Tue, 19 Nov 2019

Russian President Vladimir Putin will host a summit in the Black Sea resort of Sochi this week as he looks to gain an edge in the race against other world powers to increase influence in Africa.

The Russia-Africa Summit on October 23-24 will include 47 African leaders at a time when rivals such as the United States, India, Turkey, and China are also looking to gain influence given the continent's growing importance as a burgeoning hub for innovation, population growth, and a fast-growing consumer base.

In a pre-summit interview with state news agency TASS, Putin revealed part of the pitch he will deliver his guests, saying that assistance or loans from Russia will be based on the principle of 'African solutions to African problems' instead of meeting benchmarks imposed from abroad.

Putin touted Russia's 'debt-for-development swap programs' that aren't 'contingent upon...preconditions' that shackle a country's 'trade and economic preferences.'

'We see how an array of Western countries are resorting to pressure, intimidation and blackmail of sovereign African governments,' Putin told TASS, referring to what he called former colonial powers in Africa.

The race for African partners is being stirred by politics as much as it has been by economics or humanitarian concerns.

Gaining influence on the ground can translate into closer diplomatic ties at organizations such as the United Nations, where votes are often at a premium.

Putin cited Russia's military agreements and arms deals, as well as a $25 billion loan to Egypt to build four electrical power units and $20 billion of debt relief to African countries as examples of how cooperation is already intertwined.

He also cited a history of Russian universities that have provided professional training to specialists from Africa as part of the broad spectrum of sectors Moscow sees as opportunities to bolster ties.

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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