16 February 2013, 17:27

Sergey Lavrov contributes to Russian-African friendship

Sergey Lavrov contributes to Russian-African friendship

Russia aims at playing the same role in Africa that the USSR used to play there. Sergey Lavrov’s African trip was meant to build up political and economic relations. Speaking with politicians in Algeria, South Africa, Mozambique and Guinea Lavrov kept stressing that Moscow shared their opinions on many international issues.

However, speaking frankly, China has made more progress in Africa so far.

Algeria was the first stop in Lavrov’s African trip. The meeting with President Abdelaziz Bouteflika was held in a very friendly atmosphere.

“The reception at the Algerian president’s confirmed complete coincidence of our positions on how to carry out the international system reform. Both our countries believe that we should rely on the supremacy of law, the main role of the UN and its Security Council and the need to settle conflicts only by political and diplomatic methods without interfering in sovereign countries’ internal affairs.”

Lavrov’s meetings with other African leaders were dedicated to similar problems with the exception of South Africa where emphasis was made on the forthcoming BRICS summit. Director of the Centre for the Investigation of Russian-African Relations and African Countries’ International Policy at the Institute of Africa Evgeny Korendiasov says:

“On the whole we agree with the South African government that we should step up joint activities of the BRICS countries and African countries relying on South Africa’s potential. We could do a lot for South Africa, just as South Africa could do a lot for us in such fields as exploration of natural resources, construction, banking infrastructure and deliveries of high-quality wines.”

However, one BRICS country already knows Africa very well. This country is China which is carrying out mass expansion in Africa. Investments in African countries give Beijing access to their mineral wealth, as well as an opportunity to pull the strings of local elites. Russia could not compete with China in Africa on equal terms, Viktor Zhuravlev from the Institute of Africa says.

“We could work very effectively in Africa if we had the same material resources as China. Huge financial resources help China to press forward and achieve good results because it invests enormous sums of money into projects that they are carrying out there.”

There is another circumstance promoting China’s expansion in Africa. Strategic issues are settled in China much faster than in Russia. One politician’s signature is enough, while in Russia decisions should be coordinated with numerous authorities. As a result, China gains an advantage. Incidentally, the US also loses the competition with China in Africa. Beijing does not bother about human rights, so it is willing to give loans even to the most repulsive African leaders, thus buying their loyalty . The US cannot act like this. As a result, China has left the US behind in the volume of trade turnover with Africa.

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