Russia –Africa Economic Forum: The Renewed Commitment on Russia-Africa Relations

The inaugural Russia-Africa Summit which was hosted in the black sea city of Sochi just ended a summit which was full of huge deals and commitments as well as enhancement of the relations between Russia and the African continent. Dating back to the soviet glorious days there was a strong Russian influence in Africa. The post-independence governments of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea-Bissau, Ethiopia, Somalia, Egypt, Uganda, Angola, Mozambique, and Benin at some point all received diplomatic or military support from the Soviet Union.

Nevertheless, this began to change after the superpower started to collapse in December 1991. More than a quarter of a century later Russia’s President Vladimir Putin seems to have new aspirations in Africa. This is in line with his desire to restore Russia to great power status.

Putin places a high premium on geopolitical relations and the pursuit of Russian assertiveness in the global stage. This includes re-establishing Russia’s sphere of influence, which extends to the African continent and this was seen in the concluded Russia-Africa-Summit in was held in Sochi.

Moscow’s places a distinctive method of trade and investment in Africa which is without the conditionality’s of actors like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund rather Moscow believed in the win-win cooperation.Russia is gradually increasing its influence in the African Continent through strategic investment in the energy and minerals sector. It’s also using military muscle and soft power.

“Let’s drink to the success of our joint efforts to develop full-scale mutually beneficial co-operation, wellbeing, peaceful future and prosperity of our countries and people,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said in a toast at the formal summit dinner in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.  This might sound a toast expression but it is a commitment.

With the attendance of some 40 African heads of state in the black sea historical city of Sochi, the opening day of the inaugural Russia-Africa Summit kicked off with an explosion. In an introductory address, the Russian president Vladimir Putin positioned his renewed push in the continent in the soviet tradition of fighting colonialism.

Russian official argued deals with modern Russia offered African states their independence, presumably implying deal with former colonial powers like the UK, and France or global powers like China and the United States come with strings attached one way or another. 

Even though deals in nuclear energy, oil, gas, Diamonds, and agriculture took a prominent place, two of the main attractions for African heads of states are military cooperation and military hardware.

Russia, which is the second-largest supplier of arms in the world today, is already a major supplier of arms to African countries. The number of arms supplied by Russia keeps increasing and reports notes Russia sales of weaponry to African countries has doubled in the year 2017 compared to the previous years. United States and China are also crucial weapons suppliers but in Africa, they fall behind Russia, which supplied 39% of Africa’s imported arms between 2017 and 2013.

However, competition among major powers in the African continent is raising, both Russia and China are keen to play a future role in Africa. The difference between these two major powers is that China forms part of the Asian regional economy. This will surpass North America and Europe combined, in terms of global power – based on GDP, population size, military spending, and technological investment.

China and India have sustained impressive economic growth over many years. And, their enormous populations make them two world powers of extraordinary importance. Growth predictions for the Russian economy, on the other hand, remain modest – between 1.5% and 1.8% a year for 2018-2010, against the current global average rate of 3.5% a year.

Still, Russia remains a major power in global politics. For African leaders, the keyword is agency and the question is how to play the renewed Russian attention to their countries’ benefit, and not to fall victim to the contemporary “geopolitical chess” game played by the major powers on the continent.

David Ceasar Wani
David Ceasar Wani
David Ceasar Wani Suliman is a Doctoral Fellow (Ph.D.) in the school of Political Science and Public Administration at Shandong University China, Majoring in International Politics. He worked as a Research assistant at Jilin University China; He Achieved Master’s degree in International Relations from Jilin University China, and correspondingly graduated with honors from Cavendish University Uganda with bachelor degree in international relations and diplomatic studies.