International review: the relations between South Africa and Russia during the fight against the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic

South Africa has the highest number of infections in the continent, reporting over 1.5 million cases and over 50,000 deaths. It has so far vaccinated tens of thousands of health care workers and will soon start vaccinating its population.

After a new study revealed the AstraZeneca vaccine was less effective against the South African variant of the virus, South African government refuse this vaccine. This led to the need to consider another option for vaccination of the population. This failure of the vaccine, offered by the European countries, shows the growing need for the partnership diversification for the South Africa. 

One of the options for Pretoria is further strengthening ties with the Russian Federation, but it takes efforts from the both sides and the Foreign Ministry of Russia probably should lead in this process.

In February this year, Russia delivered 300 million doses of Sputnik V to the African continent through the African Union (AU). The vaccine is available to all AU member countries. According to the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), Sputnik V is one of the world’s top three coronavirus vaccines in terms of the number of approvals issued by government regulators.

Sputnik V had been approved in Russia, Belarus, Argentina, Bolivia, Serbia, Algeria, Palestine, Venezuela, Paraguay, Turkmenistan, Hungary, UAE, Iran, Republic of Guinea, Tunisia, Armenia, Mexico, Nicaragua, Republika Srpska (entity of Bosnia and Herzegovina), Lebanon, Myanmar, Pakistan, Mongolia, Bahrain, Montenegro, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Gabon and San Marino.

As members of the BRICS, South Africa and Russia have a wide range of areas of mutual interest. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the economic growth of such a rapidly developing country as South Africa has subsided. According to the International Institute for Food Policy Research, the persistent effects of Covid-19 will lead to even worse outcomes for GDP under the “Slow” and” Long ” recovery scenarios. 

On July 8, 2020 Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov held talks via videoconference with three of his counterparts: South African Naledi Pandor, Egyptian Sameh Choukry and Congo’s Marie Ntumba Nzeza, whose countries form the African Union “troika”. On the menu for their discussion were the roadmap for the second Russia-Africa, Covid-19 and nuclear sector. 

We shouldn’t forget, that the goals of the BRICS, as set out by the members, are cooperation between states in the spheres of trade, climate and security. During the BRICS Summit of 2020, the leaders of the member states discussed ways to help foster better living standards and quality of life for each countries people, focusing on peace, economies, and cultural societal issues. The Russian Foreign Ministry showed intererst in further deepening of the relations between South Africa and Russia. 

In hard times for South Africa, Russian diplomats could make the delivery of the vaccine within the BRICS. However, since the Sputnik V vaccine conference, which was held on October 8, 2020, the situation has not seen development. The parties expressed satisfaction with the conversation during the conference and agreed to continue discussing the possibility of using the Russian vaccine to combat the spread of coronavirus infection in South Africa.

Aaron Dismuke

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