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Russia pushes North African trade area as Ukraine sanctions bite

Russia's influence across North Africa is varied, but regional countries could benefit from discounted Russian hydrocarbons, grain and fertilizer.
Putin Tebboune

A few days after hosting the second Russia-Africa summit in Saint Petersburg at the end of July, Russian President Vladimir Putin called a cabinet meeting.

At that meeting, he said that Russia and four North African countries — Algeria, Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia — were working on a free trade area that would be integrated into the Eurasian Economic Union, an economic bloc comprising Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. 

Russia’s trade with Africa is low and heavily concentrated in four countries: Egypt, Algeria, Morocco and fellow BRICS member South Africa. In 2022, Russian-African trade amounted to $18 billion, including $4.7 billion in food. That amount is dwarfed by the $282 billion recorded that year between China and African nations.

But there is potential for growth. For example, Morocco is Russia's third-largest trading partner in the region and trade between the two countries is on the rise. From 2020 to 2021, trade rose by 42% to reach $1.6 billion, Spanish outlet Atalayar reported. Bilateral trade has increased by 25% since 2021, a trend that Morocco’s Foreign Ministry says continued into the first months of 2023. 

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