Russia is back to Africa. This is a fait accompli, a new and significant trend of Russia’s foreign policy over the past 20 years. Russia has much to offer this dynamically developing continent, primarily in the form of political cooperation and diplomatic ties, as well as supporting Africa’s positions at multilateral forums. And there is huge potential here for developing economic ties.
Russia provides invaluable peacekeeping and security assistance to Africa. Moreover, Moscow is traditionally friendly towards its African partners and strives to develop intercultural humanitarian ties with African countries.
Modern Africa truly is a continent of new opportunities. In economic terms, several African countries are developing quite successfully, with the economies of a number of countries in the Sub-Saharan region demonstrating average GDP growth of 5.2 percent over the period 2000–2013. Some African countries have even been called “African lions,” similar to the highly developed “Asian tiger” economies. There is a rapidly growing middle class on the African continent, which means rising consumption and increased demand, including for Russian goods and services. Russia is also interested in those minerals that play a crucial role in the development of industry and innovative technologies which it lacks. It would be economically viable to mine these resources in Africa.
While Russian diplomacy in Africa focuses on the entire continent, there are countries with which it is developing cooperation particularly vigorously.
It is important to note here that Russia mostly interacts with its African partners on a bilateral basis, although it does maintain contacts with regional integration associations and the African Union, which spans the entire continent.
Trade, economics and investments
Russia’s trade with African nations has demonstrated positive dynamics in recent years. According to the Federal Customs Service of Russia, trade between Russia and Africa totaled $17.4 billion in 2017 and $20.4 billion in 2018. While Russia’s trade and economic relations are more highly developed with the countries of North Africa, trade with countries south of the Sahara has also been growing in recent years. Russia’s main trade partners in Africa are Egypt, Algeria, Morocco and South Africa. Trade with Algeria is growing at a particularly rapid pace.
However, in recent years, Russia has demonstrated positive trade dynamics with at least half of the countries in Africa, in particular with Ethiopia, Cameroon, Angola, Sudan and Zimbabwe. Namibia, Nigeria, Angola, Mozambique, Rwanda and Guinea are also important partners.
The Russian Federation supplies a wide range of goods to African countries, including oil products, chemicals, fertilizers, engineering products and machine tools.
Agricultural products occupy an important place in mutual trade. Russia supplies large volumes of wheat to Morocco, South Africa, Libya, Kenya, Sudan, Nigeria and Egypt. A number of African countries (Egypt, Cote d’Ivoire, Benin, Nigeria, Guinea-Bissau, the Central African Republic, Guinea, Burkina Faso and Mali) have increased the volume of fruit and vegetables they sell to Russia. This is helped by the fact that the Russian Federation has introduced countersanctions on several products made in the European Union.
Africa is becoming a kind of “market of the future” for Russian grain and agricultural equipment. This is a very promising area, given the desire of African countries to eradicate the hunger issue (“zero hunger”) and make more productive use of many of the large areas of undeveloped land that still exist on the continent.
The global farming industry is interested in all the key agricultural equipment manufactured in Russia, and exports are growing. This is due to the fact that entirely new and unique technologies and products have appeared in Russia, and the quality of Russian agricultural equipment has reached new heights. Russian manufacturers of farming equipment see North Africa, the Middle East and South America as promising new markets.
Major Russian companies actively invest in Africa. Priority sectors for investment include energy and mining (for example, Russia is involved in the development of the world’s second largest platinum deposit, Darwendale in Zimbabwe, which could turn the country into a leader on the global platinum market), as well as infrastructure, transport, manufacturing and agriculture.
The State Atomic Energy Corporation ROSATOM has signed cooperation agreements on the development of nuclear energy with a number of African countries (Egypt, Sudan, Zambia, Morocco, South Africa and the Republic of the Congo, and others). Some countries (Sudan and Senegal) have expressed interest in developing joint oil and gas projects with Russia. In 2018, President of Senegal Macky Sall noted at a meeting with Vladimir Putin that his country possessed large reserves of oil and gas. He went on to express his hope that Russia would assist in assessing these resources and help workers in the Senegalese oil and gas sector get to grips with the equipment needed for the development of these deposits.
Russian medium-sized businesses have also found niches on the African markets. For example, the company Lisma, which is located in the Republic of Mordovia, set up a joint venture in Burundi to manufacture lamps and streetlights for the entire East African market. In 2015, the Atlantic fish processing plant opened in Senegal. The project, which is the largest of its kind in West Africa, was financed by private Russian investors.
It is important that Russia not only seeks to develop mineral resources in African countries, but it also contributes to the development of domestic industry and infrastructure in Africa and helps create jobs.
