Russia Is Courting Africa In A Bid To Emulate China
While the U.S. isolates itself and ignores Africa, Russia is strengthening ties with countries on the continent in an effort to garner influence and increase investments.
Russia is hosting the first-ever Russia-Africa summit at the Olympic Park in Sochi which hosted the 2014 Winter Olympics. The summit is scheduled for Oct. 23 and Oct. 24.
Representatives from 43 African countries are expected to attend the two-day summit with a focus on trade.
Russia to double trade with Africa
Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to double trade with Africa in the next five years to more than $40 billion, IOL reports.
China has focused on Africa for 19 years, building relationships with countries across the continent and holding the China-Africa Forum every three years.
China has a history of lending money, selling expertise, and peddling influence in the world’s fastest-growing region, which is expected to double its population to 2 billion-plus by 2050.
Russian trade with Africa grew from $5.7 billion in 2009 to $20.4 billion in 2018. By comparison, China is Africa’s biggest trade partner with $2 trillion in investments and construction in the region since 2005, CNBCAfrica reports.
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Since President Donald Trump took office in 2017, his administration made it clear that Africa is not a priority.
Trump has yet to visit Africa since becoming president in January 2017 and famously referred to Africa as home to “shithole countries”.
Earlier in 2019, the U.S. government cut funding to important health programs in Africa, including $252 million for Ebola containment and prevention, TheHill reported.
There are three advantages that Russia can provide to African countries.
First, Russia acts as an alternative partner for diplomatic support among the most powerful countries in the U.N. security council, with the U.K., France, China and the U.S. serving as the body’s other permanent members.
Second, Russia’s state-run energy sector is providing nuclear expertise and resources to technologically deprived countries.
Third, Russia offers military cooperation and relatively cheap arms to countries with small budgets but big security threats such as terrorism, according to OilPrice.