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Thursday, 09 June 2011 21:05

Russian, Equatorial Guinean Leaders Discuss Cooperation

By Kester Kenn Klomegah

MOSCOW, June 9, 2011 (Buziness Africa) - Russian President Dmitry Medvedev held an extended meeting with President of Equatorial Guinea and Chairman of the African Union Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo in the Kremlin where both thoroughly discussed bilateral trade and economic cooperation, energy sector relations and, scientific and technical cooperation.

GuineaRussiaAccording to a Russian diplomatic communiqué released and obtained by Buziness Africa, President Nguema was scheduled to arrive in Moscow for an official visit which African experts have described as an important step towards raising Russia's profile with the African country. The visit began from June 6 to 10 and looks to deal with what Moscow called pressing issues of regional and international concerns.

Medvedev and Mbasogo exchanged views on current issues on the international and regional agendas, in particular, the situation in North Africa and the Middle East. They also discussed, in details, a consistent development of African countries, peacemaking, the search for the ways to settle the current conflicts on the African continent that put up major obstacles on the way to attain stability and socio-economic growth in the African states.

Following the talks, Medvedev and Mbasogo witnessed the signing of an agreement on joint activities between Gazprom Neft Equatorial B.V. and Guinea Ecuatorial de Petroleos on the U and T offshore blocks in Equatorial Guinea's waters, and an intergovernmental agreement on mutual protection and encouragement of investment in military technical cooperation. The two countries' foreign ministries also signed a memorandum on mechanisms for holding political consultations.

Shortly after the official Kremlin ceremony, Mbasogo speaking in an interview on local Russian television stressed: "Russia has always been one of my country's most reliable partners in defence, security and trade. Of late, Russian companies have arrived to help Equatorial Guinea tap huge offshore deposits of oil and natural gas. And generally speaking, I believe this cooperation is set to last and bring immense benefits to both sides."

Before the arrival of the delegation, Alexei Borodavkin, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, on June 2 received the newly appointed Ambassador of Equatorial Guinea to Moscow, Filiberto Ntutumu Nguema Nchama.

An exchange of views took place on issues in Russia-Equatorial Guinea relations and on common challenges on the international scene. According to information communique, the two leaders thoroughly exchange opinions on the present state of bilateral relations and restate their readiness to work toward the development and strengthening of ties between Russia and Equatorial Guinea.

Equatorial Guinea is located in west central Africa. It is bordered by Cameroon on the north, Gabon on the south and east, and the Gulf of Guinea on the west, where the island nation of São Tomé and Príncipe is located between Bioko and Annobón. Languages spoken in the country are Spanish, Equatoguinean Spanish and different native languages.

It is the third smallest country in continental Africa in terms of population. The discovery of sizeable petroleum reserves in recent years has altered the economic and political status of the country. It's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita ranks 28th in the world, however, most of the country’s considerable oil wealth actually lies in the hands of only a few people.

Equatorial Guinea remains mired in corruption, poverty, and repression under the leadership of Nguema Mbasogo, the country's president for over 30 years and media reports allegedly said he owns mansions in Maryland and Virginia and banks more than $700 million a year in oil revenues in personally controlled accounts.

Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo deposed Francisco Macías Nguema (his own nephew) on August 3, 1979 in a bloody coup d'état, ordered his predecessor's execution, expelled Soviet advisers and, renewed economic and political ties with Spain.

In Russia, Equitorial Guinea remains largely unknown among Russian political elite, business community and entire society but the Guinean delegation's aim was to take the first step to get across investment information to the business community. So, understandably on June 7, the delegation held extensive business meetings with leaders of the Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry with the participation of members of the African Coordinating Committee on Economic Issues (AFROCOM), African ambassadors, industry directors, potential investors and the media.

Equatorial Guinea is interested in Russia's investments in agriculture and fisheries, President Nguema Mbasogo explicitly said, addressing the Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s meeting.

"One of our key tasks is to guarantee food security," Mbasogo said, adding, "As a country with colossal experience accumulated in the spheres of agriculture and food industry, Russia might render assistance to us. We are also interested in Russia's investments in the fishery sector and in the purchase of agricultural machinery."

"Energy and petrochemical industries are other promising spheres of our interaction. We are sure that the agreements on geological surveys of Equatorial Guinea's shelf deposits and on the protection of mutual investments will allow us to develop the above-mentioned spheres of interaction," the president of the African state said.

Equatorial_Guinea_mapContributing, Deputy Director of the African and Asian Department of the Russian Ministry of Economic Development, N. Chernikov, talked about the economic relations between Russian Federation and African countries to the south of the Sahara, added that the indexes of commodity turnover are sufficiently modest.

However, the Africa countries have very promising markets, first of all, for the Russian goods with the high gross value addition. As far as Equatorial Guinea is concerned, this country manifests the greatest interest in the development of collaboration in the field of power engineering, according Chernikov.

He explained further that Russian companies have the wide experience of work in this sphere of economic activity, and there many to propose to African partners, but the most significant is the exchange of economic information will contribute to the effective development of collaboration, Chernikov stressed in his speech to the gathering.

In the opinion the Director of the Department of Africa, Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sergey Kryukov, pointed out that Africa increasingly more declares about itself in modern world. This is an advantage for African countries, and also for the authoritative regional structure as African Union.

Kryukov said "the policy of Russia in Africa is directed toward the creation of the favorable climate for Russian- African relations, most important components of work are the development of relations in the double-sided size, the direct contact of the representatives of state and business structures. Understandingly, one of the evidence to this is achieved at the highest level during the visit to Russia of the President of Republic Equatorial Guinea."

Professor Alexei Vassiliev, former Kremlin's Special Envoy on African Affairs and now Director of the Institute for African Studies under the Russian Academy of Sciences wrote in an article titled "Russia and Africa: Vying for Mineral Resources" published in Vestnik, pointed out that the leading global economies vying for the African oil and gas resources will exacerbate rivalries between three major players: the European Union, the United States and China. China will steadily increase its presence on the African continent and try to oust the West as a consumer of African natural resources. Other contenders can count on playing only insignificant roles in these processes.


In a number of areas, such as gas production and building oil and gas transport infrastructure, Russia is a strong competitor to the West and China, he said.


"Despite all its problems, Africa is developing faster than the rest of the world. It's important that Russia finds a place of its own in mutually advantageous cooperation with the African countries," according to Russian Professor Vassiliev. (END)



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