The Russian Industrial Zone (RIZ) in Egypt – the first infrastructure project of its kind implemented by the Russian Export Center – is a perfect example of this approach. The plan is for the RIZ to become a vanguard for the promotion of Russian goods and services in Africa. Its activities should contribute to the growth of the Russian and Egyptian economies.
What is more, Russian companies take on social responsibilities by supporting development projects in the African countries where they operate. For example, thanks to the ongoing support of Russia and United Company RUSAL in the fight against Ebola in Guinea, significant progress has been made in the prevention of the spread of this disease in the country since 2014. At the height of the Ebola epidemic, RUSAL built a special medical center in the country, the only one of its kind in West Africa in terms of the technologies and equipment at its disposal. The center helped vaccinate and treat locals. In addition, it became a platform for the study and prevention of communicable diseases in Guinea and a training center for future epidemiologists.
However, despite the obvious successes in the development of trade with Africa and the increased investments into the continent, much still needs to be done. Russia lags far behind China and the West in terms of its economic penetration into Africa. It will take at least a decade of diligent work on the development of trade and economic ties with African countries – not to “catch up” with these other countries, but to at least slightly reduce the trade volume gap. An important part of this work is to create new intergovernmental commissions and business councils with those African countries that do not currently have such cooperation formats and to step up work with those countries that do.
Military and Technical Cooperation
In recent years, Russia has signed agreements on military and technical cooperation, security cooperation and fighting terrorism with a number of African countries.
At the Russia–Africa Economic Forum in June 2019, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Sergey Lavrov noted that “Russia, both through bilateral channels and as part of the UN Security Council, continues to support its African friends in the fight against terrorism, crime and other cross-border threats. We are making a contribution to the efforts to resolve crises and conflicts on the African continent on the basis of the principle of ‘African solutions to African problems’ formulated by the African Union.”
Russia also provides humanitarian assistance to those African countries that have been affected by crises or military conflicts, or which have suffered natural disasters or pandemics. African personnel undergo training at Russian educational institutions under the umbrella of the Ministry of Defence, the law enforcement agencies and the security services, and as part of peacekeeping missions. The training programs are fully paid by the Russian budget.
Russia has traditionally played an important role in the African arms market. Russian arms shipments to Africa have increased in recent years, despite fierce competition from other external players and western sanctions. This is largely due to the successes of the Russian Aerospace Forces’ operations in Syria, as well as the numerous joint military exercises and Moscow’s large expositions at international military forums, where it typically unveils its new products.
The 2019 edition of the annual International Military and Technical Forum “ARMY” was held in June of this year. One of the main tasks of the Forum is to expand Russia’s military and technical cooperation with other countries. The number of delegations from Africa attending the Forum every year keeps rising. This is where new contracts for the supply of Russian weapons and agreements on the military, technical and security cooperation are often signed. Russia signed military cooperation agreements with Burundi, Burkina Faso, and Botswana at the ARMY 2018 Forum.
In September 2018, Director of the Federal Service for Military and Technical Cooperation Dmitry Shugaev noted that Russia cooperates in the military and technical sphere with over 40 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Africa is a priority for Russia in this area, as the Soviet Union delivered a significant number of weapons and military equipment to the continent in the 1960s to the 1980s, much of which remains to this day. Many specialists trained in the Soviet Union and Russia are still serving in the armies of African countries. Because of this, many African countries are interested in renovating and upgrading existing Russian- and Soviet-made military equipment. Russia provides all kinds of assistance in this area, and also helps training personnel to operate the equipment. However, Russia’s African partners are also interested in new models of Russian military equipment and weapons.
According to Rosoboronexport, Russia is the leading arms supplier of sub-Saharan countries (30 percent of all arms supplies in 2011–2015).
In early 2019, Rosoboronexport announced that Russian enterprises that are involved in military and technical cooperation had planned a number of important projects with African countries for a year in advance, which is why the year earned the title “the year of Africa.”
In January 2019, for example, Rosoboronexport took part in the Shield Africa International Security and Defence exhibition in Cote d’Ivoire. The company introduced a wide range of weapons and military equipment for counterterrorism and police special operations.
Russia mainly supplies missile and artillery weapons, small arms and automotive equipment to African countries. The most in-demand military equipment in sub-Saharan Africa includes Mi helicopters; Sukhoi and MiG planes; and Pantsir-C1, Kornet-E and Tor-M2E missile defense systems; as well as tanks, armored personnel carriers and small arms.
Russia also offers its African partners a wide range of surveillance and monitoring equipment, including unmanned aerial vehicles and radar locators used primarily to protect borders and critical facilities.
Russian Know-How and “Soft Power”
For Africa, it is important to develop cooperation with foreign partners who are willing to share new technologies, as well as to deliver these technologies and implement them on the African continent, thus promoting industrial and human development. Russia, of course, has the know-how and is ready to share this knowledge with its African partners, if they are interested (for example, peaceful atom technologies, medical technologies, etc.).
