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Thursday, 30 April 2009 18:53

Q&A: Russian Company Is Ready to Excavate African Potential

Kester Kenn Klomegah interviews ALEXANDER ANTONENKO, Russian businessperson

MOSCOW, Apr 22 (IPS) - At a glance, trade between Russia and African states is still at low levels, which experts attribute to an inadequate flow of information and lack of interaction.

While Russia is undergoing an economic transformation and is predicted to become one of the fastest growing of the world, it is rather unfortunate that only a few African countries have made relations with Russia a priority.

‘‘But that can be changed by encouraging private sector participation and the adoption of flexible trade regulations by the countries involved,’’ as Alexander Antonenko suggested in an interview with Kester Kenn Klomegah.

Antonenko is director general of the company Ugaruss Trading House and founder of Edinstvo, a business promoting trade with the continent.

IPS: Why did you decide to do business with East African countries?

Alexander Antonenko: I love Africa and have visited the continent many times, exploring business potential. Therefore, I know that many African countries are ready to work on mutually advantageous relations with Russia.

African leaders’ development priorities are the improvement of the quality of life of their populations, which includes medical care and the guarantee of food production through the development of agriculture and processing, as well as transport infrastructure and communications.

Russia can come with different forms of assistance - as a reliable and effective partner.

Several years ago, with the support of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Russian Federation and the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ section on Africa, we began actively advancing and engaging with the African market, thinking about Russian commodity producers who can meet the demands of African users.

Our purpose is to develop Russian small and medium-sized businesses on the African continent and strengthen business networks. Our company, Edinstvo, which means ‘‘unity’’ and of which I am a founding member and the head, is a reliable conductor for Russian enterprises interested in the African market.

The company has been working for a few years now with African business partners and has imported some African goods, such as green coffee, tea, cocoa beans and others.

IPS: After visiting the east African region many times, especially Uganda, what business and trade opportunities are there for Russian business people?

AA: Practically we are trying to get involved in all aspects of the economy. Our company is a partner of important Russian machine-building enterprises. For example, Uganda possesses one of the most developed road networks in the region.

Therefore, one of the priority directions of the business partnership with the country is the export of road building technology and transportation. Another important area is telecommunications.

Because of Russia’s enormous territory, it has significant knowledge of technologies. There are serious Russian companies interested in expansion, and Africa is increasingly appealing to many local Russian investors.

Public health is another important area of collaboration. It is no secret that the countries of Africa need quality medical equipment. However, the cost of such equipment is very high.

Russian manufactured goods are reliable even though many people think they are inferior. Russian companies produce the medical technology and equipment which enables us to perform complex medical tests and research and, in this case, to ensure optimal prices and results.

IPS: How do you specifically see your own trade projects moving forward in the region?

AA: All that I can say is that some attractive African enterprises are ready to collaborate with us in the spheres of tourism, medicine, agriculture, transport and construction. We plan to establish representatives of our company in Ghana, Sudan and Botswana.

IPS: Which Russian products have you delivered to African states?

AA: Long haulage trucks and durable vehicles for African roads; equipment for the processing of agricultural raw materials; industrial machines and medical equipment.

For the Russian companies it is important to enlarge markets and for Africans to obtain quality products at acceptable prices. We are ready and capable of providing goods in any volumes.

IPS: Which obstacles do you face?

AA: There are a few obstacles. Let’s say the insufficiently developed credit and financial systems of African countries…

But it is only a matter of time (before the situation improves) as large Russian banks have already expressed interest in the African market, in particular Russian VTB bank which has opened offices in Namibia and Angola in order to facilitate businesses.

IPS: How would you evaluate African authorities' attitude towards doing business with Russia?

AA: In recent years Russia has become an important investor in African economies. Interregional, cultural and economic ties are established and developing.

The authorities of many African countries are interested in mutually advantageous cooperation with Russia - but they should also create the necessary conditions for cooperation.

Our company Edinstvo contributes to the realisation of these aims. Besides our core work, we also independently publish a bilingual journal dedicated to the development of Russian-African business and printed in Russian and English.

We distribute it among important companies and state structures in Russia and in some African countries.

I would like to say, in conclusion, that Russian-African economic collaboration has a future. From our side we are ready to work towards development and the strengthening of mutually beneficial partnerships. We invite all interested people to join us. (END/2009)


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