Russia and Africa: Old Friends and New Opportunities. Results of the Second Russia-Africa Summit

16:14 28.12.2023 • Galina Sidorova , Professor, Diplomatic Academy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Professor, Moscow State Linguistic University, Leading Researcher, Institute of Africa, Russian Academy of Sciences, Doctor of Science (Political Science)

The holding of the second Russia-Africa Summit in July 2023 in St. Petersburg amid the tough confrontation between the West and Russia was a true feat of Russian diplomacy. The preparation of such a large- scale and significant event required a lot of effort from Russian foreign policy officials. Consistently and convincingly explaining, without typical Anglo-Saxon hysteria and fabrications, Russia’s position on international issues, including the Ukraine crisis, and winning African countries over to Russia, which is extending a helping hand to the continent that is home to almost 1.5 billion people, is painstaking and at times exhausting work that remains behind the scenes against the backdrop of positive changes.

Ahead of the second Russia-Africa Summit, Russian President Vladimir Putin wrote an article for readers of leading African media titled “Russia and Africa: Joining Efforts for Peace, Progress, and a Successful Future,” in which he shared his vision of the development of Russia-Africa relations and outlined priority areas for joint work over the coming decade. He emphasized that Russia has “never tried to impose on partners our own ideas about the internal structure, forms, and methods of governance, development goals and ways to achieve them. Our respect for the sovereignty of African states, their traditions and values, their desire to independently determine their own destiny and freely build relationships with partners remains unchanged.”1 This position of Russia has always been appealing to African states, which see our country as a time- tested partner.

While the inaugural 2019 summit was an innovative political breakthrough, the second summit demonstrated the evolution of the meeting of African representatives into stable and, hopefully, fruitful systemic work.

The creation of a favorable climate for fruitful work at the summit was largely made possible by the July 2022 African tour of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his meetings with the leaders of the Arab Republic of Egypt, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Republic of Uganda, and the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, as well as visits in January 2023 to countries such as the Republic of South Africa, Eswatini, Angola, Eritrea, Mali, Mauritania, and Sudan. Once again, it was demonstrated to Russia’s detractors that the era of the undivided domination of Western countries on the continent is a thing of the past.

The result of careful preparations is evident: The forum was attended by representatives of 49 of the continent’s 54 countries, of which 17 were represented by heads of state. This is a high number, considering that many African countries have grappled with the COVID pandemic, faced food crises, and are dealing with complex problems related to the unstable military and political situation in their countries. One example is the coup in Niger, which happened, by tragic coincidence, on the very first day of the summit. In addition, the Congolese-Rwandan conflict has resumed, increasing tensions in the eastern part of the continent. Nevertheless, representatives of the DRC and Rwanda found the opportunity to attend the summit amid these trying circumstances. President Putin noted that African leaders have shown political will, independence, and interest in developing cooperation with Russia.2

In addition, the summit was held in the context of strong pressure on African leaders from Western countries seeking to disrupt the event and subsequently reduce its impact. The German magazine Der Spiegel, for example, spread the myth of Russia’s international isolation and did not want to acknowledge the success of the summit.3 The lopsided coverage and biased commentary of the Western press only testify to the helplessness of the former colonizers and their loss of African countries as allies blindly following orders from Paris or London.

Grasping at straws to save its image on the African continent, the US State Department hastily organized an African tour for Acting Deputy Secretary of State Victoria Nuland to South Africa, Côte d’Ivoire, and the DRC to “undermine the achievements of the Russian Federation and anticolonial aspirations of the peoples of Africa – i.e., to diminish the results of the St. Petersburg Summit.”4 However, Africa has changed since the times of colonialism. Mature African politicians no longer accept European or American standards that are alien to them. They are wary of the intricate paternalistic theories and doctrines of their former patrons and do not hesitate to express their opinions about them. Most of the continent’s states are experiencing centrifugal (from Western tutelage) tendencies, which can be interpreted as a kind of “nationalization” of their foreign policy. African politicians are trying to solve problems independently in the interests of their own states.

Gabonese Prime Minister Alain-Claude Bilie-By-Nze’s interview with France 24 TV channel is illustrative in that regard. The reporter asked: “Don’t you have the impression that today, France’s influence in Africa is in question not only in the Sahel countries (Chad, Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Côte d’Ivoire) but also in countries like yours?” The prime minister replied immediately, firmly, and with a smile: “France’s loss of influence is France’s problem; I’m more interested in Gabon’s influence.”5

The disappointment of African politicians and entrepreneurs in the so- called partnership ties with Western countries is obvious. Although rich in natural resources, what Africa gets from these partnerships is mere crumbs from the table, as traditional “partners” consider the African continent a source of raw materials for profit. And this is proven by the words of Uganda’s leader Yoweri Museveni: “We produce coffee, yet Germany, a non-coffee producing country, earns more money on coffee than all coffee producing African countries combined. I would call it a new form of slavery. All the added value stays in Europe. We want to sell steel instead of iron ore; electric batteries instead of just lithium; chocolate instead of cocoa beans.”6 To this one may also add that England does not grow tea, so beloved by the English; it is essentially a colonial good for England but is considered English.

