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Russia-Africa: Time to Act –interview with Alexander Stuglev

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Within the framework of the joint declaration adopted in Sochi, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation created a Secretariat of Russia-Africa Partnership Forum. The Secretariat’s primary task is to coordinate efforts for promoting cooperation between Russian and African business associations, ensure political and diplomatic support for projects carried out by Russia’s state-run and private companies in Africa, and coordinating aspects of preparations for future Russia-Africa summits.

During its September meeting, the Secretariat created Coordinating Council headed by Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Roscongress Foundation Alexander Stuglev. Early October, Alexander Stuglev gave an exclusive interview to Modern Diplomacy’s Special Regional Representative, Kester Kenn Klomegah, in which he discussed some aspects of Russia’s plan to raise its economic, investment and trade profile in Africa.

Q: Is it comfortable for you to discuss the key questions that were raised during September meeting of the Secretariat under the slogan “Time to Act” and what is the main advantage to have Roscongress Foundation acting as the coordinator for business-related aspects with Africa?

A: The main objective of the event held in Moscow was to make all stakeholders based in Russia and African States aware of two specialized bodies that were established following the Russia–Africa Summit and Economic Forum in 2019. These are the Russia–Africa Partnership Forum Secretariat and the Association of Economic Cooperation with African States.

The Summit and Economic Forum laid the foundations for further collaboration. The wide-ranging and ambitious task now ahead of us is to create the conditions and to identify opportunities which will allow us to strengthen and increase Russian-African cooperation across the board.

Three interdepartmental councils have been established within the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum Secretariat: a coordinating council, research council, and public council. By working together, these three bodies will enable us to take a comprehensive approach to fulfilling existing and new emerging tasks. We have a great deal of work ahead of us right now, and the outcomes will be discussed at the next Russia-Africa Summit and Economic Forum, which is set to take place in 2022.

For our part, we will continue working hard to promote the African agenda, including at key events organized by the Roscongress Foundation. We will involve all stakeholders in the process, especially our African partners. I have every confidence that the Foundation’s experience, extensive international ties, and expertise will enable us to build an integrated ecosystem which will facilitate effective collaboration between the business, political, and expert communities of Russia and Africa. That is our long-term objective as we see it.

Q: What are your views on trade between Russia and Africa following the inaugural Russia-Africa Summit and Economic Forum in October 2019? Trade needs to flow in both directions. What can Russia offer Africa, and vice versa?

A: Russia has achieved impressive results across numerous areas to date, and is ready to share its experience and expertise with its African partners. Specific examples would include agriculture, energy, medicine, digital technologies, and infrastructure projects. There is interest on both sides in working together in these areas – a fact which was demonstrated at the Economic Forum in Sochi. Something that is crucial and extremely relevant for the times we currently live in is the successful experience of working together in healthcare. Up to 60% of yellow fever vaccines imported by Africa are produced in Russia. A Russian vaccine against Ebola has also shown to be highly effective, and is currently being used in Guinea.

At the same time, I am convinced that Africa possesses enormous potential to become, for example, one of the key players on the international food market. It is Russia’s objective to help Africa achieve this by entering into an equal and mutually beneficial partnership. By working together, we can fully deal with any of the difficulties which can be encountered in certain regions of Africa. We can increase the amount of cultivated land, improve irrigation systems, and increase the use of fertilizers. I believe that close collaboration in this area could serve as a good example of a mutually beneficial endeavour which results in African states improving their agricultural sectors and increasing production, and over time, in Russia having the opportunity to purchase high-quality agricultural products.

Q: According to official statistics, Russia’s current exports to Africa are worth US$20 billion. However, two thirds of exports go to the Maghreb region or North Africa. What could be the reasons for the low level of trade with countries in sub-Saharan Africa?

A: I would highlight two key problems here which have negatively impacted trade with countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Firstly, there is a lack of mutual awareness. Unfortunately, the African continent remains little known in Russia, and in Africa, there’s only a vague notion of what Russia is. All of this ultimately leads to the creation and reinforcement of stereotypes, and puts up barriers to more productive cooperation. Russian businesses simply don’t know what to expect from Africa or vice versa.

