Russian President Vladimir Putin has announced his intention to establish a free trade area with four North African countries – Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria – in order to increase Moscow’s diplomatic influence and economic development on the continent. land.
Russia’s official TASS news agency quoted Putin as saying: “We need to turn the level of political trust [between North African countries and Russia] into economic cooperation. They consider Russia a friend, and we also consider African countries a friend.
The Kremlin said talks on drafting a free trade agreement have begun between member states of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and four North African countries.
Several North African countries have emphasized their openness to strengthening economic ties with Russia. Moroccan Prime Minister Aziz Akhannouch recently appeared to praise Russia’s clear determination to “strengthen friendly relations and constructive cooperation with African countries”. In June, Algeria signed an agreement to help Russian gas giants establish a stronger foothold in the Algerian market. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi strongly criticized Russia’s withdrawal from the Black Sea Grain Initiative, which allowed 33 million tons of Ukrainian grain to enter international markets between July and July. 2022 to July 2023, but there are some suggestions that this could derail further efforts. economic cooperation between Cairo and Moscow.
Moscow strengthens ties with Africa
The move comes shortly after the conclusion of the Russia-Africa Summit in St. Petersburg, home to 49 African delegations and 17 African heads of state with the aim of creating “a new level of mutually beneficial partnership” between Russia and Africa.
Moscow has sought to win over African leaders by writing off $23 billion worth of debts and announcing military cooperation agreements with more than 40 African nations, although there are also tensions over Russia has blocked Ukraine’s grain exports, which have contributed to global food growth. rising prices and inflation levels in North Africa.
Dr Kaiser Naseem, a former World Bank official who has worked in Cairo and Moscow, told African Business that the relationship between many African countries and Russia dates back decades, but the foreign environment Current delivery means that they are now especially important. “Russia has had long-standing relations with several African countries since Soviet times. Several African leaders have been hailed as heroes in the Soviet Union – Patrice Lumumba, Prime Minister of the Congo, who is especially thought of,” he said.
“But in today’s world, all eyes are on the African continent with its economic potential and mineral wealth. Leveraging its decades-long relationship, at a recent summit in St. Petersburg, Putin has announced his intention to cooperate with African countries on the economic front.
Naseem believes the potential free trade area with North Africa is “a strategic move by Putin to try to forge closer ties with North Africa and the long-term economic benefits that come with it.” .”, and note that “China and the United States follow similar strategies”.
“Overall,” he said, “the race to ‘catch’ the African continent has heated up a lot after the St. Petersburg summit.”