What will Russia's investments in Africa yield?
Russia hosted a summit and economic forum with high-level delegations from African states last week in Sochi. In his opening remarks Putin announced debt relief amounting to 20 billion dollars. Commentators suspect Moscow wants to revive the past and strengthen its presence in Africa once more. But they take a critical view of the investments this entails.
Putin is looking for new friends
After China, Russia is now also trying to regain a foothold in Africa, Ilta-Sanomat comments:
“When the Soviet Union was still strong it was a significant player in Africa. ... After its collapse Moscow's influence disappeared, but now Putin is bringing Russia back to the continent. Behind all this is the race for raw materials and the knowledge that China has already invested tens of billions of dollars in various projects there. ... Since relations with the US and Europe are tense, Moscow has a strong desire to make new friends. In Africa, Putin may find leaders who are ready to do different types of business with Moscow without letting international rules or human rights obligations interfere.”
This money is needed at home
Echo of Moscow takes a critical view of the debt relief, arguing that the money is needed for Russia's health care budget:
“All of the tribal chiefs in the room loudly applauded the Russian czar. But what do Russia's doctors think? The sum is roughly equivalent to the expenses in all the regional budgets of the Russian health care system. The average monthly salary of a doctor in Krasnoyarsk is 50,000 roubles [roughly 700 euros]. [With 20 billion more in the budget] they could earn a good 110,000 roubles, since salaries account for 80 percent of the costs. Yet the debt relief wasn't the end of it: we've also granted our African comrades loans amounting to 14 billion dollars. Money earned by the Russian people. Then there are contracts worth around 12 to 13 billion dollars. With all that money, a country doctor could easily earn 200,000 roubles.”