth less inclusive with severe security implications.” Partnerships will be critical in addressing the challenges emerging from this new world.

Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, said the rapid pace of technology requires renewed frameworks for cooperation to be developed to deliver an inclusive and sustainable future for Africa.

“Africa cannot afford to be left behind. The Fourth Industrial Revolution can solve many of the issues that came with the first, second and third industrial revolutions. It is a catalyst for Africa to leapfrog into the 21st century,” said Schwab.

Cyril M. Ramaphosa, President of South Africa, in remarks read on his behalf by Mboweni, said Africa, along with the rest of the world, is dealing with the same question: how to harness the potential of the Fourth Industrial Revolution in pursuit of development and economic growth. “And importantly, how to ensure that, as we take this quantum leap into the future, we do not leave society’s most marginalized behind.”

“Disruptive trends and technologies are changing the way we live, the way we work and do business, and the way we govern. We must respond with agility to craft a roadmap for navigating this new environment. We must ensure that our citizens are prepared, and, if necessary, that they are shielded from any adverse consequences. Our response must be collaborative, multisectoral and inclusive,” said Ramaphosa.

Ramaphosa said South Africa is not only working with its neighbours to develop a continental strategy led by the African Telecommunications Union, but it has also established a Presidential Commission on the Fourth Industrial Revolution to position the country as a competitive global player in this new space.

Three new Forum initiatives were also announced at the plenary session: platforms dealing with youth and employment, risk resilience and e-commerce.

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Youth and Women Key to Making This Africa’s Century

MD Staff

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Africa can achieve a step change in economic growth by addressing shortfalls in governance, reducing barriers to trade and – crucially – embracing the potential of its youth and women, heads of state from across the continent told the World Economic Forum on Africa today.

“We have the wherewithal to be able to reach for higher levels of growth,” said Cyril Ramaphosa, President of South Africa. “The future is great. It looks very bright for the African continent. If there ever was a time when Africa definitely could be said to be on the rise, this is the time.”

Optimism about intra-African trade is on the rise following the creation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which includes nearly every country on the continent.

However, Botswana’s President Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi warned that leaders must now focus on the practicalities of easing cross-border commerce. “We need to remove all the barriers and put in the enablers to facilitate free trade, beginning in our neighbourhood,” he said.

If countries deliver on this, Ramaphosa said, AfCFTA could be “the greatest opportunity for economies on the continent to generate growth through trade.”

In a world where Europe faces shrinking workforces due to ageing and much of Asia soon will, Africa’s fast-growing population also offers a “demographic dividend” to drive future growth. Crowds of young Africans represent a huge resource to man the factories and service industries of the future, as well as a big potential market.
But that demographic dividend will only pay out if the young can find jobs – and that, in turn, will depend on skilling up the young.
“We need a rebirth of education for the 21st century,” said Amina Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations.
At the same time, women must be brought into the fold to a much greater extent, requiring a root-and-branch fight against gender discrimination. This must include opening up previously restricted areas of education such as science to women, said Ethiopian President Sahlework Zewde.
“The important thing is to invest in our young people … and empower women,” said Mandulo Ambrose Dlamini, Prime Minister of Eswatini, formerly known as Swaziland. “I learnt that if you include women in leadership in your team, the level of intelligence increases.”
Hopes for Africa’s economy have been raised before. The continent enjoyed boom times prior to the financial crash of 2008, thanks to a commodities “super cycle” that saw sustained high prices for its raw materials. But prices for Africa’s minerals are well down on those heady days, while few countries have yet to escape the extractive model by managing to add value to their commodities. Now, however, there is a growing determination to achieve this, with Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa and Namibia’s President Hage Geingob both calling for value to be added to their country’s minerals before they are exported.

“The problem of investors or foreigners who come to Africa is that they come on their own terms. From now on, Africa must tell investors when they come, they come on our terms,” said Geingob. “Why should my diamonds go out in raw form?”

Mnangagwa, who said he is striving to rebuild Zimbabwe’s “collapsed economy”, said it is vital to understand the needs of the private sector for investment in technology that could add value locally.

The over-arching requirement is for African countries to reassure their own populations and investors that they can offer a framework for stable growth, said Seychelles President Danny Faure. “We need to deepen the reform that we are doing to better reflect the need for Africa have what is necessary in terms of good governance, transparency, accountability and the rule of law,” he said.

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