SOCHI, June 27 (RIA Novosti) - Russian President Dmitry Medvedev returned from his trip to Africa on Saturday, declaring that such a visit should have been made sooner but it was not too late for Russia to play a role on the continent.
Summing up his trip to journalists, the president said Russia was "almost too late" in engaging with Africa. "Work with our African partners should have been started earlier," he said. "Africa is waiting for our support."
Medvedev's predecessor, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, visited only South Africa and Morocco in his eight years as president.
The main result of Medvedev's trip, billed as Russia's return to Africa, was to boost a sense of friendship, but he discussed all manner of cooperation with his counterparts in Egypt, Nigeria, Namibia and Angola, and Russian companies signed deals worth billions of dollars.
"Our policies here will be very friendly, but at the same time pragmatic," Medvedev said, noting that the Soviet Union "always held a very friendly position with regard to African countries, helping them win independence."
But despite such ties - particularly with countries such as Namibia and Angola - Moscow's influence has waned since the fall of the Soviet Union, as countries turned to the United States and China.
The interest of major international players in Africa is actively discussed on the continent, and Medvedev asked reporters "Are we any worse than them?"
In Namibia, Medvedev said that Russian companies should compete in Africa, particularly with U.S. and Chinese firms.
"Clearly there should be competition among companies," Medvedev said at a press conference. "We should be also involved."
In his effort to reestablish Russia's influence in Africa, the president clocked up 18,500 kilometers and more than 24 hours in the air.