Secondly, the risks can be high, and investors are often not willing to assume all these risks alone. I think that a possible solution to this problem could lie in the creation of mechanisms to facilitate inter-governmental collaboration and provide support. That way, an investor can feel assured that in the event of force-majeure, such as socio-political unrest, their investment is protected by the state in question. An additional security guarantee for investments could be provided by having two or more states involved via subregional organizations and large African banks, for example.

Q: For many years now, trade between Russia and Africa has been unbalanced, and has often been one-sided in Russia’s favour. What measures could be taken to overcome this disparity?

A: As I have already mentioned above, the experience and expertise that Russia is able to offer African states can, in the long-run, positively impact the level of exports from Africa to our country. It therefore follows that balancing out trade between Russia and Africa depends, to a specific extent, on the willingness of Russian businesses to invest in promising areas of Africa’s economy and to share their knowledge, and on the willingness of partners in Africa to facilitate this process by putting in place all the necessary prerequisites for this to happen.

The mutual awareness factor I mentioned will also play an important role. As far as that is concerned, it will be crucial to raise awareness in our countries, both through having an increased Russian media presence on the continent, and as a result of joint humanitarian initiatives. I believe that centres of expertise and business support centres will do a great deal to help resolve this issue locally, as will working together with the local population on a regular basis.

Furthermore, I would like to highlight the question of mutual trust. An initiative by our partner -the African Export-Import Bank – deserves special attention in this regard. They have built a platform called MANSA, which collates verified information about African organizations which are registered there. That means that MANSA operates as a guarantee of sorts, and as a one-stop resource to find reliable partners on the continent. We will step up our collaboration with Afreximbank in this area and identify common areas of interest together with members of the Russian business community.

Q: Do you see any difficulties for African exporters? What advantages exist, particularly in light of the establishment of the new Eurasian Union, which is made up of five former Soviet republics?

A: Of course, Russian imports of goods from Africa make up the smallest percentage of total trade by some distance (accounting for around 15%). However, this figure is growing faster than the average rate of growth of imports among all trading partners in Africa. There are also no global barriers in this area. You are correct to note that trade and economic ties are being strengthened through regional and continent-wide intergovernmental organizations. Of course, one of the main outcomes of the Summit was the signing of a memorandum between the Eurasian Economic Commission and the African Union Commission. We see enormous potential in this area.

Indeed, since 2010, trade between the EAEU and African nations has grown by almost 170%.Presuming that free talks between the EAEU and Egypt conclude successfully, the parties involved will be able to enjoy free movement of goods, services, and capital. This in itself is already unprecedented in the context of our trade relations with the continent. The EAEU and a number of African countries are already discussing mutual settlements in national currencies in order to avoid incurring cross-rate costs. This, in my objective view, will help boost trade.

Q: The African Union has established the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which allows for the free movement of goods and services across the entire continent. With that in mind, what would be your advice to Russian exporters?

A: For my part, I can say that the establishment of the African Continental Free Trade Area represents an important step forward, both in terms of trade on the continent, and trade with foreign partners. I believe that as competition for African markets increases, it is essential to increase the number of trading partners we have in Africa, to increase the amount of trade we do, and to provide assistance in creating the right conditions for increasing African exports to Russia.

Q: What immediate plans does Roscongress have with regard to Africa? What prospects exist for strengthening relations between Russia and African countries?

A: The Roscongress Foundation’s priority is to create opportunities, build communication platforms, and to make it possible for members of the Russian and African business communities to discuss their ideas and proposals directly. Dialogue lies at the heart of everything. Without dialogue, it is difficult to build trusting relations.

That is why we are continuing to collect ideas and proposals from our colleagues and partners so that we can analyse them and try to implement them in practice. There is no doubt in my mind that there is enormous potential to build relations between Russia and Africa, starting with the investment and financial sphere, and ending with various humanitarian projects in culture and sport. Each area is unique and significant in its own way. That is why it is vital to pay close attention to everything, even details which may appear, at first glance, to be wholly insignificant. A comprehensive approach must be employed when building Russian-African relations. It was with this aim in mind that the interdepartmental councils were established.