The most important event in this respect was the presentation delivered by Russian scientists at an international conference (July 2019) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo of the latest vaccine against the Ebola virus, which “differs significantly from its current western alternatives thanks to its safety, the absence of side effects, and the ease of storage, transportation and use. And, most importantly, it provides effective immunity against this deadly infection.”
Russia can offer to its African partners such services as expert reviews during the construction of nuclear power plants and other infrastructural facilities (hydroelectric power stations, light industry facilities, agricultural raw materials processing factories), oil refining and pipeline construction technologies, and the development of the space industry (in particular, launching satellites in African countries).
The Russian side held negotiations with Sudan when it was still under the rule of President Omar al-Bashir on the construction of a desalination plant at the site of a nuclear facility (know-how that only Russia possesses). The project may be of interest to other African nations.
Russia seeks to share its scientific and cultural achievements with the African people and boost the prestige of the Russian language on the continent. In September 2018, the Federal Agency for the Commonwealth of Independent States, Compatriots Living Abroad, and International Humanitarian Cooperation (Rossotrudnichestvo) unveiled plans to open new Russian Science and Culture Centres (RSCC) in Africa. Rossotrudnichestvo currently has cultural centres in Egypt, Zambia, the Republic of the Congo, Morocco, Tanzania, Tunisia and Ethiopia, as well as a representative working in the Russian Embassy in South Africa. Deputy Head of Rossotrudnichestvo Alexander Radkov pointed out that the African people are showing an increasing interest in receiving an education in Russia and learning the Russian language. In 2019, Russian universities received almost 30,000 applications from citizens of African countries, even though the quota for free places is just 1819.
Interparliamentary ties between Russia and Africa are developing, as the Russia–Africa parliamentary conference in July 2019 proved.
Russia seeks to build active and fruitful cooperation with African countries in a multilateral format. What this means, first and foremost, is strengthening interaction with the African Union and other regional integration associations on the continent.
In June 2018, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Sergey Lavrov announced during his visit to Rwanda that Russia and the African Union were working on a political framework document that would lay the conceptual foundations for cooperation in the coming years.
One of the tasks is to deepen trade and economic cooperation between the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and African Union countries. It is known that the President of the Russian Federation has invited the Eurasian Economic Commission to take part in the Russia–Africa Summit in Sochi this coming October and has voiced his support for the planned signing of a memorandum of cooperation between the Eurasian Economic Commission and the African Union.
It is also important to strengthen cooperation with African countries at the United Nations, as African countries make up a significant and influential part of that organization. This could help garner support for Russia’s stance on various issues on the international agenda.
Russia is also strengthening its political interaction with African countries in the BRICS format. Even though South Africa is currently the only African country in this association, representatives from several African nations regularly attend the group’s summits as guests and observers. The possibility of including other African countries in the association are being discussed.
The upcoming inaugural Russia–Africa Summit in Sochi should play a significant role in strengthening multilateral cooperation between Russia and various African countries. Leaders of all African countries, as well as the heads of major sub-regional associations and organizations have been invited to the event. Russia and the African Union countries are expected to sign a political declaration on Russia–Africa cooperation after the Summit is over.
Russia and other external players on the African continent: the prospects for competition and cooperation
Russian and Western experts agree that a new “battle for Africa” is currently unfolding, with the main participants being the United States, China and the European Union (both as a bloc of states and as individual countries). Secondary players in this battle include Brazil, India, Turkey, Iran, South Korea and the Persian Gulf states
It would seem that Russia, which has repeatedly emphasized its willingness to work with its partners in Africa, has no interest in taking part in any kind of “battle.” Unfortunately, the reality is that, at the current stage of history, there is serious competition in many areas among external players on the African continent.
Africa’s partners in the west are concerned about the increased interaction between the continent’s countries and Russia, even though Russia is far behind almost all of the above-mentioned countries in terms of trade and economic cooperation with Africa. What is more, Russia does not have the same financial and economic capabilities as China, for instance, when it comes to implementing its policies on the African continent.
Three key points should be kept in mind here:
— Almost all African countries try to pursue a multi-vector foreign policy, one that allows them to be flexible in their interactions with those external players which provide the most attractive conditions for cooperation.
— Russia has exactly the same right as other international actors to develop relations with African partners. Unfortunately, far from everyone outside of Russia agrees.
— African countries have the sovereign right to offer cooperation to, and develop cooperation with, Russia, regardless of what their other foreign economic partners think about it.
I believe that Russia could cooperate with other African countries on various projects, but this requires practical interest and goodwill. These countries have shown a certain amount of interest, although it is thus far unclear how this interest can be transformed into practical actions.
