As fate would have it, the International Parliamentary “Russia-Africa” conference held on March 19 to 20 took place on the eve of the historic meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and his counterpart Vladimir Putin. The latter meeting, which took place from March 20 to 22, happened at a time when the International Criminal Court (ICC) had just issued a warrant of arrest for President Putin because of alleged crimes against humanity in the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war.
It was simply a distraction from the momentous happenings in Moscow. The Western press obviously swallowed the bait, ignoring the serious geopolitical significance of this development. Russia, and even the U.S. for that matter, are not even signatories of the Rome Statute, the treaty that established the ICC.
By his state visit to Moscow, President Xi was confirming he often stated stand that no country or bloc, no matter how powerful, has the right to choose friends for others. Your enemy does not have to be my enemy for peace to prevail.
Significantly, the West was jittery that African Parliamentarians would leave Moscow with a changed worldview from the one bandied by the world’s hegemonies, which are predominantly from the North. It was also a sign of “defiance” by African countries whose “allegiance” to the West has for long been taken for granted.
Today there is a growing, strong, and undeniable bond between China, Russia, and Africa tripartite. The three partners are reading from the same page on many geopolitical developments, and proposing a united front in meeting these challenges. Similar to President Xi’s action, the visit by African parliamentarians was also a statement in maturity, independence and courage.
In recent years, China and Russia have helped Africa chart its own development and ideological path. African leaders are increasingly questioning the status quo and exposing the injustice of capitalism and unilateralism.
It is not by accident that Africa is gradually coalescing around the two major developing economies in the world. Relations between the three partners date back a few centuries ago with Africa receiving socioeconomic and political support from the two Communist powers. The feeling of camaraderie between them is mutual and each is seeking win-win outcomes in their relationship.
China-Africa relations is well documented. For the last couple of decades, the second-largest economy in the world has transformed many African economies, particularly through massive infrastructural development. The Forum on China–Africa Cooperation has been the collective vehicle of choice for delivering various development projects targeted at areas of competitive advantage for the continent. In 2009, China surpassed the U.S. to become the largest trading partner of Africa. China has also signed bilateral agreements with more than 40 African countries.
China has also provided tens of billions of dollars to finance public-private partnerships in Africa. Economic experts also agree that China’s economic growth has also been a boon for Africa’s economies by providing the continent with more market opportunities and development support.
The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is also proving an asset by freeing Africa from the economic and technological shackles of the West. The alternative and efficient trade routes being opened up by the BRI are making it easier for Africa to trade with both partners by reducing the duration goods take to these huge markets.
Russia exports mainly grains and petroleum products to Africa. These two products – food and energy – are essential ingredients in the continent’s development process. Although Africa is largely arable, it faces periodical climatic challenges like drought, which is currently ravaging many countries and adversely affecting the continent’s food security.
Energy is definitely a big one even for industrialized countries. For instance, sanctions against Russia have curtailed the export of oil to the European market, which has led to spiraling inflation as the cost of production has doubled due to oil sourced expensively from other oil-producing countries. The extra capacity means that Russia can now sell more oil to Africa with more economies of scale benefits.
Africa sells mainly fruits, vegetables, aquatic products as well as organic chemicals and precious metals to Russia. Closer ties will translate to enhanced trade relations between the two partners which will lead to an increase in demand for African products in the Russian market.
Addressing the Russia-Africa conference on Monday, Putin reiterated his commitment to African countries as he seeks deeper political, economic and military ties. Even amid the sanctions by the U.S. and its allies, Putin said he was ready to do what it takes to alleviate the worsening food situation in Africa due to the prolonged drought, even if it means supplying the grain “free of charge.”
Undeniably, strong China-Russia ties are good for Africa. The continent now does not feel exposed or insecure in case it refuses to follow certain paths that have previously led it astray or held it at ransom. These centers of power are champions of the emerging multipolar world characterized by collective security, respect for international law and non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries.