Zimbabwe and Russia enjoy cordial and diplomatic relations that date back to the liberation struggle. Next week, Russia is hosting the inaugural Russia-Africa Summit and Economic Forum from October 23-24, which is expected to cement the strong ties that already exist between Moscow and Harare. In light of the forthcoming meeting, The Herald Deputy News Editor Kudakwashe Mugari (KM) spoke to Mr Nikolai Krasilnikov (NK), Ambassador of the Russian Federation to the Republic of Zimbabwe.
Below is the full interview:
KM: What are major highlights or objectives of the Russia-Africa Summit?
NK: The Russia-Africa Summit and Economic Forum on October 23-24 in the city of Sochi on the Black Sea coast will be the first event of this kind my country has ever hosted. All the Heads of State and Government of Africa, as well as top officials of the African Union and sub-regional organisations have been invited. We look forward to seeing the highest-level delegations of almost all countries of the continent.
The summit will be co-chaired by the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, and the President of the Arab Republic of Egypt Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, as the current chairperson of the African Union. A wide range of subjects is on the agenda. The Summit and the Economic Forum will constitute a historical event called to provide a new platform for developing the whole system of Russia-Africa ties. The Summit will focus on political, security, legal, scientific, technical, humanitarian and information cooperation.
The Economic Forum will represent a major step in creating more favourable conditions for promoting trade and investment between Russia and the countries of Africa. Establishment of a mechanism for dialogue and coordination, Russia-Africa Partnership Forum, is envisaged. The Summit convened on a regular basis will be the supreme body of the Partnership Forum.
KM: What is the importance of this Summit to Zimbabwe?
NK: Participating in the Summit and the Economic Forum, Zimbabwe will join hands with African friends and Russia in promoting a polycentric world order. It is to be noted that among many issues, the Sochi indaba will address political dictatorship and currency intimidation in international trade and economic cooperation, attempts by individual countries to obtain the exclusive right to determine the appropriateness and permissible parameters of legal interaction between other countries, to manipulate and exert pressure on unwelcomed countries with unfair competition.
It is envisaged that the Summit and the Economic Forum participants will raise their voices against imposing by some states on other states' unilateral coercive measures not based on international law, also known as unilateral sanctions. Therefore, the Republic of Zimbabwe under the New Dispensation will maintain its high profile role in building a better, more just and equitable system of international relations based on principles of respect for sovereignty, non-interference in the internal affairs of states, promoting national identity and civilisation diversity. At the same time Harare, together with fellow African capitals, will benefit from the robust engagement with Moscow in many spheres including trade, investment, scientific, military-technical, humanitarian cooperation in order to transform Zimbabwe into an upper middle-income economy by 2030, as well as to achieve goals set by the AU Agenda 2063 and the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
KM: How much money, if any, has Russia earmarked to invest in Africa in the coming year as part of efforts to deepen relations between Moscow and the continent?
NK: In the context of deepening strong and cordial relations between Russia and the continent of Africa, the emphasis is made on projects in various spheres of economic cooperation and social development with joint efforts of state-owned and private companies. Let business make its announcement on investment figures. As a state official, I see new Russia-Africa projects underway in mining, agriculture, healthcare, education. The Russian side is ready not just to invest money, but to offer scientific and technological achievements to African partners, share with them the experience of upgrading energy, transport and communication infrastructure. In this regard, the Russia-Africa Economic Forum will produce a significant effect.
Leading Russian companies, Rosatom, Russian Railways, Rosgeo, VTB and others will make presentations regarding vast opportunities for my country and countries of Africa to promote trade, investment and sustainable development. The Forum will feature more than 200 CEOs, ministers of key industries and representatives of the expert community. The event will be attended by more than 3 000 representatives of African business. The plenary session, under the theme "Russia-Africa: Uncovering the Potential for Cooperation", will be co-chaired by Russian President Vladimir Putin and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.
The Forging Economic Ties session is about strengthening economic cooperation between countries. Creating Joint Projects will focus on existing and potential joint projects in the oil and gas industry, agriculture, transport infrastructure, construction and nuclear energy. Collaborating in the Humanitarian and Social Sector will bring together experts on corporate social responsibility, chairs of high-profile funds and representatives of business and African countries for discussions on how to improve the quality of life on the African continent with upgrading security, education and healthcare. More than 30 business events involving international speakers will be held on the sidelines of the Forum.
