In mid-August, in Rostov-on-Don, deputies of the City Duma decided to establish twinning relations between the southern metropolis and the capital of the Seychelles — the city of Victoria. The next step will be the signing of an Agreement on twinning relations between the cities in October-November of this year.
According to Dmitry Kislov, General Director of Yug Rusi and Honorary Consul of the Republic of Seychelles in Moscow, Moscow and Rostov regions, the decision will significantly increase the foreign trade turnover between our countries, allow entrepreneurs to enter new promising markets and expand their business horizons. Especially in such areas as tourism, agricultural production, extraction and processing of seafood, "green" electric power industry.
- Dmitry Sergeevich, what was the impetus for establishing twinning relations between Rostov-on-Don and Victoria?
— For the first time, such a proposal was made in October 2019, during the Russia — Africa summit and economic forum, which was held in Sochi. It was a large-scale event, with the participation of the heads of 54 African countries. Including the Republic of Seychelles. After the summit, Danny Faure, then the country's president, paid a working visit to Rostov. By the way, a few months earlier, the leaders of the Seychelles opposition, Wavel Ramkalawan and Ahmed Afif, visited the southern metropolis. (Following the results of the elections in October 2020, Mr. Ramkalavan won and became president, and his colleague-vice-president of Seychelles).
Guests liked Rostov not only because of its good climate and favorable geographical location, but also because of the level of development of industry, agricultural technologies, education, and medicine. Systematic work has begun to establish links between the capital of the Seychelles and the capital of Southern Russia. The events that have taken place over the past year and a half have only contributed to their strengthening. So, in 2020, the leadership of Seychelles decided to appoint an Honorary Consul, whose consular district, along with Moscow and the Moscow region, would also include the Rostov region. In April of this year, after a 17-year break, direct flights on the Moscow — Victoria route resumed. It is worth noting that there is a visa-free regime between our countries. In addition, the Seychelles is one of the few non-CIS countries to enter which it is enough to present a certificate of a negative PCR test for covid (vaccination is not required). And, of course, an important event was the recent vote of deputies of the Rostov-on-Don City Duma for the establishment of twinning relations with Victoria.
Photo from Dmitry Kislov's personal archive.
- What will be the next step?
- The signing of an agreement between our cities in the capital of Seychelles, which is scheduled for October-November of this year. It is significant that such an event will take place in 2021, which marks two dates at once: 140 years since the first Russian-Seychelles contacts (in 1881, the Imperial Navy clipper ship "Dzhigit" entered the port of Victoria) and 45 years of the establishment of diplomatic relations between our countries (this happened in 1976, after the Seychelles gained independence).
- What are the Seychelles as a foreign economic partner of Russia? What is the ratio of exports to imports?
- On the one hand, this island state in Eastern Africa is not a major partner in foreign economic activity, in comparison, for example, with the same Egypt or India. But on the other hand, according to the results of the most successful 2019, the foreign trade turnover between Russia and the Seychelles exceeded $6.4 million, of which $4.5 million is exports from the Russian Federation, and almost $2 million is the volume of Seychelles goods imported into our country. In 2020, against the background of the pandemic, there was a decrease in turnover to $3.6 million, of which more than 90% is the volume of Russian exports to the Seychelles. In the first half of 2021, the situation is gradually improving. The turnover for the first six months exceeded $1.8 million. However, almost the entire volume is Russian exports. It should be understood that in January-March 2021, the impact of the pandemic was still very strong. In addition, traditionally during the calendar year, the main activity of foreign trade participants falls on the second half of the year. There is every reason to hope that by December the foreign trade turnover between our countries may approach the pre-crisis level.
- What is the interest of the Rostov region for Seychelles entrepreneurs?
- Thanks to its diversified economy, the Rostov Region can offer the Republic of Seychelles a wide range of goods. First of all, it is, of course, food. For example, sunflower oil produced in the Don region is quite successfully developing the Seychelles market. However, they are also interested in equipment, agricultural machinery, as well as educational and medical services. They are also interested in developing medical tourism and food production in the Seychelles. For example, when the delegation of the island state visited Rostov enterprises, the guests were particularly interested in the Yug Rusi bakery. They said they wanted to build one of their own.
In addition, the Seychelles authorities are interested in training personnel on the basis of Don universities, as well as in close cooperation with our scientists in all areas related to the agro-industrial complex (AIC).
