Somalia has received a debt relief worth $684 million as Moscow began enticing African leaders at the start of the second Russia-Africa Summit in St Petersburg.
The two sides signed an agreement for Moscow to forgive $684 million. Somalia’s Finance Minister Bihi Iman Ige signed the agreement with Russian Deputy Minister of Finance Timur Igorevich Maksimov. The money was lent to Somalia before its collapse into civil war but the gesture by Russia represents its renewed interest in reaching out to African countries as it battles isolation by the West.
Somalia and Russia have had a tepid relation. Once close during the cold war, Somalia then chose the US as a closer ally during the Ogaden War in the 1970s, with Mogadishu having been angered by the then Soviet Union’s support for the Derg regime in Ethiopia, with which Mogadishu was fighting.
Today’s Russia though is gathering African leaders to a second Summit which seeks to tackle business and humanitarian issues.
At least 27 African heads of state and government have arrived in St Petersburg with other countries sending representatives.
On Wednesday, Russian leader Vladimir Putin met with a number of leaders from Africa. With Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, he said the two sides have maintained “mutual” support for each other.
“We highly appreciate long-standing ties between Russia and Ethiopia, based on the principles of mutual respect and consideration for each other’s interests,” Putin said, according to a dispatch shared with the media on Wednesday.
Leaders such as Comorian President Azali Assoumani, the current African Union Chair, Egypt’s Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi, Felix Tshisekedi of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, Evariste Ndayishimiye of Burundi and Macky Sall of Senegal are among those in attendance.
“Relations between Russia and Egypt have acquired a special meaning and status,” Putin said after meeting the Egyptian leader in a bilateral discussion. The two sides established relations 80 years ago.
“We have a positive attitude to all initiatives and invitations, including from you, when hey concern multilateral cooperation and interaction in Africa,” al-Sissi commented.
Putin, whose country has faced Western criticism for invading Ukraine last year, is using the meeting to show how Russia has supported African interests.
“Russia supports the aspiration of African nations to secure socio-economic stability and advancement,” he said in commentary on Monday.
“It is important that over the past few years, cooperation between Russia and Africa has reached new heights.” Moscow has offered to supply grain to Africa, bypassing the Black Sea Grain Initiative which it recently pulled out and which had allowed Ukraine to export grain to poor countries. Moscow says it will deliver the grain directly but has also been accused of fostering ties with some African countries that has allowed the paramilitary group Wagner to rise in influence with its violent operations. The US has since imposed sanctions on the group.