October 24, 2019 (Ezega.com) -- Russia-Africa Economic Forum kicked off this week in Sochi city in Russia. The two-day forum is the first economic forum between Africa and Russia and was held starting October 23, 2019.
Russia has historical ties with several African governments, and it is often regarded favorably in some countries due to the Soviet Union’s support for independence movements in the 1960s and 1970s. However, according to many, Russia has largely failed to translate this into economic influence.
Currently, the economic connection is still relatively modest despite Russia’s strong influence in providing security. The Russia-Africa forum is set to be a stepping stone for a continued and diversified diplomatic and economic relationship between Africa and Russia.
According to the forum’s official website, the Russia-Africa Forum is strategically important to create favorable conditions for the development of trade and economic relations between Russia and Africa. “The forum will diversify the forms and areas of Russian-African cooperation,” says the official website.
The forum is being attended by more than 35 African heads of state, representatives of Russian, African, and international businesses and government agencies. Also present is Ethiopian Prime Minster Dr. Abiy Ahmed and a sizeable Ethiopian delegation.
In his first official visit to Russia, Prime Minster Dr. Abiy Ahmed had discussions with his Russian counterpart on various economic and political issues, among others.
During the bilateral talks, the Prime Minister highlighted the reform programs going on in Ethiopia. Russia, as one of the world’s influential power centers, the premier has called on for a strengthened and diversified engagement between the two countries.
The two countries discussed how to collaborate in various areas, including military, education, trade and nuclear technology for peaceful usage. In this regard, the two countries signed a bilateral cooperation agreement in Nuclear energy sector that can be used for peaceful and developmental projects.
The document creates a legal basis for cooperation in the peaceful use of nuclear energy, including Russia’s assistance in the establishment and development of Ethiopia’s nuclear infrastructure facilities, nuclear and radiation security regulations and physical protection of nuclear materials, radiation sources and nuclear storage sites.
The agreement also provides for cooperation in accounting for and control of nuclear materials, radioactive substances and waste, basic and applied research related to the peaceful use of nuclear energy, production of radioisotopes and their use in industries, medicine and agriculture, as well as cooperation in the use of radiation technologies and nuclear medicine and nuclear personnel training.
It was also disclosed that the two countries with set up a joint coordination committee to facilitate the two countries’ nuclear cooperation.
According to Russia’s Rosatom State Nuclear Energy, the agreement will strengthen both countries’ nuclear industry, as well as the implementation of specific projects.
President Putin showed interest in achieving good outcomes out of the promising diplomatic engagement between the two countries. He also appreciated Ethiopia’s role under the leadership of IGAD to maintain peace and stability in the Horn of Africa.
Beyond the bilateral discussions, Russian announced that it is cancelling over $20 billion Russian debt accumulated by African countries, under what is called debt-for-development program. The cancelation also includes Ethiopia debt, which according to some reports amounts to $163.6 million.
Russia’s debt-for-development program assumes that debt cancellation is made in exchange for privileges such as expanding business opportunities for Russian companies, access to natural resources and building strategic economic ties.
The form has also paved the way for the signing of several significant agreements in the fields of trade, economy, and investment between Africa and Russia.
Fruitful bilateral discussions were also held between Russia and other participant African countries. The forum also reviewed Africa’s role in the international financial system, expanding cooperation, export and investment, as well as security challenges.
According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Russia has signed 23 security cooperation deals with African governments and was the largest supplier of arms to the continent in the past five years.
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