Russia, Sierra Leone Show Signs Of Forging Strategic Partnership – OpEd


By upholding the principles of understanding and mutual respect, Russia and Sierra Leone are showing the desire to build a more harmonious relationship. But, this will importantly see the prompt opening of Russia’s new diplomatic representation in Freetown, at least, by the year-end, according to Foreign Affairs Minister Sergey Lavrov after productive meeting with his Sierra Leonean counterpart, Timothy Musa Kabba.

“It is planned to open new diplomatic missions in Africa, including in Freetown. We plan to do this in Freetown this year. All relevant decisions have been made,” he said. “We need to implement them. This is a practical task and we are addressing it.”

Opening the Russian embassy in Freetown, the capital city of Sierra Leone has been in work since 2021. The former Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the Republic of Sierra Leone, David John Francis, during his first foreign visit in his new post to Moscow in May 2021 discussed the same topic with Sergey Lavrov. 

That year 2021, both also signed an intergovernmental agreement on visa-free travel for diplomatic passport holders. They planned to raise trade, economic and investment cooperation. Lavrov and Francis noted that Sierra Leone has untapped natural resources, especially diamonds. It is among the largest producers of titanium and bauxite, is also a major producer of gold, and has one of the world’s largest deposits of rutile. 

Both Ministers stressed the continuation of the Working Group on Energy, which was created following President of Sierra Leone Julius Maada Bio’s attendance at the Russia-Africa Summit held in Sochi in 2019. The group has already held its series of meetings.

African countries have signed agreements on building nuclear power plants with the Rosatom State Corporation. The Government of Sierra Leone also want formulate additional plans for Russian investors in various areas, including possible cooperation on nuclear power engineering and non-energy uses of nuclear power. This proposal will definitely need an interdepartmental technical study.

Now Sergey Lavrov and Timothy Musa Kabba (re)outlined some additional political steps needed to stimulate bilateral business cooperation, in particular the implementation of promising joint projects in mining, geology and power generation. The mentioned areas of interest reflect the comprehensive strategic partnership and shared bilateral vision for a brighter future.

“By tradition, we are giving priority to the humanitarian area. Many Sierra Leoneans studied and continue to study in our country (first, in the USSR and now  in the Russian Federation). We confirmed our readiness to increase the number of scholarships that the Russian Government grants Sierra Leone every year,” according to the transcript made available May 7, 2024.

Research by this article author shows that Russia and Sierra Leone has had a number of economic engagements. While there are little results, perhaps at least, it establishes signs for continuing to have a full-fledged embrace of further economic partnership with this west African nation.

Russia’s Natural Resources and Environment Minister Alexander Kozlov, early January 2024, signed memoranda of cooperation in the area of subsoil exploitation with the Republic of Sierra Leone. The document on collaborating with Sierra Leone envisages convening a working group on projects in the area of subsoil exploitation. The memorandum will allow conducting geological and geophysical research, assessing deposits, and drawing up geological maps. 

Previously Russia’s Lukoil prospected for oil there and later abandoned the exemplified flagship project citing unexplained technical difficulties and bureaucracy. Later in November 2012, reports emerged that Lukoil bought from Canada’s Talisman Energya 25% stake in the geological exploration, development and production project at the SL-4B-10 offshore block in the waters of Sierra Leone in the Gulf of Guinea.

The other partners in the project are Malaysia’s Petronas (25%) and UK’s Prontinal Ltd (20%). The block, with an area of approximately 2,200 sq. km and water depths ranging from 100 to 3,000 meters, borders on another block, SL-05-11, where Lukoil is the operator of exploration and development.

Sergey Lavrov and Timothy Musa Kabba further devoted considerable attention to a broad range of issues related to the sustainable development of multifaceted Russia-Africa cooperation with due regard for the outcome of the second Russia-Africa Summit, held in St Petersburg in July 2023, and preparations for a ministerial conference of the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum scheduled to be held in Sochi in November 2024.

With Sierra Leone located along the coast, it is clear that Russia is steadily paving its way for strategic access to the Atlantic Ocean. It reminds that Sierra Leone is becoming one of Russia’s reliable partners in Africa. Russia and Sierra Leone traditionally cooperate in international organizations to promote justice and democracy on the world stage. Diplomatic relations between the two countries were established in January 1962.

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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