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Russian roubles investing in African resouces

Africa’s abundant mineral resources are attracting investment from Russian companies. What’s more, the Russians are proving more popular with Africans than westerners and the Chinese. Elliot Wilson reports.

It’s the resources, stupid

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RUSSIAN CORPORATIONS, PARTICULARLY mining firms with strong state connections and deep pockets, are pushing hard into Africa after years of under-investment in the continent. Their impetus results from two forces. The first is economic rationale – such companies wish to transform themselves into global commodities operations, with mines and distribution networks on every continent. Africa, a continent rich in resources but in desperate need of jobs, wealth and reliable investors, is the first step on that long road.

The second force is political: companies are getting involved with Africa because that’s what the Kremlin is telling them to do.

Russia’s reactivated desire to impose its military clout is becoming clear, but less appreciated is Moscow’s yearning for the country to be treated again as an economic powerhouse, not an economic pariah. Again, Africa, which had intimate ties with Russia from the early 1960s until the end of the Cold War (Moscow helped build Egypt’s Aswan Dam, and hundreds of thousands of Africans studied in Russian universities), is the first step along this road.

In May 2006, Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, said in his annual state of the nation address that an improvement of relations with Africa was one of his top priorities.

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