Kudakwashe Mugari, Harare Bureau
THE President of the Russian Federation, Mr Vladimir Putin, has said his country will continue to provide humanitarian assistance to African countries affected by Cyclone Idai, which devasted southern African countries, including Zimbabwe.
President Putin said this in an interview with Russian News Agency (TASS), ahead of the inaugural Russia-Africa Summit this week.
He also spoke on a range of co-operation issues, which puts Russia firmly in the geopolitical matrix of forging relations with the continent.
President Mnangagwa is today expected to lead a Zimbabwean delegation to the summit, which will take place on Wednesday and Thursday in Sochi and the forum will focus on key areas of co-operation between Russia and African countries.
The discussions are framed by three thematic pillars: “Forging Economic Ties”, “Creating Joint Projects”, and “Collaborating in the Humanitarian and Social Sector”.
President Putin said his country, which helped Cyclone Idai victims this year, would continue to give humanitarian support to Zimbabwe and other affected countries.
And he paid attention to the humanitarian dimension.
“Humanitarian assistance is being provided to Africa by many world countries, yet none of them – be it the US, France, China or any other country – has fully resolved all of its social problems, including in healthcare, education and culture.
“Russia too provides humanitarian assistance to African states, but not by reducing the amount of funding for its own programmes. After all, good traditions of charity and support in times of need are a hallmark of our people,” President Putin said.
“Russia, as many other states, provided aid to the African countries affected by tropical Cyclone Idai in April 2019. Russia sent humanitarian supplies to Zimbabwe, Malawi and Mozambique, that is large tents, blankets and food products weighing about 30 tonnes for each country.
‘’We continue to take an active part in efforts to provide comprehensive assistance to Africa. Russia is involved in the UN World Food Programme’s school meals project valued at US$40 million, which has been implemented in Mozambique since October 2017, and in the project to introduce modern technology and equipment for disinfection worth up to $15 million in Madagascar.”
President Putin said Russia was among the first countries to react to the Ebola outbreak as well as other pandemics.
“We also provide assistance to our African friends in healthcare development, as dangerous communicable diseases respect no borders. Russia was among the first to react to Ebola haemorrhagic fever outbreak, having allocated US$60 million to combat it. There is now a microbiology and epidemiology research centre in Guinea. Russia contributed US$20 million to the World Bank programme to implement the global malaria control initiative.’’ President Putin said.
“And such examples are plenty. I would like to emphasise that Russia’s participation in fighting poverty, dangerous illnesses and other global threats, as well as reduction of potential risks ‘at distant approaches’ are fully in line with our national interests.”
This week’s summit is expected to deepen friendly relations between the Russian Federation and the African continent on both bilateral and multilateral levels, forge closer collaboration on regional and international issues of common interest, raise strategic dialogue between Russia and African countries to a qualitatively higher level, and contribute to peace, security and sustainable development on the African continent.
The Russia-Africa Summit will also contribute towards the overall objective of addressing the aspirations of African countries as encapsulated in Agenda 2063.
Agenda 2063 calls for a people-centred developmental process that ensures, inter alia, economic diversification and growth in order to eradicate poverty, unemployment and inequality.
The participation of Zimbabwe at this inaugural summit is in line with the country’s re-engagement policy pillar of cooperation in various technical fields, as well as promoting economic development.
Bilateral relations between the Zimbabwe and the Russian Federation are at optimal level and continue to grow from strength to strength.