KM: Zimbabwe and Russia concluded several deals this year which we understand will be signed during the forthcoming Summit. Can you unpack the nature of the deals and to what extent are they expected to enhance economic cooperation between the two countries?
NK: At the third meeting of the Russian-Zimbabwean Intergovernmental Commission for Trade, Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation held in Moscow in August this year, the parties signed the agreement on cooperation between the Ministry of Interior of Russia and the Ministry of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage of Zimbabwe. It has been decided to prepare for signing an Intergovernmental Agreement on mutual protection of classified information, Intergovernmental MoUs on cooperation in the platinum group of metals, MoUs between Russian and Zimbabwean ministries on environmental protection and natural resources, geological exploration and mineral resources management, on cooperation in the peaceful use of nuclear energy. These are the deals of various nature set to consolidate the legal framework of the bilateral relations.
The more solid such a basis, the more enhanced mutually protected and efficient is the economic partnership. It was agreed to undertake joint efforts to facilitate preparing the deals for signing. And you know, when working on documents like those, the most important thing is to be sure that you get an implementable agreement that will serve you as a practical guideline. So, it may take some time to work them out.
KM: Has the Russian firm ALROSA that secured the right to mine diamonds in Chiadzwa started exploration work in Marange? When is the exploration process expected to be completed?
NK: ALROSA, a global leader in diamond mining, has a major interest in operating in Zimbabwe in accordance with the company's Development Strategy for African Projects, which also implies developments in Angola. In December 2018, ALROSA (Zimbabwe) Ltd was established. In July 2019, it signed a Memorandum of Agreement with the Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (ZCDC), which is a roadmap that will lead to a joint-venture agreement and a shareholder's agreement in the near future.
Now, ALROSA is in the final stage of obtaining prospecting special grants that will allow it to conduct prospecting and exploration works throughout the country. Further, the objectives of cooperation are diamond mining and independent sale of rough diamonds in external markets. ALROSA focuses on kimberlite deposits where it can take advantage of its abundant knowledge and expertise. The Russian geologists have been working in this country for six months now and the Zimbabwean Government has been of great support. So they have already chosen a number of projects and some of them are to be launched soon. Of the existing fields, the company considers five kimberlite pipes located in different provinces, not in Marange alluvial diamond fields.
KM: What is the update on the Russia projects being implemented in Zimbabwe?
NK: At the third Intergovernmental Commission Meeting, the parties noted the significant progress of the project for integrated development of the Darwendale platinum group of metals deposit. The project is being implemented by Great Dyke Investments (Pvt) Ltd, a joint venture of the Russian and Zimbabwean companies, on the basis of the Bilateral Intergovernmental Agreement of 2014. A team has been assembled of highly qualified experts and contracting entities with world-class experience in developing large-scale mining and concentration complexes, among them Fata EPC (Italy), Murray & Roberts Cementation (SA), DRA (SA), TOMS (Russia) and others. The African Export-Import Bank, one of the leading pan-African financial institutions with an extensive experience in financing large-scale multinational projects, was engaged as a mandated lead arranger.
A target is to achieve design production capacity of 860 million ounces (circa 27 tonnes) of PGM (platinum-group metals) annually, so the project will double production of PGMs in Zimbabwe and will rank among the top five world PGM producers. The project concept implies gradual construction of mining, concentrating and smelting facilities with all related infrastructure. Darwendale has a multiple effect on development of Zimbabwe. The project provides important quality improvements in the economy and social life of the country by creating new jobs, bringing new technologies from Russia and elsewhere, upgrading professional skills of the Zimbabwean mining cadres. It is to set new standards of operating efficiency and environmental management among the Zimbabwean PGM mining industry that will stand on par with the leading global practices.
With ALROSA and Darwendale projects, the Russian Federation contributes to implementation of the Zimbabwean National Strategy of achieving US$12 billion mining economy by the year 2023. The importance of the projects was highlighted at the launch of the sector roadmap by His Excellency the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, Cde E. D. Mnangagwa on October 14.
At the Intergovernmental Commission Meeting mentioned above, the Government of Zimbabwe expressed its interest in various proposals of the Russian companies, including those pertaining to small and medium business, in industrial cooperation, energy sector, agriculture, healthcare. I am sure that the Russia-Africa Summit and Economic Forum will bring more opportunities for both our sides to launch new projects in Zimbabwe.