WINDHOEK, Namibia (Reuters) - Russian President Dmitry Medvedev sought uranium deals in Namibia on Thursday as part of a trip to promote Moscow’s economic interests in Africa, where it faces competition from China and the West for resources.
Namibia’s uranium resources are attractive for Russia, which has ambitious plans to build more than two dozen new reactors at home in the next 15 years but lacks its own fuel deposits.
“You ask me whether we are too late (for opportunities)?” Medvedev told reporters after talks in the capital Windhoek with President Hifikepunye Pohamba. “I will tell you sincerely, we nearly missed it.”
“We spoke about major projects in mining, nuclear energy, agriculture, tourism and other sectors,” Medvedev said.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Moscow missed out on Namibian resources to the United States and China. It hopes its support for Namibia’s ruling SWAPO party in its armed struggle for independence in the 1960-80s will help it secure deals now.
“The USSR was one of the countries, which supported our fair struggle,” Pohamba told Medvedev. “We always remember this.”
The current trade picture is bleak with an annual trade turnover of just $6.4 million in 2008. Namibia, home to about 2 million people, also produces diamonds.
Africa has become a focus of attention for resurgent Russia under Medvedev’s predecessor Vladimir Putin who visited South Africa and several Arab and Maghreb countries during his eight-year presidency that ended last year.
Namibia, after Egypt and Nigeria, is the third country visited by Medvedev during his first African tour. He will fly to Angola on Friday on the last leg of the trip.
Russian Natural Resources Minister Yuri Trutnev said Russia was ready to help develop Namibian uranium.
“We are offering Namibians complex exploration, which includes extracting uranium, building nuclear power stations, processing uranium,” he said.
“Russia is offering to finance these projects with payback from the subsequent traffic,” he added. “We informed the president (Medvedev) about our plans and hope he raised the issue during the talks in Windhoek.”
Russians are ready to take part in other energy projects, like building hydropower stations including two on Kunene and Orange Rivers on Namibia’s borders, Trutnev said.
“So far these projects are mostly plans,” Trutnev said.