A historic Russia-Africa summit kicked off on Wednesday with representation from all states of the African continent, Africa Tembelea has learnt.
The summit held in the Black Sea city of Sochi opened with the Russia-Africa Economic Forum where Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Egyptian counterpart, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi greeted participants.
In his speech at the plenary session of the summit, Putin told African leaders the current level of trade between Moscow and the continent was “not enough”
“We currently export to Africa $25 billion ($22.5 billion) worth of food — which is more than we export in arms, at $15 billion. In the next four to five years I think we should be able to double this trade, at least,” Putin said.
The Russian leader, used the opportunity to hold meetings with a number of African leaders, including Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, Namibian President Hage Gottfried Geingob, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, Central African Republic President Faustin-Archange Touadera, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and heads of regional organizations.
President Putin discussed the possibilities of cooperation in military, education, mining, energy, and infrastructure.
Russia has dominated arms sales in Africa but this time, the Russian President promised further African cooperation without “political or other” interference. This comes as a reassurance to African states who have previously expressed concerns about dependence on China.
According to DW, Putin also pledged Russian commitment to combat the Ebola virus with aid, and the training of “African cadres” by Russian universities.
On his part, Egyptian President and African Union chairman Abdel Fattah al-Sisi — co-chaired some sessions, said Africa had come a long way on the road to economic integration, and that this particular summit was a good platform to offer various investment and trade opportunities between Moscow and Africa.
“This will hopefully enhance the interdependence and communication between our peoples, contribute to the development of the African continent in accordance with the vision of the African Union Development Agenda 2063,” said Al-Sisi.
“The aspirations of our peoples should push us all together to realise their legitimate hopes and aspirations for peace, stability, economic progress and development. We must also benefit from successful economic experiences, especially the Russian experience, which reflects a solid will and ability to work and accomplish,” Al-Sisi added.
The Egyptian president also highlighted Africa’s efforts to achieve economic and political reforms such as the signing of the continental free trade zone which was launched in July 2019.
He went on to invite, “all private sector companies, Russian and international, and international financial institutions to cooperate and invest in Africa,” saying that this is the perfect time to open up to the continent.
On Thursday, the participants of the summit will discuss ways to expand political, economic, technical and cultural cooperation at a plenary meeting.