The Russia-Africa summit should prioritize the needs of the continent over the political contest

The Russia-Africa summit should prioritize the needs of the continent over the political contest

Moscow views the second summit between Russia and Africa on July 27-28 in St. Petersburg as the most important stage for reviving relations with Africa. The meeting is taking place during a particularly fraught geopolitical moment and will attract even more intense scrutiny than the first Russia-Africa summit in 2019.

Will African nations succeed in working together to shape outcomes for the continent? Or will the high profile event be another case of targeted geopolitical festivals courting African leaders?

The summit is expected to convene at least 40 heads of state and senior African leaders. It will focus on deepening cooperation between Moscow and African capitals around the world five Broad areas: politics, security, economic relations, science and technology, cultural and human participation.

This ambitious agenda includes a parallel economic and humanitarian forum aimed at “diversifying the scope and nature of Russian-African cooperation, and thus determining the path of its development in the long term.”

The size of the gathering reflects Moscow’s recent strategy Axis Back in Africa – and losing its attempts to regain territory to other world powers vying for influence on the continent. Organizers say the 2019 Summit Economic Forum in Sochi convened more than 6,000 participants and led to the signing of 92 trade agreements and memorandums worth more than $12.5 billion.

This mirrors other high-level Africa+1 meetings such as the 2022 US-Africa Leaders Summit, the 8th Tokyo International Conference on African Development in 2022, and the 2018 Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (and subsequent Dakar Ministerial Meeting in 2021), among others. other.

These events are useful for coordinating strategic priorities, but the 2023 Russia-Africa Summit is arguably far more important for Moscow. Since the Sochi summit, Russia has turned sharply towards Africa to circumvent Western isolation after its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. The St. Petersburg meeting is an opportunity to show that Moscow is not isolated and has alternative partners willing to deepen their cooperation with the Kremlin.

Optics will be a major concern for Russia from then on a little There has been progress in bilateral trade and investment over the past four years, mainly due to Covid-19 and the Ukraine war. Moscow will look to bolster Sochi’s numbers regardless of whether they lead to tangible results.

The concept of foreign policy

This evolving approach to Africa is reflected in Russia’s updated foreign policy concept. the 2016 The policy contained only a few references to Africa. 2023 edition Lifts importance of the continent, noting Moscow’s intention to support Africa as a “distinguished and influential center of global development” by improving bilateral relations, trade, scientific and humanitarian cooperation.

Africa appears to rank higher on the priority list than Europe, the United States, Latin America and the Caribbean – but below the Arctic, Eurasia (India and China) and the Asia-Pacific region.

The question of what African countries want from the summit is more complex. Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, global fault lines have deepened, with Africa at the center Charm An attack by international powers seeking support for their approach in the international system. As the largest regional grouping in the United Nations General Assembly – and the region most divided on condemnation of Russian aggression – Africa’s geostrategic stockpile has risen.

The continent’s development agenda is usually the priority in its dealings with external partners. But this is no longer as obvious or prominent as it used to be. Who and how African countries cooperate with may become a growing concern for the continent’s leaders in an international system in flux.

For the latest development needs of Africa, countries must proactively set the agenda and assign responsibilities at the Africa+1 meetings. African governments still play a largely secondary role in initiating these engagements, setting the agenda and contributing to the outcomes.

Prioritizing food security

Food security is an example of this. On July 17, Russia Withdraw from the Black Sea grain deal, indicating his dissatisfaction with Russia’s grain and fertilizer export arrangements. This may lead to an increase in global food prices, threatening food security in many African countries. Regardless of whether Russia recommits to the agreement before the summit, African leaders must actively voice their concerns about food security in the context of the ongoing war.

In St Petersburg, African leaders should also check out Sochi 2019 a permit To reaffirm many of its provisions that Moscow has since violated. Articles 31-37 on “legal cooperation,” for example, are explicit about respecting international law and condemning unilateral military interventions and the use of force in violation of the UN Charter.

African countries cannot overlook such glaring contradictions that underpin their broad strategic partnership with Russia. Without some backtracking, African governments could be seen as passive proxies, simply endorsing Moscow’s pursuit of its parochial global interests.

One positive development is the commitment of African leaders to continue the discussion on a solution to the Ukraine war. The summit comes about a month after the first African summit Hello The mission, which saw the leaders of seven countries engage with Ukraine and Russia in an effort to reach a settlement.

Read more at The Daily Maverick: The African Peace Mission appears to have little influence on resolving the conflict between Russia and Ukraine

Senegalese President Macky Sall recently He said African leaders will “continue to use the Russia-Africa Summit to see how we can move forward with the negotiations that we have tried to implement between Russia and Ukraine.” The leaders expected Russia to show a commitment to peace, including the release of prisoners of war and the return of Ukrainian children kidnapped by Russia during the conflict.

As geopolitical fissures deepen for the foreseeable future, African states must adopt a more assertive approach to Africa+1 commitments. This will move the continent beyond summit meetings and “plus-one” interests — and towards a stronger base for negotiating African interests. group on the world stage. DM

Priel Singh, Senior Researcher, Africa in the World and Denis Riva, Researcher, Naval, Institute for Security Studies (ISS) Pretoria.

It was first published by ISS today.

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