AFROCOM Chair: Door to Africa is Open, Russia Should Build on This Momentum
11:19 GMT 23.09.2022 (Updated: 11:21 GMT 23.09.2022)
On September 22, the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce and Industry and AFROCOM held a conference titled "Prospects of Russian-African Cooperation" aimed at strengthening Russo-African ties. Chairman of AFROCOM Igor Morozov has discussed Russia's opportunities on the continent in an exclusive interview with Sputnik.
"The door to Africa is open for Russian business," says Igor Morozov, chairman of AFROCOM. "There are opportunities that are not available on any other continent. Africa today is waiting for Russians, waiting for Russian regional businesses, which have already risen and are competitive. Russian businesses can acquire highly profitable positions now by coming to Africa. But only when they are still waiting for us. In five or seven years, we will be fighting so hard for Africa. And it won't be easy."
Russia is returning to Africa, seeking to revive and expand partnerships with the continent’s players. During his Africa tour in July, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov made it clear that the new foreign policy guidelines developed by the Kremlin envisage enhancing ties between Russia and African countries regardless of the actions that Western nations take. During the five-leg Africa trip, the top Russian diplomat visited Egypt, Ethiopia, Uganda, and the Republic of the Congo to discuss cooperation, regional issues, global food crisis and the preparation for the second Russia-Africa summit in mid-2023.
"Given the current situation and the current activities undertaken by the West, objectively the role of the African continent will grow in our work," Lavrov stated during a joint presser with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni on July 26.
Russia has a long record of cooperation with the continent. During the Cold War, the Soviet Union forged close relationships with many African nations by supporting the continent's de-colonization efforts and national liberation movements.
Currently, Moscow maintains ties with a plethora of African states in terms of security, trade, cultural exchanges, education, and health. In light of this, AFROCOM – Coordination Committee on Economic Cooperation with African Countries – has become a bridge between Russian businesses and African countries and a platform for restoring active economic cooperation with the continent.
"Everyone is working over there [in Africa], from the European Union to India," says Morozov. "The volume of trade and investments is huge - hundreds, billions. Unfortunately, Russia is falling behind on this. But I am absolutely sure that the preparations for the second Russia-Africa summit should yield another impulse that will generate demand not only for the Russian market, but also for Russian gubernatorial structures to move towards Africa."
Thursday's gathering in St. Petersburg dedicated to the prospects of Russian-African cooperation included such issues as development of Russian-African economic ties amid global geopolitical changes; African markets, with Nigeria being seen as a "window to Africa"; and bringing Russia's medical products to the African market, to name but a few.
Russian Africa experts interviewed by Sputnik unanimously agree that Russia has a lot to offer to the continent. They noted that in addition to deliveries of food, fertilizers, medicines, and raw materials, Moscow could share its unique expertise in building nuclear and hydroelectric power stations
, railways, infrastructure projects
, IT hardware and software, automation of management processes, secure networks
, etc. Last but not least, Russia could provide security assistance and military instructors
, they said.
The West is voicing concerns about Russia's growing influence in Africa, which has manifested itself, in particular, in the refusal of many African delegations to condemn Moscow's special military operation to demilitarize and de-Nazify Ukraine, and Africa's recent unwillingness to echo the US' Ukraine crisis narrative
at the 77th session of the UN General Assembly.
Still, the EU and the US are far from losing their grip on the continent: they have become more active in Africa, trying to throw a wrench into Russia's plans to strengthen its positions there.
"Today, we are losing in almost all positions," says Morozov. "And this is despite the fact that Africa is huge, not only with regard to the consumer, but also the technological market that can accept everything that Russian entrepreneurs can deliver to African regions. But Europeans and Americans have already built a defense system against Russia over there. Look at the complex fortification procedure that Russian businessmen have to go through for any position inside Africa. Look at all the difficulties created by administrative barriers where the Europeans and the West in general have already gained a foothold."
To complicate matters further, China has also emerged as Russia's worthy competitor in the region:
"We see how actively and practically aggressively China is taking over infrastructure projects. There is also not much free space," the AFROCOM chair admits.
Nonetheless, these circumstances shouldn't dishearten Russian businesses and project-managers, since "the leaders of African countries want to diversify their risks," Morozov underscores.
"Therefore, they are waiting for Russia as a representative of a certain center, a new center for making technological decisions and promoting technologies throughout the azimuth, which today covers the entire African continent," the AFROCOM chair concludes.