I would like to highlight the role of the Roscongress Foundation’s regional partners who have expressed an interest in working together with Russia. It is our hope that the Foundation’s partnerships in Africa will only become stronger and encompass more countries on the continent. For our part, we are always open to new initiatives and mutually beneficial partnerships. After all, it is by working together that we will be able to create a space defined by trust, which is vital in the current environment, as it continues to be shaped by a new reality.[Modern Diplomacy]

MD Africa Editor Kester Kenn Klomegah is an independent researcher and writer on African affairs in the EurAsian region and former Soviet republics. He wrote previously for African Press Agency, African Executive and Inter Press Service. Earlier, he had worked for The Moscow Times, a reputable English newspaper. Klomegah taught part-time at the Moscow Institute of Modern Journalism. He studied international journalism and mass communication, and later spent a year at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations. He co-authored a book “AIDS/HIV and Men: Taking Risk or Taking Responsibility” published by the London-based Panos Institute. In 2004 and again in 2009, he won the Golden Word Prize for a series of analytical articles on Russia's economic cooperation with African countries.

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Transforming Africa

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Authors: Srilata Kammila and Rohini Kohli, UNDP*

This year’s Africa Climate Week brings together governments and key stakeholders from across the continent to “explore resilience against climate risks, the transition to a low-emission economy and the partnerships we need to solve these pressing challenges.”

With so much at stake, it’s clear that we must make substantial investments and coordinated efforts in building transformative climate actions across Africa.

This means advancing integrated holistic solutions that connect the dots between land-use, water management, agriculture and livelihoods, between energy, natural resources, economic growth and social development, and between disaster risk reduction, climate information services and resilience. This is what we call transformative climate action.

A life-threatening crisis

We are in a race against time. And no continent is more vulnerable from the multiplying threats of climate change, poverty, conflict, displacement, and hunger than Africa.

The most recent IPCC Report indicates vast disruptions to economies, lives, food security and livelihoods across the continent. “Africa has contributed among the least to greenhouse gas emissions, yet key development sectors have already experienced widespread loss and damage attributable to anthropogenic climate change, including biodiversity loss, water shortages, reduced food production, loss of lives and reduced economic growth.”

Temperature rises between 1.5°C and 2°C are projected to become widespread, resulting in reduced food production and economic growth, increased inequality and poverty, biodiversity loss, and most concerning increased human morbidity and mortality, according to the report.

While the war in Ukraine, ongoing conflicts and COVID-19 have exacerbated these issues, climate change is pushing million more people to the brink of starvation in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, the Sahel and beyond.

It’s not just a regional problem. It’s not just an Africa problem. It’s a worldwide problem.

But the poorest and most vulnerable will be the ones that will lose their children to hunger. They are the ones that will see crops wilt on the vine as prolonged droughts scourge the continent. They are the ones on the frontlines. And we must empower local action, national action and global action to rise to the truly devastating consequences of climate change.

A pathway forward

The pathway forward starts with people, but also requires resources, political will, policies and coordination to deliver the type of transformative action we need.

UNDP is accelerating adaptation planning and investments in Africa through a number of cross-sectoral solutions across the key domains of adaptation policy and planning, resilient livelihoods, food security, ecosystem-based adaptation, water resources and coastal management, and climate information and early warnings.

In Zambia for instance, a project funded through the Green Climate Fund and delivered in partnership with the government by UNDP, FAO and WFP is building climate-resilient food security and poverty reduction measures for close to a million people. The project has introduced the use of modern technology, sustainable growing techniques, and better understanding of climate change and has already reached close to 200,000 smallholder famers.

In Uganda, we are working to protect vulnerable wetland ecosystems and build resilient communities with support for support sustainable land management practices and reforestation, resilient practices and alternative livelihoods for 4 million people that rely on the wetlands for their livelihoods.

Integrating adaptation into development

Climate risk-informed policy, planning, and investment decisions that maximize development benefits to communities are critical for transformative action on adaptation. A ‘whole-of-society’ approach calls for integration of adaptation at all levels of society from informing national and sub-national policy and budgeting to devolving finance and decision making to local stakeholders for adaptation action.

UNDP’s support to adaptation planning in over 50 countries is building capacity to assess risks and vulnerabilities, measure adaptation progress, identify adaptation priorities and works in tandem with national, sectoral and local institutions for risk informed plans and budgets.

In building united actions, a joint initiative led by FAO and UNDP with funding from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action (BMWK) through the International Climate Initiative (IKI) is scaling up climate ambition on land use and agriculture through Nationally Determined Contributions and National Adaptation Plans across 12 countries worldwide, including five in Africa.

