By Kester Kenn Klomeagh
The Russia-Africa Investment Forum (RAfTIF) is one of the platforms that seeks to promote business opportunities on the African continent and serves as a bridge between Russian and African business. It primarily seeks to deepen understanding of the business climate, accelerate investment and partnership possibilities in Africa.
Ahead of the first Russia-Africa Investment Forum planned for November, the event's managing director, Irina Awote, explains in this interview, taken by Kester Kenn Klomegah, what potential Russian investors and participants can expect from the African business leaders and politicians, and useful information from thematic discussion panels on the public and private sectors. Interview excerpts:
Q: The first edition of Russia Africa Investment Forum comes up in November, why only at this time nearly three decades since the Soviet collapse?
A: This has mostly been driven by economic factors, first internal that is within Russia, and second, external market influences that have occurred over time. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia primarily focused on building and strengthening its internal economy.
Today, the Russian economy and Russian industries have come a long way since the Soviet collapse – the Russian economy is a lot stronger than in the first two decades following the Soviet collapse, at the same time many Russian enterprises have since evolved and developed, many through partnerships with international organisations.
Russian industrial products are now much more refined and mostly on par with those of their international counterparts, both in terms of quality and appeal. Russian companies have become more savvy and experienced with working with international partners, as well as doing business in international markets.
As such, 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, has 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 & Investment Forum is quite timely in this respect.
Q: Can you point out some of its objectives for stimulating transaction, investment and possibly, flow of corporate deals to Africa?
A: The Russia-Africa Trade & Investment Forum (RAfTIF) aims to present Africa as an investment destination for Russian businesses, whilst promoting further business collaboration between the two regions.
The Forum will provide Russian organisations with the opportunity to explore business investment opportunities in Africa focusing on key economic sectors such as infrastructure, energy, power, agribusiness, health, transport and logistics. At the same time, the forum will provide African organisations with opportunities for strategic partnerships, finance and joint venture collaborations.
The forum’s objective is to help Russian companies to enter and work in Africa, both in exclusive as well as internationally integrated projects, as reliable business partners and expand their presence in the African investment field.
The forum will inform Russian businesses about Africa, in understanding key legal, economic and political issues that surround Doing Business in Africa and at the same time inform African businesses about Russian business offerings.
The forum programme has been designed specifically to provide participants ample opportunities for networking and discussions with a mix of formal and informal gatherings including plenary sessions, panel and roundtable discussion sessions, industry specific breakout sessions, country/state investment briefings and b2b meetings for more detailed discussions and knowledge sharing, making up the two-day programme.
Q: Who will attend/participate? Is it the usual protagonists speaking about the continent, or can we expect something extraordinarily new?
A: Forum participants will be senior executives and decision makers from international companies, government agencies, banking and the investment community from Africa and Russia, as well as ministers of respective industry sectors and is already starting to gather high interest participation of delegations from countries like Nigeria, Ghana, and Kenya with more expected from other African countries. The speaker panel to date features experts from organisations such as the Africa Agribusiness Alliance, African Health Federation, AU Commission for Trade and Industry, Dentons, Control Risks, Renaissance Capital, amongst others.
We are very keen to see strong private sector participation at the event. We 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.
Q: With so many African summits and conferences with foreign countries such as China, India, Japan, Europe and many others, how different are you to the usual narrative regarding the continent?
A: Well, the fact that this event focuses specifically on Russian investment into Africa i.e. focusing on business and investment opportunities between the two regions – this is new and as such already makes it different!
It is the first and only event of its kind to be organised on this level, bringing together thought leaders, policy makers and investors from Africa and Russia including international organisations on one platform to address technical details related to funding projects, establishing partnerships and joint venture collaborations as well as showcasing sectors for viable investment returns.
As a private sector led initiative, the event takes on a much more transactional nature and we expect to have a wider participation of private sector enterprises allowing for more constructive dialogue and opportunity for establishing local partnerships.
Q: Why are you holding an important Russia-Africa event in Dubai? Is there advantage it offers to boost this business event? And what are your final words…?
A: Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, is the chosen location for the event as it offers easy entry access for both Russian and African delegations, and with its excellent connectivity - Emirates airlines, the national carrier, operates frequent routes, serving many cities in Russia and African countries – and its extensive business services, Dubai makes the perfect location as a central meeting point, allowing for wider and increased participation in the forum of business executives from both Russia and Africa.
Dubai is home to regional headquarters of many worldwide corporations and international SMEs, including many Russian and African organisations many of which service their Africa business interests from the Emirates. For participants to the forum, this means that they can take advantage of their participation in the forum in Dubai to tie-in other related business activities at the same time. Making their participation that much more worthwhile and cost effective – both in terms of time and money!
On a final note, we would like to take this opportunity to inform your readers that more information about the event, how to get involved can be found on the event website: www.raftif.com and we look forward to welcoming all to what promises to be a highly informative and interesting event this November in Dubai.
*Kester Kenn Klomegah writes frequently about Russia, Africa and BRICS.