Also taking part in the session were Chairperson of the African Union and President of the Union of the Comoros Azali Assoumani, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, President and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the African Export–Import Bank Benedict Oramah, and President of the New Development Bank Dilma Rousseff. Director of the Russian Academy of Sciences Institute for African Studies Irina Abramova moderated the discussion.
The forum’s main topic was Technology and Security in the Name of Sovereign Development for the Benefit of Humankind.
* * *
Irina Abramova: Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, colleagues and friends.
We are beginning the plenary session of the second Russia- Africa Economic and Humanitarian Forum.
I would like to give the floor to the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin.
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Thank you.
Mr Assoumani, heads of state and government, high representatives of African countries, ladies and gentlemen,
I would like to begin by welcoming all of you to St Petersburg. Thank you for accepting our invitation and coming here. In Russia, you are among friends and like-minded people.
We have a high-profile line-up of participants in the plenary session of the Economic and Humanitarian Forum. I believe it is symbolic that the Russia-Africa Summit starts its programme with this important event. Its tagline is Technology and Security in the Name of Sovereign Development for the Benefit of Humankind, which is highly topical. Of course, we will discuss all matters on the financial, trade, investment, educational and social agendas in the context of the rapid ongoing changes around the world in terms of digital technology and information. Improving the wellbeing of our people, improving their living standards and resolving the challenges they face in their everyday lives is our main objective.
I would like to say that many useful and constructive discussions are being held at the forum’s industry-related sessions on energy, logistics, transport, agriculture, finance and healthcare. The participants discuss promising ideas and proposals on new mutually beneficial joint projects, specific practical agreements and commercial contracts.
Africa’s potential is obvious to everyone. For example, the average annual GDP growth on the continent in the past 20 years was 4–4.5 percent, which exceeds the world’s average. Africa’s population is approaching 1.5 billion and is growing faster than anywhere else in the world. It is also notable that the middle class, which creates the principal demand for modern goods and services, is growing faster in Africa than in the majority of other parts of the world.
Russia’s government, business and the public are sincerely interested in further deepening multifaceted trade, investment and humanitarian ties with the continent, which meets the needs of all our countries and promotes stable growth and prosperity. I would like to note that Russia-Africa trade reached 18 billion US dollars last year. It is an obvious result of the Russia–Africa Summit held in Sochi. I have no doubt that by working together we will be able to increase our trade substantially in the near future. Incidentally, in the first six months of 2023 alone, our export-import transactions with African countries increased by over one third. The structure of our trade looks good as well: machinery, equipment, chemicals and food account for over 50 percent of Russia’s exports to Africa.
We are aware of the importance of uninterrupted supply of food products to African countries. This is vital for their socioeconomic development and for maintaining political stability. This is why we have always given and will continue to give special attention to supplying wheat, barley, corn and other grain crops to our African friends, including as part of humanitarian aid provided under the UN World Food Programme.
Friends, the numbers speak for themselves: last year Russia’s trade with African countries in agricultural products increased by 10 percent to $6.7 billion, and has already demonstrated record growth in January-June of this year by increasing by 60 percent. Russia exported 11.5 million tonnes of grain to Africa in 2022, and almost 10 million tonnes in the first six months of 2023. All this has been taking place despite the illegal sanctions imposed on our exports, which constitute a serious impediment for exporting Russian food, complicating transport, logistics, insurance and bank transactions.
We are witnessing a paradox. On the one hand, the West seeks to block our grain and fertiliser exports, while accusing us of the current crisis on the global food market. This is outright hypocrisy. We saw this approach in all clarity with the so-called grain deal. Brokered with the participation of the UN Secretariat, it was initially designed to promote global food security, mitigate the threat of hunger and help the poorest countries, including in Africa.
However, in almost a year since this so-called deal was concluded, a total of 32.8 million tonnes were exported from Ukraine, of which over 70 percent ended up in high-income and above-average income countries, including primarily the European Union, while I would like to draw your attention to the fact that countries like Ethiopia, Sudan, Somalia and several others received less than 3 percent of this total, or under 1 million tonnes.
Among other things, the reason Russia agreed to take part in this so-called deal was because it contained commitments to lift the illegitimate obstacles for supplying our grain and fertilisers to the global market. Make no mistake, this is what helping the poorest countries is all about.
However, nothing of what was agreed upon or what we were promised materialised – none of the conditions related to lifting the sanctions against the exports of Russian grain and fertilisers to the global markets have been fulfilled. Not a single one of them. We even faced obstacles when trying to deliver mineral fertilisers to the poorest countries that need them for free, as we have just discussed during the meeting with the leadership of the African Union. We managed to send only two shipments – just 20,000 tonnes to Malawi and 34,000 tonnes to Kenya, of the 262,000 tonnes of these fertilisers blocked in European ports. All the rest remained in the hands of the Europeans, even though this initiative was purely humanitarian in nature, which means that it should not have been exposed to any sanctions, as a matter of principle.
Ok, some may not want Russia to enrich itself, as they say, and use its revenue for military aims. Fine. But these were free shipments! But no, they would not let them through, despite all this empty talk about their desire to help the poorest countries.
