New Russian bank for Africa debate in roundtable discussing continent’s food security

  • Western banks have always been a part of financial deals, but all of these links have been broken
  • Opening a Russian bank in Africa would “significantly make it easier for countries to settle their debts with each other.”
  • Western restrictions on Russia have made the food shortages and even possible famines situation worse

Food shortages and even famines in the developing world, especially in Africa, are possible outcomes of the sanctions that the US and EU are using against Russia.

These sanctions are aimed at Russia’s exports of food and fertiliser and the ongoing military crisis in Ukraine has made it hard for that country to sell its grains abroad.

And now, it is possible that Africa and Russia will have a new way of doing business if proposals to have a new Russian bank for Africa are implemented. This came to the fore after Rossiya Segodnya, which owns Sputnik, held a virtual round table discussion on Tuesday with diplomats, analysts and officials from Russia and Africa to talk about “Global Challenges to Food Security.”

West’s anti-Russian sanctions

Specialists talked about a wide range of issues related to the current food security crisis that is threatening both Africa and the rest of the world, such as how it started and how Western restrictions on Russia have made the situation worse. The experts also talked about ways to solve the problem.

Oleg Ozerov, the Russian ambassador-at-large and head of the secretariat of the Russia-Africa Partnership, said that the international community had come to agree that the current emergency started long before the crisis between the West and Russia over Ukraine got worse in February.

“There is a view among experts that the rise in food prices is not an accident and is meant to create a resource imbalance in the international division of labour and move toward a new stage of neocolonial policy toward developing countries,” Ozerov said.

The West’s anti-Russian sanctions have made it harder for African countries to make sure they have enough food to eat. He said that the way out of the crisis is to remove “all the barriers that Western countries have put up” to Russian-African cooperation in this area.

Ozerov added that the West’s sanctions have gone after food, even though they said they wouldn’t. Key Russian banks that deal with agricultural transactions, including with African countries, have been hit with restrictions that make it harder for them to do business.

Ozerov said that food security will be one of the most important things to talk about at the Russia-Africa Summit and Economic Forum this fall in St. Petersburg.

Russia Africa’s strategic partner

Carlos Sardinha, Angola’s ambassador and director for international cooperation at the Ministry of External Relations, talked about how important Russia is to his country’s food security. He also said that Luanda is ready to increase investment cooperation with the Russian agro sector and make new public and private partnerships.

Sardinha made it clear that Angola does not produce enough food on its own to meet the needs of the market, and it has been predicted that the country will start to have problems with cereals in September.

“Here, of course, we want to use the many years of working together with the Russian Federation to work together on food. There is a lot that can be done, and we hope that Russian businesspeople will see Angola as a strategic partner,” Sardinha said.

The Director of the Russian liaison office for the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, Oleg Kobiakov, warned that the current crisis is taking the world away from the UN’s goals of sustainable development, which are meant to end world hunger. He also said that the Covid crisis had already caused widespread food insecurity for people in the developing world before the Ukraine disaster.

“According to statistics, there will be 828 million hungry people in the world in 2021, which is about 150 million more than in 2019, the last year before Covid,” Kobyakov said.

He said that other crises, like wars in Africa and Asia, natural disasters, economic turmoil, and rampant inflation caused by printing too much money, all played a role in creating the current crisis.

“Progress in this area is possible, but it will take coordinated action from all UN member nations,” Kobiakov said. He emphasised that the FAO has proposed the creation of an international fund to support the export of food, fertilisers, and energy, especially to help the developing African nations.

Louis Gouend, president of the Cameroonian diaspora association in Russia. He proposed the possible creation of a new Russian bank that focuses on Africa. [Photo/Vladimir Trefilov/Sputnik]

New Russian bank for Africa

For his part, Louis Gouend, president of the Cameroonian diaspora association in Russia and a representative of the Council of African Communities in Russia, said that logistics should be given special attention, as well as investments in the right trade infrastructure and the possible creation of a new Russian bank that focuses on Africa.

“Western banks have always been a part of financial deals, but all of these links have been broken today. But I think this problem is being solved, and I think one solution would be to open a Russian bank in Africa,” Gouend said, adding that this would “significantly make it easier for countries to settle their debts with each other.”

Cheta Nwanze, the lead partner and head of research at SBM Intelligence, a Nigeria-based geopolitical affairs think tank, talked about how important Russian grain and fertilisers are to Africa. He said that wheat grows very poorly or not at all in the tropical climates that cover much of the continent.

Nwanze pointed out that, unfortunately, “many” of Africa’s own agricultural transport companies have tried to avoid transporting grain and fertilisers from Russia because they are afraid of secondary sanctions from the West.

In this case, he said, “other supply corridors are needed, such as through Iran.”

“The world needs a more honest economic system that isn’t run by just one group of countries or people,” the researcher said.

Anastasia Alyamovskaya, the chief specialist of Rossiya Segodnya’s international cooperation directorate, was in charge of the event on Tuesday.

Read: Energy crisis: Can Africa replace Russian gas supplies in Europe?

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