Almost every country has an African project — Africa is goldmine of global economy

Afriсanist Kirill Babaev about the Russian ''invasion'' in sub-Saharan Africa and its consequences

Almost every country has an African project — Africa is goldmine of global economy Photo: babaev.net

What is the scenario of Russia's ''invasion'' of Africa? Is it true that our mercenaries really ''occupied'' the Central African Republic and the restart of Russian relations with Mozambique goes exclusively along the path of military cooperation? Are our Western partners concerned about what is happening? Should we wait for a major battle for Africa, and with whom will we have to compete for local markets? Scientist, Doctor of Philology, Africa expert Kirill Babaev answered thesse questions to Realnoe Vremya.

''There is information that Russian mercenaries are present in Central African Republic to protect the government''

Dr Babaev, could you first tell us what Mozambique and the CAR are? Economy, main problems…

These countries have in common that they belong to so-called sub-Saharan or Tropical Africa. Their development is quite similar, although they are in different regions: Mozambique is South Africa, and the CAR is the centre of the continent. But they are both former colonial countries that gained independence in the 60-70s.

It is quite natural that both countries have a similar cluster of problems, which is inherent in all the newly independent countries of Africa: they are mainly associated with poverty, lack of economic development, political instability and underdeveloped social institutions. All of the above are common to most sub-Saharan African countries.

''They are mainly associated with poverty, lack of economic development, political instability and underdeveloped social institutions. All of the above are common to most sub-Saharan African countries.'' Photo: travelask.ru

Do you think the stories we are hearing about the Central African Republic being ''captured by Russian mercenaries'' are an exaggeration of the media?

This is some kind of legend. There was information that Russian mercenaries are present in the CAR to protect the government. The situation in the country is being extremely unstable, there are a variety of rumours and ''news'' about what is really happening there. However, most likely, there are simply some private structures. Since there have been no official statements on this subject, I conclude that our states have not reached any agreements on this issue.

''Russia is regaining its economic and political presence in sub-Saharan Africa''

At the same time, it is reported about the ''restart'' of bilateral relations between Russia and Mozambique through military cooperation. Why do you think this path was chosen?

I believe that this is quite within the framework of the traditional policy of Russia in the African direction. Policies that have borne some fruit in recent years. Russia is regaining its economic and political presence in sub-Saharan Africa. In recent months, several meetings of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov with colleagues in Mozambique have taken place.

This is a good example of how relations can be restored to the level at which they were in Soviet times — that times Mozambique was one of the closest allies of the USSR in South Africa. Of course, some ties have been preserved since that time, and some can be established anew.

It is worth noting that in this case we are not talking about exclusively military cooperation, but rather a combination of economic and military ways. At the same time with the announcement of the arms deal, a fairly large agreement was signed on the entry of Rosneft into the local oil and gas market. Such things accompany military-technical cooperation, and this is a very good combination that allows us to rely on long-term cooperation.

''African markets are open and need investments, therefore, it is a natural direction of investment cooperation — both for the state and for private corporations.''
Photo: сергей-лавров.рф

Dr Babaev, you described the relations between our country and Mozambique in the Soviet period and also described what is happening now. What was the level of bilateral relations in the recent past — in the 1990s?

In the 1990s, Russia fell out of the process a little — we practically were not engaged in African direction, we did not invest, private companies did not particularly strive for African markets. Now, after large Russian companies acquired the opportunity to invest in new markets, Africa will definitely become one of the priority areas because this is the market that is still open to us, despite the sanctions and political conflicts in relations between Russia and the West.

African markets are open and need investments, therefore, it is a natural direction of investment cooperation — both for the state and for private corporations. The break that took place in relations between Russia and its partners from Tropical Africa in the 1990s is over. Economic, political and military cooperation will be gradually restored.

''We will have to compete in Africa not so much with Western partners as with China''

In your opinion, how will the ''great powers'' react to Russia's return to Africa? Watching the events, America concluded that Russia has a special ''African project'' and a large-scale ''battle for Africa'' will begin soon.

Now almost every state has an ''African project'' because everyone understands that Africa is another goldmine of the world economy. There are a lot of prospects: local economies are growing rapidly, giant mineral deposits are opening up, and there is a very cheap labour force. In fact, there is a great deal that the future world economy needs.

We cannot judge what conclusions ''America has made'', but we know for sure that African markets are extremely promising for Russia and our country today has all the resources and opportunities to once again seriously engage in African direction.

I do not think that there will be difficulties linked with the reaction of the Western world, as everyone understands that Africa is very promising. In fact, we will have to compete in Africa not so much with Western partners as with China — China is one of the largest investors in Tropical Africa today.

''Now almost every state has an ''African project'' because everyone understands that Africa is another goldmine of the world economy. There are a lot of prospects: local economies are growing rapidly, giant mineral deposits are opening up, and there is a very cheap labour force.'' Photo: travelask.ru

Does that mean that we can expect a large-scale ''battle for Africa''?

I suppose yes. In the book What Africa Is, published in 2015, I just predicted that, in all probability, in the near future there will begin a new battle for Africa, as it was in the late 19th century. I believe that the markets of South-East and South Asia are already saturated in many ways, and Africa is still not covered by many industries and prospects of various kinds. There is a huge number of sources of raw materials, labour and capital application.

In this battle, Russia certainly has very good prospects: we have necessary resources, good traditional ties with African elites, and we have gained good experience. We just need to do this purposefully, in particular, to train more African specialists in universities, to engage in fundamental scientific research on Africa. This should be done in order to lay the basis for development of Russian presence on this continent.

By Lina Sarimova