Africa: Russia, Too, Out for a Stake in Africa
Moscow recently played host to the seventh meeting of the Africa Partnership Forum (APF) signalling growing relations between Russia and Africa.
The APF is a unique interface of relations between Africa and external partners. The forum was established in 2003 at the G8 Summit as a new international mechanism for harmonising approaches to social and economic progress in Africa.
The forum has asserted itself as a unique avenue for interaction between representatives of African countries and leading partners to find common approaches to achieve UN Millennium Development Goals. It also helps to invigorate relations between the continent and external partners, including goals set under the New Partnership for Africa's Development (Nepad).
The African Partnership Forum's great advantage is that it allows broad interaction between the West and the continent. This contrasts with the Nepad framework, which is based on the narrow format that saw the founders - Algeria, Egypt, Nigeria, South Africa and Senegal - drive the process.
The establishment of the forum signified a considerable increase in the number of participants: The G8 countries, 11 non-G8 industrialised nations that offer $100 million (Sh7.2 billion) in aid a year, UN, IMF, World Bank, World Trade Organisation, European Union and 20 African member countries of the Nepad Executive Committee.
Others are the African Union, the leading African sub-regional organisations and the African Development Bank.
Russia played a key role in organising this year's forum. The meetings are convened twice a year, one in Africa and the other in the G-8 chair country. More than 150 participants attended this year's meeting. The agenda of the Moscow meeting was consistent with the priorities of the St Petersburg G-8 Summit.
They include topics such as energy scarcity, education and infectious disease control. These issues are relevant to Africa's destiny and aspirations. Managing them is critical to ensuring sustainable development in the continent. The challenge of energy scarcity in Africa is particularly poignant. The recommendations of the St Petersburg G-8 Summit and the June statement of the G-8 Finance ministers provide a platform for solving a number of the problems.
On infectious disease control, there was a robust review of the resolutions of the APF meeting in Mozambique last May. It was agreed that more should be done to confront the problem through creative and aggressive methods. It is, of course, perilous to hold lengthy discussions without making practical and achievable recommendations.
This realisation led to a vigorous review of the monitoring overviews of the forum secretariat on the three key subjects of the previous APF - agriculture, infrastructure and HIV/Aids. They mark the beginning of implementation of the Forum's monitoring function and will make it possible to analyse progress in the implementation of the decisions taken in the APF framework and commitments of African and donor communities.
Less overarching, but equally important issues were also examined. They revolved around the Africa Action Plan with particular emphasis on access of African goods to developed countries' markets.
Of course, government programmes aiming to solve the dynamic and complex issues facing the continent need to work in concert with other players in society.
Civil society in Africa, as in other parts of the world, plays a crucial role in development. In recognition of this, co-chairs of the Forum met with participants from NGOs across the continent.
Russia's hosting of the APF meeting underscores its strong relationship with Africa and its quest to improve that relationship. Through the G-8 and the APF, Russia seeks to help shape reliable mechanisms for attaining sustainable development and strengthening regional stability, and at the same time seeking solutions to other problems facing the continent.
Russia has demonstrated this through action. The World Food Programme (WFP) in Nairobi recently received $2 million (Sh144 million) from the Russian Federation, the first such donation to WFP's work in East Africa.
This is expected to further invigorate the relationship between Russia and Africa.