Understanding Russian Engagement With Africa

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africa1At the highest levels of government, Russia’s leaders remain deeply involved ‘ ith crafting a mutually beneficial engagement with Africa. For most of the past decade, Russia has gradually returned to Africa. Initially, we were drawn back into the continent by an appreciation in Moscow of the risks of foreign debt.

Accordingly, Russia wrote off African sovereign debts of $11.3bn over the course of 2005-2012. This led to our involvement in the Debt for Development program through the World Hank, where, since 2008, Russia has afforded some $sobn to educational and anti­malarial programs targeting nations on the continent.

But foreign aid does not make for a full pat1nership; people do. Nearly 10,000 African students are studying at Russian higher education institutions, half of which receive state-subsidized education. A great number of Russian pilots and doctors work on the continent, a nd a Russian Red Cross Society Hospital operates in Ethiopia. Russia ns also now participate in United Nations peace­ keeping operations in Africa as well. As our people have ably demonstrated, great mutual opp011unity lies al1ead for Russia and the nations of Africa alike. What began as a largely humanitarian effort rooted in Russia’s own hard experience is alread y evolving into something more vi ta l and dyna mic. Going f01ward, Russia’s policy toward Africa will focus on realizing mutual oppot1unities in a manner intended to carry fonvard our prior emphasis on development, not debt.

We vi ew economic forecasts for African growth hopefull y, but recognize that some of Africa’s core challenges are ones with which Russia has ample experience. Clearly, managing precious natural resources in a manner that assures future development is a priority in ma ny African states. From oil and gas to rare, strategic metals, our industries can offer example and expertise in converting resources not only to current revenues, but into national savings that may be put toward infrastructure, education, and public health.

Indeed, major Russian companies are already acting as investment pm1ners in natural resource sectors in sub-Saharan countries. These include Rusal, I\orilsk Nickel, ALROSA, and Gazprom. Russian policy encourages such investment, and we believe we may be a ble to offer useful partnerships in sectors such as agriculture and tourism as well. Our involvement in debt forgiveness programs led to a deep appreciation of the challenges facing African financial and banking markets. Through a series of intergovernmental ab’Teements we are seeking to boost the dcvelopmenl of financial infrastructures in Africa, while at the same time the State Vnesheconombank collaborates with African banks as well as Russian firms operating on the continent, by strengthening their investment positions to encourage efficient lending.

Russian policy also supports the creation of effective institutions that support development. These include fonnalized managerial exchanges for business and a new Russia-Africa track through the World Economic Forum at Davos.

At the highest levels of government, Russia’s leaders remain deeply involved with crafting a mutually beneficial engagement ‘ ith Afdca. Presidents Putin and Medvedev together laid the foundation s for a policy based on “development, not debl” through slate visiLin recent years. President Putin will next visit Africa l\-Iarch 30, as South Africa hosts the next BRICS Summit. It is our sincere hope that his return to Africa v.1llusher in a new era for Russian cooperation with partners throughout the continent.

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