President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr President, Mr Chairperson, I am delighted to meet you again.
First of all, I would like to say that we view the African Union as a leading regional organisation that shapes the modern security structure on the continent and paves the way for Africa to take its rightful place in the system of global economic links.
We support the Union’s involvement in the work of leading international associations. I would like to remind you that Russia was one of the first to react positively to the initiative advanced by the President of Senegal, who preceded you in this position, for granting the African Union full membership in the G20. We hope that the decision will be adopted at the G20 summit in New Delhi in September.
As before, Russia is ready to help strengthen African countries’ sovereignty and contribute to Africa becoming a key partner in the new system of the multipolar world order. We will give priority attention to these issues at the summit, which opens today. We will also discuss practical decisions on building up trade and economic cooperation, ensuring food and energy security, and developing national healthcare systems.
The planned adoption of the declaration of the second Russia–Africa Summit and the Russia–African Union action plan for 2023–2024 will help launch practical efforts in the areas mentioned above and many others.
Despite the difficulties created by the coronavirus pandemic and the illegal sanctions imposed against Russia, we have ensured the growth of our trade and economic ties. Our mutual trade reached approximately 18 billion US dollars in 2022 and increased by nearly 35 percent in the first six months of 2023.
Russia remains a reliable food supplier for Africa. In 2022, Russian food exports amounted to 4.7 billion US dollars. Many large Russian companies are successfully working in Africa. The key spheres of our cooperation include energy, subsoil use, agriculture. There are good opportunities for cooperation in research and technology, education and culture.
We highly value our relations with the Union of the Comoros. They are based on the principles of mutual respect and a balance of each other’s interests and have a development potential in a number of spheres. Of course, we are open to cooperation with your country in all areas.
Chairperson of the African Union, President of the Comoros Azali Assoumani (retranslated): Mr President of the Russian Federation, Chairperson of the African Union Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat.
It is a great honour for me to speak here and I thank you wholeheartedly.
Every time I come here, not just for the opening of the summit, we can feel the brotherly welcome, so every time, we want to go to this beautiful country again. Thank you for your welcome, for organising the summit, and for all the decisions made to hold it successfully. This is an excellent platform to discuss relations between Russia and Africa, and the Comoros in particular, as you have noted.
First, allow me to say, Mr President, that Russia is a very important partner for Africa. It is said that a friend in need is a friend indeed, and in times of need, Russia has always stood with Africa regardless of the problems that arose, including its struggle for independence. Russia has always been there, despite all the difficulties that Africa has been through.
Russia’s investment in African countries set many countries on the path of development. And, Mr President, in this context you may rest assured that we are sincerely grateful for this.
Mr President, this meeting is a very good occasion to discuss African issues, regional issues, and the relations that should develop in the interests of the Russian Federation and in the interests of the continent, but also in the interests of the entire world, because Russia is a global power. So, this is not only about Africa, but about the world on the whole. We have come here to talk about this. We are ready to discuss these issues with Russia, because these are our partners, and this is in the interests of Africa or about partners in Africa.
Mr President, today the world is facing a lot of economic and climate-related challenges, which all of us recognise. Unfortunately, not everyone understands that all the resources we have must be used for the prosperity of humanity. Many suffer from deprivation and poverty. It is not only about climate, but about security as well. Today the world is almost on the brink of destruction, and the African countries are suffering from this. We are falling victim to this policy. African countries are suffering gravely. We are suffering from the deficit and other problems, unfortunately, as well as from Africans’ migration to other countries.
All this is largely caused by the problems of climate change; these are natural problems. But when it comes to security problems, many African countries are facing security problems: we are talking about wars between states.
Unfortunately, problems related to climate and security are forcing us, the leaders of African states, to deal with very complex issues. Of course, nothing is simple in life, but Mr President, I want to say once again that climate and security issues are the most important ones. But also important are energy issues, how we can help each other, how we can ensure African autonomy – the coronavirus taught us a good lesson – of course, it’s a little bit easier.
Africa has huge potential but we need help to realise it.
Again, Mr President, going back to security issues, we have intra-African problems in this area, but as I said, of course, the problem between Russia and Ukraine – we are not turning a blind eye to that because we have partner relations with both countries. We are seeing negative consequences that are reverberating around the world, including Africa. So, we are here to try to find some solution that can satisfy both Russia, a fraternal country, and also the African continent.
Once again, Mr President, let me thank you for the reception. Thank you for the organisation of the event. We are at your disposal; we are always ready to meet with you in order to create a system of relations and co-operation that is reliable for both countries. We are also ready to make changes to it, because, understandably, the world is constantly changing. Obviously, a programme created 20 years ago is not applicable today. We have come to understand how we can adapt to emerging realities in order to achieve significant results and serve for the benefit of our peoples.
Once again, Mr President, thank you very much.
Vladimir Putin: Merci beaucoup.
Chairperson of the African Union Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat (retranslated): Your Excellency, Mr President of the Russian Federation. Mr Chairperson of the African Union.
For my part, allow me also to thank you for your warm welcome in the marvelous city of St Petersburg, which was founded more than three centuries ago by Peter the Great, the great ruler of your country.
Four years ago, we met at the first Russia-Africa Summit. I think that now we have a wonderful opportunity to thank you and to discuss our partnership.
Peace and development are priorities, the issues that worry the African Union in the first place. Africa is facing a serious security challenge, first all, the fight against terrorism, which is a really destabilising factor for an enormous part of the African continent. We would like partnership in this sphere to be more prominent and thus help Africa defeat terrorism.
We will take part in the Economic and Humanitarian Forum.
Africa is also facing problems due to the lack of stability, but we are also dealing with a food crisis that is partly provoked by the war between Russia and Ukraine. I think this is a chance to discuss this topic in order to understand what we can do, because Africa is being negatively impacted by this conflict.
Two years ago we held the second meeting on diplomatic consultations with Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow. Surely you remember: in 2019, we signed a memorandum of understanding [between the Russian Government and the African Union on the foundations of relations and cooperation] and are doing everything to implement it in practical terms.
Africa’s priorities are peace and security, development of agriculture and industrialisation, but also energy, because any disruption in the international system affects Africa both in terms of energy and food. Let me remind you that the Russian Federation remains an important partner for Africa, in particular in terms of personnel training: thousands of Africans have been educated here, and they are the ones who are now engaged in economic, social and cultural development on our continent, and we would like this partnership to develop even more.
Let us also not forget Russia’s constant support in the struggle for the liberation of Africa, in the fight against apartheid and Russia’s support in the UN Security Council on African issues.
The African continent is home to 1.5 billion people, so their voice is important both within G20 and in general: African issues are often discussed without Africa, so we would like to request your support within various organisations that make decisions on Africa at the global level.
Fertilisers and energy are among Africa’s priorities, and I think this is a good opportunity to discuss this issue and strengthen our partnership.