Kampala, Uganda | Isaac Khisa | Russia’s President, Vladmir Putin and his Egyptian counterpart, Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, on wednesday opened a two-day first ever Russia-Africa Economic Summit in Sochi, taking on rivals US, the European Union, China and India that have lately dominated trade with the continent .
President Putin told more than 3,000 delegates from 54 African states including heads of states, ministers and business leaders that there’s need to double the trade volumes between the two trading blocs in the few years to come.
“Russia-Africa trade more than doubled over the past five years and exceeded… $20 billion. Is that a lot or a little? A colleague of ours said this is a good figure,” he said. “I cannot agree with this. I think it is way too little.”
Out of this, Putin said, Egypt accounts for $7.7 billion amidst the fact that Russia has many potential partners in Africa.
He revealed that Russia is among the top ten suppliers of food to the African market. “We are now exporting more agricultural products than weapons to the markets of third countries,” he said.
“Weapons account for $15 billion of our exports, whereas agricultural products are nearing $25 billion in sales.
Putin also pledged to support African countries to achieve their development agenda without political or any form of interference in areas of infrastructural development, nuclear energy, manufacturing, agriculture, extraction, technology, health among others.
The Russian president also held bilateral meetings with heads of states of various African countries including Uganda’s President, Yoweri Museveni, South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa, Namibia’s Hage Gottfried Geingob, and Ethiopia’s Abiy Ahmed.
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, who holds the rotating presidency of the 55-nation African Union, urged regional and international funding bodies to back development efforts in the continent by offering special terms and powerful incentives to projects and development programs.
“(However) the partnership should be on the principal of mutual interests and protection of African property to ensure sustainable development,” he said, adding that African states need to work to improve business climate and promote private-public partnership in the region, and unite to achieve peace, stability, economic growth and development for its people.
He said African countries are putting infrastructure development and promoting economic integration at the forefront of joint cooperation and that there’s also need to boost its human resource to cope with the changing global employment trends.
This development comes as US, China, EU and Japan intensifies their efforts to grab a share of Africa’s trade volume. China, Japan, India, have all hosted African heads of state in the past two years to boost their trade.
On the other hand, EU and US are currently in intense negotiations with various African regional blocs on how to open up trade between them.
Some of Russia’s companies that have made inroads in Africa include; Gazprom, Lukoil, Rostec and Rosatom, with most of their operations in Uganda, Algeria, Angola, Egypt and Nigeria.
The construction of the Russian Industrial Zone in Egypt is nearing completion and will accommodate more than 20 Russian companies.
Russia has also been re-establishing links with Angola and Botswana, where Alrosa, the Russian giant, mines diamonds.
The Middle East nation also has interests in Zimbabwe, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, Morocco, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, and the Central African Republic.