This the most part of President Vladimir Putin’s speech at the plenary session of the Russia-Africa Economic and Humanitarian Forum held on 27 July 2023 in St Petersburg…
Dear Mr Assumani,
Dear heads of states, governments! High representatives of the countries of the African continent!
Ladies and Gentlemen!
First of all, I would like to cordially welcome all of you to St. Petersburg. Thank you for responding to the invitation to come to us. In our country you are among friends and like-minded people.
The composition of the participants in the plenary session of the Economic and Humanitarian Forum is very representative. I consider it symbolic that the program of the Russia-Africa Summit begins precisely with this important event. Its motto – “Technology and security for the sake of sovereign development for the benefit of people” – sounds really relevant. And, of course, we will discuss the entire range of issues on the financial, trade, investment, educational and social agenda in conjunction with the dynamic changes taking place in the world in the digital and information sphere. At the same time, the main guideline is to strengthen the well-being of our citizens, improve their living conditions, and solve pressing problems.
I would like to note that many useful and constructive discussions are held within the profile sessions of the forum – on energy, logistics and transport, agriculture, finance, healthcare. Promising ideas and proposals on new mutually beneficial joint projects, specific practical agreements, and commercial contracts are being considered.
Africa’s potential is obvious to everyone. Thus, the average annual growth rate of the continent’s GDP over the past 20 years (4-4.5 percent per year) exceeds the global ones. The population is approaching 1.5 billion and growing faster than anywhere else in the world. It is also characteristic that the growth of the middle class, which forms the main demand for modern goods and services, outstrips similar indicators in most regions of the world.
Russia, represented by official circles, business and the public, is sincerely interested in the further deepening of multifaceted trade, investment and humanitarian ties with the continent, which meets the needs of all our states, contributes to sustainable growth and prosperity. I would like to note that last year Russian-African trade reached $18 billion. This is one of the obvious results of the Sochi Russia-Africa summit. I am sure that together we are capable of increasing trade more radically in the foreseeable future. And by the way, in the first half of this year alone, the volume of export-import operations with African countries has grown by more than a third. The structure of trade also looks good: over 50 percent of Russian deliveries to Africa are machinery and equipment, chemical products, and food.
We understand the importance of an uninterrupted food supply to African countries – this is important for socio-economic development and for maintaining political stability. Therefore, we always pay and will continue to pay special attention to deliveries of wheat, barley, corn and other grain crops to our African friends, including as humanitarian aid through the UN Food Programme.
Dear friends, the figures speak for themselves: last year, trade in agricultural products between Russia and African countries grew by 10 percent and amounted to $6.7 billion, and in January-June of this year it has already increased by another 60 percent. Russia exported 11.5 million tons of grains to Africa in 2022, and in the first six months of this year alone, almost 10 million tons. And this is despite the illegal sanctions imposed on our exports, which seriously impede the supply of Russian food, complicate transportation, logistics, insurance and bank payments.
A paradoxical picture emerges. On the one hand, the Western countries are obstructing the supply of our grain and fertilisers, and on the other hand, I will say it frankly, they are hypocritically accusing us of the current crisis situation in the world food market. This approach was especially evident in the implementation of the so-called grain deal, concluded with the participation of the UN Secretariat and initially aimed at ensuring global food security, reducing the threat of hunger and helping the poorest countries, including in Africa.
However, in almost a year, as part of this so-called deal, a total of 32.8 million tons of cargo was exported from Ukraine, of which more than 70 percent, dear friends, went to countries with high and upper middle income levels, including – and above all having I mean the European Union, while the share of such countries as Ethiopia, Sudan, Somalia and a number of others accounted for – please pay attention – less than three percent of the total – less than 1 million tons.
Russia agreed to participate in this so-called deal, including taking into account the obligations contained in it that illegitimate obstacles to the supply of our grain and fertilisers to world markets will be removed. And I want to tell you that this, and above all this, is about helping the poorest countries.
In fact, nothing happened from what we discussed and what was promised to us. None of the terms of the deal regarding the withdrawal from the sanctions of Russian exports of grain and fertilisers to world markets was fulfilled. None. Obstacles were also raised for the gratuitous – just now we met with colleagues, with the leadership of the African Union – the transfer of mineral fertilisers by us to the poorest countries in need. Of the 262 thousand tons of such fertilisers blocked in European ports, only two batches were sent – only 20 thousand tons to Malawi and 34 thousand tons to Kenya. The rest remained in the hands of the Europeans. And this despite the fact that it was a purely humanitarian action, which, in principle, should not be subject to any sanctions.
Well, someone doesn’t want Russia, as some say, to “get rich” and send money to military purposes. But it’s a freebie! No, they are not released. Despite all the empty talk about the desire to help the poorest countries.
Taking into account the mentioned facts, we refused to further extend this “deal”. I have already said that our country is able to replace Ukrainian grain both on a commercial [basis] and in the form of gratuitous assistance to the neediest African countries, especially since we again expect a record harvest this year.
To be specific, I’ll add, I’ll say: we will be ready in the coming months, in the next three to four months, to provide Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe, Mali, Somalia, the Central African Republic, Eritrea with 25-50 thousand tons of grain free of charge, we will also provide free delivery this product to consumers.
