Russia-African Summit: Expectations and its impacts on the Tanzanian–Russian relationship

Tanzania has always been in the good books of Russia for ages and vice versa. Russians are by nature tourists, and frequently they choose the best of resort areas of the world, such as Turkey, Cuba, Jamaica, Egypt, Kenya, Ethiopia and Tanzania including Zanzibar who also falls in this category as one of the world’s tourist attraction sites, for the safaris, the hills, beaches and the Mt. Kilimanjaro.

The diplomatic relationship between Russia and Tanzania are bilateral and have been established since December 11, 1961.

Today, Russia has an embassy in Dar-es-Salaam, and Tanzania has an embassy in Moscow. The relationship has since grown in different areas. A number of bilateral agreements were reached, while negotiations for others are ongoing to widen trade and investment opportunities and to increase interactions between Russian and Tanzania economically.

The first Russia – Africa Summit, that was hosted in October 2019 in the city of Sochi Russia, hosted several African presidents with the Prime Minister of Tanzania Kassim Majaliwa representing the then President John Magufuli. The summit was aimed at strengthening economic ties between Russia and African countries.

One of those things that the next summit will be looking at is working and improving on a bilateral investment and trade relationship between Russia and Tanzania. In fact, Russian investors are already active in Tanzania.

According to the Tanzania Investment Centre (TIC), Russia invested significantly in the country in 2015, with 48 projects worth $45.23 million since 1990, thereby creating 3,342 jobs for Tanzanians. In 2021, Russia exported $161m to Tanzania.

The main products that Russia exported to Tanzania are Wheat ($100M), Nitrogenous Fertilizers ($26.5M), and Semi-Finished Iron ($7.79M). During the last 26 years, the exports of Russia to Tanzania have increased at an annual rate of 22.7%, from $794k in 1995 to $161M in 2021.

In 2021, Tanzania exported $26.4M to Russia. The main products that Tanzania exported to Russia were Sowing Seeds ($12.9M), Raw Tobacco ($6.56M), and Tea ($3.46M).

During the last 26 years the exports of Tanzania to Russia have increased at an annual rate of 21.6%, from $164k in 1995 to $26.4M in 2021. In January 2022, the top exports of Russia to Tanzania were Wheat ($4.49M), Mixed Mineral or Chemical Fertilizers ($3.93M), Newsprint ($253k), Raw Aluminium ($203k), and Phosphates (hypophosphates) and phosphonates (phosphates) ($199k).

In January 2022 the top imports of Russia from Tanzania were Raw Tobacco ($1.6M), Sowing Seeds ($728k), Tea ($125k), Coffee ($71k), and Tropical Fruits ($39.9k).

The summit would serve as a platform for Russian and African leaders to engage in dialogues, discuss bilateral and multilateral issues, and explore opportunities for cooperation. It could cover a wide range of topics, including trade, investment, infrastructure development, energy, security, healthcare, and education.

The African continent till date lives in deficit of major and essential infrastructures, such as industrial, transportation, housing etc. So this is a main area where African Countries till now seek foreign investments.

If Russia pledges support for infrastructural development projects in Africa, it will help boost economic growth and improve connectivity within the continent.

This, in turn, could have spill over effects on global trade and regional integration. It is as well expected that this summit would provide an opportunity for Russia to deepen its diplomatic relationships with African countries.

It should result in the signing of more joint agreements and memorandums of understanding, enhancing a stronger political cooperation between Russia and African Nations.

In the last decades, several initiatives have being drawn, such as the BRICS alliance, that has recently received a wave of interest from several African Nations.

Russia is a key player in the global energy market, particularly in oil and gas. Although the African continent is rich in mineral resources, it lacks the essential technology to provide its basic energy needs or compete in the global market. Energy cooperation between Russia, Tanzania and African nations in general will result in increased energy exports from Africa, contributing to global energy security and diversification.

The Tanzanian government can seriously consider inviting Russia to invest in the oil and gas sector on a win-win basis.

Statistics have it that several Tanzanian specialists and experts have been trained till date by the Russian government, both on joint agreements which gave birth to scholarships or individual contracts.

Till today the Russian Federation is one of the biggest provider of educational services to the African continent at larger, by keeping up with its culture of giving free education through the Russian government scholarship programmes, that had been in existence since the days of the soviet union. This year alone, the Russian ministry of Education has announced it will be given 15,000 free scholarship spaces to students from all continents of the world.

The second Russia – Africa Summit has been fixed for the 27th – 28th of July 2023 which will be taking place in the former Capital City of the Russian Federation – St. Petersburg, and its main essence is to foster and strengthen bilateral relationships between Russia and the continent.

Note that the actual impact of a second Russia Africa Summit would depend on the commitments made and actions taken by participating countries following the event. The outcomes could contribute to shaping Russia’s relationship with Africa and have broader implications on global political and economic dynamics.

Generally, in the light of better relations between Russia and African nations in general, and with Tanzania in particular, there are lots of hopes in 2023 and beyond. Let’s see what comes out of the second Russia-Africa summit scheduled to take place in St. Petersburg, Russia, 2023.

The writer is analyst in Economics, Politics, International Relations & Diplomacy

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