encroachment into Africa has been seen by some sceptics as an attempt to dislodge China, its fellow BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) partner as the biggest trade partner of most African countries.
This is apt, since Nigeria is already a huge market for Western consumer products. A short history lesson will reveal that Russia made a self-imposed exit from Africa in the late 1980s, upon which China moved in to fill the vacuum. Chinese investment has since surged to unprecedented levels. Russian steel conglomerate, RUSAL, is the world’s largest aluminium producer. It has grabbed the opportunity to make its motherland’s re-entry into Africa by buying a majority stake (85%) in Nigeria’s national aluminium company Alscon.
The African investment is one of RUSAL’s key assets on the continent. It includes an aluminium smelter with an annual capacity of 12 000 tons, a gas-fired power station and a port on the Imo River. All these facilities have since been modernised to make RUSAL’s Nigerian operations a global contender. Subsequently, Nigeria has become the second African country trading with Russia. The tale does not end there! Russian companies are fostering and renewing relationships with Nigerian companies in the fields of electricity, nuclear energy and metal resources.
Besides the fact that relations between Nigeria and Russia are developing steadily on the aluminium front, a number of leading Russian companies are implementing major investment projects in areas such as hydrocarbon extraction, farm mechanisation and energy. December 2012 saw Russia take up the presidency of the Group of 20 (G20), a premier forum for international cooperation on the most important issues on the global economic and financial agenda. Its leadership of this influential grouping, coupled with increased activity, not only in Nigeria but also in Africa, has geopolitical and strategic implications for both Russia and Nigeria. On the one hand, Africa’s 54 states represent a key voting bloc within the structures of global governance. On the other, Africa will need to have on its side a powerful nation through which it can get its message across and help the continent burgeon at the seams with economic potential.
What better partner for Russia to have in Africa than Nigeria, one of the most powerful nations in Africa? For Africa in general, and Nigeria in particular, who else to have on your side than the head of the world’s most influential states that easily holds the destiny of all global citizens in its hands? According to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Russia and its BRICS partners and the G20 co-members, along with other like-minded parties, will seek to implement decisions on reforming the international monetary and financial system. Given that Russia is relatively new in the African economic space of today, the steady development of relations between the two and its increased global influence are likely to lead to a win-win situation for Nigeria, Africa and Russia.
A Russian Tale of Nigerian Aluminium
Lagos, the capital city of Nigeria, recently emerged as the only African city, among 15 global candidates, that has the most business potential in the world. Russia is capitalising on this to encroach into Africa, especially since the African nation is well known for its vast oil and aluminium deposits.
Africa, as a continent, is becoming more prominent in Russia’s foreign policy in the post-Boris Yeltsin era. Vladimir Putin visited South Africa and Morocco in 2006. Consequently, Dmitry Medvedev visited the continent in 2009, marking renewed interest in reviving relations with Africa. Russia’s
IDEATE | BRICS
by Andrew Ngozo