The first government organised Russia-Africa forum was held in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi Russia from the 23rd to the 24th of October this year. This historical forum was attended by 43 African Heads of States out of 54 African Presidents. The planning and execution of the event was hospitable and efficient.
For years Russia has had a great relationship with most African states because of the similarity in values.
These include the commitment to decolonization, where unlike Western and Asian countries, Russia has never subjugated African countries and has instead helped many states in their attainment of independence.
Additionally, Russia’s pursuit of afro-intelligence where they seek to promote the technical, scientific, intellectual and creative potential of Africans, has resulted in great relations between both regions.
At the forum, President Putin greatly emphasised Russia’s respect for African sovereignty and its non-interference stance in the internal affairs of African nation states as compared to the West and China.
The conference took two different tangents, one was political where Russia sought to assert its interest and friendship with African governments. The second was economic where trade was discussed, in an effort to strengthen economic ties.
The economic relationship between Russia and Africa has grown over the years, with a turnover of $5.1 billion in 2010 to a steady growth to $13.3 billion in 2016. In the year 2018, we experienced the greatest turnover, of $20.4 billion.
President Vladamir Putin, while cognizant of the improvement in trade, expressed that in his opinion it was still not sufficient. He stated that there was a need to increase trade between Russia and African states in the coming years from the current $20 billion to at least $40 billion.
It is for the above mentioned reason that the Russia-Africa economic forum was organised. This forum sought to solidify trade ties, educational opportunities and better political relationships in order to meet the goal of increased trade between both regions.
At the Sochi forum, the Russian business community showed up guns blazing, quite literally, with arms dealers showcasing their top of the line ammunition and warfare, which will go a long way in helping African states in fighting religious extremists who are currently waging war in some countries.
They also displayed their high quality machinery and technology.
African countries were not left behind as they also exhibited their products ranging from food produce to fashion and even unique home décor products. They also attracted investments in the mining of oil and gas and in marketing their countries as potential tourist destinations.
Some of the incentives that resulted from the forum is that the Russian government has opened up trade by allowing for direct imports into Russia unlike before where African exporters would need to go through countries such as the Netherlands, before their products could arrive in Russia.
Another achievement of the conference is that it formed the first step in changing the perceptions that many Africans have about Russia and her people. Thoughts which have been fuelled and perpetuated by Western Media such as high levels of racism and exclusion which is not the case. This realisation among Africans, will help to boost trade and open up the market for African products in Russia and vice versa.
Most of the comments given by Russian companies at the forum is that they lack a proper understanding of African products and for that they need to have access to the goods in order for them to gain interest in purchasing them.
However, one cannot be oblivious to the distance between Africa and Russia and the costs associated with travel and accommodation, paired with the language barrier. These factors will result in making it difficult for many small to medium sized enterprises to access this new market.
E-commerce through online platforms such as B2B-Export.com is a solution to this growing problem. B2B-Export, provides a platform for African businesses to display their goods in the Russian language by providing efficient translation services, to make it easier for buyers to see and buy the products.
Moreover the company looks for Russian buyers and once an order has been made it fully executes it from assisting in the negotiation process and providing hands on guidance through the certification and clearance exercise. The company has excellent expertise in cross border trade thus assuring suppliers of efficient and seamless transactions, seeing as it also caters for safe payment mechanisms.
In conclusion, we are currently entering a new era where trade between Russia and Africa will grow and blossom, in turn leading to increased profits for businesses and better educational and cultural relations. As a parting shot, I would like to state that, trade will blossom where there is sympathy, love and care.
Eng Ekaterina Dyachenko
Founder and CEO of B2B-Export group
Photo Credit: photo.roscongress.org