By Kester Kenn Klomegah
MOSCOW (IDN) – Keen to intensify and widen bilateral relations, Russia and Mozambique have signed several intergovernmental documents as well as business agreements during President Jacinto Filipe Nyusi’s visit here. Its highlights were talks with President Vladimir Putin and the Russian-Mozambican business forum, the first gathering of businesspersons from Russia and representatives of companies from Mozambique, in Moscow.
The importance of the August 20-23 visit is underlined by the fact that it has taken place in the run-up to the Russia-Africa summit in Sochi on October 23-24. However, because of general elections in Mozambique on October 15, President Filipe Nyusi might not be able to attend the summit, reports said.
“The visit of the Mozambican head of state is part of the consolidation and deepening of the existing relations of friendship and cooperation between Mozambique and Russia,” the Presidency of the Republic of Mozambique said.
“This is a historic visit, the first by a Mozambican head of state to Russia since the dissolution of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) in 1991, given that the last visit to Moscow was made by former President Joaquim Chissano in 1987,” the statement added.
The Mozambique president was accompanied by Ministers of Defence, Atanasio Mtumuke, and of Mineral Resources and Energy, Max Tonela, as well as the Deputy Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Maria Lucas, of Science and Technology, Higher and Technical Vocational Education, Leda Hugo.
The Kremlin offered no transcript neither photos after their meeting, except an earlier statement that the two presidents planned to discuss prospects for the further expansion of Russia-Mozambique relations, and to exchange views on the main topics concerning international and regional affairs. The talks followed by the signing of a number of bilateral agreements.
Russia’s Itar-Tass News Agency reported that several intergovernmental and interdepartmental documents, as well as business agreements were signed following the talks, Russian companies, among them Rosneft, UAZ, GAZ, Kamaz, Inter Rao-Export and Gazprombank, had shown “active interest” in cooperation with Mozambican partners.
In July 2018 at the BRICS summit attended by Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa in Johannesburg, Vladimir Putin told delegation heads from invited African countries that “Russia plans to increase its assistance to the development of the national energy sector in African states. We are implementing promising oil and gas projects with a number of countries, such as Angola, Mozambique, and Gabon.”
Before that, during the Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum in June 2018, Foreign Minister of Mozambique Jose Pacheco said that Mozambique planned to sign an agreement with Rosneft and ExxonMobil on gas field exploration in the north of the country by the end of 2018.
“The project to develop gas fields in the north of Mozambique is under discussion now. The plan is to sign an agreement this year and launch the project on field development in Mozambique with participation of Rosneft and ExxonMobil,” the Minister said after meeting with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
There has been an increasing interest of the Russian business community in building a partnership with Mozambique, which matches Maputo’s intention to attract Russian investment and technical assistance. “We have reaffirmed mutual commitment to promoting trade and economic cooperation and believe that joint efforts in geological exploration and mineral extraction as well as telecommunications, energy and agriculture are the main priorities,” said Lavrov.
The plan was to create a consortium with the participation of a Mozambican company, Rosneft and ExxonMobil to develop offshore hydrocarbon fields near Mozambique.
Heavily indebted Mozambique hopes its oil and natural gas resources will help it recover from a debt scandal that saw it cut off from multilateral and foreign donors. More than US$30 billion is expected to be invested in Mozambique’s gas sector to build capacity to produce 20 million tons per year of liquefied natural gas.
On August 21, the Russian-Mozambique Business Forum held at the World Trade Center as part of President Filipe Nyusi’s visit, aimed at reviewing and identifying potential spheres for strengthening bilateral economic cooperation between Russia and Mozambique. It was organized by the Embassy of Mozambique and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Russian Federation with the support of the Moscow International Trade Center.
The program included a plenary session with the participation of the Mozambican delegation, representatives of public authorities, and economic development agencies. There were various presentations of Mozambican companies and business negotiations in B2B (business-to-business) format were also held.
