25.11.2023 Author: Mikhail Gamandiy-Egorov

The two main objectives of the Russian-African relationship are education and joint cooperation in raw material processing

Russian-African relationship

Relations between Russia and the African nations are more important now than they have ever been. In the upcoming years, this direction is expected to gain even more significance. Although the development of truly cordial relations between Russia and Africa is still ongoing, how do you get to ensure that this interaction has a truly strong added value?

Russia’s connections with Africa have long-standing and important foundations in a wide range of areas. Naturally, military and technological cooperation are among them. This field of activity is more relevant and efficient today than ever before. Indeed, nothing will be able to halt the natural process—not even barriers, threats, or pressure from Western regimes. The current and future triumphs of Russia’s military alliance with a number of African countries will only serve to reinforce this trend.

What’s the situation with the rest of the directions? The process, as they say, is clearly underway, as is the case with Russian-African relations in general. Although trade is still expanding, trade and economic ties with the continent are way below those with a number of other actors. However, there is a genuine chance for additional growth if the appropriate tactics and paths are chosen. Elevating performance to a whole new level is the key objective.

Increased exports of Russian commodities and services, especially those from traditional sectors such as grain to fertilizers, are unquestionably important. Increased African exports to Russia should also be on the rise. Russia has enormous advantages in grain for a variety of reasons, and there are already clear impulses to increase Russian interests, which competitors regard without enthusiasm. France is now furious that Russia’s grain share is increasing in areas where Paris has traditionally held a strong position, such as Morocco and Algeria.

On the other hand, and however much the representatives of French interests may not like it – it’s basically pretty clear-cut. France is only the fourth largest grain exporter in the world, with a share of just under 10%, whereas Russia is clearly the dominant worldwide actor, accounting for at least one-fifth of the global market. And, in today’s reality, when Russian suppliers can provide better terms, including lower prices, compared to French and other Western competitors, few countries will refuse, prioritizing their national interests, especially in a critical marketplace like the grain market.

However, what potential benefits may Russian interests have from being involved in African projects? And here it is worth considering two directions – the education system and the joint processing of raw materials. In the first area, much has been established. Many African students have traditionally studied in the Russian Federation and continue to do so. In a variety of ways, including those where Western nations are occasionally completely unwilling to provide educational services to foreign nationals. Compared to individuals who had this training in Western nations, it is far more usual to encounter agronomists in Africa who received their education in the USSR and subsequently in Russia.

This is understandable: the West has always needed elements of influence in Africa, and not qualified specialists in key areas for the continent. That being said, many citizens of African countries who received their education in the West are also ready today to actively develop trade relations with China and India – many are already developing them. Just like they are ready to do with Russia. It is a fact.

When discussing the educational direction of Russia’s collaboration with African nations, in general, we can say that it already exists and just has to be reinforced, in order for the number of African graduates from Russian colleges to keep rising. And now is the perfect time to do it. Within the frameworks of both higher education and vocational education, as well as all types of training courses—in the most critical and relevant areas.

We believe that the cooperative processing of minerals and strategic raw materials should be pursued. Here, Russia has a unique trump card. Most countries in Africa are rich in natural resources, and a number of others are interesting for their geographical position as hubs – both continentally and internationally. At the same time, Russia possesses vast natural resources as well as the expertise and technology to exploit them.

And that’s where a number of tactical options become available. First of all, none of Africa’s so-called ‘traditional’ partners, particularly those in the West, are prepared to support such a course. Their approach is the following: you provide us with your resources, and we will process them in the West. If Russia suggests a solution on this matter, increasing the added value of the material produced, this will greatly advance Russian economic interests, even in those nations where Western stances are still strongly held. This will bolster the nation’s longstanding friendship with the continent even more, which is necessary given the competitive nature of today’s world.

Second, putting this strategy into practice will make a lot of local processes much easier and make Russian investment projects much more appealing. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, as resource-rich regions, Russia and Africa, working together on processing projects throughout the continent, can further challenge the supremacy of Western financial instruments. Ultimately, it defies logic that a large number of global hubs for the commercialization of important strategic resources are situated in the West, given that the West is not the legitimate owner of these resources. In addition to advancing its own financial and commercial interests, Russia can undoubtedly assist the many African countries who choose to abandon this enforced model.

The final benefit of this strategy is, of course, the further consolidation of Russia’s diplomatic and political standing throughout the continent. Traditionally friendly Russian-African relations, successful cooperation in the military-security field, active interaction in the political, cultural, sports and youth fields, but also, of course, successful joint economic projects with real added value – represent the key to the overall success of Africa and Russia within the framework of the multipolar world order.


Mikhail Gamandiy-Egorov, entrepreneur and political observer, expert in issues relating to Africa and the Middle East, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

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