Considering these facts, we refused to extend this would-be deal. As I have already said, Russia can well fill in the gap left by the withdrawal of the Ukrainian grain from the global market, either by selling its grain or by transferring it for free to the neediest countries in Africa, especially considering that this year we once again expect to have a record-high harvest.
To be more specific, let me say that in the next few months, next three to four months, we will be ready to provide, free of charge, a supply of 25,000–50,000 tonnes of grain each to Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe, Mali, Somalia, the Central African Republic and Eritrea, delivered at no cost.
A few more figures will probably be of interest. Ukraine produced about 55 million tonnes of grain in the past agricultural year. Exports amounted to 47 million tonnes: quite a lot, including 17 million tonnes of wheat. And Russia, colleagues, harvested 156 million tonnes of grain last year. It exported 60 million tonnes, of which 48 million tonnes was wheat.
Russia’s share of the world wheat market is 20 percent, Ukraine's is less than five per cent. This means that it is Russia that makes a significant contribution to global food security and is a solid, responsible international supplier of agricultural products. And those who claim that this is not the case, that it is only to secure the so-called grain deal to export Ukrainian grain, are simply twisting the facts and telling untruths. As a matter of fact, this has been the practice of some Western countries for decades, if not centuries.
Our country will continue to support states and regions in need, including with its humanitarian supplies. We are seeking to actively participate in the formation of a more equitable system for the distribution of resources and are doing our utmost to prevent a global food crisis.
In principle, we are convinced that with the application of appropriate agricultural technologies and the correct organisation of agricultural production, Africa can in the long term not only feed itself and ensure its own food security, but also become an exporter of various types of food. And Russia will only support you, I assure you.
My colleagues and I were just talking about this yesterday during our bilateral meetings, and my African colleagues told me: we can produce food – we need technology and the appropriate support. For its part, Russia is ready to share its expertise in agricultural production with African countries and to provide assistance in introducing the most advanced technologies.
We are also interested in further developing cooperation with African countries in the energy sector. This interaction is based on vast experience: over many years, Soviet and Russian specialists have been involved in designing and building major power generating facilities in Angola, Egypt, Ethiopia and other countries on the continent, with a total capacity of 4.6 gigawatts and amounting to – I would like to specifically emphasise this, friends – 25 percent of Africa’s hydropower capacity.
Currently, Russian companies are implementing new mutually beneficial projects that aim to meet African economies’ increasing needs for fuel and generating capacities, and provide Africans with access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and eco-friendly sources of energy.
More than 30 ambitious energy projects that involve Russian companies are now underway to varying extent in 16 African countries, with a total capacity of about 3.7 gigawatts. Russia’s RusHydro offers a vast scope of services to African partners, ranging from design and equipment supply to modernisation and construction of new turnkey power generating facilities. Russian companies Gazprom, Rosneft, LUKOIL and Zarubezhneft are involved in developing oil and gas fields in Algeria, Egypt, Cameroon, Nigeria and the Republic of the Congo. Over the past two years, Russia’s exports of crude oil, petroleum products and liquefied natural gas to Africa have seen a 2.6-fold increase.
Rosatom, our top nuclear energy company, is building El Dabaa Nuclear Power Plant in Egypt. This state corporation can share its unique expertise with African countries, as well as unparalleled technologies in non-energy peaceful use of atom, such as in healthcare and agriculture.
Promoting deeper cooperation between Russia and Africa in manufacturing has special importance. The continent knows Russia for its industrial goods, including cars, construction equipment, and many other products, which enjoy high demand and are known for their quality, reliability, and ease of use. Special service centres in Africa offer maintenance services for Russian equipment and machinery.
We are developing new tools for offering preferential loans to enable Africans to buy our industrial goods, deliver them to the continent, and benefit from after-sales services. The Russian Agency for Export Credit and Investment Insurance is there to provide insurance for these loans. We are devising a leasing mechanism tailored for Africa and are about to establish a dedicated investment fund for co-financing infrastructure projects. In Egypt, as my colleague President Sisi and I discussed yesterday, we are in talks to establish a Russian Industrial Zone near the Suez Canal. I hope that we will be able to launch it soon. We expect the construction of its first manufacturing facilities to begin this year so that the goods made there can be exported across Africa.
As a leader in ICT, Russia seeks to promote deeper cooperation with African countries in information security, AI, and the digital economy. We have positive experience in developing and using information technology solutions for administering taxes, registering property rights, offering e-government services to individuals and entities, including the corporate sector. We can help African countries that are interested in these solutions launch similar systems and reaffirm our unwavering commitment to sharing our know-how for promoting technological development.
In order to expand the range of our trade and economic ties, we should use national currencies, including the ruble, more energetically in the financial settlement of our commercial transactions. In this context we are ready to help African countries develop their financial infrastructure and to connect their banking establishments to the Financial Messaging System created in Russia, which can be used to make cross-border payments independently of some Western systems that are adopting restrictions. This will allow us to enhance the stability, predictability and security of mutual trade.
Russia is actively reorienting its transport and logistics flows to the Global South, including Africa, of course. The North-South transport corridor that we are building is designed to provide Russian products with access to the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean, with further connections via the shortest sea route to the African continent, among other regions. Naturally, this corridor can be used in reverse to deliver African goods to Russia.