The Expoforum exhibition center in St. Petersburg was chosen as the venue for the forum. The guests from the African continent were interested in a wide range of issues, including the international situation, nuclear energy, education, mineral resources use, and health care. The attention of the participants was drawn to the exhibits of Russian and African companies showcasing their achievements, including military products.

During the plenary session, attended by the heads of the continent’s major interstate organizations (Chairperson of the African Union and President of the Comoros Azali Assoumani and Chairperson of the African Union Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat, among others), one of the most pressing issues, grain deliveries, was discussed. It was noted that Russia is able to replace Ukrainian grain both on a commercial basis and in the form of free assistance to the most needy African countries. “Russia will be ready, in three to four months, to provide Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe, Mali, Somalia, CAR, and Eritrea with 25,000 to 50,000 metric tons of grain free of charge. Especially since we are expecting a record harvest again this year,” the Russian leader emphasized.7

At a trilateral meeting with Azali Assoumani and Moussa Faki Mahamat, Vladimir Putin said that Moscow expects the African Union to become a full member of the G20 in September, as it considers it a leading regional organization, and will also help make Africa a key partner in the new multipolar world order.8 African countries, in turn, are willing to support Russia.

The leaders who attended the summit expressed their approval of Russia’s policy at the international level. For example, President of Zimbabwe Emmerson Mnangagwa supported the Special Military Operation in Ukraine and expressed solidarity with Russia’s actions. President of Burundi Évariste Ndayishimiye agreed with Russia’s proposal on reforming the UN Security Council and expanding Africa’s representation in the UN.9

A key topic at the summit was the diversification of trade and economic ties. This topic is vast and multifaceted. During Putin’s meeting with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, a 16.4% increase in trade turnover was noted. The Russian leader commented that “the absolute figures could have been even higher,” but $1.3 billion is already respectable. “As for Russia-South Africa relations, they are based on the principles of strategic partnership, and interaction between our countries is becoming more intense and more diverse.”10 Cyril Ramaphosa praised the summit.

Relations with Cameroon are developing successfully. Imports from Cameroon to Russia increased by a factor of 17.5 last year. Vladimir Putin thanked his Cameroonian counterpart Paul Biya for personally heading the delegation. In response, Biya recalled that our countries have been linked for many years by diplomatic relations and thanked Vladimir Putin for the “excellent organization” of the forum.11

Mozambique’s minister of industry and trade, Silvino Moreno, spoke about the country’s pressing problems. “We are implementing Mozambique’s industrialization program and we know that Russia has great potential within its framework, especially in machine building: agricultural machinery, public transport, freight transport. This is what we would like from Russia,” he said. At the same time, the minister expressed interest in developing ties with KAMAZ and said that he had already met with representatives of UAZ.12 Inter RAO-Export and Electricidade de Mocambique signed a cooperation agreement on the construction of the 120 MW Lurio-2 hydroelectric power station in Mozambique.13

African countries are interested in developing transportation and logistics. In Egypt, the assembly of Lada cars is expected to resume with the participation of Russian specialists at the Al Amal plant as early as 2024. Initially, the economy model Granta is to be produced.14

Africa is awaiting Russian investments. According to Azali Assoumani: “Russian investments in African countries have allowed many of them to take the path of development ... of relations that should develop in the interests of the Russian Federation, in the interests of the continent, but also in the interests of the whole world, because Russia is a world power.”15 Moscow has announced its intention to help African countries in energy industry development. Currently, Russia is working on energy projects in 30 countries of the continent.

