By Rasheed Sobowale and VOA
The president of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari has arrived Sochi, Russia after his announced departure yesterday (Monday, October 21) ahead of Russia-Africa summit scheduled to hold Tuesday.
The Nigerian presidency announced the meeting would focus on exploring and expanding opportunities in security, trade and investment, science and technology, and gas production.
But what does Russia stands to gain from this summit? In the eyes of the world, Russia looks like a nation that does not need the African continent for survival while Africans on the other way around might be argued to need Kremlin.
In recent years, Russia has been busy on the African continent according to report.
VOA reported that Russians were on board an Antonov An-72 transport which crashed some days ago at the Congolese forest.
Likewise, some Russians were reportedly killed in civil war battles in Libya while Russia is busy making deals and spending money all over Africa.
What then does the nation want from Africa?
The Russia-Africa summit is expected to be used by Russia to showcase its reengagement in Africa.
Kremlin officials noted that the summit will be used to reiterate Russia has returned to Africa to improve partnership and also demonstrate it would no longer appear as a defunct World power.
The summit comes at a time Russia’s economic growth has stalled, the consequence of five years of Western sanctions as well as low oil prices. Russia is in need of new trading partners. But business and politics appear to be going hand-in-hand in Russia’s dealing with Africa and much of the focus is on security and arms sales, according to VOA analysis.
Russia sees Africa as a very important continent but will only partner the continent on a win-win platform. Nothing will go without any return and the extent of any signed deal is presumed would be based on the negotiation power and skill of the parties involved.
Kremlin officials and Russian businessmen, however, hope the Sochi conference will lead to more arms sales and the purchase by African states of Russian nuclear power plants.
More oil and raw-mineral deals are also likely to be signed in the margins along with a host of smaller trade agreements. All in a bid to increase the value of Russian trade with Africa, which stood at about $20 billion last year, half of the continent’s trade with France and ten times less than China’s.
Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov told reporters some days ago, “This [Africa] is a very important continent, Russia has things to offer in terms of mutually beneficial cooperation to African countries,”
Analysts Tim Stanley and Barnaby Fletcher of Control Risks, a global risk consultancy, argue Russia is stepping into “gaps left by Western governments wary of condemnation from domestic electorates.” Security expertise is on offer, including Russian military contractors and disinformation specialists to help prop up failing or corrupt governments.
Russia’s relationship with Africa dates back to years ago but not conspicuous as before after the collapse of the Soviet. This is the major thing the meeting is assumed would focus on,
“The Soviet Union enjoyed extensive relationships across Africa for decades through its support for national liberation movements in Angola, Mozambique, or Guinea-Bissau, its involvement in the Ogaden or Congolese conflicts, and its courtship of Ethiopia’s leftist regime,” according to Paul Stronski, an analyst with the Carnegie Endowment, a Washington DC-based think tank. “As the Soviet Union collapsed, these relationships came to an abrupt halt,” he said.
According to VOA report, during the Soviet era, many of Africa’s political and military leaders were educated in Russia — now only three current African heads of the state received their university education in either Russia or one of its former Warsaw Pact countries.
The leaders of former Soviet client states like Angola, where Russia has invested in the diamond industry, and Ethiopia will be among the 10,000 politicians and businessmen from 35 African Countries attending the Sochi summit. But so, too, will representatives from Nigeria, where Russians have been investing in the oil and gas industry, and Ghana. Neither had major ties with Moscow during the heyday of the Cold War, according to VOA analysis.
Many of Africa’s political and military leaders were educated in Russia — now only three current African heads of the state received their university education in either Russia or one of its former Warsaw Pact countries.
It will be easier for Africa heads of states to strike a deal with Russia because just like China, Russia’s arms sales don’t come with human-rights conditions or demands about improving governance.
On a visit to Angola earlier this year, according to VOA report, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan said: “Russia often utilises coercive, corrupt, and covert means to attempt to influence sovereign states, including their security and economic partnerships.”
There are also concerns that Kremlin will use political and economic clout on the continent to ensure African countries vote alongside Russia at the United Nations and on other international bodies.
Edward Lucas, author of “The New Cold War: Putin’s Russia and the Threat to the West,” dubs it “spookery and thuggery.” “Russian ‘political technologists’ offer expert advice on all aspects of election rigging, from bribery to propaganda and cyber-attacks. Mercenaries beef up security,” he says.
Also, there are allegations that military contractor Yevgeny Prigozhin, the oligarch nicknamed ‘Putin’s chef’ because of his lucrative catering contracts with the Kremlin, has been much in evidence on the Africa continent. And so, too, has his company the Wagner Group, which supplied the two dozen or more contractors believed to have been killed in airstrikes in Libya last month.
Also in Guinea where police last week shot dead nine pro-democracy protesters, Russia diplomats have been backing an effort by the country’s repressive president, Alpha Conde, to change the constitution, which would allow him to serve a third term. The Russian aluminium company Rusal sources a third of the bauxite it needs from Guinea, according to VOA report.
This summit marks the first of its kind since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. It is expected to be held at the Sochi’s Olympic Park.