By Kester Kenn Klomegah in Moscow
Business opportunities for Russian companies on the African continent will be promoted at the upcoming first edition of the Russia-Africa Trade and Investment Forum (RAfTIF), planned by organizers to be a platform that serves as a bridge between Russian and African businesses, according to RAfTIF website report.
The forum, scheduled for 28 and 29 November in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, with its ease of access for both Russian and African delegates, was chosen as the venue for a broader and more representative participation in the event.
The forum will bring together representatives of state structures and leading companies of various sectors of the Russian economy, as well as business leaders, government agencies in African countries to discuss ways to expand mutual trade and investment cooperation.
The forum is expected to include Ministers of Industry and Trade as well as relevant sectoral ministries of Ghana, Kenya, Zambia, Namibia, Mozambique, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Uganda, South Africa, the Commissioner for Industry and Trade of the African Union, NEPAD, as well as representatives of the African Development Bank, Standard Bank, Afreximbank and many others.
The organisers are working in close partnership with a number of business and trade organisations, such as the African Business Roundtable, East Africa Business Council, Africa Business Initiative – a Moscow based organisation specifically dedicated to developing Russia-Africa business relations, as well as with a number of Russia-Africa trade councils, just to mention a few.
According to the forum’s managing director, Irina Awote, the event primarily seeks to deepen understanding of the business climate, accelerate investment and partnership possibilities in Africa.
“While there has been, for a long time, interest from Russia to revive its old economic ties with Africa, Russia and Russian enterprises are in a much stronger position today to capitalise on this opportunity than a few decades ago.
“At the same time, not ignoring the fact that the continued economic sanctions imposed by the West have made Russia reinforce its strategic partnerships with other regions, and especially Africa where they have had good historical ties from the Soviet era. So, the Russia-Africa Trade and Investment Forum is quite timely in this respect,” said Awote.
According to her, the forum will provide Russian organizations with the opportunity to explore business investment opportunities in Africa focusing on key economic sectors such as infrastructure, energy, agribusiness, health, and transport and logistics. At the same time, the forum will provide African organisations with opportunity for strategic partnerships, finance and joint venture collaborations.
“The delegates will get the opportunity to mingle with key African and Russian government and private sector executives, financiers and investors and learn first-hand the how, where and what of the business opportunities and the viable investment projects that are underway for involvement in the region,” Awote added.
Significantly, the participating delegates will also devote much of the discussions on how to receive systematic credit support and investment guarantee from government and financial institutions for medium and corporate business as well as comprehensive strategic directions in economic cooperation with Africa, she pointed out assertively.
Analysts note that Moscow has worked hard over the last three years to strengthen its economic footprint in a number of African countries. Early in March, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov went on a week-long African tour that focused on southern Africa, Ethiopia in east Africa.
The goal of his visit to Sub-Saharan countries – Angola, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia and Ethiopia – was to promote multifaceted ties and find new areas of cooperation in trade, the economy, research, technology, culture and other areas. Undoubtedly, holding a Russia-Africa forum would undoubtedly help deepen economic cooperation on the full range of spheres in Africa.
“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 know more about each other’s capacities and needs,” Lavrov has frankly acknowledged this fact in the current Russia’s relations with Africa.
Lavrov explains further that Russia’s economic cooperation is not as far advanced as the political ties. However, it has improved over the past few years. As official reports indicated, Russia’s trade with Sub-Saharan countries amounted to $3.6 billion in 2017, compared to $3.3 billion in 2016 and $2.2 billion in 2015.
Similarly, Albert Muchanga, African Union Trade Commissioner for Trade and Industry explained that Africa needs more Russia’s direct investments to enhance the current Africa-Russian trade ties.