In Uganda, the SCALA Programme is working to build the agricultural, forestry and land-use plans needed to improve production on the farm, reduce emissions, and connect climate plans and policies with climate actions like the wetlands initiative.

In its updated Nationally Determined Contribution to the Paris Agreement, Côte d’Ivoire committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 30.41% by 2030 relative to business as usual, or 98.95% with international support. The country has also committed to increasing resilience in agriculture, food and land use, water, health, and coastal zones. 

UNDP’s Climate Promise along with various supports for National Adaptation Plans are supporting the country in delivering on these goals.

As the world’s largest cocoa bean exporter, the SCALA programme in Côte d’Ivoire is building a more resilient cocoa culture to ultimately lower emissions from cocoa production, which has been a major cause of deforestation over the last decade. As the country shifts towards more sustainable agroforestry landscape practices – more forests coverage will help absorb more carbon emissions

Africa driven solutions and partnerships

Locally-led adaptation initiatives connected with globally minded partnerships are key. At the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP) in December 2015, African Heads of State launched the Africa Adaptation Initiative (AAI) to ensure the continent urgently adapts to the adverse effects of climate change in the immediate, short, medium and longer terms. With funding from the European Union and support from UNDP, the programme is enhancing capacity to utilize climate risk information and assess and implement risk transfer mechanisms.

Launched at the Climate Adaptation Summit in January 2021, the Adaptation Innovation Marketplace (AIM) is a another strategic global platform that promotes scaled-up adaptation at the local level, focusing on civil society, non-government organizations, and women and youth innovators. The marketplace crowds in resources, know-how and support to facilitate local access to climate change finance.

The AIM partners include UNDP, the International Centre for Climate Change and Development, the Least Developed Countries Universities Consortium on Climate Change, the Global Resilience Partnership, the Climate-Knowledge Innovation Community, and UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF).

Currently, there are multiple funding windows under AIM. One funding window supported by the Adaptation Fund and EU (Adaptation Fund Climate Innovation Accelerator) has recently concluded the first round of call for proposals, and seven local partners from Africa were selected for the first round of funding.

In Ghana, the local partner Open Ghana aims to create alternative livelihoods for women, youth and persons with disabilities by establishing dry season gardens across multiple regions. Local community members will be trained on climate change adaptation, and several village savings and loans associations will be formed to develop sustainable business modules using the second-season-cropping production.

In Uganda, our local partner Sample Uganda Aquaculture Association is introducing aquaponics technology through an innovative lease-to-own model to promote aquaponics and horticulture related production, including nursery propagation.

These locally led adaptation solutions with sustainable business models are going to be key for transforming the adaptation practice in Africa.

Investing today for a better tomorrow

Investments in adaptation provide a significant return on investment. It’s good for business, it’s good for our planet, it’s good for our people.

The Global Commission on Adaptation found that investing US$1.8 trillion globally in five areas – early warning systems, climate-resilient infrastructure, improved dryland agriculture, mangrove protection and resilient water resources – from 2020 to 2030 could generate US$7.1 trillion in total net benefits.

There is a rapidly narrowing window of opportunity to enable climate-resilient development and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Paris targets. Global leaders must step up to support UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ call to apply 50% of all climate finance for adaptation and adhere to the commitments at COP26 in Glasgow, which called for doubling adaptation finance from US$20 billion to US$40 billion per year, a larger proportion of which is urgently needed for Africa.

Transformation is possible and there is hope with initiatives like the Great Green Wall, low-emission, high-growth strategies in Nigeria, and ground-up initiatives led by women farmers in Ghana will build equality today for a sustainable tomorrow.

Throughout it all, the leaders of Africa must commit to transformative climate actions and coordinated approaches to protect the most vulnerable communities from the unfolding and ever-increasing risks and impacts of climate change

Srilata Kammila

Srilata Kammila is the Head of Climate Change Adaptation at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). This position sits in UNDP’s Nature, Climate and Energy Team in UNDP’s Bureau for Policy and Programme Support/Global Policy Network.

Rohini Kohli

Rohini Kohli is the Senior Technical Advisor for Adaptation Policy and Planning in  UNDP’s Nature, Climate and Energy Team.

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Russia Scrambles for Higher Performance Marks in Africa

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Squeezed between Western and European sanctions due to its “special military operation” in Ukraine since late February and its dilapidating effects on Africa’s economy on one side and its decades-old desire to regain part of the Soviet-era influence despite the weak economic presence and negative perceptions at the core among the public especially the youth and middle class, Russia is gearing up for the next traditional African leaders summit. 

