Russia-Africa Cooperation a Top Priority

Image: The Roscongress Foundation

Russia has the potential to play a leading role in the development of Africa’s energy and infrastructure development — leveraging on Russia’s historic ties with Africa during the continent’s independence movements and its current technological expertise, said African officials at Russian Energy Week.

“The Russians should not be timid. Africa is part of Russia and Russia is part of Africa. You guys should be even more aggressive than the Chinese,” said H.E. Gabriel Mbaga Obian Lima, Minister of Mines and Hydrocarbons of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea during the Russia-Africa Energy Roundtable on October 3.

It seems Russia is launching a more aggressive campaign in Africa, with Russian President Vladimir Putin saying Russia will ‘light up Africa’ at a Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa (BRICS) summit that took place in Johannesburg in July this year.

“I would especially like to note that Russia is planning to step up its assistance in development of national energy in African states,” he said.

Putin added that Russia is already in talks with Angola, Mozambique and Gabon on oil and gas projects.

Putin also advocated for a Russia-Africa Summit to organize a roadmap of strategic opportunities and economic sectors for investment in Africa.

“I would like to inform you that we are studying the idea of holding a Russia-Africa summit with the participation of heads of African states. This could be preceded by meetings of prominent businessmen, policy experts and public figures. I intend to discuss this with representatives of African countries.”

An integrated history

“Do you know how many presidents speak Russian in Africa? Do you know how many ministers speak Russian? Do you know how many civil servants speak Russian and even have Russian wives and children?” asked Lima at the Russia-Africa Energy Roundtable, referencing the former Soviet Union’s leading role in the independence movements in several African countries, including Angola, Algeria, Ghana and Sudan.

He specifically called for Russian investment in the oil and gas sectors and in industrialization.

H.E. Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth, Minister of Petroleum of the Republic of South Sudan, highlighted the need for international investment.

Speaking as part of the round table, Gatkuoth noted that Africa was a large continent with a population of 1.2 billion; a huge market that needed to be developed.

“We have vast resources and they need to be used. We are very interested in having investors from Russia come to us. We would be happy to use Russian technologies and investments to advance oil production,” he said.

New partnerships on the horizon

Just days after the conference, South Sudan’s Ministry of Petroleum signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Russia-based JSC Zarubezhneft to begin exploring the country’s open acreage and trading, as well as implement enhanced oil recovery technology and other maintenance programs.

The ministers from Equatorial Guinea and South Sudan were joined in Moscow by ministerial delegations from Sierra Leone, Angola and Libya, as well as the Secretary General of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, H.E. Mohammed Barkindo.

Equatorial Guinea, taking a leading role in the development of liquid natural gas (LNG) in Africa, also joined a delegation to Yamal LNG facility in northern Russia during Russian Energy Week, and called for closer collaborations between Russia and Africa on the import and export of gas, especially as Africa seeks to use gas to power electricity for nearly 600 million people without power on the continent.

“LNG is the best solution,” said Lima about Africa’s energy crisis.