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Medvedev in Africa

June 24, 2009

Russia's president is in Africa to boost his country's standing on the continent. It's one of the longest tours ever made there by a Russian leader and is intended to claw back lost ground in the scramble for resources.

Podium with flags at Arab League meeting
Medvedev attended an Arab League meeting in Cairo.Image: AP

President Dmitry Medvedev is leading a large trade delegation to four resource-rich or politically powerful African countries, in a sign that Moscow is concerned about the influence of Chinese and Western competitors on the continent.

On Wednesday, Medvedev is slated to visit Nigeria, a country rich in fossil fuels and Africa's biggest oil exporter. Russia and Nigeria are expected to sign a series of deals including a nuclear energy agreement and a joint venture to explore for natural gas. Nigeria has the world's seventh-largest proven reserves, but has been unable to develop its gas industry to full potential.

The joint venture would be Nigeria's biggest with a foreign partner. It involves the Russian monopoly Gazprom and the state-run Nigerian National Petroleum Corp, and has triggered speculation that Russia is trying to tighten its grip on the European gas market.

Energy will also play an important role in Medvedev's subsequent stops in Namibia and Angola over the next two days. Namibia is rich in uranium and Angola currently holds the presidency of the OPEC oil cartel, the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries.

Medvedev in Cairo

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, left, and Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria and Africa Theodore II,
Medvedev met the top Greek Orthodox leader in CairoImage: AP

On Tuesday, Medvedev was in Egypt to rekindle a Cold War-era flame. In the capital Cairo, he signed a 10-year strategic cooperation pact with Egyptian Presidnet Hosni Mubarak.

In a joint declaration, the two leaders said their agreement would aim to coordinate "foreign policy positions." They referred to a shared desire to achieve a "fair peace" in the Middle East and said they were committed to the "building of a new multi-polar world order," which would be "more democratic, fair and safe for all states."

This is the first trip by a Russian leader to Africa in three years. Although the Soviet Union commanded significant influence on the continent during the Cold War, modern-day Russia has increasingly lost its diplomatic clout in the region to countries like China and the United States.

Editor: Jennifer Abramsohn