June 29, 2009,
Recorded June 25, 2009 in Namibia
Results of Trip to Africa (Egypt, Nigeria, Namibia, Angola). New Video on Dmitry Medvedev’s Blog.
PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA DMITRY MEDVEDEV: I specifically decided to record this here in Africa, in Namibia, to share my impressions of my visit to Africa, to the African continent. I want to give you my impressions and, more importantly, talk about the prospects for the development of our relations with African nations.
If we look at relatively recent history, we can draw a number of conclusions. First, we have always tried to help countries in Africa. Even at a time when others were busy colonising them, we always tried to help and sometimes even fought on the side of Africans for their independence. In any event, that was the case during the Boer War.
Secondly, although we were once very active in Africa it seems that at some point we have lost interest in the development of the African continent. And now our challenge is to make up for what we have lost. What do I mean by that? We have a lot of good, exciting plans and interesting ideas about how to develop our cooperation.
Over the past few days I was able to travel across Africa from north to south. My visit to the African continent began in Egypt, where we discussed a variety of issues, starting of course with economic cooperation and ending with the Middle East settlement, the Arab-Israeli conflict. All this is very important, very complicated. And most importantly there are some things that just cannot be understood without immersing oneself in the actual atmosphere of a place. I also had the opportunity to speak to the League of Arab States, which was the first time ever and an unprecedented opportunity for the government of the Russian Federation to interact with Arab countries with whom we enjoy very friendly relations. Arab countries are an important part of the African continent.
The next stop, the next stage of my visit to the African continent was Nigeria. It is the largest nation in Africa, with a population of 150 million enjoing very different lifestyles. It is also a country that has developed rapidly of late as a result of the discovery of large deposits of oil and gas. And of course our links with Nigeria involve a whole range of projects. Some of them, such as oil and gas projects, are usually measured in billions of dollars. And for us this is not only an investment opportunity but also a business that can be carried on for years to come. Our country must play an active role on different continents; we must implement business projects, especially in oil and gas, in other countries besides Russia. If we don’t, we will not be major international players in the oil and gas industry. For these reasons Nigeria was also an important destination, a very important part of my trip.
Namibia. This is where we are recording this blog. It is a fantastic country, which is practically in the south of Africa. It’s winter here now and “very cold” by local standarts, with temperatures around 22-23 degrees, and at night it will probably go down to zero. The local colour is absolutely unique. But most importantly it is also a friendly country with whom we enjoy close ties. For a long time it fought for independence because it was a territory that was occupied by the former Union of South Africa. Now it is an independent nation, a nation with a small population and a vast territory. Here there are many mineral resources and a large number of projects that we would also like to develop with our colleagues.
Incidentally, with almost all these countries – Egypt, Namibia, Nigeria – we discussed the same topic: how to position the African continent in the international arena. The fact is that Africa has fought long and hard for its independence, and it has an enormous number of problems. First there is hunger. Just think about the sorts of figures that we all know: every five seconds on this planet, particularly in Africa, a child dies from hunger. There are a huge number of diseases that afflict the local population. There are crime and drugs.
And so when we meet with our colleagues, the leaders of these African countries, of course we are talking about how African nations can defend their interests. This requires the reform of the United Nations. And in this sense we support our African partners. Of course such reform would have to be carried out in a manner consistent with the United Nations Charter.
In general this is a very wide range of topics.
Next stop will be Angola. We will also discuss investment projects and talk about energy. With Angola we also have a separate history, a long history of relations. We have worked together before, we have experience in this country, and we can expect a variety of the most interesting investment and energy programmes there.
So in general the visit was and will be very busy. Not to mention that I, just like anyone who has never been there, am simply interested to experience it for myself, to see how life is there. And of course we are all interested in history and the history of human civilization. When I wandered in Giza – this is actually part of Cairo – it triggered absolutely unique emotions. These emotions, by the way, are experienced by millions of our people: every year nearly two million Russians go to Egypt as part of tour packages. This is type of place where you can understand how past is related to present, how important it is to communicate, and how important it is for us to keep Africa among our most important foreign policy priorities.