On May 30, under the theme "Russia–Africa: Partnership for Development," the Russian Chamber of Commerce of Russian Federation and the National Guild of Producers and Importers held a one-day business forum that provided a unique opportunity for open and comprehensive discussions on a wide range of critical business issues between Russia and Africa.
In a brief media release, it noted the importance for African countries as strategic partners and its reliable business institutions in the provision of solutions to challenges facing economic cooperation between two parties.
It further noted that the forum is a step towards preparation of documents with fact-based research from business executives who can inject new thinking and approaches in shaping new policy directions and their implementation.
Besides, the organizers further described the driving factor as "Development of economic cooperation of the Russian Federation with African countries as a response to the strengthening of global challenges of our time."
The programme included three plenary sessions on the following distinctive directions: roundtable (i) «Cooperation Russia-Africa in agriculture», (ii) «Development of industry production, energy sector and transport in African countries – perspective of cooperation with Russia» and (iii) «Cooperation Russia-Africa in medicine».
All the plenary sessions reviewed the state and prospects for the economic sectors for development, identifying the most promising areas of cooperation and offer recommendations for the development of mutual ties in the fields between Russia and African countries.
The Chairman of the Board of the Foundation, Ekaterina Popova, at the plenary session, discussed at length the global challenges and the development of economic cooperation of the Russian Federation with Africa.
She pointed to the importance and peculiarities of the expansion of the Russia-African economic partnership are due to a number of factors. Russia’s total exports to Africa over the past decade have amounted to about US$100 billion.
“By the way, this is the only continent where, in recent years, there has been a significant increase in Russian exports. At the same time, there are significant barriers to our business relations, without which it is impossible to talk about the breakthrough pace of development of Russia-African cooperation,” Popova told the gathering in her introductory remarks.
If the task of the government is to create good conditions for doing business on the African continent, then entrepreneurs have their own goal – to realize this potential, according to the Advisor to the President of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCI) of the Russian Federation, Georgy Petrov.
He informed the participants that large Russian companies such as Gazprom, Rosatom, Lukoil and others have already occupied their niches in the African market. However, small and medium-sized businesses have to do a lot for the realization of their possibilities and goals in Africa.
Last year, the Federal Chamber held presentations on the economic, industrial and investment potential of Ethiopia and Mauritius. Russian CCI President Sergei Katyrin met with ambassadors from Benin, Côte d'Ivoire, South Sudan and a number of other African countries. Contacts with Chambers of Commerce and Industry of the African continent are actively developing.
This year, the largest Association of Russian Entrepreneurs co-organized meetings of the Presidents of Zimbabwe and Angola with business representatives during their official working visits to Moscow. Business missions were organized to South Africa and Nigeria. The work continues both at the interstate level and on the B2B format.
Director of the Department of Asia, Africa and Latin America of the Ministry of Economic Development, Alexander Dianov, noted that the role of the African continent in the world economy is constantly growing. The pace of development of African countries is ahead of the main trends, and almost seventy percent of their population is under the age of thirty.
“In these circumstances, Russia's return to Africa plays a special role. But if in Soviet times, the development of our relations with the countries of the continent was dictated mainly by political considerations, now economic interests come to the fore in a different way,” Dianov argued.
Ekaterina Shulekina, the Program Director at the Chamber of Commerce, explained in an interview with that Russia already renders enormous support for and still searching to identify mutual investment sectors in Africa, and that the forum will facilitate meaningful networking connections on a large-scale, encourage ideas that could change the economic profile in Africa.
She added that many Russian companies are increasingly interested in advancing business cooperation, thus the preparatory business gathering could help build business confidence, contribute to the sound development of these relations and allow us to outline new forms of fruitful cooperation during the Russia-Africa Summit to be held October in Sochi.
The participants included representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russian Federation, Ministry of Industry and Trade, Ministry of Economic Development and Ministry of Agriculture.
There were also leading experts in the field of trade and economic relations with African countries, the heads of working Russian groups in Africa, as well as ambassadors and entrepreneurs from African countries: Ethiopia, Rwanda, Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana, Angola, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Mauritius and South Africa.
*Kester Kenn Klomegah writes frequently on Russia, Africa and BRICS, and he is a board member of the Regional Council on Development of Relations with Africa.