Ultimately Russia has returned to Africa, this time not with ‘business as usual’ and rhetorics, but doubled actions to invigorate its relations after holding Sochi and St. Petersburg summits. As sealed in the summit declarations, both Russia and African states have reaffirmed to heighten bilateral contacts as a primary mechanism for raising multifaceted relations unto a more quantitative stage.
Notwithstanding its own geopolitical complexities, including stringent sanctions hitting the economy, generating social discontent and Russia-Ukraine crisis at home, Kremlin authorities are still looking to build up admirable relations with Africa. It is a fact that Africa undoubtedly has huge potential, the untapped resources including natural resources and human capital, but badly needs support to realise its expected development goals.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and South Sudanese President Mayardit Salvatore Kiir, on September 28, during talks in the Kremlin, agreed on establishing close and well-refined working relations and strengthen further economic cooperation.
Putin reminded Salvatore Kiir of their participation in the first Russia-Africa summit in Sochi. And since then, all the nitty-gritty relations have been developing very intensively. Putin also pointed to the fact that much remains to be done, primarily in the area of economic development.
South Sudan’s trade statistics were not released though, Putin only explained there was ‘a slight decline’ in trade turnover. Putin further told him about many good opportunities in a variety of areas, including energy and construction of a refinery as well as the possible plans to create something else during the second stage of this plant, that would support the development of trade and economic ties.
“Of course, we are aware that further progressive development is connected with ensuring security, with the resolution of all those problems and difficulties that you have inherited from earlier times, so we will do everything to support you in this area as well as issues of regional stability and security,” Putin emphatically said during the discussion.
Putin also brought up the issue of humanitarian cooperation. “People from your nation are being trained in educational institutions of our country. We intend to expand this collaboration. I know that there is similar interaction with the regions of the Russian Federation, including Tatarstan. I hope that this area of activity will only develop,” he said.
On Sudanese side, Salvatore Kiir unreservedly pledged to work together with the Russian Federation. “As you rightly said, we were together, for the first time, in Sochi in 2019. We will work together – with you and with the Russian Federation, because the situation in the world shows that no one can survive or succeed alone, and our country is no exception,” he said in a contribution to the discussion.
With the rapidly changing situation, Kremlin authorities generally consider Africa as a foundational pillar of the emerging multipolar world, and consequently combing around for partners in order to expand the range of activities in trade and expand economic ties, engage in agricultural and industrial production.
Beyond that, Russia is also interested in strengthening its ties with regional economic integration associations and other recognizable structures useful for diversifying business services and and partnerships. And experts rightly say Sudanese delegation signals a window of opportunity for future visits to Moscow.
The Russia-Africa summit’s declaration reaffirmed that Russia remains a reliable food supplier for Africa. In 2022, Russian food exports amounted to 4.7 billion US dollars. Many large Russian companies are successfully working in Africa. The key spheres of bilateral cooperation include energy, subsoil use, agriculture. There are good opportunities for cooperation in research and technology, education – skills training – and culture with African countries in long-term perspectives.
Landlocked South Sudan, with estimated population of 11.5 million, is located in the northeast and central Africa. South Sudan is now a sovereign, independent state following its secession from Sudan on July 9, 2011. Like most of the conflict-wrapped African states, South Sudan has deepening economic crisis, so many social and political forces battling for political power after it separated from Sudan.
As always trumpeted, the popular perception is that it remains as one of the world’s least developed African states, with deep-seated poverty despite its boastful natural resources. It claims pursuing or tackling sustainable development goals and South Sudan, as AU member, is abreast with the African Union’s Agenda 2063.