Remarks by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at a meeting of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Business Council, Moscow, July 16, 2019
We are holding a regular meeting of the Business Council of the Russian Foreign Ministry. The agenda for today’s meeting includes a wide range of issues on promoting Russia and Russian businesses’ interests in Africa.
The African countries are becoming increasingly influential in international affairs as they actively participate in resolving global political and economic issues. In general, the African continent is asserting itself as an important pillar in the polycentric world order currently in the making. One of the Russian Federation’s foreign policy priorities is developing relations with the African countries and their integration associations.
We are relying on the existing foundation of Russian-African cooperation that is becoming increasingly more solid. We have managed to give significant impetus to the political dialogue and cooperation between our parliaments and civil societies. Positive achievements like these allow us to more actively step up cooperation in trade, economic and investment activities, and to expand cooperation in banking activities and implement mutually beneficial projects.
With this in mind, we have recently organised a number of themed activities. In June, Moscow hosted a shareholder meeting of the African Export-Import Bank, as well as the Russia-Africa Economic Conference, which was timed to coincide with the meeting. In early July, the Russia-Africa Parliamentary Conference was held as part of the International Development of Parliamentarianism Forum, which took place in Moscow. Our relations with many African countries have reached a new level, including in trade and the economy. The first ever Russia-Africa Summit, which will be held in Sochi in October and will be co-chaired by the Russian and Egyptian presidents, is expected to give additional impetus to these processes.
In order to maintain a high level of Russian-African cooperation, we regularly hold meetings of related bilateral inter-governmental commissions, formulate specific proposals and provide political and diplomatic support for projects that involve Russian companies, including many whose representatives are here today.
I am delighted with the dynamics we have achieved in trade. It exceeded $20 billion last year. It may be a modest result compared to Africa’s other partners, but a review of the dynamics of the past few years shows that it is a hugely positive result. It is notable that our list of commodities in which we trade is expanding, and the potential of mutual trade is far from exhausted.
You can see that Rosneft, Gazprom, Alrosa, Lukoil, Rosgeo, Vi Holding, Renova and other Russian major companies have been working successfully in Africa.
We have ambitious plans, and we must make additional efforts to implement them. Today we would like to discuss the possibility of enhancing the effectiveness of Russian-African intergovernmental commissions. It might be reasonable to look at the experience of China, where companies receive state guarantees and subsidies, which allows them to operate consistently and on a long-term basis. We also consider it necessary to assess the possibility of attracting small and medium-sized businesses to Africa. So far, they account for a minor part of our collaboration.
The Russian Foreign Ministry will continue to provide all-round support for these projects. Our African friends have spoken up for closer interaction with Russia and would welcome our companies on their markets. However, much in this sphere depends on the reciprocity of Russian businesses and their readiness to show initiative and ingenuity, as well as to offer quality goods and services.
Our African friends’ expectations of cooperation with Russia are an advantage in our favour. In a large degree, this attitude of our partners is based on their memory of our contribution to their struggle for decolonisation, against apartheid and for freedom and independence, as well as our contribution to the development of the new national states and their economies and defences.
Today our African partners can see that Russia has a constructive political and economic agenda in Africa. We have provided practical assistance to the settlement of their socioeconomic problems and have offered them trade preferences and tariff and tax relief. We also make considerable donations to the African aid programmes of various international organisations, primarily within the framework of the UN.
It should be said that we have to operate in Africa in the context of increasing competition from many foreign players. Many of them look at the possible improvement of our relations with Africa with an ill-disguised dislike. Our rivals do not sit on their hands but are energetically expanding cooperation with African countries, at the same time trying to limit or restrict their favourable cooperation with Russia and using openly unscrupulous methods in many cases.
Our discussion today is extremely important. We will exchange opinions on current developments, map out ways to promote economic cooperation with Africa, as well as discuss the most attractive avenues of cooperation and methods to increase the benefits from our joint work. I suggest that we also discuss the current state and possible development of the legal framework of Russian-African relations in trade, the economy and investments.
The Russian Foreign Ministry needs this so as to be able to provide maximally effective support to the initiatives advocated by Russian businesses. We also expect to hear the expert opinion of the economic officials from the Russian Government, as well as the leading Russian companies and business associations.