27.02.2024 Author: Yuliya Novitskaya

Nikolay Novichkov: “Russia’s wealth will be multiplied not only by Siberia and the northern seas, but also by the southern seas and shores in the African direction and in the global South in general”

Nikolay Novichkov

The range of issues we discussed during our conversation with Nikolay Novichkov, Doctor of Sciences in Economics, member of the State Duma, was incredibly broad. We talked about Russia’s competitive advantages over others on the African continent and the prospects of the digital ruble in our mutual settlements, as well as cultural and educational projects.

– Nikolay Vladimirovich, last autumn the State Duma set up 15 friendship groups with African countries. What tasks will they have to solve in the near future?

– Until recently, there were only two friendship groups with African countries in the State Duma. The first was responsible for interaction with the parliaments of the Maghreb, and the second was responsible for the rest of the African continent, i.e. fifty countries.

In the spring of 2023, the “Russia-Africa” Inter-Parliamentary Conference was held, which had an excellent resonance and was very well received by our African partners. Co-operation with the African continent within the parliamentary dimension was significantly intensified. Thus, there was an urgent need to expand the number of friendship groups. Friendship groups have appeared with parliaments of individual countries, with parliaments of countries that are close to each other, even with parliaments of individual regions.

Now there are seventeen such groups. Their task is very simple – to do everything possible to promote the intensification of Russia’s co-operation with the African continent, not only within the parliamentary dimension, but in general. These tasks are political, economic and humanitarian in nature. Harmonisation of our legislative activities is a separate issue. It is essential that the rules of law that apply in Russia and African countries, if not completely identical, should be understandable and make it possible to develop our co-operation.

– You mentioned the “Russia-Africa” Inter-Parliamentary Conference. Will it become an annual event from this year onwards? What issues are planned to be discussed at the next one?

– The Russia-Africa conference was followed by the Russia-Latin America conference, in which the parliaments of South America, Central America and the Caribbean took part. In our view, it was also successful. This region is also strategically important for co-operation at the present stage.

At the suggestion of the Chairman of the State Duma, Vyacheslav Volodin, an annual conference will be held with the countries, as we now say, of the global majority. We will invite parliaments from Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, the Asia-Pacific region, certain friendly countries in Europe and countries of the Eurasian Economic Union. The Conference will be an annual event. In 2024, it will be held in the autumn. And the tasks are exactly the same: harmonising legislative norms and identifying areas of priority development to support the Russian presence in the relevant regions of the world.

– African leaders are well aware that co-operation with Russia contributes to the development of their national economies and the strengthening of their sovereignty. Russian industrial exports to the African continent grew by almost half last year. What steps should be taken to further increase growth rates?

– The tasks here, as you realise, are many. First and foremost, we are talking about the need for a systemic Russian presence on the African continent. This should involve not only bringing legislative norms under a common denominator, but also, for example, resolving security issues, training personnel, and resolving economic issues. We are well aware that the issue of the debt owed by African countries to the Russian Federation has not been fully resolved. There are certainly no particular problems there, but it exists nonetheless.

On the other hand, due to the illegal international sanctions imposed by the countries of the collective West, our mutual settlements with African countries have become more complicated. How can we switch to normal settlements so that they are efficient and understandable for economic agents? The question is open. Of course, it will be resolved, but it is still open.

We see great promise in the launch of the digital ruble. Digital currencies are an understandable tool for many African countries. In this case, we will not depend on the will of third unfriendly countries, but will be able to work directly. Some settlements are being converted into the currencies of friendly countries, primarily the currencies of the BRICS countries. We are moving away from such seemingly familiar currencies as the dollar, the euro or the British pound. And here we need to understand that these are not just currencies of countries that are waging a hybrid war against us. Settlements in so-called toxic currencies allow issuing countries to influence Russia’s economic co-operation with Africa. We do not need that. Therefore, settlement issues will be solved, including by such creative means as the digital economy.

– There is a lot of talk now about the fact that the prospects for Russia-Africa relations should shift to the plane of industrial production: this is technology, this is education. At the same time, the specificity of the African continent is that each state is a special market with different economic indicators. Therefore, each country has its own, individual requests for co-operation in this or that industry?

