Our translation of an article from https://rueconomics.ru/406706-ekonomicheskii-forum-rossiya-afrika-opredelit-perspektivy-sovmestnykh-masshtabnykh-proektov follows with commentary and notes [in brackets] by Vince Dhimos.
The Russia-Africa economic forum will determine the prospects for joint large-scale projects
August 28, 2019
The holding of a full-fledged economic forum at the Russia-Africa summit in Sochi will give impetus to the development of relations between the Russian Federation and the whole continent. African expert Igor Gerasimov, Doctor of Historical Sciences and assistant professor at the Oriental Department of St. Petersburg State University, told FBA Economics Today about this.
The Roscongress Foundation has announced that an economic forum will be held on the side lines of the Russia-Africa summit, scheduled for October 23-24 in Sochi. The main topic of the forum - "Russia - Africa: revealing the potential of cooperation" - will form the basis of the plenary session. They will discuss the development of interaction between entrepreneurs of the Russian Federation and the countries of the "black continent," cooperation in the field of digitalization, nuclear technologies, humanitarian and social spheres. Agreements on joint projects will be concluded.
“Such a large-scale dialogue between Russia and countries of the whole continent has not happened since the collapse of the USSR,” the expert notes. “An event of this level is unprecedented and takes cooperation to a qualitatively new level. This will give a certain impetus to the relations of our country with many countries at once. We must admit "That Africa is a weakened continent and has a lot of problems. But its potential is huge – that is, for the future."
For example, in Africa there are a lot of production and product niches that Russian companies could fill. However, the entrepreneurs of the two countries do not know each other well and interact poorly. But there is a demand for Russian goods in Africa; we only need an adequate response from our side. For example, in Sudan, I occasionally hear that people would like to see our Kalina and other Lada cars there - in terms of price and quality, they compare favourably with other imported counterparts. This demand must be covered. "
More than 3 thousand representatives of African business, as well as heads of Russian companies and leading experts at the international level will take part in discussions of the business program of the Russia-Africa forum. The forum participants will discuss joint projects in the transport infrastructure and the oil and gas industry, as well as interaction of Russian and African banks. Potential projects that will be beneficial for both sides are now being worked out by experts of the two countries.
Key areas of cooperation will be discussed in the framework of three thematic tracks: "Developing Economic Relations", "Creating Joint Projects" and "Cooperation in the Humanitarian and Social Spheres." According to Roscongress, the business sessions of the forum will focus on business opportunities in Africa, security risks, prospects for economic development, digitalization, cooperation in the field of nuclear technology and improving the quality of life on the continent.
“The view that the upcoming summit could mark a new stage in Russian-African cooperation is justifiable. Africa is an economically attractive zone, and it is not in vain that China is actively working on the continent, increasing trade and launching joint projects. Russian companies need to feel the support of the state - this will increase the chances of success in cooperation. The highest-priority area, of course, is agriculture.
For example, Sudan can feed the entire Middle East with the crops that are grown there if large-scale agro-industrial production is established. Russia buys the same mangoes from Brazil, but Sudan is much closer, which means deliveries from there are more profitable. That is, our cooperation is quite realistic in terms of intensifying and focusing on the benefit of both parties. And there are hundreds, if not thousands, of such options for cooperation with the vast continent,” the specialist points out.
A separate block will be a youth program for student exchange, cultural events and other humanitarian contacts. In addition, one of the central topics will be the Russian industrial zone, which will operate in the economic zone of the Suez Canal of Egypt. Agreements on participation in the production project have already been signed by the first eight companies of the Russian Federation. The Russian industrial zone is expected to be launched at the end of 2020 - agricultural enterprises are being set up there. [The corresponding agreement was concluded some time ago but there is very little information on this in the Western press. The subject is well covered, however, in the Russian and Middle Eastern press and also to some extent in Chinese news outlets].
“It is difficult to overestimate the importance of developing cooperation between Russia and Africa: this is not only a promising sales market, but also a strategically important partnership in issues of scientific and technical cooperation, development of oil and gas projects, the agro-industrial complex and the Russian industrial zone. The Russia-Africa forum program covers the whole range of relevant issues of cooperation and growth points,” said presidential adviser Anton Kobyakov, responsible for organizing the forum.
“The Russian side should take into account that there are many launched but unrealized projects with great potential in Africa. For example, at the confluence of the White and Blue Nile, the British in the late 1920s started a project for building several canals that would provide water and would significantly increase areas sown for cotton and cereals. Now the project can be revitalized - it is economically viable and very promising.
Africans need Russian enterprises in the food sector, including sugar processing, as well as mechanical engineering and energy projects. A large Russian company entering the market is capable of launching several projects in different areas at once - up to several dozen. If both sides are aware of the long-term prospects for cooperation, serious results will be obtained," concludes Igor Gerasimov.