South Africa hosts the 15th BRICS summit in Johannesburg. Russian President Vladimir Putin is participating, not in person, but this time only online. Historically he has, a number times, paid official working visits to South Africa. During these past two decades, he has held high-level talks, at different times, with Thabo Mbeki, Jacob Zuma and Cyril Ramaphosa.

Russia and South Africa have unlimited opportunities to develop mutually beneficial economic partnership. For instance, early September 2006 Vladimir Putin and Thabo Mbeki discussed the outlook for improving bilateral economic ties with representatives of the two countries’ business circles in Capetown.

Presidential Aide Sergei Prikhodko and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attended the meeting from the Russian side. After the bilateral talks, Vladimir Putin and Thabo Mbeki signed an agreement on friendship and partnership between the two countries.

The bilateral trade turnover stood at $200 million. Nevertheless, the true potential of bilateral cooperation was yet to be discovered, said Putin. Experts, however, estimated joint infrastructure projects at several billions of dollars.

The transcript on the website said: “South Africa had bilateral trade of $6 billion-$7 billion with the major European countries, but its bilateral trade with Russia was barely $200 million back in 2006.

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“But visits at the highest level should be accompanied by business agreements and give a boost to the development of bilateral relations. Visits at this level should not become some kind of business or political tourism but should have concrete, serious substance,” Putin said at the media conference.

This is understandable given that the level of economic cooperation lags far behind the level of political trust and cooperation that have achieved over these last years. Putin was very cautious in evaluating the work, as it was the first time a Russian head of state visited the Republic of South Africa or indeed any country south of the Sahara.

At that time, among potential areas of efficient business partnership between Russia and South Africa, Putin named high technology, space, nuclear power generation, the oil and gas sector, mining, motor industry, healthcare, education and tourism.

Desirous to have a bit of fun and promote tourism, Putin travelled on a cable car to the Cape of Good Hope – with the famous lighthouse, the most powerful in the world, which offers a spectacular view onto the Atlantic Ocean.

It is mistakenly thought of as the southernmost point of Africa and the spot where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet. The true southernmost point of Africa is at Cape Agulhas, located on the Garden Route of South Africa over 200 km away. The Cape of Good Hope is a promontory off of the southern tip of South Africa.