By Khulile Thwala
Russian President Vladimir Putin is aiming to strengthen ties with the African continent as the Kremlin looks to navigate the international sanctions imposed on the country over the conflict in Ukraine.
On Monday, Putin said he was giving priority to his relations with African countries as Moscow was looking for new partners to face the sanctions.
“I want to emphasise that our country has always given and will continue to give priority to cooperation with African states,” Putin said in Moscow during a speech to African representatives.
He further said Russia was determined to build a full strategic partnership with its African ‘friends’ to shape the global agenda together.
The Russian president believes his country, like Africa, defends traditional moral values by “resisting the neo-colonial ideology imposed from abroad”.
According to a report by Africanews, Putin also promised to supply “the neediest countries in Africa” with cereals if the important agreement on Ukrainian exports was not renewed in two months.
The Russian president says they plan to increase cooperation with African countries in the field of energy, and medicine and to double the quotas of African students in Russian universities.
Against the backdrop of Western sanctions linked to its offensive in Ukraine, Moscow is currently seeking support in Asia and Africa, where many states have not openly condemned the Russian military intervention.
Russia had already multiplied initiatives on the African continent in recent years, aimed at posing as an alternative to the former colonial powers.
It signed numerous economic and military partnerships there and the Russian paramilitary group Wagner established itself in several countries, notably in the Central African Republic, where it contributed to eroding French influence.
The next Russia-Africa summit, the second of its kind, is due to be held July 26-29 in St. Petersburg. Putin assured Monday to prepare for this meeting and invited African leaders and regional organisations to take part.
At the first summit of its kind, in 2019, the Russian president was pleased to have “opened a new page” of relations with Africa, a continent from which Russia had largely withdrawn after the fall of the USSR.
This meeting saw the presence of representatives from 54 African countries, including 43 heads of state.