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Russia-Africa Summit: Africa demanded to end the war! By Kashif Mirza


Jul 29, 2023

The writer is an

economist, anchor,

analyst and the

President of All

 Pakistan Private

Schools’ Federation



Russian President Vladimir Putin says his country and the African leaders attending a summit in St Petersburg have agreed to promote a multipolar world order and fight “neocolonialism” as he offered debt write-offs and grain to woo allies. Russia has written off debts of African states worth $23 billion. Participants signed a joint declaration that called for the establishment of a more just, balanced and stable multipolar world order, firmly opposing all types of international confrontation in the African continent. Russia’s attention to Africa is steadily growing, and the meeting was seen as a test of Moscow’s support in Africa, where Russia retains backing despite international isolation sparked by its war in Ukraine. The Russian leader promised free grain to six African nations and assured them that Moscow was trying to avert a global food crisis after withdrawing from an agreement that allowed Ukraine, one of the world’s largest grain producers, to export its farm products across the Black Sea. A summit between Russian President Vladimir Putin and African leaders began in St. Petersburg with a far lower turnout than in previous years. Just 17 heads of African states are attending this year, the Kremlin has confirmed, less than half of the 43 heads of state that attended the 2019 conference. African leaders issued a direct appeal to Russian President Vladimir Putin to end this war against Ukraine. In response to the forceful African demands, Putin said: “We respect your initiatives and we are examining them carefully.”
Putin has been seeking to strengthen ties with African countries and offered to send free grain to the continent, something the UN warned would not make up for Russia pulling out of a crucial grain deal. Russia has also been targeting Ukrainian ports. In the run-up to the event, the Kremlin fumed over the poor turnout and accused the United States and its Western allies of putting unprecedented pressure on African countries in an attempt to derail the summit. Many African countries rely heavily on Russia and Ukraine for their grain imports. Between 90-100% of the wheat Somalia and Eritrea needs comes from the two countries, UN data shows. The shortage of grains has worsened food insecurity on the continent and shot up food prices, according to the African Development Bank (AfDB). Some African politicians – further than simply not attending the summit – have expressed grave concerns about Russia’s war on Ukraine. Despite the food crisis, Russia has allies in Africa. During a vote by the UN last year condemning Russia’s war on Ukraine, Eritrea was one of only four nations globally that openly endorsed the attack. Others were Belarus, North Korea, and Syria. While 17 others on the continent, including South Africa voted to abstain. Eight other African nations did not put in a vote at all. A further 28 African states voted to condemn Russia’s aggression towards Ukraine. But, Russia is still a reliable supplier of food to Africa. Next month South Africa will host a BRICS economic bloc summit in Johannesburg, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will represent the country. Russian President Vladimir Putin is making grand promises to African countries to try to shore up support against the West. Putin hosted the Russia-Africa summit, where he promised six African nations up to 50,000 metric tons of free grain in the next three to four months despite Western sanctions on Russian exports. But Moscow’s lucky grain recipients weren’t chosen randomly. Of the six nations offered free grain, one of them Somalia has repeatedly supported Putin on United Nations resolutions to condemn and halt Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. And two of them Mali and the Central African Republic remain strongholds of Russia’s paramilitary Wagner Group. Russia last week suspended its participation in the Black Sea grain deal, which ensured the safe transportation of grain out of the region. U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said that Putin’s decision to leave the agreement as well as Moscow’s bombing of a Danube River port in Ukraine were especially devastating for vulnerable countries struggling to feed their people, such as nations in the Horn of Africa. The East African region is dependent on Russian and Ukrainian grain exports, and Russia’s war in Ukraine has worsened its already dire food scarcity crisis. According to the Black Sea Grain Initiative’s Joint Steering Committee, 65 percent of wheat exported from Ukraine under the deal went to developing countries. The situation in many regions of Africa remains unstable due to the legacy of the colonial era and the divide-and-rule policy pursued by the West. A number of manifestations of colonialism have not yet been eliminated, they are still practiced by former metropolises. The monopoly of some countries in the field of finance, technology, digital, and in the field of food is unacceptable, it needs to be fought. The development of the continent is hindered by terrorism, the spread of extremist ideology, transnational crime, and piracy. In countering these threats, Russia is interested in the closest cooperation between law enforcement agencies and special services of the Russian Federation and African countries and also offered to continue training military personnel and law enforcement officers of African countries in Russian specialized educational institutions. Russia signed agreements on military-technical cooperation with more than 40 African states and suppled them with a range of weapons and equipment.

Putin wants to Win Over Africa, and tried to shore up African support as Putin pledges to supply Africa with grain, promotes joint fight against ‘neocolonialism’ during Russia-Africa summit. Russia attempted to demonstrate that it can still count on many old and loyal allies from Africa during the Russia-Africa Economic and Humanitarian  Forum. 