In conclusion, we should note that the needs of Africa in terms of human development, building new infrastructure, industrial development and job creation are so great that the combined efforts of all external partners are both encouraged and welcomed. There is plenty of work for all interested parties. There is no need for a “battle,” rather, a strategic vision and a readiness to negotiate are required.
Russia is simply following its course, seeking to strengthen its traditionally friendly ties with Africa. The upcoming Russia–Africa Summit will define the priorities of Russia’s policy in Africa more clearly, including in the eyes of Russia’s partners in the west, and may lay the foundations for new talks and debates on the possibilities of cooperation on the African continent.
From our partner RIAC
Lawrence Stargomena Tax Says Goodbye, and Calls for Scaling Up Sustainable Development
Southern African Development Community (SADC), an organization made up of 16 member states, was established in 1980. It has as its mission to promote sustainable and equitable economic growth and socio-economic development through efficient, productive systems, deeper cooperation and integration, good governance and durable peace and security, so that the region emerges as a competitive and an effective player in international relations and the world economy.
Lawrence Stargomena Tax began as the fourth Executive Secretary in September 2013. According to the official information, her second term of office ends in August 2021. As Executive Secretary, her key responsibilities include engaging all the members as an economic bloc, overseeing and implementing various programmes and projects in the Southern African region.
She has a diverse employment career, including holding a top position as the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation from 2008 to 2013, thereafter appointed as the Executive Secretary of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) at the 33rd Summit of the Heads of State and Government held in Lilongwe, Malawi.
In this insightful and wide-ranging farewell interview with Kester Kenn Klomegah from Modern Diplomacy in May, Executive Secretary Lawrence Stargomena Tax discusses the most significant achievements and challenges in deepening cooperation and promoting socio-economic development as well as peace and security, and further makes suggestions for the future of Southern Africa. Here are the interview excerpts:
What would you say, in a summarized assessment about your work, especially achievements and challenges, during your term of office as Executive Secretary of the Southern African Development Community (SADC)?
The Southern African Development Community (SADC) Secretariat is the Principal Executive Institution of SADC, and the SADC Executive Secretary leads the SADC Secretariat as mandated by Articles 14 and 15 of the Treaty establishing SADC. Functions of the SADC Executive Secretary include overseeing: strategic planning for the Organisation; management, coordination and monitoring of SADC programmes; coordination and harmonization of policies and strategies; mobilization of resources; representation and promotion of SADC; and promotion of SADC regional integration and cooperation.
Achievements: SADC has recorded numerous achievements since its establishment, some of which were recorded during my term of office, from September 2013 to-date 2021. The functions of the Executive Secretary notwithstanding, the recorded milestones are a result of collective efforts by Member States, the Secretariat, and other Stakeholders, as well as team-work by staff of the Secretariat. Eight (8) years is quite a long time, as such several achievements and milestones were recorded during the eight years of my tenure in office, allow me to highlight some of the key ones as follows:
Consolidation of democracy, and sustenance of peace and security in the region. The SADC region remains stable and peaceful, notwithstanding, isolated challenges. This is attributed to solid systems and measures in place, such as our regional early warning, preventive and mediation mechanisms, which facilitate timely detection and re-dress of threats and challenges, and effective deployments of SADC electoral observation missions. Examples during my tenure of office, include SADC preventive mission to the Kingdom of Lesotho, SADC peace and political support to the Democratic Republic of Congo, SADC mediation in Madagascar, SADC facilitation in Lesotho, and effective deployment of electoral observation Missions to SADC Member States. To mitigate and address threats posed by cybercrime and terrorism, a cybercrime and anti-terrorism strategy was adopted in 2016. The strategy is being implemented at regional and national levels.
In the historical-political space, the Southern African Liberation struggles were documented through the Hashim Mbita Publication, a Publication that comprehensively and authentically documents the struggles in the three SADC languages, English, French and Portuguese. The Publication enables all, especially the youth to understand and appreciate the history and the Southern African Liberation.
Forging a long-term direction of SADC through the adoption of the SADC Vision 2050, that is transposed on the Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP) 2020-2030. Vision 2050 sets out the long-term aspirations of SADC over the next thirty (30) years, while the RISDP 2020-30 outlines a development trajectory for the Region for ten (10) years to 2030. Vision 2050 is based on a firm foundation of Peace, Security and Democratic Governance, and premised on three inter-related pillars, namely Industrial Development and Market Integration; Infrastructure Development in support of Regional Integration; and Social and Human Capital Development. This also goes hand in hand with frontloading of Industrialization that aims at transforming SADC economies technologically and economically. Industrialization remains SADC main economic integration agenda since April 2015, when the SADC Industrialization Strategy and Roadmap 2015-2063 was approved. By addressing the supply side constraints as part of the implementation of the SADC industrialization strategy, cross border trade continues to grow, and business environment has been improving, where cost of doing business has been declining steadily and gradually. In addition, values chains were profiled, specifically in three priority sectors, namely mineral beneficiation, pharmaceutical and agro-processing, and a number of value chains have been developed and are being implemented. The Industrialization Strategy has also recognized the private sector as a major player to SADC industrialization and regional integration as a whole.
