ISSN 2330-717X

Russians Need New Approaches Working With Africa – OpEd

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For the second round this year, the Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCI) together with the Coordinating Committee for Economic Cooperation with African Countries (AfroCom) have gathered corporate business leaders, urging them to look at African market with much interest, work more systematically and consistently. 

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The African market is competitive and complex, Russian business needs to work on it thoroughly and systematically in order to succeed, emphasized Sergey Katyrin, President of the Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, opening the meeting with the heads of business councils for cooperation with African countries. 

Russia lives in fundamentally new economic realities, supply chains are disrupted, many ties are broken, logistics are disrupted, and businesses are forced to adjust their strategies for working with foreign partners and look for new opportunities for their development. 

The logical solution here is the development of cooperation in friendly countries, in particular, on the African continent. Russian Chamber has already received lots of requests from territorial chambers regarding the opportunities for developing trade and economic relations between small and medium-sized businesses with Africa, Katyrin emphasized in remarks at the meeting. 

At the same time, while noting the low presence of Russian business footprints on the continent, he also acknowledged that today’s Africa requires new approaches to work from Russian business community, and from the state, long-term programs to support entrepreneurship and foreign economic activity. 

Chairman of the Coordinating Committee for Economic Cooperation with African Countries (AfroCom), RF Senator Igor Morozov spoke at length about what the business lobbying organization had already done and about its future plans. His organization, established back in 2009, is supposed to help businesses to navigate African realities, find a niche for their work, learn about the conditions for entering certain markets, et cetera. 

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With the United States and European sanctions currently hitting hard on Russia, the business organization now turns to Africa. It opens its offices in Kampala (Uganda) and in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia), where located the headquarters of the African Union. 

In Africa today there is a great demand for IT technologies, and this must be borne in mind. Companies can turn around there, create their own digital platforms and work successfully. There are many technology parks on the continent, for example, there are ten of them in Ethiopia alone; they offer significant benefits. 

Senator Igor Morozov further noted that it is necessary to create a Russia-Africa trading house, through which Russian firms could more successfully in entering African markets. “We really need a specialized investment fund to support entrepreneurs. In general, if we work seriously and with the prospect of working with African partners for many years, but more serious state support is needed,” he said. 

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, many ties in Africa disappeared, much was lost, new players came to the continent, but Russia can still take its rightful place there. Over the years, Russians oftentimes going forth and back, have been highly inconsistent with business pursuits and with African partners. 

In attendance was Yaroslav Tarasyuk, Deputy Director of the Department of Asian, African, Latin American Countries of the Ministry of Industry and Trade of the Russian Federation. Among the speakers was also Anton Razlivaev, Deputy Director of the Department for the Development of Bilateral Cooperation of the Ministry of Economic Development of the Russian Federation. 

Both spoke about the work to promote Russian interests on the African continent, while emphasizing the need to revise many current approaches to organizing work in this direction. 

In this regard, Sergey Katyrin noted that since many exhibitions in Europe planned by ministries were suspended due to recent Russia-Ukraine crisis, the money allocated for them should be used to hold exhibitions in African countries.

But at the same time, there is the need to work quickly, since it takes at least six months to organize any exhibition. The situation is changing dramatically, and what is quite possible today may turn out to be difficult to implement tomorrow. Russian financial institutions are slow with interest in Africa.  

To promote this idea and ask banks to offer financial support, the participation of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Russian Federation is very important. Another important issue is transaction insurance. Of course, there are more problems, as it always happens in the business sphere, but the listed ones are among the most important, the participants of the discussion emphasized. 

Sergey Katyrin summed up the meeting, noting that Africa is an extremely interesting and important field of activity for business, and the authorities should prepare, incorporate and consolidate into one document supported by the Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Kester Kenn Klomegah

Kester Kenn Klomegah is an independent researcher and a policy consultant on African affairs in the Russian Federation and Eurasian Union. He has won media awards for highlighting economic diplomacy in the region with Africa. Currently, Klomegah is a Special Representative for Africa on the Board of the Russian Trade and Economic Development Council. He enjoys travelling and visiting historical places in Eastern and Central Europe. Klomegah is a frequent and passionate contributor to Eurasia Review.

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