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Russia will not use US dollar in trade with Africa, ambassador says

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Picture: Eduard Korniyenko/REUTERS – An employee of a local company counts Russian rouble banknotes in Stavropol, southern Russia. Russia’s Oleg Ozerov has said that his country knows ‘very well which currency we will not use in our relations with Africa: the dollar’.

By Sputnik News

The proposed BRICS single currency may facilitate transactions between Russia and Africa in the quest for a multipolar world “in which countries are free to implement the economic model they consider appropriate without external pressure”, the Russian ambassador said.

Experts and diplomats from Russia and South Africa met on January 25 at the Valdai Discussion Club in the Russian capital to discuss ways to strengthen ties in the new geopolitical context.

During the meeting, Oleg Ozerov, ambassador at large of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and head of the Secretariat of the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum, said that alternative currencies to the dollar will be used to maintain the pace of trade relations between Russia and Africa.

“We already know very well which currency we will not use in our relations with Africa: the dollar,” Ozerov told Sputnik. “This opens many possibilities for us, such as the use of national currencies […] the yuan and the currency that is being discussed in BRICS.”

However, the ambassador believes that Russia should focus on using national currencies in business transactions, as the BRICS currency is a medium- to long-term project.

Picture: Sergio LIMA / AFP – From left, China’s president Xi Jinping, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa and Brazil’s former president, Jair Bolsonaro, are pictured before posing for a family picture during the 11th BRICS Summit on November 14, 2019 in Brasilia, Brazil. He has since been replaced by left wing President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. ‘If it were up to me, we would always have foreign trade in the currency of other countries, so as not to depend on the dollar,’ Lula says.

“The creation of a common currency for BRICS is a long-term project that will probably not be implemented immediately. Now we need a quick solution that will allow us to maintain trade relations with the South African republics,” the ambassador has said.

“We need to work with more conviction on the use of the rouble […] and consider the rand, which is the national currency not only of South Africa, but of all the countries of the Southern African Customs Union.”

The project to create a single BRICS currency has been under discussion since June last year but is likely to gain momentum amid the increased use of economic sanctions as a tool of geopolitical pressure by countries of the collective West.

According to a June 2022 statement by Russian President Vladimir Putin, BRICS will have “an international reserve currency based on the basket of currencies of our countries”.

This type of currency would be used exclusively for international trade transactions and would not replace the national currencies of the member countries. The project under discussion in BRICS aims to reduce dependence on the dollar and is similar to the one announced by the presidents of Brazil and Argentina on Monday, January 23.

On Monday, January 23, during a visit to Argentina, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva expressed his support for this type of initiative.

“If it were up to me, we would always have foreign trade in the currency of other countries, so as not to depend on the dollar,” Lula said. “Why not create a common currency among the Mercosur countries or with the BRICS countries?”

Russia and South Africa

South Africa, which will chair BRICS in 2023, has been in the spotlight for its determination to maintain a policy of neutrality on the Ukrainian conflict. The country abstained from most votes on the issue at the UN General Assembly, but reportedly came under pressure from western diplomats to reverse its position.

“There has been a sense of paternalistic bullying from some of our partners in Europe and elsewhere – ‘Do it or you’ll see,’” South Africa’s Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor said during a joint press conference with her US counterpart, Anthony Blinken, in August.

On January 23, during a visit to South Africa, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov praised South Africa’s resistance to pressure from countries hostile to Russia.

“We highly appreciate and respect the position of all our partners who, in such situations, are not guided by the orders of former colonial powers and those who want to exercise dominance, but by their legitimate national interests,” the Russian Foreign Minister said.

Mikatekiso Kubayi, a researcher at the Institute for Global Dialogue associated with the University of South Africa (UNISA), also praised Russia’s resilience during discussions at the Valdai International Discussion Club.

“Russia’s strength is that despite challenges and sanctions, it is resilient and confident,” Kubayi said. “These are characteristics that not only South Africa, but the entire Global South, should take note of.”

Rasigan Maharajh, a founding director of the South African Institute for Economic Research on Innovation at Tswane University of Technology, said that his country recognises the role of the Russian people in liberating the country from the institutionalised racism of apartheid.

“Beginning in the 1960s, South Africa was able to count on the USSR’s support in the struggle against apartheid, which was offered unconditionally,” Maharajh noted. “This is still very much appreciated by the peoples of our region.”

Political co-ordination between Pretoria and Moscow at the state level remains fine-tuned as the Ukrainian conflict approaches its first year.

“Russia stands together with South Africa in this historical context, not only for the common past of struggle against racism and self-determination of peoples […] but also for our common vision of the future,” Ambassador Ozerov said. “We want a multipolar world […] in which countries are free to implement the economic model they see fit, without external pressure.”

Induced Media

The good relations between the states do not prevent the South African media from biased coverage of the Ukrainian conflict, Kubayi found. The researcher reported that the local media is oligopolised and tends to uncritically reproduce reports from large western conglomerates.

“We are victims of a huge propaganda campaign. But it is not only driven by the state, it is also supported by the private sector,” Maharajh agreed. “We no longer receive the signals of the Russia Today channel, not because of a state decision, but because of the private company that provides the satellite connection to South Africa.”

Maharajh said he hoped “people will pay attention to the coincidence between the private sector participants and those working to advance these propaganda efforts of the collective West”.

This article was first published on Sputnik