By Ringine Mutwiri
The first Russia – Africa Summit, which took place in October 2019 in Sochi Russia, hosted over 40 African presidents with the then President Uhuru Kenyatta and his team. The summit was aimed at strengthening economic ties between Russia and African countries.
The effect of the event was immediately felt in the Kenyan environment as it quickly acted on some of the areas it focused on strengthening, such as; Trade and Investment, Energy Cooperation, Infrastructure Development, Technological Cooperation and Military Cooperation.
It is interesting to note that from the time of the last summit up until, the Kenyan Government has hosted several delegates from the Russian Business community, taken part in exhibitions and is currently experiencing a robust and healthy relationship with the Russian Federation and mostly in the areas of trade and investment. Like most of the other partner nations, Kenya has seen a rise in trade volume between the both nations in the last couple of years.
In May 2023, the Kenyan Government signed a trade pact with Russia aimed at boosting cooperation between businesses of both Nations, as President William Ruto hosted the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov in Nairobi.
In 2021, Russia exported to the tune of over $280M to Kenya. The main products that Russia exported to Kenya are Wheat (about $ 200M), Semi-Finished Iron (about $80M), and Mixed Mineral or Chemical Fertilizers ($20M). During the last 25 years the exports of Russia to Kenya have increased at an annual rate of 19.6%, from $3.22M in 1996 to $281M in 2021. In the same year, Kenya exported about $100M to Russia. The main products that Kenya exported to Russia were Tea ($100M), Cut Flowers ($35M), and Tropical Fruits (about $100M). During the last 25 years the exports of Kenya to Russia have increased at an annualized rate of 22.7%, from $606k in 1996 to $99.9M in 2021, while imports increased by $3.4M (69.4%) from $4.9M to $8.29M in 2022.
In January 2022, the top exports of Russia to Kenya were Raw Aluminium (85M), Whe Wheat (ppM), and Wheat ($26.4M). In January 2022 the top imports of Russia from Kenya were Tea ($8.74M), Tea ($8.16M), Tea ($8.03M), Tea ($7.89M), and Tea ($7.83M).
Key players in the African economy including Kenya have stepped up their games in the energy sector in partnership with the Russian Federation with several nuclear plants and energy projects being constructed, even as ROSATOM (Russia’s state owned energy company) has chosen to educate several African students on energy programmes for free. Other African countries have also recently benefited from Russia’s military assistance and cooperation, while not leaving different areas of the economy unturned.
The second Russia – Africa Summit has been slated for the 27th – 28th of July which will be taking place in the former Capital City of the Russian Federation – St. Petersburg, and its main essence is to strengthen the first. The summit would serve as a platform for Russian and African leaders to engage in dialogue, discuss bilateral and multilateral issues, and explore opportunities for cooperation. It could cover a wide range of topics, including trade, investment, infrastructure development, energy, security, healthcare, and education.
The global impact of this summit would depend on the outcomes and agreements reached during the event. Here are a few potential global impacts that could arise from a second Russia Africa Summit:
- Strengthened diplomatic ties: The summit would provide an opportunity for Russia to deepen its diplomatic relationships with African countries. It could result in the signing of more joint agreements and memoranda of understanding, enhancing a stronger political cooperation between Russia and African Nations. Diplomatic ties between African countries and Russia have existed for many years, with historical connections dating back to the era of the Soviet Union. Since the end of the Cold War, Russia has continued to strengthen its relationships with African nations through various diplomatic initiatives. The BRICS alliance has recently received a wave of interest from several African Nations.
- Increased trade and investment: Discussions during the summit could focus on expanding trade and investment between Russia and African nations. This could lead to the establishment of new business partnerships, trade agreements, and investment projects. Enhanced economic ties could have a positive impact on global trade flows.
- Infrastructure development: Infrastructure is a key area where African countries seek foreign investment. If Russia pledges support for infrastructure development projects in Africa, it could help boost economic growth and improve connectivity within the continent. This, in turn, could have spill over effects on global trade and regional integration.
- Energy cooperation: Russia is a major player in the global energy market, particularly in oil and gas. Enhanced energy cooperation between Russia and African nations could result in increased energy exports from Africa, contributing to global energy security and diversification, which will definitely contribute to the growth of the continent’s economy, having Russia as a reliable partner.
- Geopolitical implications: The increased engagement of Russia in Africa could have geopolitical implications. It may be perceived as a counterbalance to the influence of other global powers in the region, such as China, the United States, and the European Union. This could potentially lead to a more multipolar world order and impact global power dynamics.
- Education: Till today the Russian Federation is one of the biggest provider of educational services to the African continent at larger, by keeping up with its culture of giving free education through the Russian government scholarship programmes, that had been in existence since the days of the soviet union. This year alone, the Russian ministry of Education has announced it will be given 15,000 free scholarship spaces to students from all continents of the world. It is worth specifying that since the last summit, several programmes have been implemented towards improving on the bilateral agreements with nations and it is certain that the second summit will address the strategies to strengthen them.
It is important to note that the actual impact of a second Russia Africa Summit would depend on the commitments made and actions taken by participating countries following the event. The outcomes could contribute to shaping Russia’s relationship with Africa and have broader implications on global political and economic dynamics.
Ringine Mutwiri is a political consultant and current affairs commentator