27.03.2024 Author: Yuliya Novitskaya

Oleg Ozerov: “Russia is a reliable partner, ready to assist in ensuring all dimensions of sovereignty and security of African States”

Oleg Borisovich Ozerov, Ambassador-at-Large of the Russian Foreign Ministry and Head of the Secretariat of the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum

Today my interlocutor is Oleg Borisovich Ozerov, Ambassador-at-Large of the Russian Foreign Ministry and Head of the Secretariat of the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum.

Our conversation turned out to be serious and topical. We touched on the question of how Russian-African cooperation can withstand the West’s harsh external pressure, talked about security challenges and discussed the catastrophic loss of the West’s position on the African continent. And Oleg Borisovich also spoke on promoting a unifying policy line on the African continent.

– Oleg Borisovich, you have recently stated that “the West is catastrophically losing ground on the African continent, not only in terms of material investments. First of all, it is losing its moral authority.” Are we succeeding in filling the niche that is being vacated? What immediate steps do we need to take in the very near future? And what is already being done?

– In general, the West is rapidly losing its position as a global hegemon, not only in Africa. However, this is not about filling a niche. Russia, unlike Western countries, opposes turning Africa into an confrontation arena and does not force its partners to chose one country over another respecting sovereign right to decide their policy. In the context of fundamental changes in the existing system of the world order, we promote a unifying political line on the African continent. We are against “hidden agendas” and “double standards”. Violations of international law and interference in the internal affairs of sovereign States, including under the pretext of combating terrorism or under the slogan of preventing extremist manifestations, are absolutely unacceptable. We are well aware of how sensitive our African friends are to this aspect, and we are building our relations with the continent by offering our partners cooperation that is based on equal, mutual respect of interests and benefits. In this context, we are working first of all on developing our ties with Africa, which gained impetus during the second Russia-Africa summit in St. Petersburg, and we continue our efforts to qualitatively implement the decisions of the summit. I believe that the achievement of our goals will be facilitated by the application of a systematic, comprehensive approach, according to which Russia is a reliable partner ready to assist in ensuring all dimensions of the sovereignty and security of African States.

– Last year, Russia’s trade turnover with African countries increased by more than 40%. The result, at first glance, is not bad, but there is certainly the potential to increase it many times over. In which areas does economic cooperation show the best results, and which still need to be “pulled up”?

– Today, Africa is a fast-growing promising and large market where demand far outstrips supply. We are also interested in increasing imports of new products from the continent in addidion to tea, coffee, cocoa and tropical fruits. Under these conditions, we and our African partners have an opportunity to unlock complementary economic potentials. I would like to emphasize that Africa can always count on Russia as a reliable ally in its endeavor to obtain modern technologies, train the personnel and build up the scientific reserve necessary for an economic breakthrough.

We are ready to work in specific strategic areas, including construction and modernization of energy facilities, subsoil exploration, production, transportation of hydrocarbons and other minerals, field development and exploitation, implementation of infrastructure projects for construction of new and modernization of existing industrial facilities, export of education, medical solutions, digital services, expansion of supplies of Russian machinery, agricultural, chemical and pharmaceutical products. We are ready to purchase products manufactured on the continent. In this regard, we actively assist Russian business in working on the African track, participating in congress and exhibition events, organizing business missions, searching for promising areas to enter the continent’s markets in cooperation with our embassies.

– Africa faces many security challenges, of which the fight against terrorism and the food crisis can be considered paramount. How is cooperation in these areas developing between Russia and the continent’s states?

– First of all, I would like to note that Russia is in favor of fully consolidating the efforts of the international community to form a broad anti-terrorist front with the participation of all states on the basis of the United Nations Charter. As you know, we have had bitter experience of all the negative consequences of the use of international terrorism to undermine sovereignty and territorial integrity. I am referring to the conflict in the North Caucasus. The root causes of terrorism are not always related to poverty and socio-economic issues. Terrorism is often used as a tool of third forces to achieve foreign policy goals, as in Syria, for example. In that country, as a result of Russia’s decisive actions, it has been possible to stabilize the situation and develop the parameters of a peace process. Thus, the Russian Federation has unique experience in confronting both internal and external terrorist threats and is ready to actively share it with African friends. We are already providing counter-terrorism assistance at the request of states such as the CAR, Mali and Burkina Faso, including law enforcement training in the Russian Federation. We are seen as a reliable “security provider” in Africa.

