Russian President Vladimir Putin met with his Malawian counterpart Peter Mutharika at the Black Sea resort of Sochi as he welcomed thousands of African leaders to discuss politics and business “worth billions of dollars” for the first Russia-Africa Summit.
Mutharika was strategically positioned by organisers of the summit to sit close with Putin and Egyptian leader Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi at the summit which will see more than 3 000 delegates from across Russia and Africa discuss an array of topics from nuclear energy to mineral extraction.
All 54 African states sent a representative to the meeting, including 43 heads of state or government, according to Kremlin advisor Yuri Ushakov.
Malawian President Mutharika will later Wednesday be hosted by Putin to a gala dinner and the two leaders will also hold bilateral talks.
Opening the summit, Putin said Russia currently export to Africa $25 billion ($22.5 billion) worth of food — which is more than what they export in arms, at $15 billion.
“We currently export to Africa $25 billion ($22.5 billion) worth of food — which is more than we export in arms, at $15 billion. In the next four to five years I think we should be able to double this trade, at least,” Putin said.
Russia has dominated arms sales in Africa but this time, Putin has promised further African cooperation without “political or other” interference. This comes as a reassurance to African states who have previously expressed concerns about dependence on China.
In addition to “military and security cooperation” with Africa, Putin also pledged Russian commitment to combat the Ebola virus with aid, and the training of “African cadres” by Russian universities.
“Joint projects are underway in extractive industries, agriculture, healthcare and education,” Putin said in his opening remarks.
According to Engin Ozer, director of the international think tank Voice of Africa, the modern Russian approach is different from that of the Soviet era as there is no division by ideological principle between the countries.
Russia seeks new markets to sell its production despite the U.S. sanctions primarily, and Africa is “very promising” in this regard, according to Ozer.
He said African countries can consider Russia as a creditor, alternative to China and the Western countries.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :