Russia’s Desperate Search for Investment Sectors in Mozambique

On May 30 to June 01, the Speaker of the Federation Council of the Russian Federation, Valentina Matviyenko, headed a group of powerful and well-experienced Russian senators on a reciprocal visit to Maputo, Mozambique. The group had discussion with the Legislative Assembly, the Russia-Mozambique Parliamentary Friendship League, and finally with the President of Mozambique, Filipe Nyusi. Discussions were focused on Russia-Ukraine and highly significant aspects of Russia-Mozambique bilateral relations.

In this context of bilateral economic cooperation, the Mozambican Head of State, however, expressed satisfaction with the openness that Russia is showing high interest to expand bilateral cooperation with Mozambique, especially in the economic and social sectors. Reports monitored from local Mozambican media as well from both Russian and Mozambican Government websites indicated that Russia has still been looking for feasible and viable economic sectors to strengthen and broaden cooperation with Mozambique.

Speaker Valentina Matviyenko, during discussions with the Mozambican leader Filipe Nyusi, referred to the need to increase trade between Russia and Mozambique, which in the past year amounted to approximately US$109 million, and described trade figure as well below its potential. Matvienko then invited the Mozambican Government to identify priority areas in which cooperation could be expanded, so that these priorities could be discussed at next bilateral summit scheduled for July in Moscow, if Mozambique so agrees on this significant assignment or policy task.

After the Soviet collapse and throughout these three decades (30 years) of Russia-Mozambique relations, Russia and Mozambique have been appropriately described as “reliable and time-tested” partners in Africa. Reviewing the evolutionary processes of bilateral relations, it is about time to highlight development projects undertaken or are currently in progress. But for the Highly Respected Speaker Valentina Matviyenko requesting the Mozambican Government to identify priority areas for expansion of cooperation, especially at this time in their bilateral history, seems completely out of place. Completely out, especially during the meeting with President of Mozambique Filipe Nyusi. 

Here are a few of the underlined facts and some of the main reasons why inappropriate re-tasking the Government of Mozambique:

In August 2019, Russian President Vladimir Putin held talks at the Kremlin with President of Mozambique Filipe Nyusi, who went there on an official visit, and later also addressed the Russian-Mozambique Business Forum at the World Trade Center as part of the working visit to Moscow. That Kremlin and World Trade Center meetings were devoted to various issues related to the further development of Russia-Mozambican cooperation in various areas in Mozambique. It offers an impetus to the long-standing relations and serves as an exclusive opportunity for discussing and identifying strategic ways of broadening economic cooperation.

The two presidents reviewed prospects for the expansion of Russia-Mozambique relations, and further exchanged views on concerning international and regional affairs. At the end of this high-level talks, Vladimir Putin and Filipe Nyusi witnessed the exchange of documents signed during the official visit of the President of Mozambique to Russia.

The list of signed documents included an intergovernmental agreement on mutual protection of classified information and an agreement on cooperation between the interior ministries of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Mozambique; as well as documents related to technical cooperation in geology and minerals’ extraction, as well as cooperation between Rosneft, the Mozambican National Institute of Oil and the Mozambican National Hydrocarbons Company, including on the development of natural gas deposits on the shelf of Mozambique. Inter RAO-Export and EdM (Mozambique) also signed a memorandum of understanding in power generation.

On March 5-9, 2018, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov visited African countries, including Angola, Namibia, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Ethiopia. In Maputo, for instance, Lavrov held several discussions, including with the President Filipe Nyusi and with the Mozambican Foreign Minister. These meetings were described as the driving force for diverse Russia-Mozambique cooperation. In this case, it is necessary to bring back into memory the diplomatic talks with Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Mozambique Jose Pacheco. His delegation also participated in the St Petersburg International Economic Forum in June 2018 while in the Russian Federation.

They paid special attention to improving mutually beneficial partnership in various areas with an emphasis on making use of the potential of the Russia-Mozambique Intergovernmental Commission on Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation, whose first meeting was held on April 24-25 in Maputo. Since then, the Russia-Mozambique Intergovernmental Commission has had several meetings, as always, looking at bolstering economic cooperation. The Russia-Mozambique Intergovernmental Commission has always indicated that there an increasing interest of the Russian business community in building a partnership with Mozambique, which matches Maputo’s intention to attract Russian investment and technical assistance.

There also reports that business contacts in energy, transport and telecommunications have been established. For example, experts from the International Organisation of Space Communications Intersputnik are studying issues of using the potential of Russian satellites for exchanging data between the two countries’ education agencies and for implementing a project of the company Space Communications to expand Mozambique’s national satellite systems to provide the country with broadband internet access and television broadcasts.

Noting further that Russia’s support for Maputo’s constructive commitment to developing regional integration processes, as was its intention to assist the African community in the search for consensus solutions to the challenges facing the continent. Russia and Mozambique have consistently maintained that all problems, including conflicts and crisis be resolved paving the way for engaging in sustainable development to uplift the impoverished population. Despite its highly praised global status, Russia has still lagged far behind, in practical terms, economic engagement in Africa. 

The two countries have maintained trade and economic relations these several years. The volume of trade between Russia and Mozambique in 2018 amounted to US$115 million. Matviyenko, however, referred to the need to increase trade between Russia and Mozambique, which in the past year amounted to around US$109 million, well below its potential. Comparatively, and already as known Russia market regulations are still not favourable for African exports unlike it is for Europe and United States, and a number of Asian countries.

It is still unknown when Russians will start promoting the practical implementation of mutually beneficial projects in Africa. As always, Russians continue asking Africans to identify priority areas in which cooperation could be expanded, despite the fact that there are diplomatic missions in Moscow and Maputo, the intergovernmental commissions meet regularly, business people and government officials attend forums such as the annual St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, the newly created Association for Economic Cooperation with African States (AECAS) headed by former Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Saltanov, Chambers of Commerce and Industry in both countries, Foreign Ministers travel to and fro between Maputo and Moscow, and finally the guiding roadmap – the joint declaration – comprehensively laid out the parameters for cooperation during the first Russia-Africa summit held in October 2019.

According to reports from the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Russian-Mozambican interaction is based on strong ties of friendship and cooperation, which developed during the struggle of the Mozambican people for independence, and which continue to develop today. The diplomatic relations between the two countries was established on June 25, 1975, on the day Mozambique declared its independence. The Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation between the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of Mozambique was then signed in 1977. Mozambique is one of the 16-member Southern African Development Community. 

Kester Kenn Klomegah
Kester Kenn Klomegah
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.