The ways and means of invigorating bilateral relations in political, trade, economic, educational and humanitarian areas were the centrepiece of the first diplomatic encounter between Foreign Minister Marcel Amon-Tanoh of Côte d'Ivoire, also known as Ivory Coast, and his counterpart Sergey Lavrov of Russia, in Moscow.
The two Foreign Ministers also exchanged views on major global and regional issues, such as crisis settlement and peacekeeping in Africa. Countering international terrorism and extremism in the context of collective efforts to neutralize these threats in Africa and beyond too topped their agenda.
Promoting business partnerships in the energy sector, the fuel and energy complex, infrastructure development and agriculture were yet another topic of discussion between Amon-Tanoh and Lavrov. These concluded with a bilateral memorandum on ministerial consultations.
"We have thoroughly discussed preparations for the first Russia-Africa Summit scheduled to take place in Sochi in October (2019). It will be the first such summit in history, an economic forum will precede it," Lavrov noted at a joint press conference with Amon-Tanoh. "We expect that these events will give impetus to the development of ties, become a major milestone in Russian-African relations and will also help define our future partnership."
Lavrov described the relations between the two countries as friendly. "We confirmed our mutual interest in boosting bilateral relations, agreed to take further steps to develop promising projects in the energy sector, infrastructure and agriculture, which is the backbone of Côte d'Ivoire's economy."
Acknowledging, without any reservation, that the participation of an Ivorian delegation in the recent St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF-19) was very useful, Lavrov and Amon-Tanoh agreed to encourage business circles to build direct contacts and increasingly avail of the two countries’ chambers of commerce and industry.
On the sidelines of the SPIEF-19, held June 6-June 9, the Adviser to the President of the Russian Federation, Anton Kobyakov, held a bilateral meeting with Vice-President of the Republic of Côte d'Ivoire, Daniel Kablan Duncan.
During the discussions, both parties agreed to form a working group made up of representatives of the Government of Côte d'Ivoire and the Roscongress Foundation to participate in the forthcoming Russia-Africa Summit in Sochi.
The working group will be responsible for developing a roadmap for organizing investment and trading cooperation. The parties will create a list of priority industries and target projects and other goods and services for export-import operations.
Contributing to the discussions, the Côte d'Ivoire Vice-President Duncan underlined the importance of strengthening bilateral relations between Russia and Côte d'Ivoire. He said that 2017 marked half-a-century since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries. “We enjoy friendly relations that encompass many areas of interaction, including political dialogue, security, trade, economic and technical military ties, energy, and scientific, cultural, and cultural exchanges," Duncan noted.
Côte d'Ivoire is one of Russia's largest trading partners in sub-Saharan Africa, and the beginning of 2019 has been marked by a significant increase in mutual trade.
The outlook for cooperation in energy seems promising, he explained, adding that the development of gas production is associated with capital-intensive deep-sea projects (more than 3,000 meters), and therefore “we are interested in involving a major Russian company in the development of projects of this nature”.
The processing of agricultural products could also be included in a list of key areas of trade and investment cooperation with Russia, he said.
"We are, particularly, pleased to learn that President of Côte d'Ivoire, Alassane Ouattara, will be participating in the Russia-Africa summit. Even more significant is the fact that the upcoming visit of Côte d'Ivoire's head will be the first in the history of bilateral relations between our countries," said Kobyakov.
In closing the meeting, he stressed: "The key for the development of bilateral trade and investment cooperation will be the search for and joint development of important areas for a mutually beneficial partnership between Russia and Côte d'Ivoire."
Historically, Côte d'Ivoire has close ties to France since independence in 1960. The diversification of agricultural exports and encouragement of foreign investment have been the key factors in the economic growth of the country.
In recent years, that west African country has been subject to greater competition and falling prices in the global marketplace for its primary agricultural crops: coffee and cocoa. That, compounded with high internal corruption, makes life difficult for the grower and for those exporting to foreign markets.
Côte d'Ivoire exports cocoa, mainly to Europe. With a population of nearly 24 million, the country shares border with Liberia and Guinea to the west, Mali and Burkina Faso to the north and Ghana to the east. *Kester Kenn Klomegah writes frequently about Russia-Africa and the BRICS.