President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday hosts dozens of African leaders for the first Russia-Africa Summit, as Moscow seeks greater influence on a continent where the West and China have a firm foothold.
The two-day event at the Black Sea resort of Sochi will see more than 3,000 delegates prepare deals and discuss topics from nuclear technology to mineral extraction.
Putin will open the summit at 0800 GMT alongside Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the current head of the African Union and guest of honor at the event.
All 54 African states would be sending a representative, Kremlin adviser Yuri Ushakov said. Of those, 43 will be heads of state or government.
The leaders of former Soviet client states such as Angola and Ethiopia will be at the summit as well as representatives of countries where Moscow’s engagement has been traditionally low, like Nigeria and Ghana.
Ivory Coast, which has had little interaction with Russia, was set to send a delegation of 70 people including its president with a view to signing a possible military cooperation agreement.
Moscow was a crucial player on the continent in the Soviet era, backing independence movements and training a generation of African leaders.
But its ties with Africa declined with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and in recent years China has emerged as a top foreign power on the continent, forcing Russia to play catch-up.
The summit is in many ways borrowing from China’s playbook.
To expand its influence, Beijing in 2000 launched the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation and has poured tens of billions of dollars into the continent.