Russia-Southern Africa Development Community Trade Ties Developing

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  • Potential for numerous African-EAEU Free Trade Agreements 
  • Africa increasingly being seen as a competitive manufacturing export market with a growing consumer base 
  • Mirroring China’s developments in Africa 

Op/Ed by Chris Devonshire-Ellis

The Russia-Africa 2021 conference was held from March 19, with the theme “Directions and Opportunities for Industrial and Investment Cooperation”. The platform was initiated by the Department of Investment and Industrial Policy of Moscow to identify the directions and possibilities of industrial and investment cooperation between Russian and Sub-Saharan African companies.

Speaking virtually at the event, the Southern African Development Community (SADC), Executive Secretary Dr. Stergomena Tax stated that Russian businesses should take advantage of investment opportunities with the SADC, stating that “Lucrative opportunities exist in SADC’s value chains such as agro-processing, energy, pharmaceuticals, mineral beneficiation and manufacturing of various commodities for domestic and export markets.” She added that the region was also secure, peaceful, and offered a stable investment environment.

SADC member states also participate in the Russia-Africa Summit, an annual platform which is used to share information on investment opportunities and investment climate in the region. The SADC includes Angola, Botswana, Comoros, DR Congo, Eswatini, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. None of these countries currently have Free Trade Agreements with Russia, although it is understood that numerous African nations have commenced FTA discussions with the Eurasian Economic Union.

Dr. Tax urged companies to explore investment opportunities in industrialization, which is one of the key priority focal areas for the Southern African region. she highlighted that in line with the African Union Agenda 2063, the SADC Industrialization Strategy and Roadmap 2015-2063 seeks to achieve economic and technological transformation through among others, presenting opportunities for investments and partnering with the private sector, both domestic and international.

Dr. Tax further highlighted opportunities under the SADC Free Trade Area, the COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite Free Trade Area and the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) markets given the rising population and economic growth. The AfCFTA deal kicked in from January 1st this year, includes 55 African nations and has reduced tariffs on intra-African goods to zero for 95% of all products.

The Deputy Head of the Department of Investment and Industrial Policy of Moscow, Anna Kuzmenko, reiterated that Africa offers great opportunities for Russian exports, considering the tremendous economic growth achieved by African countries over the past years.

Ms. Kuzmenko highlighted that there are indications that Africa will become the world’s greatest continent in terms of free trade with an economic potential reaching US$29 trillion through development of inter-continental and intra-continental trade. She also underscored the potential areas of exports which Russia had already made progress, such as chemicals, transportation, machinery, healthcare, pharmaceuticals, optics, and information technology.

The Director of the Department of Asia, Africa and Latin America in the Ministry of Industry and Trade of the Russian Federation, Sergey Nosov, emphasized that Russia would be a good partner to African countries as the country offers high value technologies, communication, technical solutions, science, and many other various industrial equipment which will help Africa in its endeavor to industrialize.

He noted the steady development and growth of African countries at the back of its abundant natural resources and raw materials, whose exploitation calls for enhanced co-operation and partnership with international communities.

Member of the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation, Deputy Chairman of the Federation Council Committee on Science, Education and Culture, and Chairman of Afrocom, Igor Morozov, highlighted that the forum seeks to strengthen collaboration and sharing of experience, training of experts, sharing of skilled labor, production, and technology transfer.

He emphasized that Russia was committed to working effectively with its African partners and intends to host a second Russia-Africa Summit which aims to boost economic and political relations between Africa and Russia, as well as with the Eurasian Economic Union.

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