Mikhail Margelov: Unified agency should coordinate Russia's work with African states

The Russian president's envoy for cooperation with African countries, Mikhail Margelov, has proposed considering the possibility of writing off some African states' debts.

"Russia's presence in Africa is restricted today mainly by measures to promote economic projects, but any strategy of Russia's return to the continent is still absent. Writing off some African countries' debts in exchange for licenses that would allow our companies to develop natural resource deposits in Africa could improve the situation," Margelov told Interfax on Thursday.

A new format of cooperation in the modern-day situation could be a financial pool of interested Russian banks and commercial organizations, whose work will be coordinated accurately through an authorized agency, he said.

Powerful support by the government and constant exchanges of visits at different levels and messages addressed to the president of any given country are the only ways to step up Russian interests lobbying in Africa, Margelov said.

"Apart from that, there is a need to intensify efforts aimed at promoting Russian funds' involvement and the assistance of volunteer and business organizations in tackling humanitarian problems of the African continent, as well as drawing up programs to increase free [education] quotas for African students," he said.

Analyzing the situation, Margelov said that African states' interest in Russia stems mostly from Russia's permanent membership in the UN Security Council and possible support of concrete initiatives within the council.

"Using the former 'baggage' and exerting influence in the form of low-interest loans and 'gift' project in social infrastructure is economically unfeasible today amid the absence of strict orders from the state," he said.

Russian companies have effectively left the African continent, except for a number of individual viable projects, Margelov said.

"Those [companies] that continue working are doing it separately, without taking the state's general strategy into consideration. The same concerns issues surrounding military-technological cooperation. Our economic relations lack a unified head agency that would assume a general coordinating role," the presidential envoy said.

Russia could soon face a shortage of country study experts amid a replacement of the African political elites, whose members studied in the Soviet Union," he said.

"It will negatively impact steps to promote and lobby for Russian interests," Margelov said.

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