By the way, the Rostov Region Chamber of Commerce and Industry expressed interest in preparing a business mission to the Republic of Seychelles to establish contacts with potential partners and explore new ways to strengthen bilateral cooperation. The possibility of organizing a meeting visit of representatives of the Seychelles Chamber of Commerce and Industry to Russia is also being discussed. This would allow partners with Seychelles to take a closer look at the prospects for investing in the economy of the Rostov region and Russia as a whole.
- What can be of potential interest to the Don business in the Seychelles?
- First of all, as already mentioned, this is a very large and promising market for food exports. Seychelles is an island state in East Africa with a population of about 100 thousand people. The republic consists of 115 islands, most of which are uninhabited. But this is also a resort that is visited annually by up to 500 thousand people. The current preferential treatment for Russian businesses allows us to successfully compete in this market with suppliers from other countries. For example, due to the preferential treatment, Russian bottled sunflower oil sold by Yugom Rusi in the Seychelles is cheaper than similar products from other supplier countries.In addition to vegetable oil, the Seychelles are interested in turkey, eggs, bakery products, cereals, vegetables and much more. In fact, everything that the Don land provides and the food production facilities operating here produce.
Secondly, good prospects open up for enterprises interested in introducing innovative methods of agricultural production, aquaculture, and the development of "green" energy. We are talking, in particular, about generating energy from renewable sources. Representatives of Seychelles were interested in the success of the Rostov region in wind power and the fact that our region has established production facilities for wind farms.
Third, the Seychelles is one of the most eco-friendly places on Earth. We can say that it is summer here all year round: the temperature does not rise above 31 degrees and does not fall below 26 degrees Celsius (even at night). The water temperature in the ocean is stable: +26. Due to the unique geographical location and abundance of coral reefs, there are practically no storms. The water is crystal clear. This is the perfect place to spend your vacation: from budget to premium.
The water area of the Seychelles — more than 1.4 million square kilometers-is rich in fish. Especially tuna. It is no coincidence that many European companies are engaged in its fishing in the Seychelles. Russian seiners are only now beginning to come out here to fish. And I sincerely want the Seychelles tuna to appear on the shelves of Rostov. In any form — chilled, frozen, canned.
By the way, in Victoria, the local fish market is one of the most inexpensive on the planet. Good fresh fish can be bought and cooked here, paying, in terms of our money, about 100 rubles apiece.
The possibility of organizing a direct flight from Platov Airport to Victoria is currently being discussed. If the decision is positive, the tourist flow from Russia to this exotic country will increase, and it can be consistently high at any time of the year. These are opportunities for the development of tourism, restaurant and hotel business.
- Do we understand correctly that the authorities of the Seychelles place special emphasis on the development of tourist and guest infrastructure?
- As I have already said, now the priority task of the Seychelles leadership is to overcome the consequences of the crisis caused by the pandemic. The tourism industry, which is one of the most budget-forming in the country's economy, has suffered more from this in the Seychelles. In the pre-crisis years 2018-2019, the contribution of all tourism-related areas to Seychelles ' GDP was about 25% (more than $400 million).
Before the pandemic, the island nation's economy showed decent growth rates for decades-3-5% per year. Now it is necessary to ensure the restoration of a stable tourist flow. This is largely due to the restoration of direct flights between Moscow and Victoria. By the way, Russia is the leader among suppliers of tourists to the Seychelles. In addition, an important mission of the Government of Seychelles is to reduce the cost of living in the country. The island nation's limited range of home-made goods has made it extremely dependent on imports.
- Are there any examples of successful Russian projects and enterprises in the Seychelles?
- There are such projects. These are the Savoy and CoralStrand hotel complexes, and Oceana Fisheries, a fishing and processing company. In addition, Russian citizens own companies that specialize in financial consulting, transport and travel services. New projects in the hotel business are under implementation.
It should be understood that, due to the peculiarities of the historical development of the Seychelles, their traditionally important foreign economic partners are the former metropolises-France and the United Kingdom. In addition, the volume of bilateral relations between the Republic of Seychelles and India, China, and the EU states can be called significant. Today, the largest investment projects in the Seychelles are implemented by businessmen from the United Arab Emirates and other countries of the Persian Gulf. However, the Seychelles themselves are interested in seeing Russian business activity grow here as well. And it's growing.
From left to right: Maxim Matasov-First Secretary of the Russian Embassy in the Republic of Seychelles; Artem Kozhin-Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Russian Federation to the Seychelles; David Andre-Mayor of the capital of the Republic of Seychelles — Victoria; Dmitry Kislov-Honorary Consul of the Republic of Seychelles in Moscow, Moscow and Rostov regions