Cooperation with Africa: View from Russia (Free opinion)
Africa, which is developing rapidly, occupies a special place in the less and less Western-centered world order system, which is explained by the great interest of many international partners in this region. The development of relations with the continent is defined by the Russian leadership as one of the strategic tasks of foreign policy.
The “reconstruction” of our cooperation, which seriously slowed down after the collapse of the USSR, began with the first unprecedented Russia-Africa summit (October 2019, Sochi). Representatives of 54 countries of the continent took part in the conference, 45 of them were represented by heads of state and government. The second Russian-African meeting at the highest level is planned to be held in St. Petersburg in the summer of 2023, about which I would like to dwell on the main aspects of Russian-African relations.
More than half a century ago, African peoples gained independence from their brutal European homelands. Whether we like it or not, this happened largely thanks to the political and military support of the Soviet Union. It was on his initiative that in 1960, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the resolution “Declaration on Granting Independence to Colonized Countries and Peoples”, which ended the era of colonialism. Then our country provided large-scale aid to the liberated African partners, helped to lay the foundations of the state, and hundreds of thousands of Africans received higher education in the Soviet Union. By the way, the United States benefited greatly from the fruits of his labor.
But unfortunately, the process of “deep decolonization” was never completed. Attempts to create a unipolar world after the collapse of the USSR led to the continued dependence of African countries on the highly flawed financial institutions of the Bretton Woods system, humanitarian aid and patronage of Western policies. Africans themselves have said it loud and clear: they are increasingly dissatisfied with World Bank and International Monetary Fund bailouts and very tight credit conditions, preventing Africa from pursuing large-scale industrialization and innovation for industrialization. to take full advantage of its vast natural wealth and human capital. Western multinational companies are actively operating on the continent, industries are damaging the environment and minerals are being extracted. The military presence of the United States and European countries is imposed on Africans under the pretext of protecting them from international terrorism. Especially in recent years (Serval, Barkhan, etc.) they have conducted several large military operations, these operations led to the actual collapse of certain states (Libya), the death of civilians, socio-economic decline, crisis migration, Libya, CAR, Mali, Côte d’Ivoire ‘Development of Transnational Terrorism, Arms Trafficking and Human Trafficking in Ivory Coast and the Sahel.
But today we are witnessing a global restructuring of the entire model of international relations, where the “collective West” is no longer the only power center in the world. We see the awakening and strengthening of Africa as an independent and autonomous pole. Many countries of the continent take an independent and principled position of not getting involved in conflicts outside their region, including the special military operation in Ukraine. The voting of the latest resolutions against Russia in the General Assembly of the United Nations is proof of this. Africa no longer wants to see development models, values and ethical standards applied to it. This is especially evident in the example of European neocolonialism – first in the Central African Republic, then in Mali, Guinea, Burkina Faso, the fall of the so-called state. Franco-African systems.
At the same time, we must admit that the transformation of Russia’s cooperation with Africa is not easy. Trade turnover is very low (18-20 billion US dollars), we are forced to face the toughest confrontation with the West, which is trying to deprive not only Russia, but also other states of their independence and sovereign rights through collective punishment. , violation of fundamental political and economic rights, harsh and illegitimate unilateral restrictions. Blocking of mutual settlement systems, air communication, supply chains, freezing of financial assets, unjustified confiscation of state and private property, deprivation of the right to citizenship, use of mother tongue, free movement, education, professional activity, protection of national culture abroad today Russia are measures applied against, and tomorrow can be applied to any other state. A dangerous precedent has been set, and in Africa they understand it well.
Even in such conditions, Russia, as the successor of the USSR, tries to protect the political and economic interests of the countries of the African continent on international platforms, defends the right to make decisions, takes measures for sovereignty and independence, including their strong state. Representation in the UN Security Council.
We are against the West’s policy of imposing unilateral economic sanctions. After the start of military operations against Russia in Ukraine, the most severe restrictive measures in world history were imposed, which led to disastrous consequences for international food and energy markets. They destroy not only Russia’s relations with the West, but the entire global economic system, including the WTO rules and norms established by the West itself. This counterproductive practice also applies to African partners. Can the unilateral restrictions applied to Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zimbabwe, Libya, Mali, Somalia, Sudan, the Central African Republic, Ethiopia and other countries be considered “effective” even from the point of view of their organizers? South Sudan? The answer is clear. I would like to quote the results of the study of the American scientist Robert Papen, who studied the impact of 115 sanctions regimes imposed by the United States and other regional blocs against third countries after the First World War. The results are surprising: in only 5% of cases did severe economic restrictions lead to the original goal (regime change) and disastrous consequences for the population, while the remaining 95% had no significant effect. And this does not mention the fact that Russia rejects the principle of regime change from the outside.
Unlike the United States, which has made countering the growing influence of China and Russia on the continent one of the priorities of its new strategy in Africa, we are even inventing unprecedented laws against “Russian malign influence in Africa.” the principle of mutually beneficial cooperation. This means that every nation has the right to choose its political and economic partners. We are ready for fair economic competition with them. Neither we nor the Africans need a dictatorship. Based on the formula “African problems – African solutions”, we see our task in providing a comprehensive approach to the current problems with the countries of the continent, using their resources for economic development with the aim of ensuring industrialization and technological breakthrough.
The most important issues on Russia’s current agenda are ensuring Africa’s food and energy security, which will undoubtedly be discussed as a priority at the summit with our African partners. Despite the objections of European regulators, Russia is ready to responsibly and conscientiously fulfill its obligations under international agreements on the export of agricultural products, fertilizers, energy carriers and other important products. Today, taking into account the record 2022 harvest of 152.2 million tons, we are ready to give Russian grain to the most needy countries for free. (500 thousand tons), as well as to completely replace Ukrainian grain, which is only 2% of world production, at reasonable prices for all interested countries. The President of the Russian Federation VVPutin has stated this many times.
When it comes to Africa’s energy security, we believe that we must start with the continent’s development goals, as determined by Africans themselves. The imposition of additional stringent conditions for the so-called “green transition” limits the creation of the energy base necessary for Africa’s electrification and industrialization. We are always in favor of the diversification of energy resources, especially the construction and modernization of hydropower plants, the development of nuclear energy, and the use of natural gas as a clean fuel to reduce the burden on the environment. This valuable resource to European markets. A “peace atom” and a hydroelectric plant are brilliant solutions for the energy transition, and Russia has something to offer its African partners in this regard. We consider it a priority to create opportunities for processing energy carriers for the needs of African countries, including fertilizer production.
An important element of Africa’s security is ensuring its economic and financial independence. Against the background of large and almost unlimited financial assistance to Ukraine (more than 75 billion dollars in 2022 alone), which can meet the needs of African countries, Russia takes a principled position on the need to reform the Bretton Woods system. . We pay special attention to supporting projects of international development institutions aimed at creating conditions for economic growth and financial stability of national economies in African countries.
The world powers should not consider the countries of the continent as a raw material base for their economies, but above all, they should develop the internal markets of Africa. We urge you to stop treating African peoples as recipients of humanitarian aid that does not solve the continent’s major problems. Africa needs technology and experience transfer, development of our own industry, critical infrastructure. Continental countries have the right to choose political and economic partners, adhere to their own values, be imposed from outside, gendered and otherwise, and develop independently without fear of punishment. It is quite clear that these tasks are more important for Africa than involvement in extra-regional conflicts such as Ukraine.
Oleg Ozerov, goodwill ambassador
Head of the Secretariat of the Russian-African Partnership Forum,
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia