Vladimir Putin took part in the plenary session of the Russia–Africa Economic and Humanitarian Forum during the second Russia-Africa Summit on July 27–28, St Petersburg.
- We have a high-profile line-up of participants in the plenary session of the Economic and Humanitarian Forum. I believe it is symbolic that the Russia-Africa Summit starts its programme with this important event. Its tagline is Technology and Security in the Name of Sovereign Development for the Benefit of Humankind, which is highly topical.
- Africa’s potential is obvious to everyone. For example, the average annual GDP growth on the continent in the past 20 years was 4–4.5 percent, which exceeds the world’s average. Africa’s population is approaching 1.5 billion and is growing faster than anywhere else in the world. It is also notable that the middle class, which creates the principal demand for modern goods and services, is growing faster in Africa than in the majority of other parts of the world.
- Russia’s government, business and the public are sincerely interested in further deepening multifaceted trade, investment and humanitarian ties with the continent, which meets the needs of all our countries and promotes stable growth and prosperity. I would like to note that Russia-Africa trade reached 18 billion US dollars last year. It is an obvious result of the Russia–Africa Summit held in Sochi. I have no doubt that by working together we will be able to increase our trade substantially in the near future. Incidentally, in the first six months of 2023 alone, our export-import transactions with African countries increased by over one third. The structure of our trade looks good as well: machinery, equipment, chemicals and food account for over 50 percent of Russia’s exports to Africa.
- We are aware of the importance of uninterrupted supply of food products to African countries. This is vital for their socioeconomic development and for maintaining political stability. This is why we have always given and will continue to give special attention to supplying wheat, barley, corn and other grain crops to our African friends, including as part of humanitarian aid provided under the UN World Food Programme.
- Friends, the numbers speak for themselves: last year Russia’s trade with African countries in agricultural products increased by 10 percent to $6.7 billion, and has already demonstrated record growth in January-June of this year by increasing by 60 percent. Russia exported 11.5 million tonnes of grain to Africa in 2022, and almost 10 million tonnes in the first six months of 2023. All this has been taking place despite the illegal sanctions imposed on our exports, which constitute a serious impediment for exporting Russian food, complicating transport, logistics, insurance and bank transactions.
- We are witnessing a paradox. On the one hand, the West seeks to block our grain and fertiliser exports, while accusing us of the current crisis on the global food market. This is outright hypocrisy. We saw this approach in all clarity with the so-called grain deal. Brokered with the participation of the UN Secretariat, it was initially designed to promote global food security, mitigate the threat of hunger and help the poorest countries, including in Africa.
- However, in almost a year since this so-called deal was concluded, a total of 32.8 million tonnes were exported from Ukraine, of which over 70 percent ended up in high-income and above-average income countries, including primarily the European Union, while I would like to draw your attention to the fact that countries like Ethiopia, Sudan, Somalia and several others received less than 3 percent of this total, or under 1 million tonnes.
- Among other things, the reason Russia agreed to take part in this so-called deal was because it contained commitments to lift the illegitimate obstacles for supplying our grain and fertilisers to the global market. Make no mistake, this is what helping the poorest countries is all about.
- However, nothing of what was agreed upon or what we were promised materialised – none of the conditions related to lifting the sanctions against the exports of Russian grain and fertilisers to the global markets have been fulfilled. Not a single one of them. We even faced obstacles when trying to deliver mineral fertilisers to the poorest countries that need them for free, as we have just discussed during the meeting with the leadership of the African Union. We managed to send only two shipments – just 20,000 tonnes to Malawi and 34,000 tonnes to Kenya, of the 262,000 tonnes of these fertilisers blocked in European ports. All the rest remained in the hands of the Europeans, even though this initiative was purely humanitarian in nature, which means that it should not have been exposed to any sanctions, as a matter of principle.
- Considering these facts, we refused to extend this would-be deal. As I have already said, Russia can well fill in the gap left by the withdrawal of the Ukrainian grain from the global market, either by selling its grain or by transferring it for free to the neediest countries in Africa, especially considering that this year we once again expect to have a record-high harvest.
