Africa becoming global economic centre – Putin

RUSSIAN President Vladimir Putin says Africa is becoming a global economic centre.

President Putin has also disclosed that Russian is now exporting more agriculture products than weapons to the markets of third countries. Addressing the plenary session of the Russia-Africa Economic Forum in Sochi on Wednesday, he said African countries were becoming increasingly attractive for Russian businesses.

“This is largely due to the fact that Africa is becoming a global economic growth centre,” President Putin said. “According to experts, Africa’s GDP (gross domestic product) will have reached $29 trillion by 2050. Russia-Africa trade more than doubled over the past five years and exceeded $20 billion. Is that a lot or a little? A colleague of ours said this is a good figure. I cannot agree with this. I think it is way too little.”

He told the forum that Egypt accounted for $7.7 billion, or 40 per cent, of that $20 billion.

“We have many potential partners in Africa, lots of them. They have good development prospects and enormous growth potential. Of course, this is not enough,” President Putin stressed. “Notably, the product range of counter trading is expanding, and the share of non-resource – agricultural and industrial – products is increasing. Russia is among the top 10 suppliers of food to the African market. We are now exporting more agricultural products than weapons to the markets of third countries. Weapons account for $15 billion of our exports, whereas agricultural products are nearing $25 billion in sales, I believe. So, the potential for development is good here, too, and there are things to discuss.”

He noted that top managers of almost 2,000 Russian and foreign companies were taking part in forum themed Russia and Africa: Uncovering the Potential for Cooperation, is extremely important and relevant.

President Putin said economic issues were an integral part and an actual priority of Russia’s relations with the African countries.

He said developing close business ties served the common interests, contributed to the sustainable growth of all the countries, helped to improve quality of life and solved numerous social problems.

President Putin hope Russia and Africa can easily double the volume of trade within the next four to five years.

He said integration processes unfolding in Africa provided additional opportunities for cooperation.

President Putin welcomed the creation of the African Continental Free Trade Area as part of the African Union and that Russia was willing to work with the new entity.

He supported establishing close working contacts between the AU Commission and the Eurasian Economic Commission, which signed a memorandum of understanding yesterday. “As an active participant in the EAEU, Russia will do its best to facilitate the convergence of trade regimes in the African Free Trade Area and the EAEU common market,” he said.

President Putin said Russian firms Gazprom, Rosneft, and LUKOIL were implementing promising oil and gas projects in Africa.

He said Alrosa was developing diamond deposits, Yandex was present on the markets of a number of countries, and was helping African states address information security challenges and develop the digital economy.

“Rosatom is willing to build the nuclear industry for its African partners as a turnkey project and to build research centres based on multipurpose reactors,” said President Putin. “The construction of the Russian Industrial Zone in Egypt is nearing completion. This is a major site in the Suez Canal Economic Zone, where Russian companies will be able to localise their production facilities. About 20 Russian companies will participate in this project. This is the current estimation and I am quite certain there will be more of them.”

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