Russia has made military-technical cooperation its key component in relations with Africa, and African leaders with high enthusiasm express readiness to pay for deliveries. Some African leaders have bartered for such deliveries by granting complete access to lucrative natural resources. Reports indicate that Russia has signed military-technical agreements with over 20 African countries.
Angola stands distinctively out the 20 African countries. President João Lourenço went on an official working visit in April 2019, held talks with President Vladimir Putin.
“Angola is a reliable and old partner. We need to consider what we need to do, without delay, to stimulate our trade and economic ties. There are interesting fields of activity, such as the diamond industry, fisheries and space exploration. There are also cultural spheres, such as education and the training of personnel,” Putin told the Angolan President.
On his part, the Angolan leader João Lourenço said: “We have come to Russia on an official visit to strengthen our ties and cooperation and, if possible, to promote interaction between our countries. Russia is doing splendidly in the spheres of mineral resources, education, healthcare and defence. But we would like to know about Russia’s potential in other fields so we can promote cooperation in these areas of the Angolan economy.”
Before their final departure from the Kremlin, João Lourenço presented Vladimir Putin with a high Angolan award – the Order of Agostinho Neto, the first President of Angola – as a sign of gratitude for several years of support for the Republic of Angola.
Agostinho Neto Order is the highest distinction of the Angolan State with a single degree, granted to nationals and foreigners, in particular Heads of State and Government, political leaders and other heavyweight individuals.
President Lourenço spent his four days attended several meetings. There were discussions relating to many aspects of cooperation. But then, President Lourenço expressed, along the line, corporate plans to diversify its state business away from purchasing to full-fledged manufacturing of Russian military equipment for the southern African market, and possibly other regions in Africa.
Earlier before meeting with President Putin, President João Lourenço revealed his plan about manufacturing of Russian weapons in an exclusive interview to the Russian news agency Itar-TASS during that visit from April 2-5, 2019. He said that Angola is one of the principal buyers of Russian arms and that his country wants not only to buy but also produce.
“As for our military and technical cooperation with Russia, it will continue and be deepened. We would like to evolve from our current state of purchasers of Russian military equipment and technologies towards becoming the manufacturers and having an assembly plant of Russian military equipment in our country,” he told the news agency.
In recent years, Angola’s leadership has had plans to turn the country into a base to repair Soviet equipment for African countries. For its part, South Africa had similar business ideas as well. One cannot rule out that the proposal to both purchase and produce (manufacture) weapons is an attempt to outmanoeuvre South Africa, but the local industry is not yet ready to manufacture its own military equipment.
In a research report titled “Angola: Russia and Angola – the Rebirth of a Strategic Partnership” that was released by the South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA), the authors Ana Christina Alves, Alexandra Arkhangelskaya and Vladimir Shubin acknowledged that “defence remains the most solid Russia-Angola cooperation dimension.
Angola’s decision to manufacture military equipment and ultimately distribute throughout Southern Africa, however, sparked further discussions. Should Angola become a key producer and distributor of Russian arms, there is always the possibility some of them could eventually appear outside Angola in the 16-member Southern African Development Community (SADC) region, warned Professor David Shinn at the Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University.
“Weapons produced by any country can and do appear in African conflict zones. There is plenty of documentation, for example, that weapons made in China, Russia, and Western countries are being used in ongoing conflicts in Darfur, the eastern Congo, and Somalia,” said Professor Shinn, a former U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia (1996-99) and Burkina Faso (1987-90).
In some cases, African governments have transferred the arms to rebel groups and many others have been purchased on the international arms market, he added.
Professor Shinn added that South Africa has the most advanced capacity to produce military equipment followed by Egypt. Sudan, which received assistance from China and Iran in building its arms industry, and Nigeria, among others, also have the ability to produce military equipment. In this sense, what Angola proposes to do (i.e. to establish a manufacturing plant) is not much different except that it would, reportedly, be assisted by the Russian Federation.
Nevertheless, Professor Shinn hopes that possible Angolan arms export initiatives would be subject to approval by the Angolan parliament, and be of great interest for SADC, the African Union and Security Council of the United Nations.
On February 29, 2019, the Security Council adopted a resolution that outlines steps leading towards the goal of ending conflict in Africa through enhanced international cooperation and partnership as well as robust support for peace operations led by the African Union.
Unanimously adopting resolution 2457 (2019) at the outset of a day-long open debate, the Council welcomed the 54-nation African Union’s determination to rid the continent of conflict through its “Silencing the Guns in Africa” initiative, expressing its readiness to contribute to that goal.
The importance of this resolution underlined by the fact that there are currently fifteen African countries involved in war, or are experiencing post-war conflict and tension. In West Africa, the countries include Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and Togo. In East Africa, the countries include Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan, Uganda.
Angola has diamonds, oil, gold, copper and a rich wildlife, forest and fossil fuels. Since independence, oil and diamonds have been the most important economic resource. It is a member of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), an inter-governmental organization that has made its goal to further socio-economic cooperation and integration as well as political and security cooperation among 16 Southern African States.
The Republic of Angola is a country in south-central Africa, the seventh largest by territorial size and bordered by Namibia to the south, Democratic Republic of Congo to the north and Zambia to the east, and on the west the South Atlantic Ocean.