RUSSIAN RELATIONS WITH SUB-SAHARAN AFRICAN COUNTRIES IN 2005
One of the important components of Russian foreign policy is our multivector purposeful work to strengthen the traditionally friendly relations with the states of Africa, which we regard not only as good and time-tested, but also as very promising partners.
Thanks to persistent efforts over the recent period, Russian relations with Africa as a whole and sub-Saharan African states in particular are acquiring new dynamics. The political dialogue is developing along an ascending line, and positions are being coordinated on key aspects of the international agenda, including the construction of an equitable and democratic world order, the strengthening of the central role of the United Nations, the struggle against terrorism and extremism, and counteraction against other new challenges and threats.
Great importance is attached to regular contacts with the top leaderships of the African countries. Taking 2001 as the starting point, we currently have on the credit side of Russian-African relations the visits to the Russian Federation of the leaders of Gabon, Guinea, Nigeria, and Ethiopia, the first visit of the Chairman of the Government of Russia to the continent - South Africa, Ethiopia and Tanzania - the Russian Foreign Minister's tour of African countries (South Africa, Angola, Namibia, Tanzania), and a series of visits to Russia of Foreign Ministers of African states.
Fairly intensive was Russian-African political engagement in 2005 as well. At the Group of Eight summit in Gleneagles a meeting of President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin with South African President Thabo Mbeki took place.
There was a regular exchange of messages, both at the highest and at a high level, including those between leaderships of various ministries and departments as well as between parliaments.
An additional impulse to Russian-African cooperation came from the visits to Russia of Foreign Ministers Jean Ping of Gabon, Ali Mwakwere of Kenya, Oluyemi Adeniji of Nigeria, Cheikh Tidiane Gadio of Senegal, Ali Said Abdella of Eritrea, Seyoum Mesfin of Ethiopia, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma of South Africa and other officials from a number of African states.
Over the past year more than twenty political consultations were organized with the diplomatic agencies of African countries (Benin, Burkina Faso, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Cabo Verde, Cameroon, Cote d'Ivoire, Mauritius, Madagascar, Namibia, Nigeria, the Republic of Congo, Senegal, Tanzania, and the Republic of South Africa). The exchange of views once again confirmed the similarity, and in many cases also the complete identity of the positions of Russia and the African states on virtually the entire spectrum of key problems in world politics, which served as a good basis for constructive engagement on the international scene, including the UN.
It is necessary to note the appreciable role in promoting Russian relations with the African countries which inter-parliamentary cooperation played. The trip of a Russian parliamentary delegation led by Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Georgy Boos to Mozambique and Angola had positive repercussions. There was signed a protocol on cooperation between the State Duma of Russia and the Assembly of the Republic of Mozambique. A delegation of the Russian State Duma also visited the Republic of Equatorial Guinea. Delegations from the Senate of Madagascar, the National Assembly of Botswana led by its Speaker Patrick Balopi, and the Senate of the Democratic Republic of Congo led by its President Pierre Marini Bodho paid official visits to Moscow.
I would like to especially stress that those contacts really contributed to promoting the whole range of Russian relations with the sub-Saharan African states, and shaping a favorable political climate for the expansion of multifarious practical cooperation with the continent.
One important area of work remained the strengthening of engagement with the largest continental organization, the African Union. The elaboration continued of questions related to the signing of a document on the principles of relations with the pan-African forum. In October 2005 the Russian ambassador to Ethiopia was accredited to the African Union Commission. Contacts were maintained with the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and other sub-regional organizations.
Russian representatives took part in international forums on African problems: the consultative meeting of the Conference on the Great Lakes Region in New York, the donors conference on the Union of the Comoros in Port Louis, and a number of other such meetings.
Priority attention in the African sector continued to be given to intensifying trade-and-economic cooperation, whose present level so far does not match the existing considerable potential. Great importance was attached to enhancing the effectiveness of the activities of existing and the formation of new intergovernmental commissions on economic, scientific and technological cooperation (IGCs). The sessions of the IGCs with South Africa and Angola, held in 2005, had useful dividends. An agreement was signed to establish a Russian-Namibian IGC.