African leaders pressed Russian President Vladimir Putin to move ahead with their plan to end the Ukraine conflict and to renew a deal crucial to Africa on the safe wartime export of Ukrainian grain, which Moscow tore. While not directly critical of Russia, their interventions were more concerted and forceful. They served as reminders of the depth of African concern at the consequences of the war, especially rising food prices. This war must end. And it can only end on the basis of justice and reason. The disruptions of energy and grain supplies must end immediately. The grain deal must be extended for the benefit of all the peoples of the world, Africans in particular. The African plan floats a series of possible steps to defuse the conflict, including a Russian troop pull-back, removal of Russian tactical nuclear weapons from Belarus, suspension of an International Criminal Court arrest warrant against Putin, and sanctions relief. Putin’s argument was that Ukraine and the West, not Russia, were responsible for the conflict. Although, Russia has long said it is open to talks but that these must take account of the new realities on the ground. At the summit, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi urged Russia to revive the Black Sea grain deal which, until Moscow refused to renew, had granted Ukraine a safe corridor to export grain from its seaports despite the conflict. Putin responded by arguing, as he has in the past, that rising world food prices were a consequence of Western policy mistakes long predating the Ukraine war. He has repeatedly said Russia quit the agreement because the deal was not getting grain to the poorest countries and the West was not keeping its side of the bargain. Russia’s withdrawal and its bombardment of Ukrainian ports and grain depots have prompted accusations from Ukraine and the West that it is using food as a weapon of war, and driven the global wheat price up by some 9%. The Ukrainian Grain Association estimated in May that 4 million metric tons of Ukrainian grain had been stolen since Russia launched its full-scale war in February last year. 

Russia’s influence in Africa shrank after the collapse of the Soviet Union in December 1991, allowing others – including China – to gain the upper hand and dominate foreign trade. In fact, China is currently Africa’s largest trade partner. At the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in September 2018, Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged $60bn in funding to African countries. Chinese-funded projects – bridges and railway lines, ports, and stadiums – dot the continent. Putin didn’t and couldn’t possibly offer as much as Xi in Sochi. The Kremlin claimed deals worth $12.5bn were signed at the 2019 summit. Russia accounts for just 1 percent of foreign direct investment into Africa. What’s more, Russia’s trade with Africa dwarfs in comparison to its peers, representing only 5 percent of the European Union’s total trade with Africa, and no more than 6 percent of China’s total. And Africa imports five times more than it exports to Russia, a situation that has produced a $12bn trade imbalance. In October 2019, Russia pledged it would double its trade with Africa in five years but has failed to achieve its target. As a result of the war in Ukraine, Russia’s economy contracted by 2.1 percent in 2022. Several countries and groups, including the United States, United Kingdom, Japan, Canada, Taiwan, New Zealand, the European Union, and G7, have imposed comprehensive sanctions on Russian banks, oil refineries, and military exports. Other sanctions target future energy revenues and military-industrial supply chains, in addition to architecture, manufacturing, and construction. There are also sanctions on wealthy Russian individuals who are close to the Kremlin. Under these circumstances, it would be understandable if Russian businesses were keen to make new and considerable investments in Africa, to escape sanctions scrutiny and possible trade with the rest of the world. So, Putin wanted the summit to energize Russia’s ties with Africa and enlist its support in countering what he describes as U.S. hegemony and Western neo-colonialism. Many of the leaders praised Moscow’s support for their countries in their 20th-century liberation struggles, and the final declaration promised Russia would help them seek compensation for the damage done by colonial rule. There are some new initiatives of the Russian plan towards Africa. Russia wants to gain African allies. This is why it’s initiating more and more towards Africa – to the extent that President Putin wants to … revive the Soviet era investments in Africa. Russia plans on building plants and factories and increasing diplomatic missions on the continent. Africa is the new center of power. Its political and economic role is growing exponentially. Everyone will have to take this reality into account. For several years, Russia has openly engaged in diplomatic and economic offensives on the continent and offered security services in the form of the Wagner mercenary army to African governments fending off armed groups. But in recent months, Russia has had to speed up its quest for alternatives to European partners. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has toured Africa twice since January, seeking to draw it into Moscow’s camp and presenting Russia as a bulwark against Western imperialism and neocolonialism. Putin made the leaders agree to improve cooperation on aid, energy, and trade, including by consistently switching to national currencies for commercial transactions. The Russian leader also pledged to wipe out the debts of Africa. Putin wants to Win Over Africa and tried to shore up African support as Putin pledges to supply Africa with grain, promoting a joint fight against ‘neocolonialism’ during the Russia-Africa summit. Russia attempted to demonstrate that it can still count on many old and loyal allies from Africa during the Russia-Africa Economic and Humanitarian  Forum. Indeed,  Russia understands the importance of an uninterrupted food supply to African countries, including for its own political stability. Amid the backdrop of a full-scale war in Ukraine and growing international isolation, As Russia wraps up its high-level summit with African countries, just how much real influence does Russia have in the continent? But, the longstanding relationship would continue based only on equality, friendship, and mutual respect so African states could conduct independent policy and resolve African problems themselves.

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