The adoption of the SADC Simplified Trade Regime Framework in 2019, which has contributed to the enhancement of trade facilitation, and adoption of the SADC Financial Inclusion and Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) Strategy that has enhanced financial inclusion in Member States. Ten Member States have so far developed financial inclusion strategies, and there has been an 8 percent improvement in financial inclusion to a tune of 68 percent.
Introduction and operationalization of the SADC Real Time Gross Settlement System (RTGS), a multi-currency platform, which went live in October 2018. All Member States except Comoros are participating in the SADC-RTGS and a total of 85 banks are participating in the system. The SADC-RTGS has enabled Member States to settle payments among themselves in real time compared to previously when it used to take several days for banks to process cross border transactions. As of December 2020, 1,995,355 transactions were settled in the System, representing the value of South African Rands (ZAR) 7.81 Trillion.
Approval of the establishment of the SADC Regional Development Fund in 2015 which aims at mobilizing funds for key infrastructure and industrialization projects.
Realization of targets set in the SADC Regional Infrastructure Development Master Plan (RIDMP) that was approved in 2012, including the establishment of One-Stop Border Posts which entails joint control and management of border crossing activities by agents of the adjoining countries, using shared facilities, systems and streamlined procedure. These include:
One-Stop Border Posts at Chirundu Border between Zambia and Zimbabwe, and Nakonde -Tunduma Border between Tanzania and Zambia; a third One-Stop Border Post, about to be operationalised is at Kazungula Border between Botswana and Zambia, where the road-rail bridge has been completed.
Cross-border infrastructure projects, both hard and soft, that have facilitated assimilated, cost-effective, unified and efficient trans-national infrastructure networks and services were developed and are being implemented. These projects include cross-border transmission links in several Member States using optical fibre technology, thereby, allowing landlocked Member States such as Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe to connect to the submarine cables on either or both the east and west coast of Africa. Five (5) Member States (Botswana, Eswatini, Namibia, South Africa and Tanzania) have achieved the 2025 SADC Broadband Target to cover 80% of their population, and eight (8) Member States, namely Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, have put in place National Broadband Plans or Strategies.
The installation and commissioning of more than 18300 Megawatts (MW) between 2014 and 2020 to meet the increasing power demand in the Region has been recorded. Connecting the remaining three (3) mainland Member States namely Angola, Malawi and United Republic of Tanzania to the Southern African Power Pool remains a priority, and to this effect the Zambia-Tanzania Interconnector is at construction phase.
The adoption of the Regional Water Climate Change Adaptation Strategy and Flood Early Warning System in 2015. This has contributed to improvements in climate and weather forecasting, whereby a Southern African Regional Climate Outlook Forum has been established. The forum provides a platform for Member States to review and discuss the socio-economic impacts and potential impacts of the climate outlook, including on food security, health, water and hydropower management, and disaster risk management.
The adoption of the SADC Disaster Preparedness and Response Strategy and Fund (2016-2030), which has contributed to the enhancement of regional disaster management and responses capacity.
A number of administrative milestones were also recorded during my tenure of office, including, institutional reforms, policy reviews, change management towards enhanced cooperate governance and effective delivery. Among others, the SADC Organization Structure was reviewed and streamlined in 2016 to deliver on the technological and economic transformation of the region, in line with the SADC Industrialization Strategy 2015-2063; and a number of policies and strategies, and guidelines were developed to enhance cooperate governance and change management.
As the first female Executive Secretary, since I joined the SADC Secretariat, Gender mainstreaming and Women empowerment were among the areas that I paid dedicated attention to. In this regard, all policies that were developed during my tenure mainstreamed gender and engendered women empowerment. A SADC Framework for Achieving Gender Parity in Political and Decision-Making positions was developed, and provides strategies, and guidelines for strengthening the implementation of the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development in order to ensure that at least 50 percent of all decision-making positions at all levels would be held by women by 2030, and progress is encouraging.
The Region also continued to intensify the fight against HIV and AIDS, TB and Malaria. To this effect, harmonized minimum standards for the prevention, treatment and management of the diseases were developed to promote health, through support for the control of communicable diseases; and preparedness, surveillance and responses during emergencies.
Here are the challenges: Challenges are expected in any organization, the most important thing is to address them timely and effectively. Challenges that I encouraged included:
A multi-cultural operating environment. This needed high level of patience, and approaches that will facilitate inclusiveness and ownership. The challenges sometimes affected speed in terms of delivery, as one had to get a clear understanding of issues at hand, and devise appropriate problem solving approaches.