For example, Rosatom State Atomic Energy Corporation signed a road map with Ethiopia to develop cooperation on peaceful nuclear energy. In addition, Russia and Zimbabwe signed an intergovernmental agreement on cooperation on the peaceful use of atomic energy. Minister of Hydraulics, Energy, and Mines of the Republic of Burundi Ibrahim Uwizeye emphasized that Burundi’s cooperation with Rosatom will enable the country to achieve energy autonomy, which will ensure its economic development. Earlier, an intergovernmental agreement on cooperation on the peaceful use of atomic energy was signed. President of Uganda Museveni announced an agreement with Russia to build a nuclear power plant and invited Russian companies to participate in the exploration of the country’s oil resources and the production of phosphates, ammonia, and electric batteries.16 For his part, the leader of Burkina Faso Ibrahim Traoré said at a meeting with his Russian counterpart that the African country, which is facing energy shortages, hopes for Russia’s help in building a small nuclear power plant. He said that there is a shortage of energy in the whole region. According to Traore, if Russia “gains a foothold in this region, it will be able to generate energy for the entire sub-region.”17

Rosatom first deputy director general Andrey Petrov suggested that the state corporation was interested in creating a system for training personnel and specialists in countries where infrastructure projects are being implemented. “A nuclear power plant is more than just equipment and complex systems; it is first and foremost people. For us, it is not just a commercial project but a technology and infrastructure project, with which we come to a country to stay for about a hundred years,” Petrov emphasized. It should be noted that Rosatom is implementing projects in more than 20 African countries.18

Guinea-Bissau President Umaro Mokhtar Sissoco Embaló has offered to help Russia enter African markets. “We would like to become a so-called door to African markets for Russia,” he said at a meeting with Vladimir Putin. In particular, he drew attention to the fact that Guinea-Bissau could develop cooperation with Russia on oil production and suggested that the Russian government should “more actively promote” Lukoil’s participation in these projects.19 It should be noted that Russian embassies in Equatorial Guinea and Burkina Faso are to be opened in the near future. At present, the Russian Embassy in Côte d’Ivoire is responsible for relations with Burkina Faso.20 According to Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, Russia plans to maximize its representation in Africa. “With Russia’s attention to Africa steadily growing, Russian President Vladimir Putin has set a goal of increasing the diplomatic presence on the continent, which implies opening new offices or increasing the number of staff in existing Russian foreign offices,” she said.21

Cooperation in the oil and gas sector is becoming important for Nigeria. Gabriel Aduda, Nigeria’s official representative to OPEC, said that the country is interested in obtaining Russian oil and gas technologies, as well as attracting companies from Russia to its oil and gas projects. He noted that Africa “has lacked financial resources for many years,” but Nigeria is “not asking for loans but for project financing.” The West African country has the largest oil reserves in Africa and among the largest in the world. According to the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC), as of January 1, 2022, the nation had 37.046 billion barrels of oil and condensate reserves. According to the Statistical Review of World Energy 2023, the country produced 78.4 million tons of crude oil in 2021 and 69 million tons in 2022.22

Russia and Africa are preparing to switch to settlements in national currencies and increase imports of Russian industrial goods to the continent. In addition, Russian companies are willing to transfer to their African counterparts information technologies that may be useful to them in government administration and the banking sector.

On the whole, however, Russia’s foreign trade organizations are still timid in their approach to developing direct ties with African countries. Meetings between Russian and African businesspeople at Russia-Africa summits should become a powerful stimulus for bilateral and multilateral cooperation.

Many African nations are experiencing the tragedy of armed conflict. Lawlessness, violence, and humanitarian disasters are not uncommon on African soil. It is not surprising that the African leaders who attended the summit were interested in Russia’s high-quality military equipment and weapons. In a conversation with his Russian counterpart, Mr. Museveni frankly stated that “his country has become an ‘island of stability’ in Africa thanks to Russian arms supplies.”23 Pantsir-S1 and Tor-M2E surface-to-air missile and gun systems, armored personnel carriers, and the latest T-90 tanks have attracted interest. The Rostec [Russian Technologies] exhibit featured sniper and automatic rifles that could be tried out and assessed.24 Education cooperation remains stable as ever. During the difficult years of the 1960s until now, our country has always trained national personnel. According to data of the Russian Ministry of Science and Higher Education, we have more than 34,000 postsecondary students from Morocco, Nigeria, Algeria, Zimbabwe, Tunisia, Cameroon, Congo, Angola, and Cote d’Ivoire. Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia (named once more in honor of the Congolese freedom fighter Patrice Lumumba) has the largest number of students from Africa – 2,500 from 54 countries of the continent. In the 2022/23 academic year, most of the students enrolled at the university came from Egypt, Nigeria, Zambia, Algeria, and Angola. At the same time, the number of state-supported places under the government quota increases every year: The number of such places increased from 1,700 in 2020 to 4,700 in 2023. African students in Russia are primarily attracted to the fields of mineral exploration, medicine, agriculture, and engineering. Over the years, 310,000 qualified specialists have been trained thanks to cooperation between Russia and Africa.25

