Following a history dating back to the Cold War and shifting allegiances that primarily had the Soviet Union leveraging its strong position in Zambia for other regional ambitions, today, Russias relationship with Zambia hinges primarily on educational and training opportunities served up by Russia in the academic and military spheres.
Perhaps Russias greatest accomplishment vis–vis attaining a position of influence in Zambia is the legacy of its long-standing practice of bringing Zambian elites to Russia for university and other training functions, creating a cadre of Russian-educated personnel in leadership positions across the public and private sectors of the country.
Of all sub-Saharan countries, Zambia receives more Russian government-sponsored scholarships than any other (with 127 full scholarships last year, a number that appears to be growing year-on-year). The Russian Center of Science and Culture also sponsors a number of cultural, social and political programs that also provide popular language training courses. Moreover, the two countries have a history in military training, including Russian troops stationed in Zambia for such purposes.
From a practical, transactional perspective, however, Russias economic and financial presence in the country is limited despite some growth over recent years in bilateral trade. Most recently, with Russias Special Presidential Envoy for the Middle East and Africa, Mr. Bogdanov, stating that his country was interested in supporting Zambias fight for economic independence, just like it supported her liberation struggle seeking to summon the same feelings of kinship in the economic realm as has existed historically in the political realm.
Preceding this new momentum was an agreement by Russia, as other countries have done, to forgive hundreds of millions of dollars in Zambian debt, but also to repurpose a portion of that debt ostensibly for use on development projects in the country going forward. This was a means of creating a new pool of capital available for expenditure within the country, potentially on a discretionary basis. Like China, Moscow has also deployed an organization in order to coordinate the business footprint of Russian entities in the county, albeit on a smaller scale: the Zambia-Russian Business Council.