In a world where it is hardly a surprise to see dozens of African heads of states assemble in one place at the behest of a single nation, the question on the lips of many is how beneficial the summit is to the continent as a whole.
Coming one year after the China-Africa summit, the meeting with Russia ended after the signing of dozens of memorandums of understanding (MOU) and other agreements with the African countries that attended.
These agreements are set to benefit the continent first in the sector of agricultural where it will be expected to assist in the development of the sector. This could include grants to farmers as well as research initiatives.
The Oil and gas and technology sectors also stand to benefit from the Russian gesture expected to provide more research as well as positive result.
With rising insecurity in Africa like everywhere else, Russia also offered nuclear power plants, fighter jets and missile defence systems to the concerned African countries.
“Some of these deliveries are free of charge,” Putin said.
Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni highlighted this alone is the number one issue for his nation.
“We have been co-operating very well, we have supported the building of our army by buying good Russian equipment, aircraft, tanks, and so on. We want to buy more,” he added, indicating increase in financial commitment between both parties.
This Russian support analysts say is part of a strategy to win back influence on the continent.
In another facet of Russian ‘kindness’, Putin days ago had promised to forgive Ethiopia’s debt, making it the fourth nation to be forgiven.
At what cost?
According to online Business site Quartz Africa, “it’s unclear how Russia’s commitments will measure up when put up against the China’s deep foray into Africa especially over the last two decades.”
Many ask how this agreement like several previous ones will bring more of the benefits to the continent which is already facing a plethora of issues thanks to intervention from China and other foreign bodies. On the contrary, it has the potential to increase foreign influence on the continent that till date still faces some ill effects of colonialism.
While offering a toast at the formal summit dinner in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Putin said “Let’s drink to the success of our joint efforts to develop full-scale mutually beneficial co-operation, wellbeing, peaceful future and prosperity of our countries and people.”
The total amount of external debt for the continent estimated at $417bn (£317bn) around 20% of African government external debt is said to be owed to China. With efforts at repaying these debts seeming to produce no fruits, many fear a similar deal with Russia is set to male matters worse.
The future through the deal some say may be peaceful and promote wellbeing, but the prosperity of the African nations may still not be guaranteed.
The Cameroon perspective
Early this year, top Chinese diplomat Yang Jiechi met President Paul Biya, a chunk of Cameroon’s debt was wiped off by China, though the figures remained unknown.
While the gesture was welcomed by many, others noted that it should serve as a lesson for the country to avoid undertaking commitments it cannot fulfill.
A few months later and Cameroon is one of other African states at the Russia-Africa summit signing agreements and memorandums.
While it is not yet known how it is set to affect Cameroon in particular, many have in the past days taken to social media to express their fear of getting a bad deal. A bad deal many say would obviously lead to situations such as conflicts in the East with Chinese miners or even more importantly, external influence from Russia which is one of the world’s top powers.
While nothing is certain yet, it is hoped that it will benefit not just persons in positions of power but also the ordinary Cameronian on the streets.