Another problem is balancing diverse interests by Member States. Sixteen (16) Member States is not a small number, each will have her own priorities and interests, which sometimes are not necessarily the same across the region, or regional priorities. This needs one to be analytical and a quick thinker, applying negotiation and convincing skills.
The Region has also experienced a multiplicity of natural disasters with varying frequency and magnitude of impact, which sometimes occurred at unprecedented scale, for example, Tropical Cyclone Idai with its devastating impacts, including loss of lives, displacement of people, and massive destruction to properties. In response, SADC strengthened the regional disaster preparedness and response coordination and resilience building mechanisms, and more efforts are ongoing in this area.
The tail-end of my term of office encountered challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, which still remains a major concern and a challenge globally, and in almost all SADC Member States. On the response side, SADC has exhibited determination, solidarity and has undertaken several coordinated regional responses and put in place various harmonized measures to fight the pandemic and to mitigate its socio -economic impacts. These include regulations for facilitation of cross border movement of essential goods, services and transport, which were speedily developed and adopted, and were also harmonized at Tripartite level bringing on board the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the East African Community (EAC). These measures contributed to the containment of the spread of COVID-19, and facilitated continuity of socio-economic activities and livelihood of SADC citizens. The SADC Secretariat also carried out an in-depth assessment of the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19 on SADC economies. The assessment revealed a number of sectoral impacts. Based on the assessment, measures to address the challenges have been put in place at national and regional levels, and at the SADC Secretariat.
e. Whereas, the region has progressed in terms of its objectives, it is yet to achieve its ultimate goal of ensuring economic well-being, improvement of the standards of living and quality of life for the people of Southern Africa. Achieving this aspiration, remains a challenge to be progressively tackled to the end.
Southern African region is unique in terms of stability and investment climate, but there are also differences in political culture, policies and approach toward development issues. How did you find “a common language” for all the 16 SADC leaders?
The common language of SADC revolves around basic tenets which include history, values and common agenda. Historically, the region has common principles and values. Dating back to migration era, you will note that some of the parts of the SADC region are inhabited by the Bantu people who share some cultural similarities. Politically, the region united and stood in solidarity against colonialism a resolve that led to the liberation struggle that brought Member States together (resulting in the formation of the Front Line States, then the Southern Africa Development Coordination Conference) to fight and break from colonialism.
In terms of values, SADC believes in mutual respect and equality. Although Member States differ in size, wealth or development, they treat each other as equal sovereign states. Secondly, Member States make decisions through consensus, without anyone imposing on the other.
Lastly, SADC, like any other organization has a common agenda as spelt out in its Treaty, Article 5, which, among others, aims at “promoting sustainable and equitable economic growth and social economic development that will ensure poverty alleviation with the ultimate objective of its eradication, enhance the standard and quality of life of the people of Southern Africa and support the socially disadvantaged through regional integration.” Based on the common agenda, a vision, and policies and strategies have been developed to guide implementation and realization of the common agenda.
Therefore, notwithstanding some differences in political culture, national policies and approaches towards development issues, the history of the region, the shared principles and values embraced by the organization, and its common agenda have always enabled the Region and Member States to find a common ground, language and interest as a region, that is for all the 16 SADC Member States and SADC Leaders.
You have always advocated for an increased economic partnership and for sustainable development in the region. Do you agree that there is still insufficiently developed infrastructure in the industrial sector and other sectors in the region? How can the situation, most probably, be improved in the long term?
SADC recognises that a seamless and robust infrastructural network will create the requisite capacity for sustained economic growth, industrialisation and development. Measures to enhance infrastructure in the industrial sector and other sectors are in place and being implemented as part of the SADC industrialization Strategy 2015-2063, and the SADC Regional Infrastructure Development Master Plan of 2012. It should however be noted that while steady progress is being recorded, investments in these areas require substantial resources and partnership between Public and Private Sectors. Estimates by the African Development Bank (AfDB), published in its African Economic Outlook of 2018, reveal that Africa’s annual infrastructure requirements amount to $130bn – $170bn, with a financing gap in the range of $68bn–$108bn. SADC therefore, invites investors from within and outside the region to partner in this strategic areas for mutual benefits.
SADC has also established the Project Preparation and Development Facility (PPDF). The purpose of the PPDF funding is to enhance delivery on infrastructure development in the SADC Region, by bringing projects to bankability and as such facilitate investments by private sector and/or cooperating partners.
SADC is also in a process of ooperationalizing the SADC Regional Development Fund that will, among others, mobilize funds for key infrastructure and industrialization projects.
