Speech at meeting with heads of African states 2013-03-27 19:00:00 Durban, South Africa President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Ladies and gentlemen, This is our first meeting of this kind. First of all, I want to greet all of the heads of African states. As President of Brazil Dilma Rousseff already said, Africa is developing very rapidly, faster than other regions in the world. And this is in spite of both external and internal problems. It is enough to say that Africa’s GDP growth rates are about five percent. According to forecasts, by 2020, the total GDP for African countries will reach 2.6 trillion dollars. This is an increase of over 35 percent. This trend additionally stimulates cooperation between BRICS members and African states. The BRICS group’s companies are working actively in the African market; there is a growing influx of investments into various sectors in Africa’s economies, from traditional mineral extraction and farming to high technologies and banking. Together, BRICS countries are championing the rights and interests of Africa and other nations with emerging economies, speaking out in favour of increasing their role and influence in the global governance system, particularly international financial and economic organisations. Over the course of many decades, Russia has provided direct assistance to the African continent. I would like to note that we have written off over 20 billion dollars in debt; we have written off far more than any other G8 nation. We plan to take additional measures to ease the debt burden. Corresponding intergovernmental agreements on debt-for-development plans have been made with Tanzania, Zambia and Mozambique for a total of 263.3 million dollars. Russian companies are implementing investment projects with all North African nations and 11 sub-Saharan African states. There are approximately 8000 Africans studying at Russian universities, about half of which are doing so via government channels. In 2012, approximately 1000 students from sub-Saharan African nations were offered fellowships. This year, we are planning to increase this number yet again. Ladies and gentlemen, There is a saying in Africa that a friend sticks closer than a brother. I am confident that this meeting will truly facilitate the activation of mutual cooperation in a wide range of areas. Thank you for your attention.