Constantly kept in the field of vision were the questions of expanding and improving the juridical base of Russian-African relations. There were signed the Agreement on Cooperation in the Field of Marine Transport with South Africa, and the memorandums on cooperation between Russia's Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the chambers of commerce of Angola and South Africa and on visa-free trips on diplomatic and service passports with Botswana.
Comprehensive assistance was lent to the expansion of the presence in the region of Russian entrepreneurial structures participating or interested in the implementation of a number of large-scale investment projects in Africa, inter alia in the sphere of mineral resource development. It is about the activities of primarily such big companies as ALROSA, and Tekhnopromexport in the Democratic Republic of Congo (the development of diamond fields) and Angola (development of the Catoca and Luo diamond fields and construction of the Capanda HPP and a hydro-electric scheme on the Chicapa River, Hydrochicapa); RUSAL in Guinea (bauxite mines development and alumina production), Nigeria (participation in the privatization and modernization of the Aluminum Smelter Company of Nigeria (ALSCON), Ghana (plans to develop bauxite mines and acquire an aluminum plant), the DRC and the Republic of Congo (an energy pool project for providing a bauxite processing plant with electricity); RENOVA in Gabon (plans for the joint exploitation of manganese ore deposits) and South Africa (development of manganese ore deposits); the Klyuchevsky Ferroalloy Works in the DRC (joint development of rare earth metals); and Zarubezhneft in Nigeria (the obtaining of the right to participate in the exploration and development of two oil areas). As a result there continued to be accumulated a valuable practical experience in mutually beneficial cooperation in the economic sphere, with the "bridgehead" gradually expanding for the further intensification of the entry of Russian entrepreneurial structures into African markets.
Russian-African scientific and technical ties were being developed, including cooperation in the field of high technologies. In July 2005 Moscow hosted the fourth session of the Commission on Scientific and Technical Cooperation between Russia and the Republic of South Africa, at which the sides' interest was affirmed in carrying out joint studies in the area of energy technologies, in the fields of physics, mathematics, radio astronomy, and astrophysics, and in the exploration and utilization of outer space for peaceful purposes.
All of this helped consolidate the positive dynamics in trade with the countries of sub-Saharan Africa, which, by preliminary estimates, at the end of 2005 came close to 1 billion dollars.
Of course, when talking about cooperation with African countries in the trade-and-economic sphere one still has to refer to a number of difficulties as well, including primarily the insufficient degree of awareness among the Russian and African partners of the potential and requirements of each other. At the same time, I would like to once again state that no obstacles of a principled character to the successful development of mutually beneficial Russian-African cooperation in the most diverse fields exist, and to express the confidence that the existing difficulties can well be and necessarily will be overcome by joint efforts.
For its part, Russian diplomacy is doing its best to facilitate that comprehensively. Our embassies in the continent's countries and the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on a regular basis forward information of an economic character to specialized Russian agencies, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the largest companies, and render assistance in organizing business forums and presentations, including those under the auspices of regions. In particular, there was provided necessary diplomatic support of the participation of representatives of our entrepreneurial structures in the World Oil and Gas Congress in South Africa, in the international conference Russia-South Africa: Business in Developing Markets, and in other similar undertakings.
The focus of attention of the Russian foreign affairs agency and the diplomatic and consular representations of our country operating in Africa is invariably questions related to the protection of the rights and interests of Russian citizens. I can give as an example the situation with our seamen members of the crew of the African Pride tanker who were on trial in Nigeria. In close coordination with other Russian agencies and departments, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs undertook energetic efforts to have them released. This theme was discussed in straightforward contacts between Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Sergey Lavrov and his Nigerian counterpart, Oluyemi Adeniji, and was the subject of a number of messages sent to the Nigerian leadership. The potential of inter-parliamentary dialogue, the Russian Orthodox Church, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Ara Abramyan, and public organizations was enlisted to unblock the situation. As a result on December 14, 2005, our fellow citizens were released and returned home. In cooperation with the authorities of Angola, painstaking work continued to ascertain the fate of the Russian pilots who went missing in that country in 1998-2000.
