Medvedev advances further into Africa

Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev continues his Africa tour to boost Russia's ties with the continent. On Wednesday deals worth millions of dollars have been signed in Nigeria.

After a two-day visit to Egypt, the first stop on Dmitry Medvedev’s big African tour, he has been going to visit three more countries including Nigeria.

This is the first visit by a Russian head of state to Nigeria and Dmitry Medvedev’s first trip to a sub-Saharan country.

Nigeria is one of the world’s biggest oil producers and Russia is clearly eyeing its vast resources. Also, Nigeria has the world’s seventh-largest proven gas reserves.

The country is already an important trade partner for Russia, and during Medvedev’s visit, deals worth millions of dollars were signed to further promote trade and economic cooperation.

The key deal of the visit was a gas-exploration joint venture between Russian gas monopoly Gazprom and Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation. Nigerian officials have said that the $2.5 billion deal is the largest the country has ever signed with a foreign partner.

Gazprom is also interested in taking part in one particular project – a key pipeline that would take Nigerian gas to Europe. The trans-Saharan gas pipeline is very much backed by the European Union, as it continues to seek to diversify its energy sources.

Strengthening of business ties between Russia and Nigeria has certainly been a major issue among those discussed.

Moscow provides state support to Russian companies that export raw goods to Nigeria, and some Russian companies, such as the aluminum giant Rusal, are already very active in the African country.

And a nuclear energy accord was on the agenda as well.

In addition to discussing business matters, Medvedev also pledged to his Nigerian counterpart that Russia would promote Nigeria for a seat on the UN Security Council.

Overall, the visit was a clear indication that Russia is seeking to reestablish its presence in Africa, over which Moscow and the West fought hard for influence during the Soviet era.