Russia recently hosted the “Russia-Africa” International Parliamentary Conference in Moscow. The conference was hosted in the nation’s capital for two days, taking place on March 19th and 20th. This was the second Russia-Africa Parliamentary Conference hosted by Russia. The conference is attended by parliamentary leaders from African countries and their Russian counterparts. This is in an effort to build stronger ties between Russia and Africa, share ideas, and create solutions to problems affecting the nations.
On the first day of the conference, the Chairman of the State Duma (the Duma is the Russian Lower Chamber of Legislators) Vyacheslav Volodin, and the First Deputy Chairmen of the State Duma Alexander Zhukov and Ivan Melnikov, met and held various discussions with parliamentarians from Algeria, Burkina Faso, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Zimbabwe among others. Several of these meetings regarded bilateral matters between Russia and the relevant African country in each instance. The matters discussed included education, legislation, and economics.
Later in the day, a series of roundtable discussions were held, touching on matters regarding security and the issue of neo-colonialism as supposedly practiced by the United States and Europe. Security issues that were specifically discussed included military biological threats, counter-terrorism, and the protection of the sovereignty of countries. The day concluded with a roundtable discussion on neo-colonialism, how it is practiced, and tactics to avoid it.
On the final day of the International Parliamentary Conference, Russian President Vladimir Putin gave a speech in which he preached pro-Russian ideals, criticized the West, and spoke of uniting Russia and Africa. Since the beginning of the Russia and Ukraine War in February 2022, the former has been heavily sanctioned by the U.S. and Europe. Despite this, Putin said the Russian economy was doing well thanks to the oil and gas trade. “You know the collective West took systemic efforts to ruin our economy. It did not work that way and it will not work that way,” President Putin said.
Putin commended the resilience of the Russian economy and admitted that while there were challenges, lessons, and opportunities came with those issues.
Putin said that he saw Africa as a future leader and major role player on the international stage. He pointed out that Africa was positioned with the necessary resources to accomplish this, all the continent simply had to do was work in unity. “African nations are continuously increasing their weight and role in international affairs, and are asserting themselves more and more confidently in politics and economy. We are convinced that Africa will become one of the leaders in the emerging new multipolar world order – all objective prerequisites for this exist,” Putin said.
Putin further highlighted how Russia intended on strengthening partnerships between itself and African countries. “We are ready to jointly shape the global agenda, work together to strengthen fair and equal interstate relations, and improve mechanisms for mutually beneficial economic cooperation,” he said.
Russia pointed out that several African countries had not expressly condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. He labeled African countries “friends of Russia,” likening them to the Asian and South American countries that have appeared to be neutral. He called for the unity of those countries and continents, claiming they were the majority and should move away from the neo-colonization of the West. “Many states of Asia, the Middle East, and South America stand on similar positions, and together we make up the world majority,” he said.
African nations have become infamous for getting loans from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. These loans typically contain exploitative terms and conditions that end up destroying entire economies. Putin claimed that his country would be forgiving more than $20 billion in debts owed to Russia by African nations.
Russia is a major producer of grain such as wheat, which Africa as a continent is dependent on. As a major exporter of grain, Putin claimed Russia would ensure more grain is shipped to Africa. He further claimed that Russia would also provide free fertilizer and grain products to those African countries that desperately needed the help.
The International Parliamentary Conference was held as a precursor to the Russia-Africa Summit that will be held in July 2023 in St. Petersburg. President Putin invited all of Africa and its regional organizations to attend.
Historically, Russia and African countries shared close ties, with several countries on the continent gaining their independence from colonial forces with the assistance of Russia. In the immediate post-colonial era, Russia played a minimal role in African political and economic matters. The country is making significant maneuvers to gain significant influence in Africa.