Russia-Africa Relations: Can it go beyond military weapons?
In the decades to come, Russia’s interests in Africa will continue to run on many tracks, way beyond military weapons and mineral exploitation.
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In 2014, Nigeria under former President Goodluck Jonathan requested for help with military weapons to fight the raging Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria’s northeast from the United States and the United Kingdom, under former President Barrack Obama and Prime Minister David Cameron respectively.
Unfortunately, due to some political exigencies wrapped in the mould of alleged human rights abuses by the Nigerian military, the United Kingdom and the United States were in no rush to respond to Nigeria’s request for help.
Nigeria turned to Russia for counter-terrorism training for its special forces and bought military hardware to fight Boko Haram.
This was not the first time an African country would be forced to turn to the Kremlin for help.
According to a report by the Warsaw Institute, so far, Moscow has signed over 20 military cooperation deals with various countries across Africa including Tanzania, Eritrea, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Libya, Chad, Sudan, South Sudan, the Central African Republic, the Republic of Congo.
Others include the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Mozambique, and Madagascar.
Exports of Russian-made weapons and military hardware to Africa amount currently to $4.6 billion annually, with a contract portfolio worth over $50 billion.
The leading importers of Russian arms in Africa are Algeria (helicopters, tanks, submarines), Egypt (aircraft, air defence systems, helicopters), Angola (fighter jets, tanks, artillery systems, arms and ammunition), and Uganda (tanks, air defence systems), alongside Mali, Mozambique, Nigeria, Sudan, and Rwanda.
In 2017, Russian arms trade with Africa doubled compared with 2012. In 2018, Russia concluded arms and military hardware trade deals with as many as 20 countries across Africa. The Russian arms trading monopoly Rosoboronexport accounts for a third of all weaponry supplies to the continent.
In addition to arms exports and military training, the Russian Ministry of Defence is involved in the training of African military personnel and offers related opportunities at educational establishments in Russia.
The nuclear industry is another example of Moscow’s ever-increasing push for new investments across Africa. In July 2018, Nigeria confirmed Rosatom’s plan to develop the country’s nuclear power plant.
Similar talks are underway with Angola. Moscow has signed memoranda of understanding on nuclear cooperation with Sudan, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, and Morocco
Teamed with Afreximbank, the Russian export institution bankrolls projects in Sierra Leone, Angola, Nigeria, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
The maiden edition of the Russia-Africa summit had just ended in the resort town of Sochi, with dozens of African countries leaving with commitments from Russia on investments worth billions of dollars.
Like China, which analysts say already owes at least 20 per cent of its wealth to African expansion, Russian is seeking to gain exactly as much wealth if not more through this current move.
In the decades to come, Russia’s interests in Africa will continue to run on many tracks, way beyond military weapons and mineral exploitation. There is no doubt about that.
Africa, for its part, is seeking for an alternative to China and the West. fortunately, it sees Russia as a reliable partner, also due to the lack of Moscow’s efforts to colonize the continent. More so, present-day Russia has no ambition to persuade its African peers to follow its political and economic patterns.
NOTE: This is an abridged version of the original article titled: Russia in Africa: Weapons, mercenaries, spin doctors and published by the Warsaw Institute. This version was published with minor additions from this publication.
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