Connecting the North-South transport corridor with Africa, lunching regular freight lines, which is our goal, and opening a Russian transport and logistics hub in a port on the eastern shore of Africa could be a good start of our cooperation. We consider it extremely important to expand the network of direct flights to Africa and to contribute to the development of the railway network in Africa. These are the most important goals of our time that we invite our African friends to tackle together.
Russia is interested in strengthening its ties with regional economic integration associations and structures in Africa across the board. For example, we support establishing cooperation between the Eurasian Economic Union – a major integration project and Russia is part of it – and the African Continental Free Trade Area within the African Union. We are also ready to share with our African partners our experience in promoting integration between Russian and Belarus within the Union State.
Today, we will have a working lunch with the heads of state and government of countries heading Africa’s main regional organisations, as well as the senior executives of these associations. We want to show our African partners what we have to offer on the key aspects of integration such as removing barriers within a single market, the operation of free trade areas, coordinating agricultural, industrial policies and in other sectors too. I am convinced that this comprehensive cooperation, both in bilateral and multilateral settings, will enable us to expand our economic ties with Africa in terms of both quality and quantity.
I would also like to draw your attention to the fact that bilateral intergovernmental commissions have proven their worth in promoting economic and humanitarian cooperation. However, so far, we have these commissions with only a third of African countries. There are 18 of them for 54 countries. In this context, we suggest that the interested African countries who have yet to join this format should think about working with us to establish these commissions. It goes without saying that we are ready to move in this direction and believe that this would be beneficial.
We are also ready to expand the network of our trade missions in Africa and have more economic advisors, as well as attaches for agriculture, education, research and ICT.
We will continue to give priority attention to the development of cultural, scientific, educational, sports and youth exchanges between Russia and African states. There is a great deal our country has to offer in these spheres.
Of course, training of skilled personnel has always been and remains a traditional area of Russia-Africa cooperation. We discussed this issue just now at a meeting with the African Union leaders.
Nearly 35,000 African students are studying at Russian universities, and this number is growing every year. The quota for African students financed from the federal budget has increased by 150 percent over the past three years and will exceed 4,700 people in the next academic year.
We plan to open branches of the leading Russian universities in Africa. Close ties are being developed with African educational institutions within the framework of the Russian-African Network University. An agreement on the establishment of the Russian-African consortium of technical universities, the Subsoil Resources of Africa, was signed at St Petersburg Mining University on July 26, ahead of this forum. It provides for the joint training of professionals for the mineral resources sector. I regard this as an extremely important and interesting area for cooperation.
We will continue to help our African friends develop not only the system of higher education but also general and vocational schools, train teachers, mentors and technical personnel for schools and colleges, as well as establish joint schools for which adapted teaching aids based on a combination of Russian and African national education programmes are being prepared.
We propose considering the possibility of opening schools in Africa with a series of subjects taught in Russian. I am confident that the implementation of projects such as the study of Russian and the introduction of Russia’s high educational standards will create the best foundation for our continued mutually beneficial and equal cooperation.
Next year, an international Russian language organisation should begin operating, which will be open for all countries to join if they like the Russian language and want to use it, as well as like and are interested in Russian culture. We invite our African partners to join in this endeavor.
In 28 African countries, a project has been launched to create open education centres to train teachers and educators of children’s preschool institutions, as well as primary and secondary schools. In order to do this, we are planning to significantly increase the enrollment of African students in Russian pedagogical universities.
More than 10,000 Africans currently studying in Russia are being trained in medical specialties. Healthcare and the fight against epidemics are an important area of Russia-Africa cooperation. Let me remind you that Russia was among the first countries to come to the aid of African countries during the coronavirus pandemic: we sent millions of Russian test kits to African countries free of charge and together with South Africa conducted scientific research on new strains of the dangerous virus. Just in recent months we handed two Russian mobile laboratories over to our partners from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and continue to equip the Russian-Guinean centre for the study of infections in Kindia, where more than 20 diagnostic products have been developed. About 1,500 local specialists have been trained in Russian infection prevention and control methods. A joint centre has also been established in Burundi to study infections.
A large Russian programme has been developed and will function until 2026 to assist Africa in countering infections, for which 1.2 billion rubles will be allocated. Under this programme, 10 mobile labs will be supplied, hundreds of specialists trained, and joint research carried out.
Every year, Russia and Africa have more and more youth exchanges. Representatives of African countries, as part of the New Generation programme, annually travel to Russia to participate in short-term programmes designed for young representatives of political, public, scientific, and business circles to get acquainted with our country. Relations are also maintained with those Africans who were educated in Russia. Just now, during my previous meeting, I had the pleasure to communicate with colleagues who speak fluent Russian.
I would like to use this occasion to invite our young African friends to come to Russia in March 2024, when the World Youth Festival will be held in Sochi. It’s a major forum that will bring together young people from all over the world. We expect over 20,000 participants from more than 180 countries.
We set a high value on cooperation in physical fitness and sport. We are ready to further develop ties with African countries’ sports federations. We propose building up ties between the sports universities of Russia and Africa, exchanging university students, implementing volunteer programmes and holding joint matches in different sports between educational institutions and universities. We invite African athletes to take part in the University International Sports Festival, which will be held in August in Yekaterinburg, in the Urals, and in the Games of the Future, which Kazan will host in February and March 2024. These games are a unique combination of dynamic sports and the most popular video games and technological devices. This new competition format combines classical and innovative sports.
