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Russians Look for Media Presence in Africa

Kester Kenn Klomegah

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Acknowledging undoubtedly that Africa has become a new world center for global development, Russian legislators at the State Duma (the lower chamber) have advocated for a greater media representation to facilitate collecting important information to support business and economic cooperation with Africa.

Viacheslav Volodin, the chairman of the State Duma, told an instant meeting held, with the ambassadors of African countries in Russia, to brainstorm for fresh views on the current Russia-African relations: “it is necessary to take certain steps together for the Russian media to work on the African continent.”

“You know that the Russian media provide broadcasting in various languages, they work in many countries, although it is certainly impossible to compare this presence with presence of the media of the United States, United Kingdom and Germany,” he said as the ambassadors responded with a big applause.

Expressing sentiments and decisiveness about Africa, Volodin added: “We propose to move from intentions to concrete steps. Our people will better understand each other through parliamentary relations.”

For the past few years, Russia has made some efforts returning with investment and business to Africa, but unfortunately, not all these steps have received adequate publicity. The question about the presence of Russian media on the African continent and that of African media in the Russian Federation has been raised several times in the past by many policy experts.

Vladimir Shubin, deputy director of the Institute for African Studies in Moscow said that Africa has great potential for bilateral relationships with Russia and, most importantly, Russia’s contribution is very noticeable in dealing with the problems of Africa.

Perhaps, one of the reasons why some African leaders have written off Russia is the lack of information about Russia or rather plenty of distorted information they have received from the Western media coverage of Russia. In fact, Russia needs genuine and objective information about modern Africa, and here both state and private mass media linger a lot, according to Shubin.

Olga Kulkova, a research fellow at the Center for Russian-African Relations at the Institute for African Studies, said that “Africa needs broader coverage in Russian media. Leading Russian media agencies should release more topical news items and analytical quality articles about the continent. Russia has to adequately collaborate with African partners and attract Russian business to Africa. More quality information about modern Russia should be broadcast in African states.”

“Indisputably, it takes a lot of money and efforts, but the result will pay off. Russia ought to take the media into account if it wants to improve the chances for success in Africa. All the leading countries have been doing that quite efficiently for a long time,” Kulkova noted.

While many experts argue that African media seem uninterested in developing working links to Russia, Vasily Pushkov, an independent expert on international media relations wrote in an emailed comment that “it works both ways and the two regions are very far from each other.” They (Russia and Africa) are not as interconnected as they were during the Soviet era, he stressed.

Pushkov explained that “Russia might have an image problem among African political and business elites, partly due to the fact that Russia has low presence in Africa compared to the Soviet era. Most African media get their global news from the leading Western media outlets, which in turn have a nasty and longstanding habit of always portraying Russia as the world’s bogeyman.”

“Russian media write very little about Africa, what is going on there, what are the social and political dynamics in different parts of the continent. Media and NGOs should make big efforts to increase level of mutual knowledge, which can stimulate interest for each other and lead to increased economic interaction as well,” said Fyodor Lukyanov, editor-in-chief of the journal Russia in Global Affairs.

“To certain extent,” Lukyanov said, “the intensification of non-political contacts may contribute to increased interest. Soft power has never been on a strong side of Russian policy in post-Soviet era.”

The trend may change for the better. In a foreign policy speech, President Vladimir Putin urged all his Russian ambassadors and diplomats actively use new technologies to highlight Russian success stories, improve Russia’s image and defend its interests abroad, according to Russian daily newspaper Kommersant, quoting an official who attended the meeting.

“It’s not enough to just crow something once… We should explain our positions again and again, using various platforms and new media technologies, until they understand,” the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, quoted Putin as saying.

Kester Kenn Klomegah is an independent researcher and writer on African affairs in the EurAsian region and former Soviet republics. He wrote previously for African Press Agency, African Executive and Inter Press Service. Earlier, he had worked for The Moscow Times, a reputable English newspaper. Klomegah taught part-time at the Moscow Institute of Modern Journalism. He studied international journalism and mass communication, and later spent a year at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations. He co-authored a book “AIDS/HIV and Men: Taking Risk or Taking Responsibility” published by the London-based Panos Institute. In 2004 and again in 2009, he won the Golden Word Prize for a series of analytical articles on Russia's economic cooperation with African countries.

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Who Will Build the New World Order?

Dr. Andrey KORTUNOV

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It has become de rigueur among speakers at Russia–China events to open their speeches with a quote from one great Chinese philosopher or another. In keeping with this tradition, let me quote from Confucius: “If chaos comes knocking at your door, do let it in. Perhaps it will help you put your place in order.” Chaos has already done the knocking at the door of our common house, which is the current global political system. In fact, it has already seeped inside through the unlocked doors, open windows, cracked walls, and crumbling ceilings.

Can this chaos put everything back in order? Apparently not just by itself. However, it is clear to me that it would be extremely unwise for both Russia and China to cling to a world order that will soon be gone forever.