- To be more specific, let me say that in the next few months, next three to four months, we will be ready to provide, free of charge, a supply of 25,000–50,000 tonnes of grain each to Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe, Mali, Somalia, the Central African Republic and Eritrea, delivered at no cost.
- A few more figures will probably be of interest. Ukraine produced about 55 million tonnes of grain in the past agricultural year. Exports amounted to 47 million tonnes: quite a lot, including 17 million tonnes of wheat. And Russia, colleagues, harvested 156 million tonnes of grain last year. It exported 60 million tonnes, of which 48 million tonnes was wheat.
- Russia’s share of the world wheat market is 20 percent, Ukraine's is less than five per cent. This means that it is Russia that makes a significant contribution to global food security and is a solid, responsible international supplier of agricultural products. And those who claim that this is not the case, that it is only to secure the so-called grain deal to export Ukrainian grain, are simply twisting the facts and telling untruths. As a matter of fact, this has been the practice of some Western countries for decades, if not centuries.
- Our country will continue to support states and regions in need, including with its humanitarian supplies. We are seeking to actively participate in the formation of a more equitable system for the distribution of resources and are doing our utmost to prevent a global food crisis.
- In principle, we are convinced that with the application of appropriate agricultural technologies and the correct organisation of agricultural production, Africa can in the long term not only feed itself and ensure its own food security, but also become an exporter of various types of food. And Russia will only support you, I assure you.
- For its part, Russia is ready to share its expertise in agricultural production with African countries and to provide assistance in introducing the most advanced technologies.
- We are also interested in further developing cooperation with African countries in the energy sector. This interaction is based on vast experience: over many years, Soviet and Russian specialists have been involved in designing and building major power generating facilities in Angola, Egypt, Ethiopia and other countries on the continent, with a total capacity of 4.6 gigawatts and amounting to – I would like to specifically emphasise this, friends – 25 percent of Africa’s hydropower capacity.
- More than 30 ambitious energy projects that involve Russian companies are now underway to varying extent in 16 African countries, with a total capacity of about 3.7 gigawatts. Russia’s RusHydro offers a vast scope of services to African partners, ranging from design and equipment supply to modernisation and construction of new turnkey power generating facilities. Russian companies Gazprom, Rosneft, LUKOIL and Zarubezhneft are involved in developing oil and gas fields in Algeria, Egypt, Cameroon, Nigeria and the Republic of the Congo. Over the past two years, Russia’s exports of crude oil, petroleum products and liquefied natural gas to Africa have seen a 2.6-fold increase.
- Rosatom, our top nuclear energy company, is building El Dabaa Nuclear Power Plant in Egypt. This state corporation can share its unique expertise with African countries, as well as unparalleled technologies in non-energy peaceful use of atom, such as in healthcare and agriculture.
- Promoting deeper cooperation between Russia and Africa in manufacturing has special importance. The continent knows Russia for its industrial goods, including cars, construction equipment, and many other products, which enjoy high demand and are known for their quality, reliability, and ease of use. Special service centres in Africa offer maintenance services for Russian equipment and machinery.
- In Egypt, as my colleague President Sisi and I discussed yesterday, we are in talks to establish a Russian Industrial Zone near the Suez Canal. I hope that we will be able to launch it soon. We expect the construction of its first manufacturing facilities to begin this year so that the goods made there can be exported across Africa.
- As a leader in ICT, Russia seeks to promote deeper cooperation with African countries in information security, AI, and the digital economy.
- In order to expand the range of our trade and economic ties, we should use national currencies, including the ruble, more energetically in the financial settlement of our commercial transactions. In this context we are ready to help African countries develop their financial infrastructure and to connect their banking establishments to the Financial Messaging System created in Russia, which can be used to make cross-border payments independently of some Western systems that are adopting restrictions. This will allow us to enhance the stability, predictability and security of mutual trade.
- Russia is actively reorienting its transport and logistics flows to the Global South, including Africa, of course. The North-South transport corridor that we are building is designed to provide Russian products with access to the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean, with further connections via the shortest sea route to the African continent, among other regions. Naturally, this corridor can be used in reverse to deliver African goods to Russia.