Russia is resolved to develop cooperation with African countries and Africa as a whole in the sphere of mass communications, including the exchange of content, organisation of training courses for media personnel and students, and organisation of experimental events. Work is underway to open offices of the leading Russian media outlets in Africa, including the TASS News Agency, Rossiya Segodnya, RT, VGTRK and Rossiyskaya Gazeta. We propose creating a common information space of Russia and Africa, where Russian and African audiences will have access to objective and unbiased information about world events.
In conclusion, I would like to emphasise that Russia is sincerely interested in continuing to promote all-round development and deepen trade, economic and humanitarian cooperation with all African countries. I have no doubt that this forum and the thematic meetings, round tables and talks held within its framework will certainly be useful and will bring us closer to our common goals.
Thank you very much for your patience and attention. Thank you.
Irina Abramova: Thank you very much, Mr President.
Your speech has clearly set the prospects, nature and main areas of Russian-African cooperation in today’s transforming world order.
I believe the participants in our forum have received answers to the most pressing questions that concern both Russia and Africa today. Cooperation between equal and sovereign states is always a two-way road, and it is always extremely important for Russians to know the opinion of our African partners on the developments in the world and the prospects for cooperation.
I am honoured to give the floor to Chairperson of the African Union, President of the Union of the Comoros, His Excellency Mr Assoumani.
Chairperson of the African Union, President of the Union of the Comoros Azali Assoumani (retranslated): Your Excellency, President of the Russian Federation, Mr Putin.
Your Excellencies, presidents of the African Union member countries,
Mr Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairperson of the African Union Commission,
Representatives of the Russian authorities and the city of St Petersburg, ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great honour for me to pass greetings from the African Union to the second Russia–Africa summit in St Petersburg. I am very pleased to have an opportunity to speak today on behalf of our organisation on some matters that are important for Africa, as well as discuss our partnership with Russia, a global power that has an active presence on our continent.
First of all, let me thank the authorities of the Russian Federation for the warm welcome in the magnificent city of St Petersburg and for organising this event, both personally and on behalf of the African Union. We are in the Northern Venice: this beautiful city shows how great the Russian genius and creator of this city, Peter the Great, was. Today, the second Russia-Africa summit is taking place here, and we are talking about our common history.
Your Excellency, ladies and gentlemen,
The multipolar world of the 21st century cannot close on itself. That is why Africa wants to establish a fair and mutually beneficial partnership with the entire world. In particular, economically, Africa, where 3.8 billion people will live by the end of the century, wants to work closely with more partners, both bilaterally and multilaterally. Given the abundance of our human and natural resources, the dynamics of our continent, the workforce that we have, we look forward to close cooperation.
It is clear to us that Russia has a special place in our partnership and we are ready to work in cooperation with Russia on all major topics.
Today’s forum is taking place at a special time for Africa. As you know, an action plan for the establishment of the African Continental Free Trade Area until 2063 was adopted at the Niamey summit in July 2019 to boost our integration and cooperation. We are also developing the African Union Agenda 2063.
All these projects are designed to create new possibilities for both local and international companies that are ready to invest in Africa. To attain these goals, our partners should tailor their activities to the specific features of our continent, of course, to the goals set out in the Agenda 2063, to our infrastructure and industrialisation process, as well as to the continent’s energy problems. These are the main elements and tracks where we can actively cooperate with Russia.
It is extremely important to readjust our mutual approaches in order to develop a mutually beneficial partnership and to diversify our economy, considering that we mostly export raw materials now. However, we are living through a period of industrialisation and working to create stable skilled jobs. This is very important for our young people and that is why it is vital to strengthen our public-private partnership in the Russia-Africa context, which will help a broad variety of participants to join the process.
In this sense, the African Union remains a vital instrument of economic diversification, in particular, in the most promising sectors such as agriculture, healthcare, education, energy and others. At the same time, African companies need support to enhance labour efficiency and to enter new markets.
Agricultural raw materials account for 80 percent of our GDP. It is a sector where we can promote our partnership and our new projects. Both private and state-run companies will be able to take part in mutually beneficial partnerships on equal terms in our countries.
Ladies and gentlemen, your excellencies,
Today we are also working on investment in new digital technologies, which will create a new foundation for our cooperation. A digital revolution is taking place on our continent, which will allow us to join a new stage of the industrial revolution and to address economic and social issues in the best possible manner.
It is extremely important for us to quickly join the new industrial revolution, the digital revolution. In this connection, it is important to pay attention to the training of skilled personnel, especially young people, who should engage in effective activities in both the private and public sectors, as well as in financial organisations.
Our shared goal, ladies and gentlemen, is to define the main avenues for stepping up our cooperation for the benefit of our nations. In this context, allow me to dwell on the urgent matter of grain deliveries. This is a critical, an existential issue for us.
The fact that the grain deal was suspended may affect our cooperation in one way or another. Russia works closely with us and does a great deal to resolve the grain and food issue. In fact, Russia supplied over 1.9 million tonnes for a total of over $3 billion.
Today, I would like to use this opportunity to reaffirm just how important this topic is for us. We discussed it back in 2019.
