Moscow has written off more than $20 billion in debt accumulated by African countries during the Soviet era, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced on Wednesday, according to RBC.
“It was not only an act of generosity, but also a manifestation of pragmatism, because many of the African states were not able to pay interest on these loans,” Putin told Russian media on the eve of the summit.
While addressing the Russia-Africa forum in Sochi, he called for trade between Russia and African countries to be doubled in the next four to five years. Putin also said that Russia intends to increase its presence in Africa at state level.
Expanded ties to Russia mean more flexibility for African states in search of international collaboration, James Jonah, the former U.N. under secretary general for political affairs, told VOA News.
“It opens a lot of options not to rely only on one power,” Jonah said, whether that power is Japan, China or the European Union.
Russia may also hope to fill a perceived void left by the United States, whose presence in Africa appears to be waning.
In August 2018, the New York Times reported that the U.S. would begin drawing down troops and scaling back missions throughout Africa.
In Sochi, African heads of state, ministers and business leaders from more than half the continent’s countries will join panels to explore potential collaborations with Russian agencies and businesses.