– You’re right. The African continent is 55 countries. That is more than a quarter of all the countries in the world. The priorities, demands and needs of each country are different. But at the same time, we realise that there are market-wide or region-wide issues. Therefore, having started working in a certain region, for example, in East Africa, and having worked out some technologies of interaction, these technologies can be extrapolated and exported to other countries of the same region. Given the fact that the Soviet Union and Russia have accumulated considerable experience of co-operation with all African countries and regions, we can go there from any side. This is, in fact, what is happening now.

To date, co-operation with the countries of North Africa has intensified: Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, and the Sahel region. We did not leave Ethiopia, Eritrea, Tanzania, we worked with them and continue to work with them. I am not talking about the Republic of South Africa – our strategic partner.

Therefore, I repeat once again, it is important to enter, work out the model, and then extrapolate and export it to different schemes, regions and situations.

– In one of your recent interviews, you said that Russia has one competitive advantage over others on the African continent – we can export security to African countries. Do you think we are already actively doing this?

– I can say unequivocally that we have a presence in Africa. And this is not even about exporting security, but about promoting the values of state national sovereignty. We treat each African country with respect – its state structure, as an established political system, certainly its traditions and culture. We are not trying to impose any external values. We respect the way each of these countries is developing. And it is respect for sovereignty that is the message with which we are going to Africa.

By and large, we are the only global power that is going with that message. The consequence of this is the independence of economic calculations and projects and, of course, ensuring the security of those countries with which we work. Therefore, recognising the sovereignty of African states, their political, humanitarian and economic independence is a primary value and priority for us. And on this basis, we build all our relations, including security issues.

– Russian investors, including small and medium-sized businesses, are welcome in Africa. To what extent are Russian investors ready to invest?

– As you know, business is ready to work with any growing market. And the African market is definitely a growing market. Both because of population growth and the fact that new sectors of the economy are being formed in many countries. As we forecast that this growth will be significant, it is clear that the rate of return will be significant. Therefore, I am optimistic about Russian investors coming to Africa.

– Will support mechanisms for exporters to African countries be restructured?

– I think that there must be an instrument oriented exclusively at the African continent. I cannot say now on the basis of which development institute or department it will be created. But for me, as a practitioner, it is quite obvious that without this very comprehensive state supervision of Africa’s development, we will get absolutely not what we would like and what our African partners are claiming. If we are talking about Russia’s ambitious presence on the African continent, it is necessary to build the corresponding ambitious support institutions. I am sure that in the foreseeable future we will see a breakthrough in this respect and will build on this success.

– Any big economic projects always start with cultural and humanitarian projects. They are the first swallows that business follows. We have talked about business ties, let us now turn to cultural and educational ties. What can you say about this?

– We have to give credit to Rossotrudnichestvo and our educational block in the government – the quota for African students is constantly growing. Unfortunately, it is not as large as it was in the Soviet Union, but it is nevertheless quite noticeable. And the demand for Russian education in Russian on the African continent is enormous. Here we need to unambiguously build on our success in this direction, expand co-operation, and maybe even attract our corporations that want to work there. So that they also invest their resources in educational co-operation between Russia and African countries.

As for the cultural dimension, it is clear that we are actively promoting the Russian language, our traditions and values. In this respect, they go hand in hand with the educational process and economic co-operation. Undoubtedly, there is a lot to work on here. But we cannot say that nothing is being done at all. Although, of course, we would like to do more.

– Nikolay Vladimirovich, and to conclude our conversation – our traditional question. What is your Africa like? What attracts you to it? What sticks in your memory most of all?

– For me, Africa is very big and diverse. For all that, it is extremely receptive to everything new. In this sense, it is certainly fascinating in every sense of the word. For me, Africa is part of my life, my political activity and part of my destiny. Therefore, I perceive the development of Russia’s co-operation with Africa as one of the priority tasks of our country in the 21st century.

And, I am not afraid of this word, Russia’s wealth will be multiplied not only by Siberia and northern seas, as Mikhail Vasilyevich Lomonosov said, but also by southern seas and southern shores in the African direction and in the global South in general.

– Nikolay Vladimirovich, thank you for an informative and topical conversation.


Yulia NOVITSKAYA, writer, journalist-interviewer, correspondent of the “New Eastern Outlook”

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