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Russia plans to set a Free Trade Zone with Africa

Russia is setting its sights on a groundbreaking free trade zone with Africa, aiming to deepen economic exchanges with the continent.

This move follows President Vladimir Putin’s ambitions to develop cooperation with North African nations, including Morocco. In a recent meeting with the Russian government, Putin confirmed that Russia is preparing agreements on a free trade area with Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria – covering the entirety of North Africa.

The initiative highlights Russia’s growing interest in strengthening bilateral ties with African countries. By establishing a free trade zone, Russia hopes to leverage these relationships to boost economic cooperation and trade with the continent. Putin acknowledged the level of trust that African countries have in Russia, referring to them as friends. He expressed the need to translate this political trust into tangible economic benefits.

Russia plans to set a Free Trade Zone with Africa
Russian President Vladimir Putin during the 2023 Russia-Africa Summit.

The announcement comes in the wake of the Africa-Russia summit, which brought together heads of state and senior officials from across the continent, including Morocco. The summit provided a platform for discussions on various topics, including trade and investment opportunities. During the event, both Russia and Morocco reiterated the significance of bolstering bilateral ties, particularly in the field of trade.

A free trade zone between Russia and African countries would have far-reaching implications. It would reduce or eliminate tariffs, quotas, and other trade barriers, facilitating increased commerce between the participating nations. This would open up new markets and opportunities for businesses in both Russia and Africa, paving the way for mutually beneficial economic growth.

The establishment of a free trade zone also signals Russia’s desire to diversify its trade partners and reduce its reliance on traditional markets. Historically, Russia has mainly focused on trade with Europe and Asia. However, in recent years, it has been actively exploring new trade routes and partnerships. The planned free trade area with Africa is part of this broader strategy.

Russia plans to set a Free Trade Zone with Africa
Vladimir Putin is trying to repair the damage done by his decision to pull out of the grain deal which had supplied many African countries. EPA-EFE/Sergei Bobylev/Tass

Morocco’s Head of Government, Aziz Akhannouch, recently made an appearance at an event that showcased the country’s determination to bolster bilateral ties and trade with Russia. This event, which was attended by various high-ranking officials from both countries, aimed to emphasise the importance of cooperation and friendship between Morocco and Russia.

Akhannouch, in his speech at the event, highlighted the significance of the summit as a reflection of Russia’s commitment to strengthening friendly ties and constructive cooperation with African countries. His presence at the event was not only a testament to Morocco’s dedication to enhancing relations with Russia but also a demonstration of the country’s eagerness to create mutually beneficial partnerships.

Russia plans to set a Free Trade Zone with Africa
Russia plans to set a Free Trade Zone with Africa.

During the summit, the Russian government also emphasised the importance of cooperation with Morocco. This signifies the recognition of Morocco as a valuable ally, and the eagerness of both countries to work together in various sectors. The event provided an opportunity for both nations to explore avenues for collaboration in economy, finance, tourism, business, and more.

The spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, also spoke at the event, highlighting the remarkable cooperation between Russia and Morocco. She pointed out that the partnership between Moscow and Rabat has been thriving across multiple sectors, thanks to the Russia-Morocco Strategic Partnership Agreement. This agreement, which has been in effect since 2002, was further strengthened in 2016 through the signing of the “Declaration on the Deep Strategic Partnership.”

The partnership between Russia and Morocco has yielded considerable benefits for both nations. In the economic sphere, the two countries have seen significant growth in trade and investment. Bilateral trade between Russia and Morocco reached new heights in recent years, with both countries enjoying the benefits of increased market access and improved business opportunities.

Russia plans to set a Free Trade Zone with Africa
Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sis, left and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Right. During the 2023 Russia-Africa Summit.

Furthermore, the tourism industry has also flourished as a result of the partnership. Russian tourists have increasingly been choosing Morocco as a preferred destination, attracted by its rich cultural heritage, stunning landscapes, and warm hospitality. This has not only boosted Morocco’s tourism sector but has also provided opportunities for cultural exchange and enrichment.

For African countries, a free trade zone with Russia holds the promise of enhanced economic development. It would provide access to Russian markets and technologies, stimulate investment, and promote job creation. Additionally, it could encourage the exchange of expertise and know-how in various sectors, including agriculture, energy, and manufacturing.


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