Russian entrepreneurs interested to invest in Africa
Representatives of Russian companies and associations of entrepreneurs, scientific and expert circles took part in the event. More than 30 Mozambican companies presented a wide range of industries such as energy, oil and gas, automotive industry, agriculture, healthcare, logistics, legal advice, information technology and tourism.
Without doubt, African dreams are still alive among potential Russian industrialists and investors. A detailed analysis of the state of Russian-Mozambique trade and economic relations was given in a speech by the co-chair of the Russian-Mozambique intergovernmental commission, Deputy Minister of Natural Resources and Ecology, and Head of the Federal Agency for Natural Resources, Yevgeny Kiselyov.
Russian companies such as Rosneft, Rosseti and Inter RAO-Export have, for a long time, expressed readiness to explore opportunities for projects in Mozambique, Kiselyov said during the business forum, while explaining that Mozambique has a range of competitive climatic and geopolitical advantages.
“Natural gas projects have a very convenient location. Gas reserves in Mozambique are vast. The geopolitical position makes possible to develop gas transport systems. South Africa and Zimbabwe, which are among major consumers of energy resources in Africa, are located nearby, that gold and phosphate deposits as well as projects in coal and iron ore mining could be implemented in southern Africa ” he said.
According to Kiselyov “Our competitors, and we are competing there with both Brazilians and Indians, are implementing projects in the field of coal and iron ore mining. There is no reason why Russian entrepreneurs do not enter this sector of the economy. Our competitive advantages are quite obvious. We are implementing the largest projects in the world in this area and are the most dynamically developing economy in the world.”
Chairman of the Confederation of Economic Associations of the Republic of Mozambique, Agostino Vuma noted that continued efforts for the theme of joint work by Russian and Mozambique entrepreneurs.
He said that the Republic of Mozambique hopes to expand cooperation in areas such as the production of various kinds of machine tools and equipment, and currently seeks new forms of partnership with the aim of further developing the agricultural sector, electricity production, logistics, the oil and gas industry and other sectors of the economy.
According to Vuma, based on the positive dynamics of economic cooperation with Russia, the main task of the Mozambique side now is the diversification of trade with the Russian Federation.
Vice President of the Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Vladimir Padalko, noted that the African continent, as a whole, and Mozambique, in particular, are gaining increasing importance in the system of foreign economic relations of and are strategic interest to the Russian Federation.
However, the volume of trade between Russia and Mozambique in 2018 amounted to US$115 million. In the first half of 2019, trade increased by 32 percent compared to the same period in 2018.
Filipe Nyusi stated that the dynamics of trade between Mozambique and Russia had been positive, with bilateral trade increasing by 25 percent in 2018 compared to the same period last year. These figures were positive, he said, given the long period of stagnation in trade relations between the two countries, which had resulted from various factors.
Mozambique’s economy is alive and well, judging by the volume of investments currently flowing in various sectors, noted Filipe Nyusi, and added that he would do his best to pursue the best strategies to improve the business environment in Mozambique, with the help of the business sector of the Russian Federation.
The two countries currently maintain trade and economic relations. The Russian-Mozambique intergovernmental commission on trade and economic cooperation was established in March 2018. Its first meeting was held in Maputo in April 2018.
In a 2018 survey by the International Monetary Fund, three-quarters of Mozambicans said, in the past five years, their economic position had remained the same or become worse due to deep-seated corruption, decaying economy and partly by natural disasters.
Mozambique is a member of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC). Mozambique is a country located in Southeast Africa bordered by the Indian Ocean to the east, Tanzania to the north, Malawi and Zambia to the northwest, Zimbabwe to the west, and Eswatini (Swaziland) and South Africa to the southwest. [IDN-InDepthNews – 24 August 2019]
Photo: President Filipe Nyusi addressing the Russian-Mozambique Business Forum on 21 August 2019 on Moscow. Credit: World Trade Center.
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