In its sixth year, the Russia-Africa Business Dialogue was held on June 16 at the 25th St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) with participation of both top-level Russian and African officials. The Russia-Africa Business Dialogue was initiated in 2016 as special platform to examine, review and discuss important existing topical issues especially those relating to trade and economic cooperation between Russia and Africa.
Most the discussions focused on the same questions that have been raised down the years, and in other different platforms. The key features here are that Russian officials reiterated their dreamy roadmap for cooperating with Africa, while African officials vividly narrated the existing nature and competitive conditions for investment in Africa. In terms of investnent, African speakers attempt to layout the potential sectors that are mostly in need of foreign corporate partners.
In terms of trade and industry, African speakers have loudly made it clear the primary and long-term objectives and benefits taking advantage of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which was signed in March 2018, came into force on January 1, 2021.
The AfCFTA provides a unique and valuable platform for businesses to access an integrated African market of over 1.3 billion people. The growing middle class, among other factors, constitutes a huge market potential in Africa. In order to have an indepth understanding of these, Russians must invest more in initial market research and development (R&D) collaborations, as basis for designing entry strategies, with their African partners.
By considering and accepting the opinions given by African speakers, Russians could be making the first practical step unto the real business landscape there in Africa. It is also important to take a comprehensive and broad-based look at emerging opportunities on the continent, study other foreign competitors. Therefore, Russians need to rethink how better to engage with African policymakers, businesses, civil society and the African diaspora in order to strengthen its strategic entrepreneurial relationships with Africa.
The June 16 Russia – Africa Business Dialogue, was dedicated to discuss cooperation priorities in the changing world. It brought together representatives of government, public, and business communities from both Russian and African sides. Gilberto Da Piedade Verissimo, President of the Commission of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) participated. Delegations from African countries included Algeria, the Arab Republic of Egypt, Republic of Mali, Central African Republic and Zimbabwe. There were also African diplomatic representatives.
Professor Irina Abramova, Director of the Institute for African Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences moderated the discussion. The discussions drew top-level speakers, who gave an insight into economic opportunities, challenges and threats to both Russia and Africa. The speakers, within the changing situation around the world, highlighted the prospects and possibilities of really transforming economic relationships between Russia and Africa.
More than that, the speakers and discussants noted the mutual interest in developing trade and economic ties between Russia and Africa, and identified food and energy security, new methods of financial settlements, cooperation in innovation and technology, health, education and culture, as well as cooperation within the integration alliances as priority areas.
Alexander Pankin, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, extended the greetings from Sergey Lavrov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation.
Despite the unprecedented sanctions and information warfare launched by the United States and its satellites, Russia manages to maintain the entire bilateral cooperation in working order, and to saturate it with a relevant substantive agenda, noted Lavrov, and reaffirmed that “in these difficult and crucial times the strategic partnership with Africa has become a priority of Russia’s foreign policy. Russia highly appreciates the readiness of Africans to further step up economic cooperation.”
Lavrov said: “It is in the interests of our peoples to work together to preserve and expand mutually beneficial trade and investment ties under these new conditions. It is important to facilitate the mutual access of Russian and African economic operators to each other’s markets and encourage their participation in large-scale infrastructure projects. The signed agreements and the results will be consolidated at the forthcoming second Russia-Africa summit.”
The price for one ticket to SPIEF costs 960,000 rubles ($16,600) per guest, and this year only about 2,700 business representatives from 90 countries registered – far below the 13,500 participants from 140 countries reported during the pre-coronavirus pandemic, according to SPIEF’s website.
Under the chosen theme ‘New Opportunities in a New World’ that reflects the changing global situations, the conference runs from June 15 to June 18 and marked the 25th year of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) since its establishment.
Over the last 24 years, the forum has become a leading global platform for members of the business community to meet and discuss the key economic issues facing Russia, emerging markets, and the world as a whole. Since 2006, has been held under the auspices of the President of the Russian Federation.