Russia’s foreign policy is multi-directional. The African direction is one of our priorities, as the updated Foreign Policy Concept, which President of Russia Vladimir Putin approved in November 2016, says. We appreciate Africa’s contribution to the development of a fairer and more democratic polycentric world order and to the settlement of current problems.
Russia actively contributed to the independence of African countries and the development and strengthening of Russia’s relations with African countries are traditionally friendly and based on the principles of equality and mutual respect. They also have considerable potential for development in the political, trade, economic, and humanitarian spheres, as well as other areas.
Our political ties in particular are developing dynamically. We maintain close relations with South Africa, which is our strategic partner and a member of the BRICS group. Our presidents regularly meet on the sidelines of BRICS summits and at other multilateral platforms.
Chair of the African Union and President of the Republic of Guinea Alpha Conde made an official visit to Russia last year. Mr. Conde previously visited Russia as a guest of the St Petersburg International Economic Forum. Last year, Deputy Prime Minister and Presidential Plenipotentiary Envoy to the Far Eastern Federal District Yury Trutnev made working visits to Angola, Namibia and South Africa.
Ties are actively developing between our parliaments. Large delegations from many African countries attended the 137th Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, which was held in St. Petersburg in October 2017. The speakers of the two houses of the Russian parliament met on the sidelines of that event for talks with their colleagues from Botswana, Burundi, Namibia, Rwanda, the Seychelles, Uganda, Equatorial Guinea and South Africa.
Interaction between our foreign ministries is expanding. Last year, 12 foreign ministers visited Russia. Deputy Foreign Minister and Special Presidential Representative for the Middle East and Africa Mikhail Bogdanov is doing much to promote links with African countries. Regular consultations are held between our foreign ministries. We also maintain close ties at the UN. The majority of African countries are interested in strengthening political dialogue with Russia and in coordinating our views on the main issues of the present time.
We are deepening humanitarian ties. The Russian Centres for Science and Culture are working fruitfully in Zambia, Congo, Tanzania and Ethiopia. They hold seminars, conferences and advanced training sessions for African specialists in Russian philology, Russian language festivals, roundtables and open lessons. Our embassies in Africa regularly organise themed exhibitions and show Russian films. A cross-cultural year was held between Russia and South Africa in 2016−2017.
Another traditional area of cooperation is the training of national personnel. The Russian Government annually allocates federal scholarships for educating African students at Russian universities. In 2017 alone, more than 1,800 young Africans studied in Russia on federal scholarships. Overall, 15,000 young people from Africa are studying in Russia.
Our economic cooperation is not as far advanced as our political ties. However, it has improved over the past few years. Our trade with Sub-Saharan countries amounted to $3.6 billion in 2017, compared to $3.3 billion in 2016 and $2.2 billion in 2015. Russian companies are working in the exploration, mining, energy and petrochemical sectors in Africa. They conduct exploration, develop oil and gas deposits, take part in national programmes to build gas pipelines and gas storage facilities, provide technical maintenance for hydroelectric power stations, as well as carry out feasibility studies for the construction of nuclear power plants and nuclear research and technology centres. Cooperation in high technology is also developing. There are good prospects for partnership in transport, industry and agriculture.
Today, we maintain friendly relations that are spearheaded into the future. We are promoting our political dialogue, including the exchange of visits at the high and top levels, as well as trade and economic cooperation.
Africa is rich in raw material resources, including those that are required for high technology and for moving to a new technological pattern.
We have a number of examples of productive cooperation in this area. Alrosa is involved in diamond mining in Angola’s largest Katoka deposit. In Guinea, RUSAL is mining bauxite at the Friguia deposit and works under the Dian-Dian concession agreement. RUSAL owns 85 percent of Alscon, a Nigerian aluminium company. A consortium of a number of our companies, including the Vi Holding investment and industrial group is developing Darwendale, a project on one of the largest deposits of platinum-group metals in Zimbabwe. Rosneft has won a tender for gas prospecting on the continental shelf in Mozambique. Nordgold is mining gold in Burkina Faso and Guinea, while Global Resources is involved in geological prospecting for gold in Mali and uranium in Niger. GeoProMining is involved in extracting and processing of titaniferous sands in Guinea-Bissau, RENOVA is mining manganese ore in South Africa, while Severstal is taking part in developing a phosphate deposit in Guinea-Bissau. These and other examples allow us to look to the future with optimism.
Apart from mining, Russia and African countries are cooperating on high technology. Rosatom is considering a number of projects that are of interest to Africans, for instance the creation of a nuclear research and technology centre in Zambia. Nigeria has a similar project. There are good prospects for cooperation with Ghana, Tanzania and Ethiopia. Talks are underway on the construction of a nuclear power plant in South Africa.
Naturally, we are well aware of Africa’s consolidated position on reforming the UN Security Council, which was formulated in the Ezulwini Consensus in 2005.
For our part we agree that Africa should be duly represented in the UN Security Council, in particular because African issues dominate the UN agenda. We are prepared to help Africans expand the Council based on a model that will enjoy the most support of the UN member states.
We hope the African Union will continue adhering to the common approach formulated in the Ezulwini Consensus. This is a reliable guarantee that African interests will not be neglected as has happened in the past. It is impossible to ignore the common opinion of 50 countries. We are convinced that Africa’s strength lies in following this common line.
We conduct trustworthy bilateral dialogue with African countries at the UN and bilaterally. Thus, Sierra Leone Foreign Minister Samura Kamara visited Moscow in July 2017 as the Chairman of the African Union Committee of Ten, which was established to promote African interests in expanding the UN Security Council. The sides conducted an engaging exchange of views and stated their common understanding that the Security Council can only be reformed through intergovernmental talks in New York. It should be continued on all available proposals without commotion, artificial narrowing of the agenda or a fixation on temporary schedules and deadlines.
We believe the Security Council should become more representative but without damaging its efficiency. The lineup must reflect the formation and consolidation of a polycentric world arrangement.
At the same time we are skeptical about restricting the right to veto. We regard this right as an important element in drafting the Security Council’s decisions and in upholding the interests of the minority.
At present, Russia’s relations with African countries are progressing both on a bilateral basis and along the line of African regional organisations, primarily the African Union and the Southern African Development Community. As I have already noted, an intensive political dialogue is being maintained with the continent’s countries, interparliamentary contacts are gaining strength, trade and economic and investment relations are improving, and scientific, technological and humanitarian interaction is expanding. African countries’ representatives are active participants in international forums hosted by Russia.
A dialogue launched between the African Union Commission and the Eurasian Economic Union Commission has become a new area of cooperation. We hope it will deepen.
Our African friends note the need for Russia’s active presence in the region, and more frequently express their interest in holding a Russia-Africa summit. Such a meeting would undoubtedly help deepen our cooperation on the full range of issues. However, it is necessary to bear in mind that arranging an event of such a scale with the participation of over fifty heads of state and government requires most careful preparation, including in terms of its substantive content.
The economic component of the summit has a special significance in this relation as it would be of practical interest for all the parties. As such, specific Russian participants in bilateral or multilateral cooperation should be identified, which are not only committed to long-term cooperation but are also ready for large-scale investments in the African markets with account of possible risks and high competition. Equally important are African businesspeople who are looking to work on the Russian market.
Excerpts from Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s interview with the Hommes d’Afrique magazine, Moscow, March 5, 2018