As for such an important issue as ensuring Africa’s food security, our country confirms its reputation as a reliable international supplier of agricultural goods. I would like to note that Russia has taken a number of specific steps to support African friends. For example, Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe, the CAR, Eritrea, Mali, Somalia and Zimbabwe have received Russian grain, the transfer of which was announced by Russian President Vladimir Putin during the St. Petersburg summit. Free shipments of fertilisers were made to Kenya, Nigeria, Malawi and Zimbabwe. We are ready to go further and create conditions for African countries to expand their own food production. This includes not only the supply of fertilisers, but also agricultural machinery and agrotechnology.

At the same time, the Collective West continues its active campaign to blame Russia for the current crisis situation on the world food market. However, we know that the continent is well aware of the real reasons for the current difficulties caused by the short-sighted policy of the Western countries themselves.

– Western pressure on our African partners seeking to develop cooperation with us has not abated. But we know that a spring always compresses to a certain limit and then collapses. How can we prevent this further compression? Will Russia and all progressive humanity have the strength to resist this process?

– Indeed, the build-up of Russian-African cooperation is taking place in the context of increasingly severe external pressure. The West is not going to give up its policy of domination, including on the African continent. Washington and its allies mimic the agenda of equal partnership and engagement, the rule of international law, and actively employ illegal unilateral restrictions and secondary restrictions as a tool to advance their policies and punish the disobedient.

Russia, responding to the request of its African friends, stands in solidarity with them in the need to oppose the Western “policy of robbery” expressed in new forms of colonialism. It is about strengthening the sovereignty of African states, as well as taking into account their national interests and cultural specificities, and consolidating the continent’s position as an emerging center of a multipolar world.

– Oleg Borisovich, you took a very active part in the preparation and holding of the Russia-Africa Summit. Were your expectations from this event fully met? How active is the work being done now and in what areas?

– As you understand, the successful results of the summit are the results of the collective work of government agencies, business, and public organizations. I can safely say that the results of the St. Petersburg summit exceeded the most optimistic expectations. Together with the Africans, we developed the summit’s final declaration, three sectoral declarations and the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum Action Plan for 2023-2026, which were approved by the leaders. We are currently working hard to fulfil the provisions of these documents. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia, other agencies and organizations are focused on achieving tangible results in the political, economic and humanitarian spheres, some of them are already visible. For example, along with food supplies to the countries of the continent, business missions are being actively organized, and Russian embassies in Burkina Faso and Equatorial Guinea and trade missions in Nigeria and Ethiopia have resumed their activities. There are plans to further expand our country’s diplomatic presence on the continent. It should also be borne in mind that this fall we plan to present the interim results of the work done during the first ministerial conference of the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum with the participation of African foreign ministers in Sochi.

– During the Soviet era, a huge number of foreign students, including Africans, studied in our universities. Today, according to official data, their nomber has reached about 355,000. If we take into account that the population of Africa is almost 1.5 billion people, the figures are not high. How can we regain the lost positions today?

– I agree that cooperation with the countries of the African continent on the humanitarian track should be increased by providing more scholarships to Africans, opening branches of Russian universities, Russian Houses, secondary schools, and press centers in Africa. Thanks to the St. Petersburg Summit, work in this direction is actively progressing. In particular, the quota of state scholarships for African students was doubled in the 2023/2024 academic year, and a comprehensive network of Russian-language open education centers was launched in 27 African states. I would also like to emphasize the importance of training Russian Africanists and specialists in rare African languages, who are to become conductors of Russian policy on the continent. A number of universities (the Institute of Asian and African Countries at Lomonosov Moscow State University, St Petersburg State University, Moscow State Institute of International Relations) are already training Africanist linguists, and from 2023, at the suggestion of the leadership of the IAAC at Lomonosov Moscow State University, some languages are proposed to be taught in schools.

– You have been to Africa many times. What is it like for you? What fascinates you most about it?

– Africa is, first and foremost, about people and their overflowing energy. People who share with us traditional values, ideas and views of the modern world order. Like Russians, African friends support the principles of justice and equality, respect for the national interests of all countries without exception, and the diversity of confessions and cultures. The most impressive thing is that we and our African partners have a common understanding of global processes taking place today. One cannot but admire the distinctive African culture and art, its brightness and colorfulness. I would like to point out that the similar worldview in Russia and Africa is the result of a long and difficult historical journey, full of suffering of peoples resisting external aggressors. The parallels between the Great Patriotic War and Africa’s struggle against colonizers are self-explanatory.

Thank you for the interesting questions.

I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate your Muslim audience on the great holiday of the holy month of Ramadan!

– Oleg Borisovich, thank you for your interesting and frank answers to the questions. I hope our readers will have the pleasure of reading your interviews in our academic journal many more times.


Interviewed by Yulia Novitskaya, writer, journalist-interviewer, correspondent for the online magazine. “New Eastern Outlook

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