The opening of branches of Russian universities in Africa was announced at the summit. There are plans to open branches of leading Russian universities and companies – the National Research Nuclear University MEPhI (Moscow Engineering Physics Institute) and the St. Petersburg Electrotechnical University LETI – on the basis of the Technological University in Alexandria (Egypt). In July 2022, the company Almazgeobur registered a branch in Zimbabwe, where it plans to supply spare parts and assemble equipment from drilling kits manufactured in Russia.26

The Russian language is being successfully promoted. The Russia- Africa Partnership Forum Action Plan 2023-2026 states that Russia and Africa have agreed to create a network of Russian-language education centers on the African continent, and branches of educational institutions from Russia are also to be opened there. In addition, the parties will work on introducing Russian and African languages as foreign languages in general educational organizations. A project has already been launched in 28 African countries to create open education centers to train teachers and educators for preschools and primary and secondary schools. It is encouraging to note that there are plans to expand the network of Russian Centers of Science and Culture (RCSC) – Russian Houses – which will play an important role in the information work of embassies and consulates. There are still too few of them, but they are operating successfully in eight African countries.

With regard to education, the Russian Ministry of Education and Science has signed memorandums of understanding on higher education with several African countries. The importance of educating Africans in Russia was emphasized by Guinea-Bissau President Umaro Mokhtar Sissoco Embaló, who named education a priority of cooperation with Russia.27 Zambia’s Trade Minister Chipoka Mulenga emphasized the same point: “Zambia has a long history of relations with Russia dating back to Soviet times. My country has benefited a lot in terms of education and trade with various businesses. But now it is time to push these relations toward new development.”28

Russian Minister of Science and Higher Education Valery Falkov spoke about network cooperation between universities that allows students to take educational programs from several universities at once. “We have more than 70 intergovernmental agreements. Most of these agreements on the mutual recognition of diplomas, qualifications, and degrees are with countries of the African continent. There are almost 30 of them, [currently] 29; today we should add more,” the minister said.29

Russia, as the successor of the Soviet Union, traditionally continues to provide African countries with humanitarian assistance in the health care sector. During the two-day summit, Russia took steps to strengthen relations with the African continent in this area. In particular, Vladimir Putin announced the launch of a 1.2-billion-ruble program of health care assistance for African countries.

Sylvie Nzeyimana, minister of public health and the fight against AIDS of Burundi, said that the two countries will continue to work in the field of infectious diseases control. The parties have signed an action plan and a memorandum. Russia has already transferred a mobile laboratory to Burundi and will send specialists there. According to Nzeyimana, the countries have many areas where they can begin cooperation, including the fight against the HIV/AIDS epidemic.30 A joint center for the study of infectious diseases will be created in Burundi.

The most important outcome of the summit was the final Declaration and Joint Action Plan until 2026 (the year of the next Russia-Africa Summit). The Final Declaration touched on nearly all areas of mutual cooperation: policy, law, security, trade, economics, science, technology, humanitarian aid, culture, sports, and the environment. It envisages strengthening the coordination of foreign policies and increasing trade and investment flows in industrial cooperation. In addition, the final document states that Russia and African countries have agreed to seek compensation for the damage caused by colonial policies and promote the return of cultural heritage to African countries. In total, the document contains 74 points. The meetings in St. Petersburg also resulted in the signing of declarations on joint antiterrorism efforts, information security, and the nondeployment of weapons in space, among others.

While the inaugural 2019 summit was an innovative political breakthrough, the second summit demonstrated the evolution of the meeting of African representatives into stable and, hopefully, fruitful systemic work. The coordination of Russia’s efforts with African partners in various areas will undoubtedly bring great benefit and advantages to all parties involved. This Russia-Africa platform not only promotes dialogue between Russia and Africa but facilitates an extensive exchange of views between African policymakers themselves, which is no less important for mutual understanding, cooperation, and countering threats to international security.

According to Oleg Karpovich, vice-rector of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Diplomatic Academy, “The St. Petersburg summit was a demonstration of our readiness, together with our longtime associates and partners, to transform individual achievements into systemic multidimensional efforts aimed at liberating the African continent from the legacy of colonialism. The key factor is that this strategy will be pursued not in competition but in cooperation with other centers of power of the emerging era of multipolarity, such as China, India, and Saudi Arabia. The global majority has a logical and formalized understanding of the need to force a historical turning point that will, among other things, give back control to the countries and peoples of Africa over their lives and destinies.”31



1 Putin V.V. “Russia and Africa: Joining Efforts for Peace, Progress, and a Successful

Future,” (Retrieved on July 31, 2023).

