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25 Jun, 2009 16:21

Boosting friendly but pragmatic ties with Africa

Friendly but “very pragmatic” is how President Dmitry Medvedev described Russia’s relations with African countries during a visit to Namibia.

The president said that Russia is determined to actively pursue its interests on the continent, while acknowledging that competition is high.

“We are not jealous about our partners’ activities in Africa,” Medvedev told a news conference in the Namibian capital of Windhoek, when asked to comment on U.S. President Barack Obama’s focus on Africa.

“A heightened interest in Africa today will only benefit this continent,” he said. “But we, too, would like to pursue our interests here and to promote Russian companies.”

The Russian president stated that competition in Africa ought to be between companies, not countries, and stressed that Russia is interested in seeing “a considerable share of Russian companies” on the African market.

Namibia was the third leg of Medvedev’s four-country tour of the African continent. In keeping with the theme of his tour, Russia and Namibia signed a number of investment and cooperation deals, including the joint construction of an electric plant and the reopening of Namibian waters to Russian fishermen.

Power plant in Namibia

During Medvedev’s visit, Namibia’s National Petroleum Corporation and Russia’s Gazprombank agreed to finance the construction of an 800 megawatt gas turbine power plant in Namibia.

“As a mineral resource base, there are plans to use gas from the Kudu field for the power plant,” Gazprombank said in a statement. “A considerable part of the electricity to be generated will be supplied to South Africa.”

The two countries have also agreed to continue talks on a large number of investment projects in Namibia in which Russian companies and Gazprombank would partake.

Namibia and Russia have also signed an intergovernmental agreement on the mutual promotion and protection of investments.

Fishery cooperation

Russia’s Federal Agency for Fisheries and the Namibian Ministry of Fisheries and Sea Resources also adopted a memorandum of understanding allowing Russia’s fishing fleet back into Namibian waters for the first time since 2001.

“That is a very important document for Russian producers, as Namibia is one of the major fish exporters in Africa,” said Dmitry Dremliuga of Russia’s Federal Agency for Fisheries.

Earlier, the agency’s chief, Andrei Krainiy, estimated that in Namibian waters it is possible to catch more than 150,000 tons of horse mackerel and hake annually.

“Horse mackerel caught off the Namibian coast will be delivered to the Kaliningrad region, where the Federal Agency for Fisheries has a network of seven plants producing canned fish,” he said. “Hake supplies will be made via Petersburg in all Russian fish shops."

President Medvedev, whose visit to Namibia was preceded by stops in Egypt and Nigeria, is due to arrive on Friday in Angola, the last country on his African tour.