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Moscow once again appears on the African continent with the first Russia-Africa summit

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The first-ever two-day Russia-Africa economic summit ended Thursday in the resort city Sochi, Russia, resulting over 500 commercial agreements worth $12 billion.

About four dozen African leaders and high-level government officials attended the summit and economic forum, from Nigerian President Muhammad Buhari to African Union Commission Chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat. Over 40 African nations were represented by heads of state or government at the summit, while 11 others sent their vice presidents, foreign ministers or ambassadors.

The two-day event was the first of its kind hosted by Russia, which is seeking a new engagement on the African continent in competition with China, the United States, and even countries like India and Turkey, which have increased their diplomatic efforts in recent years.

According to Financial Times Russia offered nuclear-power plants, fighter-jets and missile-defense systems to African countries in a charm offensive designed to win back influence on the continent, at the summit.

Russia has defense orders worth $14bn from African countries, its state-run arms-export agency said at the summit. Sales to the continent account for about a third of Moscow's military exports. Mr Putin said Russia had agreed "military technical co-operation agreements" with more than 30 African states, to supply weapons. "Some of these deliveries are free of charge," he added. Elina Ribakova, deputy chief economist at the Institute of International Finance, described Russia's offerings as "no strings attached".

While the Soviet Union was a close partner with many African states during the cold war, Russia's current bilateral trade of $20bn is just a tenth of China's, and relies heavily on exports of arms and grain to a handful of richer states.

Mr Putin promised to double trade within the next "four to five years", and used a marathon schedule of back-to-back bilateral meetings with visiting delegations on both days of the summit to offer deals on everything from diamond mining to pork exports though few have yet materialized.

The Kremlin's aim is to use military and trade ties to reinsert itself as a geopolitical power broker on the continent, the Financial Times said.

Agreements signed

Some of the agreements signed at the Russia-Africa Forum as reported by Sputnik:

Trade financing: The Russian Export Center, VEB.RF state development corporation, Sberbank and GemCorpCapital LLP investment company have signed a $5 billion worth framework agreement for creating a mechanism of Russian-African trade financing.

Nuclear energy: Russia and Ethiopia have signed an intergovernmental agreement in Sochi for cooperation on the peaceful use of nuclear energy. Russian oil company Lukoil signed a memorandum for drilling rights in Equatorial Guinea and Nigeria, while state-run atomic-energy group Rosatom inked a preliminary agreement to build a nuclear power plant in Ethiopia. It also agreed to begin construction on an Egyptian reactor next year.

Defence ties: Russia plans to deliver $4 billion worth of weapons to Africa in 2019, Rosoboron export Director General Alexander Mikheev told Sputnik.

Russia and Nigeria have signed a contract for deliveries of 12 Russian Mi-35 attack helicopters, Russian Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation Deputy Director Anatoly Punchuk told Sputnik on Wednesday at the Russia-Africa forum.

Although Russia has signed military agreements with some two dozen countries, its actual presence on the ground is still relatively marginal in comparison to the French or the US. The US military has outposts in 34 African countries and had at least 33 active missions in 2017, according to journalist Nick Turse. This includes special forces fighting covert wars in Libya, Somalia, Tunisia, and Niger, with little to no accountability to the US Congress or the broader American public.

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Author and journalist. Author of Islamic Pakistan: Illusions & Reality; Islam in the Post-Cold War Era; Islam & Modernism; Islam & Muslims in the Post-9/11 America. Currently working as free lance journalist. Executive Editor of American (more...)
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