AFRICAN leaders have been urged to speak with one voice, pursue collective rather than individual interests, and work on obtaining concrete results during the Russia-Africa summit that begins in St Petersburg today.
The second summit, which brings together heads of state and business leaders from Russia and Africa, follows the maiden gathering which took place in the port city of Sochi in October 2019. It is expected to be officially opened by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
About 150 journalists, including representatives of African media houses, have descended on St Petersburg to cover the event. Countries represented included South Africa, Ethiopia, Kenya, Senegal, Zimbabwe, Cameroon and Mozambique.
The African journalists who spoke to African Times in St Petersburg said they expected their leaders to pursue collective interests and seek concrete results when they meet with their Russian counterparts. They wanted African delegates to push for mutually beneficial deals in the areas of the economy, agriculture, security, trade and development, as well as science and technology.
Manuel Muchari, a journalist for Noticias newspaper in Mozambique, said African leaders should show unity of purpose when they negotiate with global powers. The best way to achieve the 2063 transformational goals and make Africa an industry power, he said, is collective bargaining.
“What I mean when I say they must come with one voice is that we have seen summits like these with the US, Japan, China [achieving very little], because African states are at different levels of development. They must look for collective gain, not individual gains, because when we do so we tend to fragment our standpoint with these major groups of countries. We need to speak with a collective voice, tell them what we need and move forward,” Muchari said.
He said African leaders should also push for a comprehensive approach to security. They should convince their Russian counterparts to transfer technological skills in the military and agricultural sectors, Muchari insisted, to stabilise the continent and boost food security.
“We need them to transfer technology for agriculture. We should not rely on the import of fertiliser for agricultural purposes, for example. We have vast swathes of land which are unexploited. We need technology to exploit the land. That’s what I expect to see,” added Muchari, speaking outside a media accreditation centre in St Petersburg.
Severin Alega Mbele, a reporter at Cameroon Radio Television (CRTV) in Cameroon, echoed Muchari’s sentiment. He said African leaders should press for concrete results given that the Sochi summit had already laid the ground for cooperation in the areas of peace, security and development.
This included energy, infrastructure development (especially railway and housing construction), modern and high-tech mining and mineral processing, agriculture, digital technologies, geological exploration, medicine, science and education.
“I would like African leaders to be able to work towards obtaining concrete results from their Russian partner in these different areas. Walk the talk. This is what Africa needs today,” Mbele said.
“Relations between States are relations of interest. Africa can export its products to Russia and hear in return the transfer of technologies. Talk about one. Speak with one voice in the face of the security challenges to be met.”
Mame Maimouna, a journalist for All Africa media house in Senegal, said the summit should deal with economic issues which affected her country and other parts of the continent.
“I expect the summit to reach deals that would benefit the entire Africa. Our leaders should talk about agriculture and the policies regarding inflation. I expect the outcome of the summit to be governance, African urbanisation, and action which would benefit all African states economically” she said, standing outside a Covid-19 test centre.
For Henok Tadele, a journalist for the Ethiopian News Agency (ENA), the summit must deliver on food security and payment systems issues caused by the war in Ukraine and Western sanctions against Russia.
“We are being punished for pursuing our interests. The West is punishing us through their financial means that I have already told you about. My expectation is for these financial issues to be solved on a bigger scale. I expect some new financial arrangements, news balance of payment systems to be designed as part of this meeting. If that is discussed, it would benefit Africa,” said Tadele, speaking from a hotel foyer in St Petersburg.
“If there is another way of doing business outside this dollar system, this Euro system, if we manage to pay in our currency to Russia, and Russia sells us everything that we need in our own currency, that would be a very big plus from this summit,” he maintained.
Justin Mahlahla, an online news executive at the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC), had higher expectations of Russia.
“In the form of expertise, in the form of skills, and even the way opportunities are created for Africa to be able to stand on its own and participate in the world economy alongside developed countries such as Russia. So, we are expecting [the] creation of platforms for further development in terms of energy, infrastructure development, food security and also in terms of the politics of Africa, peace and stability,” Mahlahla said over dinner.
A political and international relations analyst from Zimbabwe, Gibson Nyikadzino, said the Russia-Africa summit is crucial because it comes against the backdrop of Western threats to sanction any country that dealt with Putin economically, politically and socially.
However, he said the African voting patterns at the United Nations, mainly abstinence, were an expression of solidarity with Russia following the start of its “special military operation”.
As a result, the “actions, reactions and inactions” of some African leaders towards American threats bordered on fear rather than support for the West.
“But this is probably a show of frustration by a dying unilateral power to an emerging multipolar system. So the expectation now is to locate the interest of Africa now in this meeting [summit]. We need to know what Africa is going to get politically and economically in this post industrial economy where we are looking at economic diplomacy as the anchor of relations among the states,” Nyikadzino said.
“So it mustn’t be about political solidarity. We also need to find out what Russia is preparing to compensate for what Africa has sacrificed, especially after February 24, 2022. The other expectation is to see how Russia would lead both the world as another superpower and as part and parcel of the BRICS group of countries.”
Several African leaders, including South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa, are expected to attend the two-day summit.
The aim of the summit is to promote and strengthen equal cooperation between Russia and African countries in the areas of politics, security, economy, technology, culture and humanitarian sphere.
Putin is expected to address the media during a plenary session today.