By Ntombi Mhlongo
The recent visit by the Russian Federation Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sergey Lavrov opened a big opportunity for the Kingdom of Eswatini to increase its trading partners and export market.
The visiting Russian Foreign Affairs Minister invited His Majesty King Mswati III to the second Russia-Africa Summit scheduled to take place in July this year at St. Petersburg.
According to Lavrov, the issues which would be discussed (agenda items) include but are not limited to trade relations, natural resources development, energy development and security. Strikingly, His Majesty the King took part in the first summit held in Sochi in October 2019.
“And at the request of my President, Vladimir Putin, I confirmed that we are expecting His Majesty’s participation in this upcoming summit,” Lavrov said at Cabinet, where he took part in the signing of the agreement between the Government of the Kingdom of Eswatini and the Government of the Russian Federation on visa-free travels for holders of diplomatic or service passports.
During the 2019 summit, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that “the development and consolidation of mutually beneficial ties with African nations and their integration associations are now one of Russia’s foreign policy priorities.”
The summit in 2019 was attended by representatives of all 54 African states, of which 45 were represented by their heads of state.
Additionally, various Russian and African ministers as well as representatives of regional organizations and various companies attended the event at the Black Sea.
Being part of the second one will benefit the Kingdom of Eswatini in trade relations. This will be a chance for Eswatini to cement and grow its bilateral agenda in many positive aspects that will have a favourable impact on the lives of EmaSwati, locally and abroad.
In participating at the upcoming summit, Eswatini will get a chance to cement trade relations with Russia just as other African countries have done. It should be noted that during the first summit, Putin announced the intention to double the trade volume between Russia and Africa to E480 billion (US$40 billion) by 2024.
It was reported that in total, trade deals worth E192 billion (US$12 billion were sealed at the first Russia-Africa summit. Also making it a must-attend event is that there is the expectation that the topic of food security will be among the top priorities of the summit.
While Russia is not among Africa’s largest trading partners, experts have argued that its presence cannot be discounted. It is estimated that in 2020, Russia’s trade with African countries amounted to more than E224 billion (US$ 14 billion with Egypt accounting for about 30 per cent of the total.
Between 2018 and 2020, some 32 per cent of Africa’s wheat imports came from Russia and 12 per cent from Ukraine, signalling that the added impact of global inflation, rising oil prices, drought, and the Covid-19 shock could have a catastrophic effect on the continent.
Experts have also provided an analysis of the effect that Russia’s trade with Africa has increased in recent years—its exports to Africa reached billion E320 billion (US$20 billion) in 2018, double the level of trade in 2015.
For Eswatini, the summit will be beneficial based on the fact that the principles of the Africa-Russia strategic partnership have huge benefits and potential for cooperation in agriculture, natural resource development, industry, trade, infrastructure, energy, as well as in the areas of military, peace and political cooperation.
Meanwhile, based on its standing in the economic world, Russia has prospects for growth. Russia was the eleventh largest economy in the world in 2021, with its gross domestic product measured at 1.78 trillion U.S. dollars. In the global ranking by nominal GDP, Russia was positioned between South Korea and Australia.