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The Russia-Africa Summit

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Putin invited numerous African leaders to St. Petersburg, where they discussed strengthening their alliance. The Russia-Africa summit gave Moscow a platform to show that it has not been isolated by all its allies. The biggest bargaining chip on the table was reimplementing of the grain deal. The UN has all but promised food shortages and famine in Africa caused by the war. Putin has now promised to begin shipping 25,000 to 50,000 tons of grain, free of charge, over the next three or four months.

Only 17 of 54 African leaders attended the conference, compared to the 43 who attended in 2019. The West is touting this as a win, but Moscow said many are afraid to enter the conflict. African nations simply want their people to prosper. Despite having valuable national resources, the continent is deeply indebted to the world. Russia agreed to cancel $23 billion in debt to African nations and hinted that their allies (i.e., India and China) may also offer aid.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said, “We are not here to plead for donations for the African continent.” Instead, they are looking to become a respected trading partner. President of Chad Mahamat called out Russia for failing to improve trade. “Putin vowed to double Russia’s trade with the continent within five years. Instead, it has stalled at around $18 billion a year,” he stated. African nations want a seat at the table, shedding its colonist past that still indebts their people.

Putin has promised that the grain harvest will exceed expectations this year. African countries have a large bargaining chip here. The West provides Africa with more aid than Russia, but at what cost? Africa receives the vast majority of its grain directly from Russia and would certainly face food shortages without their help. Putin will need to offer African nations an opportunity to become a valued trading partner and get his other main global allies on board with the idea too.