With preparations underway, Russia would have to begin preparing for and play different attractive rhythms at the second African leaders summit in 2023 at St. Petersburg, Russia. Reports monitored by the author indicate that the modest economic gains are gradually eroding due to Covid-19 these past two years and the situation is turning complicated currently due to the Russia-Ukraine crisis. The Russia-Ukraine crisis has a strong immeasurable negative impact, generating social discontent across large spectrum of the population in Africa. Therefore, African leaders would indiscriminately have cooperate with any foreign investors willing to invest and support their development process. Across Africa, more than 282 million people are food insecured – and that number is rising, according to the estimates by the World Bank. 

Throughout Africa, many across the population are displaying discontention and dissatisfaction due to unbearable rising prices for commodities and consumables. This latest food crisis, which did not originate in the continent, is reaching alarming dimensions especially in Africa. In fact, African leaders are confronted with these hurdles and emerging challenges. They are feverishly looking for both short-term solutions to calm down existing tensions among the people, and also long-term strategies to push sustainable development and make pace for growth.

The United States percieves most of the challenges and opportunities with a difference in Africa. It is constantly investing and its private investors are active exploring the continent. The United States is well-connected with its public outreach diplomacy. American institutions and organizations are linking up with the youth, women and the civil society.

After a peak in 2014, foreign direct investment (FDI) in Africa from the United States dropped to US$47.5 billion in 2020. During the pandemic, it provided more than 50 million doses to 43 African countries. It has further given more than US$1.9 billion in Covid-related assistance, for urgent needs like emergency food and other humanitarian support.

President Joe Biden has launched the Emergency Plan for Adaptation and Resilience. The year, the Congress allocated US$3 billion every year by 2024 to finance climate adaptation projects, the largest commitment ever made by the United States to reduce the impact of climate change on those most endangered by it. Through the Power Africa programme, the U.S. has connected more than 25 million homes and businesses across the continent to electricity, 80 percent of which is based on renewables. Development Finance Corporation supports renewable energy across Africa, including a solar project in Nigeria, wind farms in Senegal and Kenya. Nigeria marked a new chapter with the signing of a US$2.1 billion development assistance agreement that supports collaboration in the fundamentals: in health, in education, agriculture, good governance. 

And then four U.S. companies are collaborating with the Senegalese Government on infrastructure projects; that’s the Institut Pasteur de Dakar, which is working toward COVID vaccine production with American support and investment; and pushing innivation, technology and entrepreneurship with women and youth groups in Africa.  The popular partnership between the United States and Africa is YALI – the Young African Leaders Initiative.

The Prosper Africa initiative aims to increase two-way trade and investment.  The Africa Growth and Opportunity Act – known as AGOA – provides duty-free access to American markets, and most African countries have taken full advantage of it. U.S. investors are seriously leveraging unto the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). Similarly, China, Japan and South Korea have started localizing production of automobiles and tech gadgets. 

Despite some criticism, international development institutions and organizations are ready and offering support. In addition, external countries are stepping up efforts in that direction. The World Bank stands ready. Its latest three-year, US$93 billion global programme – about 2/3 of which will support Africa’s development agenda – delivered through the International Development Association (IDA). The IDA is the world’s largest source of concessional funds, including grants for low-income countries, helping them seize opportunities to reduce poverty and stimulate inclusive growth.

This latest IDA replenishment will enable our support to Africa to increase even more in the years ahead.  Africa has become the prime region benefiting from IDA resources – growing more than tenfold its annual program of about US$3 billion in 2000 to well over US$30 billion currently. This support, plus our growing on the ground presence across Africa, is enabling us to work hand-in-hand with governments, with the private sector, and civil society to implement the continent’s ambitious development agenda.

While in Dakar, capital of Senegal, meeting more than a dozen Heads of State from across Africa, Axel van Trotsenburg, World Bank Vice President for Latin America and the Caribbean, said “African leaders have, through the African Union process, articulated clear goals – from digitalization to electricity to education – and we are committed to helping Africa translate these ambitions into strong programmes that can, within a short period of time, improve people’s lives and transform the continent.”

