Russia renews its push into Africa

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This week the Russian government staged its first ever Russia-Africa Economic Forum in Sochi, in the hope of stepping up its influence on the continent and tapping into business and investment deals.

The two-day event, co-hosted by Russia and Egypt, aimed to foster political, economic and cultural cooperation, the organisers said.

As the event wrapped up on Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that $12.5bn worth of ‘deals’ had been signed, including a fleet of defence contracts for equipment and aircraft.

$4bn tranche of weapons, including armoured vehicles, military equipment and anti-tank missile systems, would be delivered to African countries in 2019, Russia’s state arms exporter Rosoboronexport said, according to Russia’s RIA news agency.

Moscow also sent two Tupolev Tu-160 bombers – the world’s biggest military aircraft – to South Africa on Wednesday, as part of a defence cooperation agreement.

Another deal saw Nigeria agree to buy 12 helicopter gunships for their fight against Boko Haram, a Russian military official told RIA news agency.

As the conference kicked-off on Wednesday, Putin pledged to double Africa-Russia trade over five years – it sat at $20 billion in 2018 – and expand its network of trade missions in Africa.

Vladimir Putin meets with President of Kenya Uhuru Kenyatta on the sidelines of the Russia-Africa Summit. Twitter/Russian President

Putin has stepped up efforts to re-engage African nations after the West imposed sanctions on Russia following its annexation of Crimea. The Africa charm offensive has a a heavy emphasis on energy and defence deals, NJ Ayuk, the CEO of Centurion Law Group and executive chairman of the African Energy Chamber told African Business.

“Russia is the second-largest arms seller to Africa, has the largest peacekeeping contingent on the continent, and — according to many reports — has mercenary forces in some African countries.”

“Its big state-owned companies have invested mostly in the energy sector — including building nuclear plants — and in minerals extraction.

“Russia has far less money than China or the United States to pump into Africa’s economies. So it is making strategic investments — ones that not only offer an economic return and help Africans, but also bolster its image on the continent as a re-emerging power,” he says.

The Sochi forum offers African leaders the chance to seize on Russia’s power industry expertise, at a time when two-thirds of the population lack electricity Russia also offers African leaders an alternative to long-term Chinese loans.

As Africa ripens for a golden age of big-power courtship, the emerging rivalries present opportunities that could transform the continent and peoples’ lives.

Leaders need to seize the moment, insists Ayuk.

Written by Shoshana Kede

Originally Published @ https://africanbusinessmagazine.com/sectors/development/russia-renews-its-push-into-africa/