Faced with Western economic sanctions over the conflict in Ukraine, Russia is looking to Africa to rebuild what was once a big market for its weapons and technology during the Soviet era, VoiceofAmerica reports.
Before the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia was an active supplier of weapons to Africa but lost most of its market share. It is now the world’s No.2 arms exporter after the U.S. but sales to Africa are a small small fraction of its total sales volume, according to VOA.
Russian government-owned industrial giant Rostec says it is on track to build a $4-billion oil refinery in Uganda and a $3-billion platinum project in Zimbabwe.
Rostec has a vast portfolio that includes Russia’s monopoly arms exporter. Some Ugandan opposition lawmakers were concerned about a company being chosen with close links to Russian arms exports.
When the Zimbabwe platinum deal was signed in September, Zimbabwe’s defense minister said the Southern African country was looking at possible weapons purchases from Russia as well, VOA reports.
“Civil projects have always aided weapons exports,” said Konstantin Makiyenko, deputy head of the Russian security and defense think tank, Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies. Russian firms are interested in increasing exports to Africa because the region’s weapons market is growing very fast, VOA reports.
Rostec controls hundreds of firms ranging from the world’s top titanium producer VSMPO-Avisma to arms exporter Rosoboronexport, and sees the Ugandan and Zimbabwean projects as a door opener in Africa, particularly to its fast-growing arms market, according to VOA.
“Apart from proceeds from the project itself, building the crude oil refinery (in Uganda) opens markets for products of all Rostec’s companies and Russian companies as a whole,” Rostec said in a statement to Reuters.
In 2013-2014, Rosoboronexport signed more than 20 contracts worth more than $1.7 billion with sub-Saharan African countries, according to VOA.
Rosoboronexport is working with Angola, Equatorial Guinea, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria and Tanzania and is also looking to develop cooperation with Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Rwanda, Rostec said.