Moscow Continues African Expansion As Equatorial Guinea Holds Talks

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The main objective is trade development with the Economic Community of Central African States

By Chris Devonshire-Ellis

The Russian President Vladimir Putin has met with Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, President of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea, who arrived in Moscow on an official visit on Thursday.

Talks between the two began with a private conversation, then international consultations were held by the delegations of both countries. One of the decisions made at the talks was a statement by Moscow that it will reopen the Russian embassy in Malabo, the capital of Equatorial Guinea.

“I think this is a very, very important decision. It will lead to political development not only in Equatorial Guinea, but also in Central Africa,” President Obiang stated.

Obiang is the current rotating Chairman of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), the regional economic bloc uniting Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, the Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, and São Tomé and Principe. His task among others, is to oversee political governance and developments relating to regional integration within the seven-nation bloc.

He also stressed the importance of cooperating on security issues in the Gulf of Guinea, explaining that the free trade zone of Central Africa is “subject to terrorist acts.” “I would like to strengthen our cooperation in defense of our countries,” Obiang said.

The African leader also offered to host the next Russia-Africa summit in the Republic of Equatorial Guinea, if the annual event is to be held on the African continent. His country “has the infrastructure” for holding such an event, he promised.

This year marks the 55th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries, the President of the Russian Federation pointed out at the meeting. “We know you well as our trusted friend. You have visited our country many times,” Vladimir Putin told Obiang.

Russia and Equatorial Guinea have good scope for cooperation, according to Putin. “We have good prospects and we have things to do. And I hope that today we will discuss various areas of our interaction with our colleagues from the governments on both sides,” he said.

Equatorial Guinea / Russia bilateral trade remains small at just US$1.7 million, with Equatorial Guinea exporting mainly sawn timber to Russia, while Russia exports poultry, edible offal and paper.

However, the prospects of trade with the ECCAS bloc are far more significant. ECCAS has a population of 203 million and a combined GDP of US$275 billion. It is also growing with 5% GDP growth in 2022. Russia has already stated in its 2023 Foreign Policy Concept that it intends to develop links with the EAEU and other trade blocs, the significance of Equatorial Guinea’s President to Moscow being emblematic of exploring these with Central Africa.

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