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Russia, Africa together – President Putin

Story by Justin Mahlahla in St Petersburg, Russia

RUSSIA and Africa need each other to grow their economies and become net exporters of food and other goods and services, Russian President Vladimir Putin has said.

President Putin was addressing a plenary session of the Russia–Africa Economic and Humanitarian Forum held this Thursday in St Petersburg.

He said the summit will discuss technologies for security that benefit them, including finance and investment, mainly focusing on strengthening the prospects and addressing urgent issues facing the citizens of the two regions.

“Africa’s potential is obvious to everyone. For example, the average annual GDP growth on the continent in the past 20 years was 4–4.5 percent, which exceeds the world’s average. Africa’s population is approaching 1.5 billion and is growing faster than anywhere else in the world. It is also notable that the middle class, which creates the principal demand for modern goods and services, is growing faster in Africa than in the majority of other parts of the world.

“Russia’s government, business and the public are sincerely interested in further deepening multifaceted trade, investment and humanitarian ties with the continent, which meets the needs of all our countries and promotes stable growth and prosperity. I would like to note that Russia-Africa trade reached 18 billion US dollars last year. It is an obvious result of the Russia–Africa Summit held in Sochi. I have no doubt that by working together we will be able to increase our trade substantially in the near future. Incidentally, in the first six months of 2023 alone, our export-import transactions with African countries increased by over one third. The structure of our trade looks good as well: machinery, equipment, chemicals and food account for over 50 percent of Russia’s exports to Africa,” said President Putin.

He said Russia is ready to cooperate with Africa in the areas of machinery production, chemicals, equipment as well as food.

“Friends, the numbers speak for themselves: last year Russia’s trade with African countries in agricultural products increased by 10 percent to $6.7 billion, and has already demonstrated record growth in January-June of this year by increasing by 60 percent. Russia exported 11.5 million tonnes of grain to Africa in 2022, and almost 10 million tonnes in the first six months of 2023. All this has been taking place despite the illegal sanctions imposed on our exports, which constitute a serious impediment for exporting Russian food, complicating transport, logistics, insurance and bank transactions,” he said.

Western countries get in the way of our green fertilizers supply and the paradox is on the other hand they accuse us of the shortage in global food supply.

He added, “We just met with the AU leadership and we talked about the impediments to fertiliser production and distribution. We are witnessing a paradox. On the one hand, the West seeks to block our grain and fertiliser exports, while accusing us of the current crisis on the global food market. This is outright hypocrisy. We saw this approach in all clarity with the so-called grain deal. Brokered with the participation of the UN Secretariat, it was initially designed to promote global food security, mitigate the threat of hunger and help the poorest countries, including in Africa.”

President Putin said in the near few months, Russia will be able to supply grain to countries such as Zimbabwe, Mali, Zambia, and Malawi, a minimum of 25 000 tonnes of grains to each, free of charge.

“As I have already said, Russia can well fill in the gap left by the withdrawal of the Ukrainian grain from the global market, either by selling its grain or by transferring it for free to the neediest countries in Africa, especially considering that this year we once again expect to have a record-high harvest.

To be more specific, let me say that in the next few months, next three to four months, we will be ready to provide, free of charge, a supply of 25,000–50,000 tonnes of grain each to Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe, Mali, Somalia, the Central African Republic and Eritrea, delivered at no cost.”

“A few more figures will probably be of interest. Ukraine produced about 55 million tonnes of grain in the past agricultural year. Exports amounted to 47 million tonnes: quite a lot, including 17 million tonnes of wheat. And Russia, colleagues, harvested 156 million tonnes of grain last year. It exported 60 million tonnes, of which 48 million tonnes was wheat,” said President Putin.

“We are actively participating in creating a just system of food distribution so that Africa ultimately becomes an exporter of food.

“Russia is ready to share with African friends its best practices, cutting-edge technologies and develop cooperation with Africa countries in energy development,” he said, adding Angola, and Egypt are examples of countries running power generation projects with the support of Russia.

“We created a quarter of all hydropower capacities of Africa. There are over 30 promising energy projects in 16 states and the overall energy generation reaches 3.7 gigawatts. Our companies are exploring gas in Egypt, Cameroon, Nigeria and the DRC,” he noted.

President Putin pledged his country’s readiness to offer technology and expertise to African countries in nuclear technology including financial structures that promote local currencies.

“The North-South Corridor must be linked to Africa. Ensuring great connectivity of the African continent with Russia will do some good. These are the developmental goals that we invite our African friends to work together. We are ready to expand the network of Russian trade organisations working in Africa.”

Earlier in another plenary session, President Emmerson Mnangagwa expressed Zimbabwe’s preparedness to continue supporting and standing with Russia, drawing from the two countries’ historic relations and vilification from the West.

Russia and Zimbabwe are both facing sanctions from the West and are exchanging technology and skills in various areas such as mining and agriculture.

“Zimbabwe under the ZANU PF Government will therefore never capitulate to the machinations of our detractors. We are confident that the people of Zimbabwe have seen those advancing their development and prosperity.

“The puppet pseudo-opposition political parties which have instigated the suffering and hardships under illegal sanctions shall once again be rejected by the masses of Zimbabwe.

“In the face of continued assault on our sovereignty socio-economic and territorial integrity, the ZANU PF Government of Zimbabwe is engaging with all nations under our foreign policy of “friend to all and enemy of none”.

The Second Russia-Africa Economic and Humanitarian Forum is being held the theme, ‘For Peace, Security and Development’.

17 African Heads of State are attending the summit.

More updates from the summit can be found here: www.summitafrica.ru

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