St. Petersburg: Russia hosts Africa summit

A two-day Russia-Africa Summit is currently taking place in St. Petersburg. Delegations from 49 countries are taking part, but only around half of them are led by heads of state and government - considerably fewer than at the first summit of this kind in Sochi four years ago. This time the focus is on the grain deal with Ukraine, which Moscow has refused to extend. What is Putin's agenda for Africa?

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Delo (SI) /

Putin using bread to buy good will

Moscow has pledged to donate between 25,000 and 50,000 tonnes of grain to each of six African countries. Delo sees this as a promising move in the cultivation of political relations:

“With this gesture of goodwill Moscow is trying to consolidate its status on the African continent and at the same time allay the concerns of African countries about the consequences of Russia's withdrawal from the grain deal. ... Despite criticism, it is likely that this Russian move will fall on fertile ground, especially in those countries with which Moscow maintains good relations.”

The Times (GB) /

Africa doesn't need Russia

The Kremlin's influence in the region should not be overestimated, says The Times:

“Moscow has blamed the West for trying to sabotage its African summit. Western leaders have certainly warned Africa of the risks of opening the door to Mr Putin. But Africans themselves can see where their interests lie. Their response to Moscow's blandishments will be pragmatic. Africa is of growing importance in the G20 group and in global economic development. It does not need Moscow as its champion, nor see a handshake in St Petersburg as a guarantee of its interests.”

Radio Kommersant FM (RU) /

African continent as the last hope

Radio Kommersant FM sees the Kremlin's courtship of Africa as a stopgap measure aimed at ending its international isolation:

“While the festival of Russian-African friendship is taking place in St. Petersburg, Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu is visiting North Korea. ... Clearly, the unfriendly West is supposed to take note of all this: 'Ladies and gentlemen, your boycott just won't work.' ... We used to turn to the East and now we turn to the global South. As regards the West things are clear and with Latin America it's kind of complicated. There are not many places left in the world for us to turn to.”

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (DE) /

Nothing substantial to offer

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung wonders what Russia actually wants to present to the Africans:

“Putin always has destructive aid on offer, such as the 'export' of Wagner mercenaries along with extensive arms deliveries as seen in Mali. However not only in comparison to the West but especially in comparison to China, what Russia holds out to the Africans seems pretty thin. And so the event in St Petersburg will undoubtedly be a propaganda success within Russia, as the president can showcase himself on an international stage. Nevertheless, substantially, even the most beautiful staging in the splendour of palaces from the tsarist era cannot disguise the fact that the host represents a country on the decline.”

Iswestija (RU) /

Insignificant as a trading partner

Russia's economic ties with Africa are marginal and for the most part export-oriented, writes Vladimir Stroyev, rector of the State University of Management, in Izvestia:

“Our country accounts for less than one per cent of foreign direct investment in Africa and two per cent of total international trade there. Russian trade with Africa is many times lower than that of the US, China or the EU. And the trade balance is extremely asymmetric: Russia exports mostly grain (and to a lesser extent fuel) to a small group of countries - mainly Algeria and Egypt, but also Kenya, Nigeria, Sudan, Tanzania and South Africa. And Russia imports one eighth the amount of goods from Africa than it exports there.” (CZ) /

Russia's grain hypocrisy

African countries suffering from the shortage of grain are hostage to Russia's inconsistent approach, comments:

“Yet ahead of the upcoming Russia-Africa summit President Vladimir Putin has the audacity to say: 'Russia will continue its vigorous efforts to supply Africa with grain, food, fertilisers and other goods'. However these vigorous efforts by Russia are not aimed at renewing the agreement on exports of Ukrainian grain, which would lead to a fall in grain prices. Instead Russia is vigorously attacking Ukrainian ports and grain storage hangars, leaving nothing to export.”

Le Figaro (FR) /

Moscow increasing dependency

Putin is trying to maintain his influence with promises of grain, Le Figaro notes:

“On the eve of the summit, he stated that Moscow had always supported Africa in its 'struggle for liberation from the colonial yoke' without interfering in matters of governance. And paradoxically, he has acquired one last leverage by emphasizing Africa's dependence on Russian grain: he promised to assist the weakest countries with grain and fertilizer donations. The most loyal partners will be served first!”