Putin's Russia-Africa Summit: 5 Things to Know
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News around Africa - July 27, 2023

Putin’s Russia-Africa Summit: 5 Things to Know

In a bid to bolster its presence on the global stage and tap into the vast potential of Africa’s resources, Russia has been actively engaging with African nations through the Russia-Africa Summit series. This high-profile event, now in its second iteration, serves as a crucial platform for deepening diplomatic, economic, and strategic ties between Russia and the African continent. 

With a focus on fostering partnerships in sectors ranging from energy to infrastructure and military cooperation, the summit aims to open new avenues for mutually beneficial growth and development. However, the summit has also encountered challenges as the specter of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine further complicates geopolitical dynamics in Africa being one of them. This article explores the purpose, significance, and key dynamics of Putin’s Russia-Africa Summit.

The summit is the second since 2019

The Russia-Africa Summit is the second, held after the groundbreaking inaugural event in 2019, which marks another significant milestone in modern Russian-African relations. The previous summit in Sochi laid the foundation for robust cooperation in politics, security, economics, science, technology, culture, and humanitarian spheres. With the signing of 92 agreements, contracts, and memoranda of understanding totaling over $11 billion, African countries, such as Nigeria, reaped the benefits, particularly in energy generation and education.

However, the context for the second summit is different. Many African countries are grappling with a cost of living crisis, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has exacerbated the situation. Sharp increases in fertilizers and grain prices have led to higher food prices and raised food insecurity on the continent. This poses a challenge for African nations seeking support and assistance from Russia during these trying times. As the summit unfolds, the continent watches with keen interest to see how it addresses these pressing economic challenges amidst the backdrop of geopolitical complexities.

Purpose for the summit

The Russia-Africa Summit serves as a pinnacle event in Russian-African relations, with the aim of establishing a transformative and mutually beneficial partnership to address the challenges of the 21st century. Ongoing  in St. Petersburg, the summit is intended to facilitate comprehensive and equal cooperation between Russia and African nations across various domains, encompassing politics, security, economics, science and technology, as well as cultural and humanitarian spheres.

Despite its importance, the attendance for the second-ever Russia-Africa summit is notably lower than when it first held in 2019, with only 16 African leaders expected to participate, which is less than half of the number that attended the previous summit. Concerns arise regarding the level of engagement and commitment from some African nations. Nevertheless, the summit presents a crucial opportunity for both Russia and African countries to forge meaningful partnerships and pave the way for a more prosperous and interconnected future.

Some African leaders shunned the meeting

Some African leaders are staying away from the Russia-Africa Summit for various reasons. The fallout of a grain deal, allowing Ukrainian grain exports to African countries, has caused food security concerns and frustrations with Russia’s decision to pull out. Security issues related to the involvement of Russian private military company Wagner Group in African countries are also a factor. 

Geopolitical considerations, including tensions over Russia’s actions such as the invasion of Ukraine, may influence leaders’ decisions. Moreover, Russian attempts at political meddling and anti-colonial rhetoric may create divisions among African nations. These factors have contributed to a lower number of attendees, indicating the complexities and reservations some African leaders have regarding the summit.

How Russian invasion of Ukraine divides Africa

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has created divisions among African countries, with some expressing support for Russia, while others back Ukraine’s territorial integrity and condemn Russia’s actions. In a recent UN General Assembly resolution, nearly half of all abstentions were from African nations. 

Some countries, like Namibia and Gabon, changed their voting positions from last year, but their stance remains unaligned with either Russia or Western-backed Ukraine. Ties to Russia are strong in some parts of Africa due to historical relationships with the Soviet Union, and nations like Eritrea and Mali, isolated from the global community, have found an ally in Russia. The vote’s geopolitical implications may continue to shape alliances in Africa in the future.

The summit serves as an expansion of economic and strategic partnerships

The Russia-Africa Summit serves as a platform to discuss and forge economic and strategic partnerships between Russia and African countries. Russia is keen on expanding its influence in the African continent, particularly in sectors such as energy, mining, infrastructure, and military cooperation. 

The summit provides an opportunity for Russian businesses to explore investment opportunities in Africa and secure access to its vast natural resources. On the other hand, African countries seek to diversify their partnerships and reduce their dependence on traditional allies, fostering new avenues for economic growth and development. However, the expansion of Russian influence in Africa also raises concerns about potential geopolitical implications and power dynamics in the region.

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