The Ukraine crisis has a major bearing on the situation, which means that resolving this crisis would save many people whose lives depend on food deliveries. Today, our continent endures surging food prices. This compels us to call on all those involved in this process asking them to facilitate grain shipments from both Ukraine and Russia to our countries.
We stand ready to work with Russia in all sectors and spheres to ensure security on the continent. We are doing everything possible to promote peace and security on our continent. However, we are witnessing all kinds of events these days. You know what happened in Niger just recently. We firmly condemn the way the events have been unfolding in Niger and demand that the President of the Republic of Niger and his family be freed immediately.
Today, we must fight for achieving lasting peace between Russia and Ukraine. This is the message of the African Union, and I fully endorse it personally. We travelled to Kiev to meet with President Zelensky and brought him the same message. We have the same message for President of Russia Vladimir Putin. There is certainty among us that our call for peace will be heard because this is what humankind needs today. On behalf of the African Union, I once again call for peaceful coexistence between Russia and Ukraine, two brotherly nations and neighbours. You have my gratitude for heeding our call and our message.
Today, we are fighting for a multilateral, multipolar world. We, the people of Africa, understand well that the international system as it exists today must be reformed, which includes the UN system. Accordingly, Africa has every right to proactively contribute to the decision-making process, in particular as a permanent member of the UN Security Council. I will endeavour to get us there and my colleague who will succeed me in this office will work along the same lines.
I would like the audience in this hall to applaud this message in the hope that the Russian Federation will support the great cause of promoting Africa on the international stage.
Africa’s active involvement in the G20 is essential. Without this, international activity is impossible today. The expansion of Africa’s presence in the G20 is accorded great importance.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Today’s summit offers an opportunity to better understand what we should do together to boost investment and maximise our potential.
Hopefully, the forum will produce recommendations that can be implemented promptly, specifically for the development of public-private partnerships between Russia and Africa. Our continent believes in the future of Russia-Africa cooperation based on mutual respect and benefit.
This summit will certainly help us to move forward in this direction, toward peace and prosperity for Russia and Africa in the interests of our peoples.
Thank you for the attention.
Irina Abramova: Thank you, Mr President.
Your remarks have shown that Russia and Africa share rather close and sometimes identical views on the situation in the world and the new opportunities opening up in our relations.
I would like to note that the second Russia–Africa Summit is different because it deals with both economic and humanitarian issues. It means that for both Russia and Africa, both material and spiritual values are important.
I would like to give the floor to His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia.
Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia: Your Excellency, Mr President. Your Excellency, President of the Union of the Comoros Azali Assoumani, distinguished heads and high representatives of African countries.
Please accept my heartfelt welcome and gratitude for the invitation to speak at such a representative event dedicated to the development of cooperation between Russia and countries on the African continent.
This forum is a truly remarkable event in international life. It has an important political, economic and even spiritual and cultural meaning.
Despite the geographical distance separating us, our nations are bound by kind relations. The secret to this friendship is simple: Russia has never considered the African continent as a territory for reaping profit or an object for colonisation. It has never looked down on the African people or spoken from a position of superiority or force. We have always tried to show solidarity and offer help to each other in challenging historical times.
Russia tried to offer assistance to African countries during their difficult and momentous period of battling for independence and self-determination, and later worked jointly with them to rebuild a peaceful life and carry out many infrastructure projects. It is wonderful that this cooperation continues today.
The good feelings between us have been tested by time. They rest on the solid foundation of a common perception of the fundamentals of human life and a strong commitment to enduring moral values. Loyalty to traditions, perception of the family as the union of a man and a woman, love for and respect of one’s history, and an aspiration for goodness and justice are all vital civilisational values of importance to both the peoples of Russia and Africa, who cherish their distinct spiritual and cultural identities. These principles are so important for us that we are prepared to defend and fight for them.
We sometimes have to defend them under very difficult circumstances. The world has changed beyond recognition over the past decades. I do not mean so much the political map, or the economy, or technological progress as much as I mean the dangerous spiritual and moral climate, which Western countries are fostering actively and even aggressively. Moral relativism, the cult of consumption, freedom misinterpreted as permissiveness, and the eradication of the traditional family are only some of the problems of the system of values, which certain forces are promoting in the West, or rather anti-values because their adoption will inevitably bring humanity to deep cultural and spiritual degradation.
Thankfully, this danger is not only apparent to Russia, where laws are adopted to protect society from the propaganda of a culture that is alien to us and features that are amoral, but also to African countries.
I know that despite the powerful pressure placed on them, the absolute majority of African countries categorically reject the legalisation of the so-called same-sex unions, euthanasia, and other phenomena that are religious sins. This mutual rejection clearly brings our positions closer together. We proceed from the same basic principles, and therefore we are always happy to meet with likeminded people.
It is wonderful that Africa’s role in international relations is growing, as exemplified by peace initiatives of African countries and their active contribution to dealing with continental and global problems. I am confident that Russia and Africa can offer the world a constructive model of honest and fair relations among nations.
Unfortunately, today, not everyone in the international arena is always ready to engage in a dialogue of equals. Several Western countries still cannot overcome their colonial past and continue to think and act according to this template. Hopefully, the development of good relations between Russia and the African countries will help further promote traditional moral values around the world.