Foreign countries, the United States, European Union, Asian states such China, and from the Gulf and Arab states are, indeed, at the forefront in Africa. In March during the heat of Russia-Ukraine crisis, the United States and European Union supported Africa through the African Development Bank (AfDB), when the bank sought funds more than US$50 billion for curated bankable projects in key priority sectors identified in the Africa Investment Forum’s 2020 Unified Response to Covid-19 initiative.

According to the China-Africa Economic and Trade Relationship Annual Report (2021), while Covid-19 has shaken the global economy, Chinese investment in Africa has been climbing. The report says China invested US$2.96 billion in Africa in 2020, up 9.5% from 2019.  The turnover of Chinese enterprises’ contracted projects in Africa amounted to US$383.3 billion in 2020, that is a 16.7% drop from 2019.

In a media release, the U.S. Government’s lead development agency, United States Agency for International Development (USAID), has renewed its partnership with many African countries. Quiye recently, it offered to fund various projects, including investment in health and education, women and youth, and infrastructures in a number of African countries. For instance, in April this year, it gave assistance funding of US$1.5 billion to promote a more peaceful, prosperous and healthy Mozambique.

The economic significance of Eurasian Union for Africa’s development here need not be over-discussed. Members of the European Union such as Britain, France, Germany and The Netherlands are play some visible roles in Africa. The European Union, as a substantial economic power bloc, has long-term working relations with African Union.

With its new Global Gateway Strategy, the EU is demonstrating the readiness to support massive infrastructural investment in Africa.  It also seeks to unlock new business and investment opportunities, including in the areas of manufacturing and agro processing as well as regional and continental value chains development. In a document entitled “Toward a Comprehensive Strategy with Africa” – the document sets forth the template of what the EU plans to do with Africa. 

Valdis Dombrovskis, Executive Vice-President and Commissioner at the EU Secretariat pointed out that “In this new approach towards Africa, we can build a modern, sustainable and mutually rewarding partnership of equals. Of course, there will be challenges along the way but the EU stands ready to help. We want to share the lessons from our own process of economic integration, and with our new Global Gateway Strategy. We have demonstrated that we are ready to support massive infrastructural investment in Africa.”

That said, African leaders are exploring available possibilities and windows that have been opened after the last EU-Africa summit. The European Union has unveiled €300 billion (US$340 billion) alternative to China’s Belt and Road initiative – an investment programme the bloc claims will create links, not dependencies.

There great rivalry and keen competition among key global players now. And Africa is now seen from different perspectives, but more importantly, it has been described as the last investment frontier due to the current transformations taking place there. During the 35th Assembly of the Heads of State and Government of the AU in Addis Ababa in February, António Guterres argued that Africa was “a source of hope” for the world. 

In November 2021, a report prepared by 25 Russian policy experts, titled ‘Situation Analytical Report’ explicitly noted that many external countries are using diplomacy in all ways to support their efforts in Africa. It criticized the inconsistency of Russia’s current policy towards Africa. The intensification of political contacts is only with a focus on making them demonstrative. Russia’s foreign policy strategy regarding Africa needs to spell out and incorporate the development needs of African countries. 

While the number of high-level meetings has increased, the share of substantive issues on the agenda remains small. There are little definitive results from such high-level meetings. Many bilateral agreements largely remain not implemented, and many pledges undelivered. It pointed to lack of coordination among various state and para-state institutions working with Africa. According to the report, Russia has to intensify and redefine its parameters as it has now transcended to the fifth stage in its relationship with Africa.

That report was also critical about public speaking. The report lists insufficient and disorganized Russian-African lobbying, combined with the lack of “information hygiene” at all levels of public speaking among the main flaws of Russia’s current Africa policy. In several ways, ideas and intentions are often passed for results, and worse Russia’s possibilities are overestimated both publicly and in closed negotiations.

Several reports monitored by this author show clearly that there has been little approach, in terms of government and institutional public relations, in Russia’s foreign policy in Africa. This author has written a lot about this, emphasizing the seriousness of using media networks – an calculated attempt to build an atmosphere of trust and confidence. Quite obviously, Russians have to devote a great deal of thought to creating strategic communication group that could highlight its diverse performance and practical genuine interests in Africa.

