Joint report by RIAC and Africa Business Initiative Union № 53/2020

Africa – Russia+: achievements, problems and prospects
Joint report by RIAC and Africa Business Initiative Union № 53/2020
The African continent has entered ХХI century with great achievements and challenges which could not but have an impact on further configuration not only of the continental but also of the global picture. Solutions to Africa's problems must come, as a matter of priority, from the African peoples and leaders but Russia is perfectly capable of making its unique contribution to finding these solutions.
The joint report by Russian International Affairs Council and Africa Business Initiative Union provides an analysis of opportunities for building a multilateral system of cooperation of Russia and the world Powers with the African Community based on respect for sovereignty and non-interference in the internal affairs of African States.
The report used SWOT analysis method to study the potential and current problems of the African continent, Russia’s position in its relations with Africa and to provide appropriate recommendations.
- By holding the first ever «Russia-Africa» Summit in October 2019 in Sochi, Russia opened a new chapter in its relations with the African continent particularly with regard to the economic dimension of these relations.
- International rivalry on the African continent is gaining momentum. A territory that for centuries has been a colonial attachment of several European powers now attracts increasing attention from politicians and investors from China, India, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, the US, and certainly Russia. The successful holding of the summit demonstrated Russia’s desire to find and take its place on the African continent.  Since none of the major players are going to lose ground on the continent, in the worst cases, the process will become a geopolitical battle.
- The African continent has entered ХХI century with great achievements and challenges. And if the achievements can include steady GDP growth, gradual nation-building, a new level of economic cooperation, improvements in the quality of education, institutionalization of a number of economic sectors, regulatory initiatives and general change of the political and economic climate on the continent (such as the initiation of the Continental Free Trade Area by African countries), among the key problems remain turbulence and «fragility» of a number of African jurisdictions, unbalanced state and relative instability of political systems, lack of social reforms, deadly diseases, growth of the population that was born and raised in an ambience of military confrontation and active hostilities.
- Although the aggregate GDP of the African continent is still far from that of the developed countries, the continent today has great potential. The continent’s rapid economic growth and increasing integration distinguish Africa from other regions, where economic stagnation and rising protectionism are more prevalent.
- One of the main problems of Africa’s political system today is the fragmentation of its political map, which stems not so much from political diversity per se but from the legacy of the colonial era and the diversity of cultures and peoples, beliefs and traditions on the continent. A rich tapestry of historical and cultural substrate of African States is in fact the cause of plenty political problems.
- Russia, of course, cannot alone develop and implement an alternative paradigm for interaction between the countries of the African continent and the outside world. But this task is beyond the capacity of any single player in the world today. Solving Africa’s numerous problems is, above all, the responsibility of the peoples and leaders of the African countries themselves. Nevertheless, Russia is perfectly capable of making its unique contribution to finding these solutions. Especially since the multipolarity of today’s world demonstrates the need for creative interaction rather than for the piecemeal pursuit of narrow interests by individual players.
- There is a need to estimate our resources and understand how we can be most useful not only for Africa now but also in the future. A thorough expert discussion about the existing opportunities and constraints of Russian involvement in Africa, as well as about the projection of these opportunities and constraints for the immediate, medium and long term is even more important. There seems to be a need for careful monitoring of the current achievements and failures of Russian involvement in the African countries.
- Russia is an active and sometimes key member of major alliances and integration associations such as the SCO, BRICS, EEC, and ASEAN. By developing trade and economic cooperation with Russia, the African countries now have real access for their goods and services to a single market with a capacity of more than 183 million people which includes Moscow’s partners in the Eurasian Economic Union — Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. Thus, Eurasian integration opens up further opportunities for African countries to increase their trade with Russia’s EEC partners, which is generally confirmed by the increase in African exports to the Union from $2.4 billion in 2010 to $3.5 billion in 2018. At the same time, there is a positive dynamic for the above-mentioned five Eurasian countries.
- Russia has developed potential areas of cooperation: geological exploration and extraction of mineral resources, space applications, energy (in generation and infrastructure projects, including alternative energy and energy distribution), MIC, health care, education, social sphere, ecology, etc. And the need for action and decision-making in a competitive environment is a challenge that can lead to a breakthrough in the development and implementation of new approaches in the economic, political and humanitarian spheres. By cooperating with Africa, Russia is entering a large and constantly growing market, which is linked to the positive demographic dynamics in African countries and the active formation of a middle class.
- A range of issues of concern to present-day Africa binds all the Russian actors present on the continent to the need to approach the search for solutions in a comprehensive, consistent and consolidated manner. In the present situation, new and effective forms of bilateral and multilateral cooperation must be found that that have a sound foundation in our common past, take into account the current geopolitical situation and address global goals and objectives.

  11 March 2020