Russia is returning to the Black continent after more than 20-year absence and tries to resume and strengthen political and economic ties that have been virtually lost after the collapse of the Soviet Union. During this time, the situation has changed: the best friend of many African countries was China. Beijing launched a vigorous activity on the continent, has launched hundreds of successful projects and win over the local elite. Is there a place of Russia in Africa under the new conditions, found out the correspondent “Tapes.ru”.
Warm weather, bright sun, fresh wind from the ocean. On the streets of Luanda — capital of Angola schoolchildren in starched white robes, the women with pots on their heads, full of vegetables, fruits and sundries, Shoe-shiners in little blue boxes. In the former colony of Portugal, Portuguese is heard everywhere, babbling speech, some houses decorated with the famous Azulejos — the same as in Porto and Lisbon.
it is difficult to believe that a visit to this country actually tried to dissuade the Russian Embassy in Angola: on the website of the diplomatic mission reported that the situation in the country is unstable, darting through the streets of beggars and hooligans. “Travel through the countryside to exercise only during daylight hours, as some areas back roads till date not cleared (…) Since the civil war in the hands of the population is a large number of firearms and bladed weapons (…) the country has a high level of street crime”, say the diplomats.
Angola became the first country in a major tour of Minister of foreign Affairs of Russia Sergey Lavrov. In addition to her, he visited Namibia, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Ethiopia. Since the last visit of the foreign Minister to Africa in 2014 happened a lot of important events. In Zimbabwe overthrew the “dark Lord” Robert Mugabe, has led the country for 30 years. In Angola, resigned from his post, Jose Eduardo DOS Santos, also ruled the state for decades. The unstable situation in Ethiopia — where since mid-February there is a regime of emergency: the Prime Minister of the country amid mass anti-government protests, has resigned.
the poorest country on this list was Mozambique: more than half of the population lives below the poverty line, only a third have access to electricity and water, just six percent use the drainage, about half the adult population is illiterate. As told “Lente.ru” a source in diplomatic circles, usually three Mozambicans graduate from grade school, and then at best go to work as porters and dealers in the worst start to beg.
the richest country — Namibia. Here you feel that you are in the former German colonies: a lot of tourists from Germany, shops that are owned by the citizens of Germany at all unusual for Africans clarity and order. German and African cultures peacefully coexist: the intertwining of traditions is felt in the local cuisine, which was a place for the famous German sausages and beer.
Lavrov arrived in Africa to establish and develop trade and economic relations — in the past few years, they are almost stagnating. The Minister quite a large list of the largest Russian companies potentially interested in investment in Africa: “KAMAZ”, “Rosneft”, “Zarubezhneft”, “Gazprom Neft”, “Rosatom”, “Sukhoi Civil aircraft”. The Memorandum on cooperation in the field of agriculture and the creation of a special economic zone managed to sign only in Zimbabwe, the rest of the talks ended with declarations of intentions, proclaimed in the oral form and does not promise any effect.
In General, the talks and the press conference took place on a similar scenario: Sergei Lavrov said that Moscow is very proud to have helped African countries in the liberation struggle and urged to tighten the economic relationship to a political level. African interlocutors in debt does not remain: thanks for the assistance, stressed that the position of countries on most issues coincide, noting that they hope to help Russia to increase the number of permanent members of the UN security Council at the expense of African countries. Important documents, again, was not signed.
on the one hand, Russia is interested in supporting their initiatives by States of the Black continent on the international arena, on the other — it is too early to speak about any reform. The main difficulty is to decide which of the 53 African countries deserves to have veto power in the security Council and how to treat the other 52 States.
Until the early ‘ 90s Moscow, and African countries are linked by strong friendship. During the struggle for independence from great Britain, France and Portugal, the Soviet Union actively supported the local partisans. However, since the late 80s, the African direction has ceased to be a priority for Russian foreign policy.
Moscow is gradually displaced through the countries of the Black continent, and in 1991 completely disappeared from Africa. Some countries reacted to this with understanding, while others — for example, Mozambique has regarded the incident as a betrayal. To make amends, Russia had to write off a significant portion of debt to these countries. For example, “a devotee” Mozambique recently forgave $ 40 million, and the government has promised Russian money to feed local school children.
