Maputo — Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi announced on Tuesday in Moscow that Russia has forgiven 95 per cent of Mozambique's debt to the Russian Federation.
Nyusi, who is on a working visit to Russia, made this announcement at a Forum with Russian and Mozambican business people, but did not give an exact figure for the amount of debt pardoned.
Nyusi invited Russian businesses to invest in Mozambique, pointing to the potential the country has in agriculture and livestock, and tourism as well as in minerals and hydrocarbons.
Cited by the Maputo daily "Noticias", Nyusi said "Our challenge is to make our agriculture ever stronger".
He said that trade between Mozambique and Russia increased by 25 per cent between 2017 and 2018, and he regarded this as positive given the long period of stagnation in commercial relations between the two companies.
There were longstanding political and military ties, dating back to the days of the Soviet Union, and Nyusi wanted to see these transformed into gains for the economy.
During the Forum, Russian businesses said they would do all in their power to reactivate trade not only with Mozambique but with the entire African continent. A step in this direction would be the Russia-Africa Forum scheduled for October in the city of Sochi.
The Russian Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Confederation of Mozambican Business Associations (CTA) intended to speed up the procedures necessary for setting up investment partnerships.
Prior to the Forum, Nyusi met with the Mozambican businessmen accompanying him, and urged them to go beyond the official forum and prioritise face-to-face contacts to get to know their Russian counterparts better.
One of the Mozambican businessmen, Fernando Couto sounded a note of caution, pointing out that Russia is under sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union because of its annexation of the Crimea, which is part of Ukraine.
"We don't yet know what effect our relations with Russian businesses will have", he said, pointing out that it is very easy to be out on a Western black list, and very hard to come off it.
Nyusi gave no specific response to this concern, but said Russia is expecting to step up its cooperation with Africa in various fields, and the planned forum in Sochi is an example of this. He said that, in the recent summit of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) in Tanzania, he had found that the other SADC member states are also enthusiastic about the Sochi Forum.
On Wednesday, Nyusi met with representatives of the Russian bank Gazprombank, which has specialised in financing oil and gas projects. At the end of the meeting, according to a report in the independent daily "O Pais", the vice president of the bank, Marc Partridge, said Nyusi had expressed an interest in Gazprombank contributing to the financing of the liquefied natural gas (LNG) project in Area One of the Rovuma Basin, off the coast of the northern province of Cabo Delgado.
The LNG project is being developed by a consortium headed by the US company Anadarko, and involves total investment of about 25 billion US dollars.
Partridge also said that Gazprombank is in "intensive negotiations" with Mozambique's National Hydrocarbon Company (ENH) in order to lend it the two billion dollars it needs to finance its share in Area One.