2 “Itogi vtorogo sammita Rossiya - Afrika: plany i mirnaya initsiativa,” https://ria. ru/20230729/afrika-1887044331.html?in=t (Retrieved on July 30, 2023).

3 Roeper T. “Sammit Rossiya-Afrika – ‘oglushitelny proval’? Pochemu nemetskiye SMI tak aktivno dezinformiruyut obshchestvennost,” sammit-rossiya-afrika-oglushitelnyj-proval-pochemu-nemeczkie-smi-tak-aktivno- dezinformiruyut-obshhestvennost (Retrieved on July 31, 2023).

4 “Nuland pomchalas na afrikansky kontinent, chtoby kupirovat itogi sammita Rossiya- Afrika,” kupirovat-itogi-sammita-rossija-afrika.html (Retrieved on July 31, 2023).

5 “Razvorot v storonu Rossii podtverzhdaem: ot frantsuzskogo pshika k afrikanskomu shiku,” March 24, 2023, (Retrieved on July 31, 2023).

6 see [2].

7 “Putin: Rossiya bezvozmezdno predostavit afrikanskim stranam do 50 000 tonn zerna,” Vedomosti, bezvozmezdno-predostavit-afrikanskim-stranam-zerna (Retrieved on July 31, 2023).

8 Martynov D. Sammit Rossiya-Afrika 2023 pokazal nastoyashchee i budushchee rossiysko- afrikanskikh otnosheniy, on July 29, 2023, 2023-pokazal-nastoyashhee-i-budushhee-rossijsko-afrikanskih-otnoshenij (Retrieved on July 31, 2023).

9 Ibid.

10 “Putin vstretilsya s Prezidentom YuAR Ramaphosoy,” Vedomosti, https://www. (Retrieved on July 31, 2023).

11 “Putin rasskazal o roste importa iz Kameruna v Rossiyu v 17 raz,” Vedomosti, https:// (Retrieved on August 8, 2023).

12 “ ‘My mozhem gorazdo luchshe, chem seychas.’ Kakiye rezultaty prines vtoroy sammit Rossiya-Afrika,” RBC, 3b0f05b01 (Retrieved on August 2, 2023).

13 “Inter RAO - Eksport i Mozambik podpisali soglasheniye po stroitelstvu GES,” Vedomosti, mozambik- podpisali-soglashenie-stroitelstvu-ges (Retrieved on August 4, 2023).

14 Ilyushenkov D. “ ‘AvtoVAZ’ hochet vozobnovit sborku Lada v Egipte uzhe v 2024 godu,” Vedomosti, egipte (Retrieved on August 4, 2023).

15 see [8].

16 see [2].

17 “Prezident Burkina-Faso poprosil Rossiyu pomoch v stroitelstve AES,” Vedomosti, (Retrieved on July 31, 2023).

18 “Kooperatsiya v sfere vysshego obrazovaniya v sovremennyh geopoliticheskih usloviyah,” Vedomosti, rossiiskie-kompanii-gotovi-obuchat-spetsialistov-dlya-afriki (Retrieved on August 2, 2023).

19 “Prezident Gvinei-Bisau zayavil o gotovnosti pomoch Rossii vyyti na rynki Afriki,” Vedomosti, gotovnosti-rossii-viiti-na-rinki (Retrieved on August 2, 2023).

20 “Putin anonsiroval otkrytie posolstv Rossii v Burkina-Faso i Ekvatorialnoy Gvinee,” Vedomosti, rossii-burkina-faso-ekvatorialnoi-gvinee (Retrieved on August 2, 2023).

21 “Zakharova zayavila o tseli otkrytiya posolstv v Afrike,” August 5, 2023, https://news. (Retrieved on August 5, 2023).

22 “UC Rusal mozhet vozobnovit rabotu zavoda v Nigerii,” Vedomosti, https://www. (Retrieved on August 3, 2023).

23 “V Peterburge proshel sammit Rossiya-Afrika. O chem afrikanskie lidery poprosili Putina i chto gotovy predlozhit vzamen?” (Retrieved on August 2, 2023).

24 Ibid.

25 Mayer A. “Rossiyskiye promyshlennye kompanii gotovy obuchat specialistov dlya Afriki,” Vedomosti, rossiiskie-kompanii-gotovi-obuchat-spetsialistov-dlya-afriki (Retrieved on August 2, 2023).

26 Ibid.

27 see [2].

28 see [12].

29 see [25].

30 see [12].

31 Karpovich O.G. “Pokhorony kolonializma,” Izvestiya, July 31, 2023, https:// (Retrieved on July 31, 2023).


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