Business Forum «Russia-Africa»: Back to the continent
Relations between Russia and Africa span more than 50 years — going back to the Soviet era. This period generated bilateral political and economic relations which modern Russia continues to rely on working with the African continent. Unfortunately, the last 20 years demonstrated little dynamic in the development of such contacts, and the time to give a new impetus to Russian-African contacts has come.
The Forum is envisioned as a starting point of a new stage in economic cooperation between Russia and African countries. «Russia should remember the former ground work and relations on this continent», — said Mikhail Margelov, special representative of the President of the Russian Federation on cooperation with African countries. The government, he said, should help the Russian businesses with the development of trade and economic relations with Africa — in specific countries and regions.
Recently, the growing interest of Russian business in Africa has brought cooperation with «the continent» to the foreground. Starting with almost exclusively mining operations today Russians are examining investments into other areas — from financial services to education. These activities are stimulated by Russia’s political initiatives. Among them — the visit of Dmitry Medvedev, President of the Russian Federation, to Angola, Namibia, and Nigeria in June, 2009, accompanied by a delegation of 400 leading businessmen. The tour produced a variety of commercial agreements and deals.
However for the development of far reaching economic ties between Russia and Africa regular dialogue between the representatives of the business community and state authorities is important. The realization of this idea gave birth to the «Russia — Africa» Business Forum where business circles of both sides can define areas for mutually beneficial cooperation, share business ideas, and develop a common approach to future activities. The special representative of the President of the Russian Federation on cooperation with African countries Mr. Michael Margelov and the Prime Minister of Ethiopia Mr. Meles Zenawi act as Co-Chairmen of the Forum.
The General sponsor of the Forum is Gazprombank OJSC — one of the three largest banks in Russia. The list of participants ensures that the event will form a foundation for enhanced interaction between Russia and Africa. Ministers of Republic of Chad, Mali, Sudan, Ethiopia, and other African countries, as well as key representatives of the African Union, Ambassadors of African countries to Ethiopia, representatives of the biggest Russian corporations will present their vision and perspectives on continued development of the business dialogue between Russia and Africa.
The Forum participants will discuss the feasibility and agenda of holding such meetings on a regular basis. Looking into the future the Forum has the potential to become an African-Russian counterpart to the highly prestigious Davos World Economic Forum. It is already evident that «Russia-Africa» Business Forum in Addis Ababa will become one of the turning points in Russian-African economic relations, and its participants can strongly influence their development.