Johannesburg, October 18, 2019/ -- Russia's return to Africa has been the subject of wide media coverage, governmental concerns and civil society reactions in recent weeks, especially as Sochi gears up to host the first ever Russia-Africa Summit next week. Most commentators have come from Europe and North America to voice concerns over Russia's dodgy arm deals in Africa, political meddling with unstable African regimes, and its overall challenging of the status quo on the continent. The problem is, when these comments are not outright hypocritical, they are missing a key point: competition is good for business, which is just what Africa needs right now.
First, Russia's presence in the continent cannot be summarized into sensationalism. It is complex and needs to be put back into context. Its modern relations with African governments and institutions started building up in post-independence Africa, time when the Soviet Union offered key diplomatic and military support to young African nations in need of it. This assistance was multi-form and much needed for countries seeking fast development following harsh independence wars and conflicts. "The Soviet Union provided significant economic assistance, including infrastructure, agricultural development, security cooperation, and health sector cooperation," wrote Paul Stronski of the Carnegie's Russia and Eurasia Program this week. Consequently, Putin's vision for Africa is resuming and building up on a cooperation that started in the second half of the 20th century and was only put on hold by the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.Read More