Opening a new stage of relations becomes important especially when analyzing the contradictions and confrontations posed by the Russia-Ukraine crisis and its multiple effects on future relations. Without doubts, African leaders complained bitterly that they have become direct victims of the Russia-Ukraine crisis. Overall Russia’s investment in economic sectors is still staggering there in the continent and comparatively, the fact still remains that the United States, the European Union and a number of Asian and Gulf States are investing heavily in Africa.

The Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his Deputy Mikhail Bogdanov, most often show their crosshair of consistent criticism for Western and European dominance and investment in Africa. It lacks strategies for implementing those oftentimes forward-looking policy for Africa. The passion for repeating the same things in different ways in speeches. In a general sense, their repetitive theme of Soviet-era support for political liberation and now efforts to help Africa fight neocolonialism is highly appreciated but Russia has to, in practical terms, show its latest policy achievements in various sectors for the past two decades. 

On another side note, Russia most probably needs to design its template of its communication strategy ahead of the 2023 summit, that has to largely win the hearts of African leaders to the emerging New World Order. As already promised, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Sergey Lavrov, indicated in a mid-June message that “in these difficult and crucial times the strategic partnership with Africa has become a priority of Russia’s foreign policy. The signed agreements and the results will be consolidated at the forthcoming second Russia-Africa summit.” 

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Ethiopia: Without immediate funding, 750,000 refugees will have ‘nothing to eat’

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Children displaced by conflict and drought pose for a photo n Semera, Afar Region, Ethiopia. © UNICEF/UN0639245/Sewunet

UN agencies appealed on Tuesday for $73 million over the next six months to provide food rations to more than 750,000 people seeking refuge in Ethiopia.

The World Food Programme (WFP), UN refugee agency, UNHCR, and Ethiopian Government Refugees and Returnees Service (RRS) made the plea for assistance because without it, WFP will run out of food for the refugees by October.

The impending crisis will leave vulnerable families at risk of undernutrition, micronutrient deficiency, and increased susceptibility to diseases, the agencies warned

“Three quarters of a million refugees will be left with nothing to eat in just a matter of weeks unless we receive funding immediately,” said Claude Jibidar, WFP’s Representative and Country Director for Ethiopia.

Ration cuts

Cutting rations has been an issue with which WFP has long had to grapple.

Food rations for refugees in Ethiopia were first reduced by 16 per cent in November 2015, then 40 per cent in November 2021, and finally 50 per cent in June 2022.

The impact of these cuts has been heightened by global limitations on food availability, widespread economic shock, rising food and energy costs, the COVID-19 fallout, and armed conflict.

Impact of cuts

To understand the impact of ration cuts on refugees, WFP, UNHCR and RRS conducted in April, a rapid assessment on 1,215 refugee camps households throughout relevant regions.

The results show that most had coped with food insecurity by reducing the number of meals eaten in a day, consuming less expensive foods, or limiting meal portions. 

The joint assessment also revealed that households are going to desperate measures to make up for funding cuts.

Funding repercussions

Funding cuts have forced refugees to rely on an ever-finite supply of food, which increases the likelihood of resource-based conflicts.

Data shows that many families have been relying on children to generate extra income to afford food.

Other households were forced to borrow cash, relying on friends or relatives for sustenance.

“We have a shortfall of $73 million for refugees’ minimum needs and we are deeply concerned that if funding cuts continue, they may consider returning to their places of origin when it is unsafe,” warned Mr. Jibidar.

Taking action 

More resources must be mobilized to meet immediate food demands, and smart investments should be taken to prioritize sustainable farming.  

“The priority for us all must be to restore assistance to at least minimum levels for refugees, all of whom are solely reliant on WFP’s cash and food assistance for survival,” said the UN Country Director.

With an immediate donor response, WFP would be able to buy food available in the region to meet the dietary needs of the refugees and also transfer cash to the refugees, providing them the choice of how to meet their immediate needs and stimulating local markets.

Support needed

The agencies have established an effective system to identify the food assistance needs of refugees through biometric verification, accountability mechanisms and programmes to grant monthly food and cash assistance.

The trio called on all partners to strengthen efforts to address their immediate and long-term food needs in line with international commitments. 

Meanwhile, WFP, UNHCR and RRS will continue to count on donors for extended funding support based on the principle of shared responsibility to implement basic humanitarian life-saving activities.

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Since the beginning of this year, the violence in Yemen’s civil conflict has increased. From being the centre of the...

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