Perhaps a few more figures will be of interest. Ukraine for the last agricultural year produced about 55 million tons of grain. Exports amounted to 47 million tons – a lot, including 17 million tons of wheat. And Russia, dear colleagues, harvested 156 million tons of grain last year. 60 million tons were exported, of which 48 million tons were wheat.
Russia’s share in the world wheat market is 20 percent, Ukraine’s is less than five percent. This means that it is Russia that makes a significant contribution to global food security and is a solid, responsible international supplier of agricultural products. And those who claim that this is not so, that [this is] only securing this so-called grain deal for the export of Ukrainian grain, are simply distorting the facts, telling lies. As a matter of fact, this has been the practice of some Western states for decades, if not centuries.
Our country will continue to support countries and regions in need, including with its humanitarian supplies. We strive to actively participate in the formation of a more equitable system of resource distribution, we are making every effort to prevent a global food crisis.
In principle, we are convinced that with the application of appropriate agricultural technologies and the proper organization of agricultural production, Africa in the future can not only feed itself, ensure its own food security, but also become an exporter of various types of food. And from Russia there will be only support, I assure you.
My colleagues and I were just talking about this during bilateral meetings yesterday, and African colleagues told me, they said: we have the opportunity to produce food – we need technologies, appropriate support. For its part, Russia is ready to share its expertise in the field of agricultural production with African countries and to assist in the introduction of the most advanced technologies.
We are also interested in the further development of cooperation with African countries in the energy sector. This cooperation is based on rich experience: over many years, Soviet and Russian specialists have designed and built large energy centres in Angola, Egypt, Ethiopia and other countries of the continent with a total capacity of 4.6 gigawatts, a total of – I want to emphasise this and draw your attention to this, dear friends, is a quarter of Africa’s hydropower capacity.
Currently, Russian companies are implementing new mutually beneficial projects aimed at meeting the growing needs of the African economies for fuel and generating capacity, to provide Africans with access to affordable and reliable, sustainable and environmentally friendly energy sources.
More than 30 promising energy projects with Russian participation in 16 African states are now in varying degrees of development. The total capacity of the power projects we are working on is about 3.7 gigawatts. Our company “RusHydro” offers a wide range of services to African partners – from the design and supply of equipment to the modernisation and construction of new turnkey generation facilities. Gazprom, Rosneft, Lukoil, Zarubezhneft are our companies that are engaged in the development of oil and gas fields in Algeria, Egypt, Cameroon, Nigeria, and the Republic of the Congo. Over the past two years, exports of Russian crude oil, petroleum products, and liquefied natural gas to Africa have increased by 2.6 times.
Rosatom, our leading company in the use of nuclear energy, is building the Dabaa nuclear power plant in Egypt. At the same time, our state corporation can provide African countries with its unique experience and technologies that have no analogues in the world in the field of non-energy use of the “peaceful atom”, for example, in medicine and in the same agriculture.
Of particular importance is the deepening of Russian-African industrial cooperation. Our industrial products, including automobiles, construction equipment, and so on, are well-known on the continent and are in great demand, they are distinguished by good quality, reliability and ease of operation. In Africa, there are special service centres for servicing Russian equipment.
New instruments of concessional lending are being developed for the purchase by Africans of our industrial products, their transportation to the continent and after-sales services. The Russian Export Credit and Investment Insurance Agency provides insurance coverage for loans. An Africa-oriented leasing mechanism and a specialised investment fund are being formed to participate in the financing of infrastructure projects. In Egypt – I spoke with my colleague President Sisi yesterday – we are discussing, and I hope we will launch the Russian Industrial Zone near the Suez Canal in the near future. We hope that the construction of the first production facilities will begin this year, and in the future, the manufactured goods will be exported throughout Africa.
Being one of the leaders in the field of information and communication technologies, Russia is expanding cooperation with African states in the field of information security, artificial intelligence, and the digital economy. We have good experience in creating and using information technologies in tax administration, registration of property rights, provision of electronic public services to citizens and legal entities, companies. We can assist interested African countries in launching similar systems and are always ready to share our best practices in the context of technological development.
In order to further expand the entire range of trade and economic ties, it is important to move more energetically in financial settlements on trade transactions to national currencies, including the ruble. In this regard, we are ready to work with African countries to develop their financial infrastructure, to connect banking institutions to the Financial Message Transmission System created in Russia, which allows cross-border payments to be made regardless of some of the currently existing and restrictive Western systems. This will help increase the stability, predictability and security of mutual trade exchanges.
Russia is also actively engaged in the reorientation of transport and logistics flows towards the states of the Global South, including, of course, Africa. The North-South International Transport Corridor, which we are developing, aims to provide Russian goods with access to the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean, from where they can reach the African continent by the shortest sea route. Naturally, this corridor can also be used in the opposite direction to supply African goods to the Russian market.
Connecting the North-South transport corridor with Africa, launching regular shipping cargo lines – that’s what we are striving for – opening a Russian transport and logistics center in one of the ports on the African east coast would be a good thing, a good start to this joint work. We consider it very important to ensure a wider coverage of the African continent by direct flights, participation in the development of the African railway network – these are the urgent tasks that we invite our African friends to work on together.