How do you assess the economic potential in the region? What foreign players have shown keen interest and/or already playing significant roles in SADC? Within the context of AfCFTA, what may further attract them?
The SADC region is endowed with diverse natural resources, including almost all of the key minerals for feed-stocks into regional manufacturing, agriculture, construction, power and other sectors.
The Region has been cooperating with both the private sector and international cooperation partners to implement its various policies and strategies to ensure that the region benefits from its own economic potential. Entering into force of the AfCFTA, provides an opportunity to SADC in collaboration with the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the East African Community (EAC) to expedite the operationalization of the COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite Free Trade Area as a necessary pillar for the AfCFTA, and thus expanded cross-border and international investments and trade.
In spite the degree of development complexities, you have SADC in your heart. Do you feel you have left something undone for the region? What are your last words, expert views and suggestions for ensuring sustainable social and economic growth in the region and for the future of SADC?
SADC is about cooperation and regional integration, and this is a continuous process not an event. With the progress made, the gains need to be sustained, while at the same time accelerating and deepening integration progressively in areas that are either ongoing, or yet to be embarked upon, including taking a bold decision and establishing the long overdue SADC Customs Union, and to expeditiously operationalize the SADC Development Fund.
Here are my last words. I call upon SADC to remain focused and bring about the envisaged sustainable social and economic growth for the benefit of SADC citizens, in line with the trajectory set by SADC Vision 2050 and Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan 2020-30, as supported by the SADC Industrialization Strategy and Roadmap 2015 – 2063, and the SADC Regional Infrastructure Development Master Plan 2012. Member States should continue implementing these initiatives. [Modern Diplomacy]
The Destinies of Africa in the Modern World
As part of the preparations for the second Russia-Africa summit, the Institute of African Studies in conjunction with the Roscongress Foundation and supported by TASS News Agency organized and held the 15th conference of Africanists entitled ‘The Destinies of Africa in the Modern World’ in Moscow. The conference opened on the eve of the Africa Day celebrated on May 25.
This year’s conference, and other related events held online/offline format, was especially significant, as it was an important step in preparation for the second Russia-Africa summit, which will take place in 2022 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
On May 24, the conference opened with the plenary session moderated by Director of the Institute for African Studies under the Russian Academy of Sciences, Professor Irina Abramova.
This session was an opportunity for the leaders of Russia and the African Union (AU), representatives of business and scientific community to discuss the current agenda of the Russian-African cooperation and the required steps to strengthen and expand a mutually beneficial partnership on an international scale.
The delegates were greeted by the Russian side, represented by Deputy Chairman of the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation Konstantin Kosachev, Deputy Chairwoman of the State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation Olga Timofeeva and TASS Director General Sergei Mikhailov.
The African side was represented by Commissioner for Human Resources, Science and Technology at African Union Commission Sarah Anyang Agbor and President and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) Dr. Benedict Okey Oramah.
The plenary session was attended by Special Presidential Representative for the Middle East and Africa and Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, Deputy Minister of Science and Higher Education of the Russian Federation Natalia Bocharova, Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Alexey Gruzdev and Head of Rossotrudnichestvo Evgeniy Primakov.
Vice President of the Russian Academy of Science Academician Yuri Balega, Director of the Institute for African Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences Academician Alexey Vasiliev, Senator of the Russian Federation and Chairman of Coordination Committee for Economic Cooperation with African Countries Igor Morozov, Russian Export Center CEO Veronika Nikishina, Chairman of the Association of Economic Cooperation with African States (AECAS) Alexander Saltanov and Managing Director for Multilateral Cooperation and Integration of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs Sergey Mikhnevich also attended the session.
“First of all, I would like to thank the Russian Academy of Sciences for organzing this type of forum and to express my gratitude to Presidium Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Director of the RAS Institute for African Studies Olga Abramova, it is largely thanks to her that we are opening this event today. It is really important that the academic circles independently assess the condition and the perspectives of our relations with African countries,” said Special Presidential Representative for the Middle East and Africa, Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov.
On the opening session, the African side was represented by the Dean of the African Diplomatic Corps, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Cameroon to the Russian Federation H.E. Mahamat Paba Sale and Rector of the Free University of Kinshasa, Professor Jean Michel Kumbu.
The face-to-face plenary session attended by representatives of state administration of Russia and of African countries was the starting point for further discussion by the scientists and experts. Within the three days (May 24-26), 48 sections provided opportunities for over 500 leading researchers and specialists from all continents to talk online about a wide range of topics related to Africa.
The closing session of the conference moderated by Deputy Director of the Institute for African Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Professor Dmitri Bondarenko. The session also featured presentations by Professor of University of South Africa Andreas Velthuizen, Honorary President of the Institute for African Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences Alexey Vasiliev and Deputy Director of the Institute for African Studies Leonid Fituni.
