By Roger McKenzie, Originally published by the Morning Star, July 27, 2023.
MOSCOW announced today that it is writing off nearly $20 billion (£15.5bn) of debt to African countries and that Russia will provide hard-pressed nations on the continent with free grain.
Russian President Vladimir Putin told the first day of the Russia-Africa forum in St Petersburg that an agreement had been reached to cancel $3.5bn (£2.7bn) of Angola’s debt that arose as a result of the purchase of weapons from the USSR, plus $5bn (£3.8bn) from Ethiopia, $5.7bn (£4.43bn) from Algeria and $4.5bn (£3.5bn) from Libya.
The Russian president also announced that his country would provide grain directly to six poor African countries following Russia’s withdrawal from a deal that allowed Black Sea exports, a decision that drew strong condemnation from the United States and its allies.
But Mr Putin said Russia “will be ready to provide Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe, Mali, Somalia, CAR [Central African Republic] and Eritrea with 25-50,000 tons of grain free of charge, we will also provide free delivery.
“Russia makes a significant contribution to global food security, those who say it is not so are telling lies.”
Mr Putin added: “I would like to note that last year trade turnover between Russia and Africa reached $18bn (£13.9bn).”
“I am confident that we all can scale up trade more massively in the foreseeable future,” he said.
Despite the threat of US sanctions and attempts to isolate Russia, some 49 African countries out of 54 are participating in the summit.
Seventeen heads of state are attending, plus 32 others represented by senior government officials or ambassadors.
The Russians labelled attempts by the US and allies to undermine the summit as “absolutely outrageous.”
Mr Putin also told the summit that he backs the inclusion of the African Union in the G20 and hopes “that the decision will be adopted at the G20 summit in New Delhi in September.”
Efforts to try to find an agreed solution to the conflict in Ukraine will also be on the agenda.
African leaders, led by the South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, visited Kiev and Moscow to try to find a pathway to peace.
A statement from the South African presidency said on Wednesday: “The summit background will also offer an opportunity to African heads of state who are part of the African Leaders Peace Mission to continue talks with President Putin on the confidence-building measures that will create conducive conditions for a path to peace between Russia and Ukraine.”
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