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Wednesday, 16 July 2014 08:42

Russia and Sub-Saharan Africa: Time-Proven Relations

GoodLavrovArticle by Sergey Lavrov

MOSCOW, July 16, 2014 (Russian View) --- Today African States play an increasingly active role in world politics and its economy and directly participate in decision-making on key issues on the global agenda in the United Nations and other multilateral forums. At the same time, the voice of Africa sounds all the more harmonious, in particular owing to an increasing role played by the African Union which is an effective multilateral mechanism of cooperation in various fields on the continent.

In many ways, this trend is shaped by the emergence of a new polycentric world order which should be based on the principles of international law, respect for the identity of peoples and their right to determine their future themselves. Within the framework of such approaches, Russia supports the strengthening of Africa’s positions in the emerging international system that corresponds to the realities of the 21st century.

 

Our country supported the liberation of the countries in this continent from colonial rule and provided practical assistance in establishing their statehood. It was during such times that the prerequisites were created for developing Russian-African relations based on friendship, trust, mutual respect and taking into account each other’s interests. During past decades we managed to achieve important results in various fields. In Africa Russia pursues a pragmatic policy aimed at enhancing multidimensional ties with the countries of the continent on a bilateral and multilateral basis.

 

Political dialogue, including at the highest level, is being dynamically developed. The visit paid in March 2013 by President Vladimir Putin to the Republic of South Africa, where he also took part in the BRICS summit, became a landmark event. As a result of negotiations, a package of bilateral documents was signed, including the Joint Declaration on the establishment of a comprehensive strategic partnership between Russia and the Republic of South Africa. During the Africa-Russia Forum held on the sidelines of the P5 meeting Vladimir Putin presented proposals to develop political and economic interaction in such formats as BRICS – the African Union, BRICS – NEPAD, BRICS – and sub-regional African organizations.

 

Cooperation between the foreign policy departments of Russia and of the African countries has reached a high level. Only this year fruitful talks were held with my colleagues from Angola, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Eritrea and Uganda.

 

Russia is interested in developing links with the African Union, sub-regional integration associations, including the Southern African Development Community, the Economic Community of West African States, and the Economic Community of Central African States. During the visit paid by the Chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC), Dr. Dlamini Zuma to Moscow in 2013, ways of enhancing interaction between Russia and the African Union in various fields were outlined. The draft memorandum on the mechanism of holding regular political consultations between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia and the AUC is under consideration and there are already plans for it to be signed this year.

 

We attach special significance to deepening our trade and investment cooperation with the African States, including by involving Russian economic operators in the implementation of infrastructure projects. It is encouraging that more Russian companies, being aware of the prospects that are opening up in the large market of the continent,are working actively in such fields as nuclear energy, hydrocarbon and the metallurgy industries.

 

At the same time, it is evident that the significant potential of our economic cooperation is far from being exhausted and much remains to be done so that Russian and African partners know more about each other’scapacities and needs. The creation of a mechanism for the provision of public support to business interaction between Russian companies and the African continent is on the agenda. The economic forum “Urals–Africa” held in Yekaterinburg in July 2013 and attended by delegations from about 40 African States confirmed that we have broad opportunities for enhancing cooperation.

 

Active interaction with Africans in the field of crisis management continues, since Africa, regretfully, remains one of the regions of the world with the highest potential for conflicts. Russia calls for prompt and appropriate response by the international community, to challenges and threats which are faced by the African continent and reach beyond it, including uncontrolled migration, the spread of crime, narcotic drugs and infectious diseases. These efforts are underpinned by the coordinating role of the UN, its close interaction with African structures and certain States.

 

In this regard, we believe that actions by the Africans themselves aimed at finding solutions in such turbulent zones as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali and the Sahelo-Saharan strip as a whole, the Central African Republic, Somali and South Sudan, are becoming increasingly important in order to achieve sustainable peace. Other urgent tasks include combating illegal armed groups, promotion of good-neighbourliness, development of cooperation with a view to ensuring border security, and suppression of mass violations of international humanitarian law. In this connection, we are satisfied by the fact that in recent years efforts undertaken by the Africans in these areas have become increasingly intensive and consistent.

 

As a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, Russia contributes significantly to maintaining peace in Africa. Russian observers take part practically in all UN peacekeeping operations on the continent. Our country plays one of the leading roles among the providers of goods and services for UN peacekeeping activities in Africa, first of all in the field of civil aviation. We pay great attention to the training of police and military personnel from African States in relevant Russian institutions, including internships provided by short-term advanced-training courses in educational institutions of the Ministry of the Interior of Russia.

 

Our country takes significant practical steps to assist sustainable development of African States. Russia provides African countries with extensive preferences in trade and contributes to alleviating their debt burden – the total amount of debt relief exceeds 20 billion USD. Debt-for-development agreements for a total amount of 552 million USD were concluded with certain States.

 

The training of highly qualified specialists for various sectors of the economy, as well as healthcare, is another aspect of our efforts. Currently, more than 6,500 Africans study in Russian higher educational institutions and nearly half of them – at the expense of federal budget funds. More than 960 Russian government grants are provided annually to countries of the region. Russia takes an active part in establishing the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and has joined the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.

 

Last year the World Food Programme used funds provided by the Russian Federation as a voluntary contribution to give urgent food assistance to Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya. We offer humanitarian assistance to the countries of the continent for the purposes of disaster management.

 

On the 20 April 2014, President Vladimir Putin approved a new Concept of State Policy of the Russian Federation, in the field of assisting international development, which should become an efficient instrument to increase our participation in providing development assistance to Africa, primarily on a bilateral basis.

 

I am confident that the time-proven Russian-African partnership will further deepen and expand for the benefit of our countries and peoples. All the necessary prerequisites exist, among which the most important is the mutual commitment of our countries to work purposefully and consistently in the interests of intensive development of multidimensional cooperation.

***Article by the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov “Russia and Sub-Saharan Africa: Time-Proven Relations” was first published in the magazine Russian View.


 
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