The participants unanimously praised the high level of the conference organization and its high academic and applied significance. The conference outcomes and results will be taken into account for preparation for the forthcoming summit planned next year in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Race and Racism’s Critical Role in International Relations
The majority of realist International Relations theory attempts to explain the outcome of the Thirty Years’ War and the 1648 Peace of Westphalia. Given that many of the core tenets of IR theory revolve around explaining the results of a three hundred and thirty eight year old peace treaty, it is clear that a disconnect between the past and the present exists. As a historically Eurocentric field, IR commonly neglects nonwhite experiences and attempts to tailor the perception of events and experiences to a fit a european. With the first texts and theories of IR thought being realist theories originating in Europe, the damage comes from the longstanding assertion that only white European countries are capable of bringing order and security to the globe. Examining the historical impacts of race and racism on modern international relations allows for a more holistic view of interactions within the gamut of world powers by validating the experiences of those subjugated to injustices of the past and present, and integrating their experiences to create a more empathetic field. A prime example of this disconnect is The Democratic Republic of The Congo. Subject to Belgian colonial rule as well as numerous abuses, the DRC exemplifies the pinnacle of racism in IR.
The modern IR field is undeniably rooted in racist theories and philosophy. The 1916 book An Introduction to the Study of International Relations makes the racist underpinnings of the field astoundingly clear. With an entire chapter of the text devoted to Political Relations Between Advanced and Backwards Peoples and promoting the necessity of empirical rule colonization, this fundamental book lays a foundation of racism in IR. Belgian rule of the DRC began in 1885 under King Leopold II, however full control of the country under the Belgians did not occur until 1908 and finally ended in 1960. Even American hands meddled in the DRC during World War II, as the DRC (under Belgian rule) supplied uranium for the Manhattan Project.
The DRC’s history lends itself to great instability, resource extraction and devastating internal conflict. In 1930, the discovery of diamonds and widespread commercial mining set a precedent of brutal working conditions and exploitation. In the wake of instability created by decolonization in 1960, a 1965 CIA backed coup placed Mobutu Sese Seko in power, granting Western powers greater access to minerals and resources within the country. From 1991-2009, the nation experienced constant (and still ongoing) conflict, largely driven by a desire for control of minerals and rampant sexual violence. When examining the connection between these factors, for example, countries with a larger share of natural resource extraction as a source of their GDP is correlated with increased rates of sexual violence against women, suggesting that colonial exploitation has consequences and impacts beyond just that of the economy.*
Abused and stripped of resources at the hands of its colonizers, the treatment of the people living within the country disproves the IR concept that self-interest and self-benefit of a country reign unilaterally supreme. If this were true, the extremely resource-wealthy country containing a plethora of globally critical materials would likely be a regional hegemon as well as a global economic superpower. However, this is far from reality. As a country subjugated to colonial rule, the Belgian abuse of the Congo created a cycle in which stripping the inferiorly perceived sub-Saharan Africans of their resources for European and American profit became commonplace. If classical realist IR theory did not rest on a racist foundation, the massive wealth and untapped resources would present a different DRC on the world stage than seen today.
Leaning on the traditional realist application of IR theory is convenient and worth perpetuating for Western countries, as they are able to exploit weaker countries that are afflicted with the scars of colonialism. With revisionist history influencing the narrative of colonized countries, “IR struggles to face its own racial bias by failing to examine African states … as independent historical subjects, and not simply objects in the dominant global structure.” On the global landscape, stratification of countries by race with a European/American dominance is prevalent and leaves a scathing impact on international relations. Reflecting back to the exploitation of the DRC, this divide is apparent in the way in which the country is unable to progress on the international scale. Following the Congo’s independence in 1960, the country has faced a perpetual state of civil strife with very little external aid or assistance. Despite massive economic opportunity and potential, the racism that exists within IR theory permits neglect of the Congo as long as it churns out resources for the benefit of white countries. Racial stratification in practice prevents the DRC from progressing on the international scale beyond a trove of natural resources for other countries to extract.
Despite being a complex academic field of study, International Relations often fails to consider the criticality of race. With the majority of realist IR theory revolving around dated norms and philosophy, the evolution of the field allows for more effective adaptation to the modern global landscape. To combat this racism, considering the ideas of non-white scholars as well as studying the countries victimized by colonialism as entities with their own complex histories and IR experiences creates room for improved perspectives. The Democratic Republic of the Congo is just one instance of the intersection of race and IR theory, but the analysis of concepts such as racial stratification and colonial scarring allows the global world to operate more effectively, efficiently, and empathetically to create a safer and most prosperous environment for all people – regardless of their color.
*Results are based on author research using OLS regression to examine the combined effects of GDP, natural resource exportation, female share of the labor force, and rates of sexual violence against women.
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