Tatarstan entrepreneurs head to Africa for partners

The attache of Burkina Faso called on Tatarstan businesses to build a peaceful life on the Sub-Saharan continent

Tatarstan entrepreneurs head to Africa for partners
Photo: Фатыхов Динар

A delegation of Tatarstan entrepreneurs are going on a debut tour of African countries this April. “We have come very close to coming and signing agreements. But we will not do this until we see the situation on the spot," Timur Yeremeev, the vice president of the Investment Russia public association, who became the organiser of the upcoming business mission, explained the purpose of the trip to Realnoe Vremya. Interestingly, the programme includes visits to three major African states — Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, which united after the recent coup into an alliance with a focus on Russia.

Africa Day in Kazan

For the first time after the dramatic events, attaches from two of the largest states of the African continent, Congo and Burkina Faso, who are committed to partnership with Russia, have visited Kazan. At a business meeting at the House of Africa, the representatives of the African states declared their readiness to be friends with Tatarstan.

“They are waiting for you with impatience," said the attache for Trade and Economic Affairs of the Embassy of Burkina Faso, Sawadogo Timbieta, with unusual emotion. “We see Russia and the BRICS countries as partners because they refused to cooperate with our former 'friends'. We don't have any dialogue with them," Timbieta transparently hinted at a break with the American authorities. “Russia is a strategic partner for us, and in this partnership, we wanted to increase cooperation with Tatarstan, as we are familiar with its potential," he stressed.

The Attache for Trade and Economic Affairs of the Embassy of Burkina Faso spoke Russian well, without the help of an interpreter. It turned out that he studied at the Moscow University and knows Russia well. Despite the difficulties, he called for faster access to foreign markets, which were freed up after the change of power in these states.

“The word 'Russia' is the most popular in Africa”

Here he touched upon the importance of the political moment. As we know, a series of coups d'etat took place in the three largest African states last December, as a result of which new governments came to power, which annoys the United States. Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger have concluded a military-political alliance aligned with Russia. “You probably know that there is a fierce fight against terrorism in our country right now. In this regard, our President Ibrahim Traoré has set a course for cooperation with the Russian Federation," the attache stated. According to him, 73 million people live in these three countries, and their natural base has 100 million tons of reserves of various resources. “They can be developed on mutually beneficial terms," he said. The vice-president of the Investment Russia public association, Timur Eremeev, who became the moderator of the meeting, supported him.

“The word 'Russia' is the most popular in Africa today," added Sawadogo Timbieta. He considers the development of natural resources, the supply of automotive and agricultural machinery, and IT technologies to be the most promising areas. “Consumers are waiting for goods from Russia, and there are many areas where they can invest and receive dividends," he enticed. Later, in a conversation with Realnoe Vremya, the attache admitted that they still know little about Tatarstan brands. “KAMAZ supplies only army trucks. This has been the case since Soviet times. There are no civilian vehicles yet. There are also helicopters [in service with the army]. I think that over time, Tatarstan products will become popular if business people come," he reasoned.

In anticipation of May acquaintances with Burkina Faso

In May of this year, the Embassy of Burkina Faso is going to hold a big business meeting in Moscow. “Almost all the major business people of the state are coming to get acquainted with Russian entrepreneurs," the speaker called. And his colleague, Aheba Charles Wetshinjadi, Attache for Trade and Economic Affairs at the Embassy of the Congo, urged entrepreneurs not to be afraid to work with the Congo. In January, 60-year-old Félix Tshisekedi, the president of the republic, was inaugurated for a second term. This country is more interested because of the world's reserves of cobalt and copper.

So far, foreign trade between Russia and Africa is modest. According to the Federal Customs Service, in January-November 2023, Russia increased the volume of trade with African and eastern countries. For example, exports to Africa increased by 54.1% year-on-year (from $12.9 billion to $19.8 billion), while imports increased by 7.5% ($3 billion). For comparison, the turnover with China is ten times more.

If you need a hotel for Africans

Nevertheless, the republic is showing interest in the African market. Andrey Smirnov, CEO of DLGroup, told at the meeting that his company, in the interests of one of the African states, is developing programmes similar to the public services portal. “We expect to conclude contracts this year," he said in a conversation with Realnoe Vremya. “Since autumn, we have started interacting with ambassadors and representatives of line ministries. But we will finally decide when we see on the spot how to implement digitalisation," he admitted.

“If you have entrepreneurs who want to open a hotel for Africans, welcome to the Investment Development Agency," Marina Epifantseva, the deputy head of the agency, took the floor. According to her, the republic is monitoring the development of relations between Russia and Africa. Last year, Tatarstan participated in the Russia-Africa Forum, which was held in St. Petersburg. “Our goal is to attract investments to the republic," she recalled. “But usually foreign companies go a long way — from organising supplies to opening representative offices. We calculated that sometimes it takes about 25 years from the start of trading activity to the moment when it wants to reduce the leverage.” Nevertheless, if a businesses want to build up here, then the Investment Development Agency is ready to help, she assured.

African voyage: where Russia is welcome

In conclusion, they decided to go on a tour of six African countries: Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Congo, Ethiopia, and additionally included three more states — Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger. “We have come very close to coming and signing agreements. There are not only business plans, but also money. Private African investors are already investing in DLGroup. There is interest in supplies from the chemical production plant. Tatarstan sunflower oil production plant has already started to supply to Ethiopia. But we will not do this until we see the situation on the spot," Timur Yeremeev, the vice president of the Investment Russia public association, who became the organiser of the upcoming business mission, explained.

Luiza Ignatyeva