Another criminal tool of modern politics is attempting to incite enmity between religious groups. It hurts me to say that these phenomena have spread dangerously across Africa. Unfortunately, the Christians are more exposed to persecution than people of other faiths. I want to avail myself of this opportunity and, in my capacity as Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church, with a heavy heart, strongly urge everyone who has the authority and real power to influence this tragic situation and do everything it takes to protect Christians who are being persecuted in Africa.
The sad experience of the previous decades and the stories of many regional conflicts show that provocations based on religion are often initiated and funded by those who seek to weaken a country from inside through the well-known divide and rule strategy.
It is extremely important to prevent the incitement of religious enmity. It is all the more important as societies in the majority of African countries are multi-faith and multi-ethnic.
Cultural and ethnic diversity enriches any country and must be preserved with care. I believe Russia is ready to share its centuries of experience in this area.
There are over a hundred ethnic groups living in our country, and members of various religions and people of different faiths co-exist in harmony, including Orthodox Christians, Catholics, Protestants, Muslims, Jews and Buddhists. Not only have we lived side by side for centuries, but we freely practice our religions and cooperate in educational, humanitarian, peacemaking, social and other areas. We have established institutions to address these issues as tools for consulting with one another and developing programmes to take common actions.
As for the Russian Orthodox Church, it is cognizant of the special responsibility it has for the destinies of the nations that have historically been part of it and endeavours to do everything to cultivate in people fidelity to Divine law, respect for the traditions of and love for their country.
Not long ago, the Russian Orthodox Church established an exarchate on the African continent, compelled to do so, among other things, by the requests from Orthodox believers in Africa and for the sake of spiritually tending to the Orthodox people on this continent, as well as considering that Africa needs our presence.
However, it is not that the presence of the Russian Orthodox Church in Africa is something unprecedented. Russian parishes started to appear on the continent back in the 19th and early 20th centuries. For example, Russian churches were built in Abyssinia, which is modern-day Ethiopia, in 1889 and in 1896. The Russian Orthodox Church opened a permanent parish in Egypt back in 1914. Even more parishes opened in Africa after the revolution in Russia as refugees started fleeing our country. A church was consecrated in Tunisia in 1920, followed by a parish in Algeria in 1922, and Russian Orthodox parishes which opened in Morocco in 1927. In 1998, I consecrated the first Russian church in South Africa.
In my capacity as the head of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations, and then as Patriarch, I visited 18 countries across the African continent between 1971 and 2016, including in northern, southern, eastern, western and central Africa.
My November 1990 meeting with Nelson Mandela at his home in Soweto had special importance for me. He was freed after a lengthy imprisonment on February 11 of the same year, and I think that I was the first foreigner he received at his home. Mr Mandela asked me to convey his gratitude to the Soviet authorities for their decisive role in supporting the fight against the apartheid regime, including by supplying everything that was needed. As you know, Mr Mandela went on to become President of South Africa in 1994. I have very good memories of this man who did a lot to rid the world of the idea that apartheid can be somehow accepted.
Regrettably, in 2019 Patriarch Theodore of Alexandria, obviously yielding to external pressure, decided to recognise the schismatic ecclesiastical group in Ukraine. As I have said, these sad circumstances forced the Russian Orthodox Church to establish the Patriarchal Exarchate of Africa in December 2021.
We thought that the Patriarch of Alexandria, a Greek Patriarch, could represent the Orthodox Church as a whole in Africa, but he, guided by certain Western forces, took actions that created a new schism in the Orthodox Church. We had to react to that action, and we did it not least of all but primarily by adopting that decision on the organisation of the activities of Orthodox churches in Africa.
Not only Russians living in Africa, but also local people profess Orthodox Christianity and go to our churches. Over the past 18 months, the Patriarchal Exarchate of Africa has established over 200 parishes in 25 African countries. Apart from developing liturgical activities, we have started implementing many humanitarian and educational projects, including, inter alia, the translation of books into local languages.
The establishment and activities of the Exarchate has engendered considerable interest in the Russian Orthodox Church among Africans. Many of them appreciate the fact that our Church cherishes the apostolic succession and teaching in our sacraments and spiritual experience, and that we do not distort the God-given rules of morality to suit modern ideological trends.
While developing our pastoral work, we are trying to contribute to the strengthening of ties between the Russian Church, Russia and Africa and to improving the quality of people’s lives. New schools, water wells, electric power substations, hospitals and culture centres appear in the communities where we create our parishes.
We are determined to cooperate constructively with other religious organisations in Africa. Our parishes receive registration in full compliance with legislation of the home countries. I would like to express special gratitude for this to these countries’ leaders. The Moscow Patriarchate is open to any initiative that is advanced in the best interests of people, aimed at building peace and supporting people in need.
I address the people of the African continent with love and respect, and I invoke God’s blessings on all of you. May God give peace and prosperity to the people of your countries and wisdom, patience and tenacity to your states and their leaders. I hope that this forum will further boost cooperation between our nations in all spheres of social life.
Thank you for your attention, and all the best to you in your work.
Irina Abramova: Your Holiness, thank you very much for your address, your deep analysis of the humanitarian component of our cooperation and your focus on the importance of interfaith dialogue for addressing issues of humanitarian development.
