Russia plans to enhance its ties with Africa by offering visa-free access to African citizens. This move is part of Russia’s broader objective of fostering integrative multipolar relations with friendly countries across the globe.
Currently, Russia does not attract a significant number of African tourists, as they tend to prefer vacationing in the United States, Europe, and increasingly, certain Asian destinations. However, Russia aims to change this trend and establish a strong bond with the African continent.
The first Russia-Africa summit, held in the Black Sea city of Sochi in October 2019, was a significant step towards strengthening Russia-Africa relations. During this summit, both Russia and African nations adopted a joint declaration, which serves as a comprehensive document outlining the parameters for taking cooperation to a new and more qualitative level.
In order to promote effective economic interests and encourage cooperation, it is crucial to establish frequent interaction between Russia and Africa. Such interaction should not be limited to summits; rather, it should encompass basic strategic steps and measures that encourage both regions to engage in holiday travel.
Sadly, the current state of relations between Russia and Africa lacks these essential elements. Critics argue that Russia is isolating itself by not capitalising on the enormous opportunities to develop high-quality tourism. Russian tour operators readily acknowledge the absence of African tourism in the country. In contrast, African destinations such as Morocco, Egypt, Seychelles, South Africa, and Zanzibar are favoured by Russian vacationers.
The second summit declaration on July 28, 2023 in Saint Petersburg highlights the importance of strengthening the longstanding and friendly relationship between the Russian Federation and African States. The Russian officials view official state visits by African heads of states and ministers as a vital component of their vision for a multipolar world.
Since the initial Sochi summit in 2019, there have been limited advancements in tourism, social, and cultural aspects. Russia and Africa have engaged in discussions regarding the exploration of untapped resources and opportunities for collaboration in the tourism sector. There has also been a focus on promoting awareness about tourism prospects in both the Russian Federation and African States.
There is an agreement between Russia and Africa to facilitate exchanges of delegations, athletes, teams, coaches, and other sports specialists. Additionally, efforts are being made to ensure that journalists’ rights are respected and media outlets are developed.
Despite these initiatives, practical implementation such as professional training programs, academic exchanges, student exchanges remain largely confined to official documents stored digitally or archived for historical purposes.
In recent years since the first Sochi declaration was made, it has largely remained symbolic rather than leading to tangible outcomes. Questions arise concerning the purpose behind these summit declarations. Furthermore, speeches filled with eloquent language often lack substance or meaningful progress.
“Russia is seeking to establish multifaceted relationships with Africa and believes that if Russia succeeds, Africa will also benefit,” stated Comoros President Azali Assoumani, the current Chairman of the African Union, at the St. Petersburg summit in late July.
Following the inaugural Russia-Africa summit in Sochi in 2019, a Secretariat for the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum was established by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation as outlined in a joint declaration.
The Secretariat’s primary objective is to facilitate long-term cooperation on various initiatives, aiming to effectively promote Russia’s economic interests in Africa and foster mutually advantageous partnerships with African nations. To achieve this goal, networking efforts have been focused on connecting potential Russian, African, and international organisations.
Exciting reports emerged from the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs early in September 2023 indicating that Russia plans to implement a ‘visa-free regime’ with all African countries. This development aligns with the action plan adopted at the second summit held in St. Petersburg.
Our investigations and research have revealed that Russia currently has visa-free agreements with six African countries. However, it is important to note that these agreements only apply to holders of diplomatic passports under consular arrangements. Unfortunately, ordinary citizens still require visas for travel between Russia and Africa despite efforts towards facilitating work contacts and easing connections between individuals from both regions.
According to reliable sources, agreements will need to be signed following successful negotiations with Russian authorities. While Russia has kept the official list of approved African countries undisclosed, it has reached an agreement with 32 nations on the continent for visa-free travel for holders of diplomatic service passports.
During the second Russia-Africa summit, Russian President Vladimir Putin and African leaders finalised the adoption of a declaration. They also approved an action plan for the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum from 2023-2026, along with several other documents.
Alongside the forum and summit, various agreements, contracts, and related documents pertaining to different areas of cooperation between Russia and Africa were also given approval.
Expressing satisfaction with the outcome, Putin stated in a speech shared on the official Kremlin website, “We highly value the results achieved during our collaborative efforts at the summit. I have full confidence that these achievements will serve as a solid foundation for further strengthening Russian-African partnership in pursuit of prosperity and well-being for both our peoples.”
Putin expressed his pleasure regarding how constructively and amicably the summit transpired. Furthermore, both Russia and Africa reaffirmed their commitment to shaping a multipolar world order.
The Russia-Africa summit is scheduled to take place every three years, as outlined in the established rules and regulations. During the intervals between these summits, the dialogue partnership mechanism will be activated, ensuring ongoing political consultations through the collaboration of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of both Russia and African countries, as well as the leadership of the African Union.
Russia recognizes the need to change this situation and to attract African tourists. By offering visa-free access to African citizens, Russia hopes to create a more welcoming environment for African travellers. This move would not only strengthen ties between Russia and Africa but also promote cultural exchange, economic development, and mutual understanding.
Visa-free access has proven successful in attracting tourists and boosting local economies in different parts of the world. Many countries have adopted this approach and have witnessed positive outcomes. Offering visa-free access to African citizens would undoubtedly benefit both Russia and Africa.