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43 African Presidents have flown to Russia to attend the first Russia-Africa Summit as Kremlin tries to forge new and rekindle old Soviet Union ties, rolls red carpet

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  • At 0800 GMT, Mr. Putin alongside Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the current head of the African Union and guest of honour at the event opened the summit.
  • Putin has scheduled 13 bilateral meetings with African leaders in a bid to further extend the Kremlin’s influence.
  • Despite Moscow being a crucial player on the continent in the Soviet era, its ties with Africa declined with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and in recent years China has emerged as a top foreign power on the continent.

On Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted dozens of African leaders for the first Russia-Africa Summit.

The two-day event held at the Black Sea resort of Sochi is expected to be graced by more than 3,000 delegates who will sign deals and discuss topics from nuclear technology to mineral extraction.

All 54 African states would be sending a representative, according to Kremlin advisor Yuri Ushakov, of those, 43 will be heads of state or government.

At 0800 GMT, Mr. Putin alongside Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the current head of the African Union and guest of honour at the event opened the summit.

Why now

After five years of Western sanctions coupled with a stagnating economy, Moscow is looking both for allies and an opportunity to boost growth.

To reach its end, Russia has borrowed a leaf from China’s book and does not mind dining and mingling with ‘unpopular’ African head of states with controversial rights records in exchange for access to the continent’s riches.

Despite Moscow being a crucial player on the continent in the Soviet era, backing independence movements and training a generation of African leaders, its ties with Africa declined with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and in recent years China has emerged as a top foreign power on the continent.

In 2018, trade between Russia and Africa amounted to a paltry $20 billion — less than half that of France with the continent, and ten times less than that of China.

More so, Putin — who has been in power for the past 20 years — has only ever visited South Africa in Sub-Saharan Africa, preferring to host leaders from the continent in Russia something which continues to erode Russia’s influence in Africa. 

Putin is, however, now keen to reverse this and hopes to use the summit to warm his way into Mama Africa heart and rekindle old Soviet Union contacts which has since grown cold.

Putin has scheduled 13 bilateral meetings with African leaders in a bid to further extend the Kremlin’s influence.

“We are preparing and carrying out investment projects with Russian participation that are worth billions of dollars,” he said in an interview released Monday by the official TASS news agency.