Our next speaker arrived in St Petersburg from the Western Hemisphere, from a country that had close historical and cultural ties with the African continent. I invite Dilma Rousseff, President of Brazil from 2011 to 2016, to take the floor. On March 24, 2023, she was unanimously elected President of the BRICS New Development Bank (NDB).
President of the New Development Bank Dilma Rousseff: (retranslated): Your Excellency, President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin,
Your Excellency President of the Union of the Comoros and Chairperson of the African Union,
Heads of state and government, ladies and gentlemen,
I would like to start by welcoming this initiative by the Russian Federation and African countries. No doubt, this is a new platform that will allow us to build a more multilateral and multipolar world.
We know that today, the world is facing numerous crises and instability has become a norm in this situation. We went through the coronavirus crisis, which strongly affected developing nations. We have a debt crisis and we are seeing protectionism on the part of many Western countries. We are facing both political and climate crises.
In this context, developing nations have become increasingly important players in the international arena. The BRICS countries alone represent over 40% of the world population and account for over a quarter of global GDP. The importance of these countries’ economies is hard to overestimate, it is incomparable with the countries comprising the G7.
We know that protectionist policies, which are always unilateral, have a much stronger impact on developing nations. The use of sanctions for political purposes and attempts to expand the jurisdiction of one country beyond its borders do not resolve a single problem. On the contrary, they make everything worse. We are seeing this in the consequences of this policy, including in terms of food security, and at this forum where both economic and humanitarian problems are being discussed.
The BRICS New Development Bank that now also includes Egypt, Bangladesh and the UAE, supports the development initiatives of developing nations on all continents just as regional development banks do. These nations can count on agreements on using national currencies in trade transactions. This is a strategic instrument in the search for a balance of forces and efforts to build a fairer world and a new multipolar and multilateral world order.
The New Development Bank was established just eight years ago, in 2014, at the BRICS summit in Fortaleza. I had the honour of being present at the establishment of the bank together with President Putin. This bank is often called the BRICS bank because it was established by the will of the five BRICS members but it has already outgrown this framework and is not limited to just these countries.
The goal of the NDB is to accumulate resources to facilitate logistics and infrastructure projects in different countries so as to promote the development of their energy and social infrastructure – schools, universities and medical facilities, as well as digital infrastructure. We know that the fourth revolution – both technological and industrial – will require changes from developing economies. They should take part in the new form, new mode of production. This is why we do not agree to be just a platform for the consumption of products made by large high-tech companies.
We are paying considerable attention to building up the infrastructure of developing countries and taking part in their economies. This is one of the main goals for us, the NDB. We share the idea that our work should be aimed at ensuring the sustainable development and prosperity of our peoples and eliminating the threat of poverty and famine. We must end hunger in our countries.
We are working in the spirit of true multilateralism. The bank is working to share our experience and best practices of sustainable development, which were elaborated by our governments.
Importantly, in loaning its funds, the bank is not dependent on external factors. We know that developing nations are dependent on other factors and have been suffering from this for decades. We want to expand the influence of the NDB on countries. We want to strengthen the bank as a platform for the development of the Global South countries. In this sense, the developing nations of all continents, especially Africa, Latin America and Asia are our strategic partners. We are now expanding the range of our shareholders and partnerships. We are also trying to fund most important projects. We would like to enhance our influence in the regions.
We would like to work closer with all countries as part of our bank. We would like to establish partnerships with countries rather than work on projects alone. We would also like to work with the private sector on the most important projects.
We would also like to get our revenue in different markets and different currencies – this is important for us. The NDB will receive money in different markets and in the currencies of all developing nations, not only in dollars or in euros. We would like to increase the number of transactions in national currencies in order to strengthen the markets of the countries that are part of the NDB. We consider it important to increase the share of private investment. We believe our participants should not be affected by problems that may arise in Western markets and for this reason we are developing our own transaction systems.
We would like to create different income sources so that the developing countries can reach stability. At this moment, we know that the use of national currencies amounts to about 20 percent of all banking transactions. China carries out nearly one-third of its banking operations in its national currency.
Our programme for 2022–2026 provides for a share of about 30 percent for transactions in national currencies. I would like [you] to pay special attention to the fact that using national currencies is one of our priorities in the process of building a new architecture of financial relations in the world. We are not saying that the currencies now in use should be replaced. What we mean is that the range of currencies now in use should be expanded as should the existing financial infrastructure.
Countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia are often affected by negative economic consequences, being unable, for example, to control interest rate increases. We no longer want to be affected by these changes and figures, which we cannot control. We just suffer from their consequences.
The third important point for the New Development Bank is [promoting] socioeconomic development and enhancing social inclusion. We do not think it is necessary to impose our vision on each country; we appreciate different development projects and sovereign paths [chosen by] each state. The New Development Bank wants to support projects that can help smooth out social differences and raise the socioeconomic level in each country.
We also think it is important to create infrastructure projects that will facilitate the attainment of this goal. The NDB has already approved 98 projects in member countries amounting in total to about 35 billion US dollars.
We cooperate with various regional banks. We cooperate with the African Export-Import Bank and other banks engaged in economic and social development. We also work with private investment and we believe that our joint work will help us implement infrastructure and logistics projects aimed at improving living standards in the member countries.