Separately I would like to dwell on such an important theme as the participation of Russia in international measures in support of Africa. Our country continued facilitating the adoption of the appropriate resolutions in the UN and other international organizations, was jointly with the Group of Eight partners realizing the Africa Action Plan directed at assistance to the implementation of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) program, and other G8 accords on African problems, including those reached at the last summit in Gleneagles.
We took an active part in the activities of the Africa Partnership Forum (APF), including the preparation of the Draft Joint Action Plan of the APF and documents which will govern the work of its secretariat, and in the elaboration of the modalities of the establishment, and the arrangement of the practical functioning, of an Infrastructure Consortium for Africa.
Preparations were being carried out to ensure a continuity in the activities of the Group of Eight in the African sector during the period of Russia's G8 Presidency by including African problems in the overall context of the priority themes of our Presidency - such as energy security, education, the fight against contagious diseases - as well as by holding a session of the Africa Partnership Forum in Moscow next October. In addition, it is borne in mind to render definite assistance in holding the April meeting of the Forum in Africa, to organize, in the framework of the APF, individual undertakings of the personal representatives of the G8 leaders for Africa, and to hold in Moscow two expert meetings on peacekeeping on the continent.
As a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, Russia made a weighty contribution to the efforts of the world community for consolidating military-political stability in Africa, including the elaboration, in the framework of the Security Council, of a strategy for resolving specific armed conflicts and the determination of the mandates for the relevant peacekeeping operations. Russian peacekeepers were involved in all the UN peacekeeping operations in Africa: in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Western Sahara, Cote d'Ivoire, Liberia, Sudan, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia and Eritrea. There were elaborated the practical aspects of Russian structures joining in the implementation of the international programs for strengthening the African anticrisis potential.
One major thrust in Russian assistance to Africa remained the easing of the debt burden of the region's states under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative. By now Russia has written off or pledged to write off 11.3 billion US dollars of Africa's debt, including 2.2 billion dollars under the HIPC Initiative. The possibility is being studied of a full HIPC debt write-off by Russia on loans not falling under the criteria of official development assistance. In the event of the implementation of this move the extent of our country's additional debt write-off for African states under the HIPC Initiative will come to 750 million US dollars. Work on settling debts of the continent's states was also carried out on a bilateral basis. In 2005 the relevant agreements were signed with Madagascar, the Republic of Congo, Ethiopia and talks were held with Zambia.
The states of the continent continued to enjoy the extensive trade preferences provided by Russia. In accordance with our legislation, import customs duties are not levied on the traditional export goods of least developed countries, including African, nor are any quantitative restrictions on import applied to them or antidumping, compensating or other special protective measures introduced against them. Under the preferential regulations falls the bulk of Russian imports from Africa.
As in the previous period, substantial assistance was being rendered to the African states in the sphere of the training of national personnel. In 2005 the Government of the Russian Federation allocated for the sub-Saharan African countries a total of about 700 government scholarships for training in Russian universities and colleges and getting a post-university education. A considerable number of African citizens continued to study in our country on a compensation basis.
Weighty assistance was being provided in the field of public health. In accordance with the previously adopted decision on the donation by Russia in 2002-2006 of 20 million US dollars to the Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, by the end of 2005 15 million US dollars was transferred to the Fund. Under the decision to make to the Fund in 2005-2008 an additional donation of 20 million dollars, a quarter of the said amount was transferred in 2005 for these purposes. In May 2005, Russia completed paying the donations pledged by it in 2003-2004 to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative in the amount of 8 million dollars. Russian doctors continued working in a number of African countries.
The questions of rendering the continent's states humanitarian assistance retained their urgency. There was implemented the decision that Russia would, starting with 2005, make donations for humanitarian activities under the auspices of the UN World Food Program on a regular basis. In 2005 11 million dollars was directed for these purposes, and the same amount is planned for 2006.
The principled policy in support of Africa, which Russia intends to abide by in the future as well, has helped tackle the tasks of ensuring global stability, and creating more favorable conditions for the development of fruitful cooperation with the African countries.
In conclusion I would like to express the confidence that Russian-African relations, resting on a solid foundation of mutual trust and respect, will continue to be developed in the interests of the peoples of our country and the continent's states.