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Russia-Africa Summit: Kenyan consultant says reducing reliance on dollar might ease vulnerability of African countries

John Mwangi PHOTO/COURTESY

Over the last few months, there has been a push by a section of world leaders to reduce dependence on the Dollar, now the world’s dominant currency, especially used as a medium of exchange.

And a Kenyan business consultant John Mwangi believes there is justification for this push. Mwangi who is attending the ongoing Russia-Africa Forum in St. Petersburg says moving away from the use of US Dollar might help to reduce instances where the American currently has left many developing countries vulnerable.

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“I have nothing against the dollar. And it is still necessary for international trade. But I think it’s important to trade with other regions like yours, especially when there are some political problems and we have problems in our country,” he said during an interview

“The question is, why should I trade with neighboring countries in the same region in dollars rather than using my own currency to trade and thus making my life easier?” he posed

Mwangi says the ongoing discussions both at intergovernmental level in Africa as well as with the BRICS system on finding an alternative currencies of trade are crucial especially if the use of dollar disadvantages other countries and their economies.

“I think I would like to see progress on how Russia can strengthen its ruble so that we can trade in rubles and in our currency. Right now inflation is very high. The dollar is very strong against our currencies, certainly because of political issues,” he said

“We feel that the cost of imports has become very high. Because we have to convert local currency into dollars. We have to change that, but it’s a matter of time. No problem, we can continue to trade in dollars, but we need different options to make our trade a little bit easier,” noted the consultant

On the decision by Russia to withdraw from the grain export deal, Mwangi expressed hope that the Russian government will consider going back to it, arguing that the African continent would suffer most from the move. He said Moscow should consider reopening the deal so that everyone can get at least some of the grain that is so much needed in that part of the region even as he expressed hope the matter will be resolved amicably.

“I know Russia is a good country and it will not abandon Africa.  Many African leaders are part of this Russia-Africa summit. Putin and the Russian government will think about how to get things going again,” he said

Russian technologies

Also an IT expert, with interest in connecting international technology companies with local opportunities in Africa, he says he is full of optimism that the Russia-Africa summit will yield fruitful outcomes. He believes Russia can play an important role in Africa’s development especially through innovations and advancements in technologies.

“Russia has done a lot to improve governance in the country. This cannot be done manually.  Today, there are many opportunities to borrow from the success you have achieved here, meaning digitalization in public services, medical and cadastral registration, which is lacking in most African countries,” he said

He says there is need for technology companies from Russia to go to Africa and help the people take advantage of opportunities in the internet and IT.

“We can learn a lot from Russian companies, collaborate with them in governance, like smart cities, certainly in the digitalization of government processes, and other areas like rural activities. When I was flying here, one of my partners in Africa, who has a telecommunications company, said to me, “John, remember, we have a GSM license, but not everybody is connected to the GSM network in Africa, especially in rural areas,” he said

Mwangi added; “We have the technical capacity to build towers in rural areas. There are a lot of people there who have bought smartphones, they don’t have a signal. And we have the technical capacity to set up towers in rural areas, of course, in partnership with African companies that have a GSM license, and be able to provide GSM services within a radius of, for example, 10 km, which will connect a large part of the population to the world,”

At the same time, Mwangi sees potential cooperation with Moscow in the deployment of Russian technology companies in data centers. He says Russia can help in setting up the centers using its technologies which today are among the best in the world.

“There are many great opportunities. I will give you an example. One Russian company came to my country and did it blindly because they didn’t know anyone. I organized a meeting for them with one of the business development executives, a representative of the country’s government in Kenya, East Africa. We formed a business portfolio. When we met, he talked to me and we created a very unique solution. This solution has to do with application performance management. It is unique. There are other players doing the same thing, but this firm has an advantage in that their offering is unique in terms of prices,” he disclosed

“I am appealing to Russian companies: come to Africa and give it a try. We can prepare a feasibility study, also I think we can organize a forum with IT companies, they can come and show their products. Don’t wait any longer for Russia to develop faster on the African continent,” he said

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