Ambassador Ezzat Saad’s participation in the second “Africa – Russia” Summit
In the period from 25 to 29 July 2023, Ambassador Ezzat Saad, ECFA Director, visited the Russian Federation, upon a personal invitation to participate in the Second Africa-Russia Summit, which was hosted by the city of Saint Petersburg, the old capital of Russia, and which was held under the slogan “Russia-Africa Economic and Humanitarian Summit”, which aimed to strengthen relations between Russia and African countries, especially in the areas of politics, security, economic development, science and technology, infrastructure, education and culture. The summit’s agenda included more than 30 discussion sessions on the main issues of Africa-Russia cooperation, during which face-to-face interactions took place between politicians, businessmen, experts and the media. The summit issued a final statement and a joint action plan until 2026, as well as a plan for cooperation in the field of counterterrorism and another to activate coordination between the two sides in foreign policy.
While Russia seemed determined to hold the summit, after postponing it in 2022 due to the war in Ukraine, despite the intense pressure exerted by the United States and its European allies, especially Germany and France, the countries of the continent saw it as an opportunity to adopt pragmatic approaches that would allow them to benefit from the potentials and opportunities provided by the Russian market, despite the harsh Western sanctions imposed on it. Unlike other major powers competing in Africa, which have announced a clearly defined strategy for sub-Saharan Africa, such as the United States, France, and the European Union, Russia has no such strategy. In this context, the final statement issued by the first summit – which was launched in October 2019 under the co-chairmanship of Egypt, the then-Chair of the African Union, and Russia, under the slogan “Peace, Security and Development” – is seen as the initial basis for the Africa-Russia partnership, or rather, Russia’s African strategy.
It could be argued that the Russian side has adopted a clear economic approach to the summit, which is evident not only from its venue in the city’s largest exhibition halls, where some of Russia’s latest weapons production was displayed, including drones, but also in terms of the participants in the opening session, alongside President Putin, and the current chair of the African Union (Comoros). Dilma Rousseff, President of the BRICS New Development Bank, former President of Brazil, as well as the President of the African Export-Import Bank, participated. The participation of Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia in the opening session came to emphasize Russia’s interest in highlighting the cultural and religious commonalities with Africa in terms of its adherence to traditional values versus “Western liberal values.”
At the conclusion of his presentation, President Putin announced that Russia would provide between 25,000 and 50,000 tons of grain free of charge to Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe, Mali, Somalia, the Central African Republic, and Eritrea in the coming months, and that Russia would bear the cost of delivering these shipments.
We estimate that holding the summit in itself represents a significant success for Russia. Russian analysts have confirmed that their country has great capabilities to establish mutually beneficial cooperation for both sides in the future, especially in the fields of energy, health, education, information and communications technology, food security, as well as technical, economic, and trade cooperation, in addition to security and military cooperation.