At the First Russia-Africa Summit, Putin Tells African Leaders: Let’s Make a Deal

At the First Russia-Africa Summit, Putin Tells African Leaders: Let’s Make a Deal
Russian President Vladimir Putin and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa at the Russia-Africa Summit in Sochi, Oct. 24, 2019 (pool photo by Gavriil Grigorov of TASS News Agency via AP Images).

Editor’s Note: Every Friday, Andrew Green curates the top news and analysis from and about the African continent.

Russian President Vladimir Putin had a message for African leaders this week: Moscow is ready to make some deals. Putin’s government brought 43 African heads of state or government to the Black Sea resort town of Sochi for the first-ever Russia-Africa Summit. The Russians simultaneously sent a pair of nuclear-capable bombers to South Africa, apparently the first time the Soviet-era aircraft had ever landed on the continent, reinforcing both Russia’s strategic capabilities and what it might be able to offer African governments.

Putin is looking to catch up to China and Western nations, which have developed strong trade relationships across Africa, and increase Russia’s access to natural resources, including diamonds, uranium and oil. He is willing to leverage Russia’s wealth, but also its knowledge. Ahead of the summit, Rwanda announced that it had entered a deal with Moscow to develop nuclear energy resources, in apparent exchange for purchasing Russian defense systems.

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