The Chairman of Russia’s State Duma, Viacheslav Volodin, has urged African leaders to use the enormous natural resources of their countries to vigorously pursue sustainable development.

That, he said, was how to escape under-development, economic dependency and neo-colonialism.

He added that, Russia was ready with a comprehensive plan to deepen its economic cooperation with Africa.

He was addressing the three-day Russia-Africa inter-parliamentary conference held in Moscow.

He said “it is necessary to prevent the revival of neo-colonialism, the destructive attitude towards the African resources.

“To achieve this, the sovereign right of African states to build their own future must be protected.

“Russia has always advocated and stands for the observance of international law on the basis of the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of sovereign states.”

Mr. Volodin said both Russian and African parliamentarians would study issues concerning harmonization of legislations, so that trade between them would be guided by legislative norms.

It would be right, using the capability of parliaments, to “facilitate the establishment of contacts between Russian and African businessmen and the exchange of information on possible cooperation projects”.

He announced that a memorandum on cooperation between the Eurasian Economic Commission and the African Union would be signed soon.

This memorandum would bring Russian-African trade and economic cooperation to a higher level and accelerate the growth of bilateral trade.

“In 2018, the volume of trade with the African continent increased by 17.2 per cent in comparison with 2017 and amounted to $20.4 billion.

“This is a good indicator but this, of course, is not enough,” he noted.

Mr. Volodin said “the Russian Federation is interested in a mutually beneficial partnership with African states for the benefit of the wellbeing of our peoples – the peoples of Russia and the African continent”.

Director of the Institute for African Studies under the Russian Academy of Sciences, Professor Irina Abramova, spoke about the role of science in the development of cooperation between Russia and Africa.

She pointed out that “without a technological breakthrough in ecology, health and education, we are not able to break our relations free from the deadlock and solve the problems that both the Russian people and the people of Africa are facing”.

A former Special Presidential Representative to Africa, Professor Alexey Vasileyev, said the level and scope of Russian economic cooperation with Africa had doubled in recent years, “but Russian-African cooperation is not in the top five.”

He called for greater cooperation in the areas of agriculture, manufacturing, the financial sector, and information technologies in Africa.

For the past few years, Russian authorities have taken steady and strategic steps towards pushing huge investments in lucrative sectors to strengthen bilateral relations and expand economic cooperation in a number of African countries.

He urged African countries to make trade choices that were in their best economic interests and asked that Russia considered the removal of tariff and non-tariff restrictions on economic relations.

In order to increase trade, Russia has to improve its manufacturing base and Africa has to standardize its export products to compete in external markets.

He, however, acknowledged that Russia had few manufactured goods that could successfully compete with Western-made products in Africa.

The former Presidential Envoy said it was necessary to create free trade areas.

“But before creating them, we need information. And here I am ready to reproach the Russian side, providing few information to Africans about their capabilities, and on the other hand, reproach the African side, because when our business comes to Africa, they should know where they go, why and what they will get as a result.”

He said “Interestingly, there are few Russian traders in Africa and African exporters are not trading in Russia’s market due to multiple reasons including inadequate knowledge of trade procedures, rules and regulations as well as the existing market conditions”.

“The task before us, especially before the both parliaments, is to harmonize the norms of trade, contract and civil law.

“The parliamentarians of the two sides have the task to work together on a legislative framework that would be in the interests of both sides. This should be a matter of priority.”

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has praised the legislators’ role in promoting the entire complex of Russian-African cooperation and welcomed steps towards intensifying contacts between the Russian Federal Assembly and African parliaments.

On October 24 this year, the Russia-Africa summit, first announced by Russian President Vladimir Putin during the 10th BRICS summit, would take place in Sochi.

Source: GNA