- Connecting the North-South transport corridor with Africa, lunching regular freight lines, which is our goal, and opening a Russian transport and logistics hub in a port on the eastern shore of Africa could be a good start of our cooperation. We consider it extremely important to expand the network of direct flights to Africa and to contribute to the development of the railway network in Africa. These are the most important goals of our time that we invite our African friends to tackle together.
- Russia is interested in strengthening its ties with regional economic integration associations and structures in Africa across the board. For example, we support establishing cooperation between the Eurasian Economic Union – a major integration project and Russia is part of it – and the African Continental Free Trade Area within the African Union. We are also ready to share with our African partners our experience in promoting integration between Russian and Belarus within the Union State.
- I would also like to draw your attention to the fact that bilateral intergovernmental commissions have proven their worth in promoting economic and humanitarian cooperation. However, so far, we have these commissions with only a third of African countries. There are 18 of them for 54 countries. In this context, we suggest that the interested African countries who have yet to join this format should think about working with us to establish these commissions. It goes without saying that we are ready to move in this direction and believe that this would be beneficial.
- Of course, training of skilled personnel has always been and remains a traditional area of Russia-Africa cooperation. We discussed this issue just now at a meeting with the African Union leaders.
- Nearly 35,000 African students are studying at Russian universities, and this number is growing every year. The quota for African students financed from the federal budget has increased by 150 percent over the past three years and will exceed 4,700 people in the next academic year.
- We plan to open branches of the leading Russian universities in Africa. Close ties are being developed with African educational institutions within the framework of the Russian-African Network University. An agreement on the establishment of the Russian-African consortium of technical universities, the Subsoil Resources of Africa, was signed at St Petersburg Mining University on July 26, ahead of this forum. It provides for the joint training of professionals for the mineral resources sector. I regard this as an extremely important and interesting area for cooperation.
- We will continue to help our African friends develop not only the system of higher education but also general and vocational schools, train teachers, mentors and technical personnel for schools and colleges, as well as establish joint schools for which adapted teaching aids based on a combination of Russian and African national education programmes are being prepared.
- We propose considering the possibility of opening schools in Africa with a series of subjects taught in Russian. I am confident that the implementation of projects such as the study of Russian and the introduction of Russia’s high educational standards will create the best foundation for our continued mutually beneficial and equal cooperation.
- More than 10,000 Africans currently studying in Russia are being trained in medical specialties. Healthcare and the fight against epidemics are an important area of Russia-Africa cooperation. Let me remind you that Russia was among the first countries to come to the aid of African countries during the coronavirus pandemic: we sent millions of Russian test kits to African countries free of charge and together with South Africa conducted scientific research on new strains of the dangerous virus. Just in recent months we handed two Russian mobile laboratories over to our partners from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and continue to equip the Russian-Guinean centre for the study of infections in Kindia, where more than 20 diagnostic products have been developed. About 1,500 local specialists have been trained in Russian infection prevention and control methods. A joint centre has also been established in Burundi to study infections.
- A large Russian programme has been developed and will function until 2026 to assist Africa in countering infections, for which 1.2 billion rubles will be allocated. Under this programme, 10 mobile labs will be supplied, hundreds of specialists trained, and joint research carried out.
- Every year, Russia and Africa have more and more youth exchanges… I would like to use this occasion to invite our young African friends to come to Russia in March 2024, when the World Youth Festival will be held in Sochi. It’s a major forum that will bring together young people from all over the world. We expect over 20,000 participants from more than 180 countries.
- We invite African athletes to take part in the University International Sports Festival, which will be held in August in Yekaterinburg, in the Urals, and in the Games of the Future, which Kazan will host in February and March 2024. These games are a unique combination of dynamic sports and the most popular video games and technological devices. This new competition format combines classical and innovative sports.
- We propose creating a common information space of Russia and Africa, where Russian and African audiences will have access to objective and unbiased information about world events.
- Russia is sincerely interested in continuing to promote all-round development and deepen trade, economic and humanitarian cooperation with all African countries.
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