I am confident that the BRICS Development Bank and all member countries will become increasingly important international actors and that the NDB will emerge as a new platform. In this context, the current Summit is meeting the challenges of the times and is up to the issues facing the NDB, helping to achieve the multilateral world [order] for the benefit of the developing countries.
Today, our world is in constant change and facing various threats. Together, we can do better in terms of responding to new challenges. There is no stability without peace and no development, including sustainable development, without stability. Unless the world develops in a sustainable manner, it will not reach any agreements enabling us to really improve our lives and help people and our planet as a whole to get richer.
Thank you very much.
Irina Abramova: Thank you very much, Ms Rousseff, for your remarks, which show that both Russia and Africa have many supporters on different continents.
The next participant of this plenary session will address you for the second time. He took part in the plenary session of the Russia–Africa Economic Forum in Sochi in 2019, with good reason. The financing of Russia-Africa cooperation is one of the main issues now.
I give the floor to Mr Benedict Okey Oramah, President of the African Export-Import Bank.
President of the African Export-Import Bank Benedict Okey Oramah: Your Excellency Vladimir Putin, our dear host and President of the Russian Federation,
Your Excellency Azali Assoumani, President of the Union of the Comoros and Chairperson of the African Union,
Your excellencies African heads of state and their representatives present here,
Your Excellency Moussa Faki Mahamat, the Chairman of the African Union Commission,
Your excellencies distinguished ladies and gentlemen,
It gives me great pleasure to have been given the opportunity to make remarks during the 2023 Russia–Africa Economic Forum. Special thanks to His Excellency President Putin, his Government and the people of Russia for demonstrating once again the strong bond of friendship and partnership between the Russian people and the African people, even in the midst of unprecedented global challenges.
When we met in Sochi in 2019, during the first Russia–Africa Economic Forum and Summit, we committed to systematically pursue stronger trade and investment ties between Russia and Africa, to reset socioeconomic relations on the foundations of the solidarity formed during Africa’s struggle for independence in the 1950s and the 1960s.
We projected moving two-way trade closer to 40 billion dollars by 2026. Your Excellencies, in the four years before 2021, the thresholds reached almost 20 billion dollars from about 10 billion dollars five years earlier. This happened despite the COVID-19 pandemic and other significant global difficulties. With the strong partnership between Afreximbank and the Russian Export Centre, we expect a doubling of the trade flows in the next four years. Some progress has been made, and we believe that this is achievable.
The global food security challenges have brought to the fore the critical role that Russia plays in guaranteeing Africa’s food security. A significant proportion of the African economies depend on Russia for supply of fertilisers, and 30 percent of Africa’s cereal imports are from Russia. Ensuring that these trade flows continue remains a priority of Afreximbank and its African member states. That is why, in the context of the unprecedented global uncertainties, Afreximbank has been working with the African Union Commission, the United Nations system and our Russian partners to use an e-commerce platform called the African Trade Exchange to facilitate the seamless flow of goods and payments in any currencies the sellers and buyers choose, and in a transparent manner.
Afreximbank is able to offer trade services, commercial facilities and payment services on that platform. It also offers an opportunity to participate in supporting trade. The African Trade Exchange is a platform, which we use to pool Africa’s demand for grains and fertilisers, against which Afreximbank has placed an aggregate credit limit amounting to three billion dollars to support the trade. The three billion dollars represent what is available and can be used on a revolving basis to support the significant demand for food and fertilisers today on the continent of Africa.
We look forward to continuing these efforts with our Russian partners, using this platform to ease access to grains and fertilisers. Every day 300 million Africans go hungry, and it is important that we all do our best to make sure that until we begin to achieve food sovereignty, we ensure that food security is attained.
Beyond the immediate food security priorities, Afreximbank and the Russian Export Centre are collaborating to promote trade and investment in other critical sectors, with an emphasis placed on those activities that we have integrated in the African economy, and above it the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement.
Afreximbank stands ready to offer its array of products to support investments in agriculture, industrial parks, health and other critical infrastructure. In true partnership with the Russian Export Centre, Afreximbank will be able to support African investors who are willing to exploit the opportunities in Russia.
So, while we work on the investments from Russia into Africa, we also hope that African investors can look into Russia, because it is where we have two-way investments that can accelerate trade flows and economic integration.
By the end of this second summit, I hope that Russia and Africa will have strengthened their solidarity, laid the foundation for rebuilding the supply chains for grains and fertilisers trade between Africa and Russia, which is a bit broken today. And this is important so the billions of dollars in trade can continue.
I was very happy when His Excellency President Putin spoke about all the arrangements being made to open new trade routes that will make it easier for this trade to go on seamlessly. I hope we also find common ground to explore the tremendous investment opportunities in Africa opened by the African Continental Free Trade Agreement.
Less than 20 years ago, Russia was a net importer of food. Today, Russia accounts for 20 percent of the world’s exports of grains. We hope that the new partnership that we are forging with Russia at the Russia–Africa Summit will make it possible for Africa to attain the same goal in a very short time.
Thank you for listening.
Irina Abramova: Mr Oramah, I thank you and all the participants in the plenary session for the presentations, which have determined the strategic directions of our future discussions.
Participants and guests,
The plenary meeting is now adjourned. I wish everyone successful and, most importantly, productive work.