Africa is considered to be a gigantic treasure trove is an incredible amount of minerals. In Zimbabwe, for example, is gold, diamonds, platinum and many fields are not developed. No wonder Russia wants to actively participate in the development of these stocks and are even willing to feed African students.
However, to access African mineral resources is not so easy. While Russia has not engaged in Africa, it was engaged in China, and it has managed to occupy different niches in the African business and implemented dozens of successful projects, including build pipelines, and airports. And on reached is not going to stop.
Tempting it seems to Africa and other international players: with her actively cooperate with the EU, USA, India, his interest showed Turkey, Brazil, South Korea and the Gulf States.
increased competition visible to the naked eye: the representatives of different States frequent in Africa with visits. So, along with Laurel on a tour of African countries went to the U.S. Secretary Rex Tillerson visited Chad, Djibouti, Kenya, Nigeria and Ethiopia, and on the way home was fired. A couple of weeks before that, the President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Algeria, Senegal, Mali and Mauritania. Before his arrival on an official visit to Africa, visited the Minister of foreign Affairs of China Wang Yi.
Russia is ready to export to Africa services and technologies, to deliver grain, fertilizer, weapons, equipment, products, machinery. But count on any preferences from Africans Moscow all the same is not: in the Black continent, to all it is pragmatic, and fight for a place under the African sun, Russia will have to equal.
But some progress is still there, Moscow has managed to find its niche in the African business, not fussing with Beijing. In 2014 Russia and Zimbabwe have agreed to jointly develop the second largest in Africa and third worldwide platinum field Darwendale. Only the platinum reserves in the “Darwendale” be about 19 tons and total resources, including gold, Nickel and copper, reach 755 tons. If the project is running, Russia can become a leader in the global platinum market.
the Russian delegation was warmly welcomed not only politicians, but also ordinary people. We met locals, good understanding and speaking Russian. This is not surprising: many Africans have studied and continue to study at Russian universities. Some admitted warm feelings toward Russia, Lenin and Putin.
However, the generations who remember significant financial, material and military aid provided by countries of the Soviet Union in the struggle for independence in the last century, gradually fading, and the youth does not feel obliged to cooperate with Moscow in gratitude for past help.
Africans are spoiled by the attention of China, which has long been pouring considerable funds into the region. The citizens of China are paving the road, develop fields, create joint ventures and easily giving Africans billions of dollars in loans. Airports, ministries, presidential palaces, skyscrapers — all in Africa built by the Chinese.
“They come with suitcases of money, not trying to interfere in the internal politics of African countries”, — said “the Tape.ru” a source in the Russian delegation. Beijing, in contrast to Western countries, do not criticize local rulers for violating the rights of citizens.
the Chinese were able to tightly bind itself to the African elite. On the African continent there are about two million migrants from China. Chinese capital and diplomacy are active even in those African regions that are considered to be unattractive to investors. More than 20 African countries have been opened Confucius Institutes, which are considered essential guides Chinese “soft power.” Thousands of students received Chinese government scholarships and are now studying in major Chinese cities, so soon they will be able to communicate with business partners in their native language.
Africans are afraid to take on any commitments for fear of a bad bargain. Russian companies also show extreme caution, as they fear difficulties when interacting with the unpredictable ruling elites. However, businessmen from Moscow want quick results, and in Africa to achieve this is not easy.
Yes, surprisingly good Russian language still sounds on the Black continent, the Africans know Putin, I remember Lenin, Soviet aid and the flag with the hammer and sickle. Ethiopians are proud of in common with Russia and Pushkin in a conversation with journalists trying to recall the “Grand national”. But the laws of Economics are inexorable: most likely, in the future, the Africans speak Chinese, on the walls of local stores will appear the characters, and about the past relationship with the “Soviet brothers” would prefer to forget, if Russia will not make local projects, such as production of platinum — in full cooperation. Which, of course, will require significant investment.