There is this opinion that Russia and China are the two largest revisionist powers of the contemporary world. In fact, if we look past the hackneyed political stereotypes, Moscow and Beijing have always tried to preserve the status quo. Russia wants to maintain the status quo in the current global security system, including the traditional arms control regime and the traditional understanding of strategic stability. Beijing, for its part, is eager to preserve the current balance in the global economy, so it acts as an advocate of free trade and opposes the advance of protectionism. Like many other countries, Russia and China often get fixated on prior grievances, appeal to erstwhile agreements and hold on to obsolete international practices.

However, the old world order cannot be rescued. Any policy aiming to preserve the status quo is doomed to fail, one way or another. The old structures may still be in place somehow, but they are not going to withstand the pressure of the problems of the 21st century for much longer. To rephrase [former President of Kazakhstan] Nursultan Nazarbayev, those who do not lament the disintegration of the old word order have no heart and those who wish for its restoration have no brain. One cannot go forward while looking back. The chaos that has penetrated our common house is making new demands of Russia–China cooperation, including in terms of the interaction of the expert and analytical communities of the two countries.

While not at all belittling the significance of the work done to date and the results achieved, I would like to propose a somewhat controversial thought: cooperation between Russia and China still lacks a strategic perspective. Beyond bilateral ties, Russia–China cooperation often boils down to reactions to emerging crises, such as those in Syria, on the Korean Peninsula or in Venezuela. The two countries do their best to counter the attempts of the United States to undermine the sovereignty of independent countries, apply double standards to global politics, and use sanctions and trade wars. Russia and China hold joint military exercises and consult each other as part of multilateral organizations. All this ad-hoc cooperation is very important, but it lacks a long-term strategy.

In my view, a strategic approach needs to include something bigger than coordinated voting in the UN Security Council and even the joint efforts to combine the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative and the Russian plans for the development of the Eurasian Economic Union. Strategically, the two countries should match their views of the desired future world order and coordinate efforts to create it. What is the Russia–China vision of the world five, 10, or 20 years from now? What threats to global security and development do they consider to be the most critical? How should the two countries develop the international legal system and the system of international institutions? The list of strategic questions could, of course, go on.

The discussion of the future of Russia–China relations in both the East and the West often comes down to one question: Will Moscow and Beijing become allies? I do not think that this is the correct question to ask. In fact, it is not entirely clear what “allied relations” means in the 21st century. Both the United States and Turkey are NATO members but do we really want Moscow and Beijing be on the same terms as Washington and Ankara?

Russia and China have always had, and will always continue to have, diverging and even conflicting interests. It is possible that competition between the two countries will even intensify in the future. It is more important for Russia and China to arrive at a common understanding of the fundamental rules of the game in the new system of international relations. It was this understanding that enabled the great world powers in 1945 to lay the foundations of the new world order, which have served all of us fairly well for the past seven decades.

I am not entirely sure that Moscow and Beijing have arrived at this common understanding yet. Russia and China often use the same terms to describe the future they desire: multipolarity, a post-Western world, the indispensability of the rule of law, the indivisibility of security, and so on. Sadly, however, most of these terms remain predominantly proclamatory; there is no concrete meaning to them. If you dissect any of these notions with the sharp scalpel of a depoliticized analysis, you will find numerous latent contradictions, internal conflicts, and incongruities. The “lite” approach to global politics based on the “supporting everything positive and opposing everything negative” principle has never worked in the past, and there is no reason why it should work in the future.

I would like to address those in the audience who represent the intellectual communities of both countries. This event has gathered together people who perform the crucial function of providing informational and analytical support for the bilateral relations. In addition to serving as evidence of the combined achievements of Russia and China, this function also entails great responsibility for both countries. Heads of state, diplomats and officials are inevitably constrained by rigid spatial and temporal limitations. Their greatest concerns are preparations for the next official visit, the next G20 meet or the next APEC summit.

Experts, scholars and analysts have certain advantages over politicians and officials. We can afford to think not only about what will happen tomorrow or in a year’s time, but also about what may happen 10 or 25 years from now. How are we going to ensure global security amid the new revolution in military technology? What are the most effective ways of managing global energy, food, information, and even human resources given the inevitable future shortages?

History teaches us that the value of ideas grows as humankind approaches each new global bifurcation point. On reaching that point, the combination of mature ideas is fairly capable of outweighing any other economic, political, or military factors, forces, and influences. However, that combination of ideas cannot be focused exclusively on constant (albeit substantiated) criticism of the West, all the more so on proposals to reinstate the old, hackneyed world order. If we choose this path, then the new world order will be built without us. We will find ourselves in the shoes of a critic appraising a book written by someone else.

When speaking at our conference before lunch, Professor Li Yongquan reminded us of the words of Deng Xiaoping that closing the door on the past means opening the door to the future. I cannot but agree that, in their interaction over the past several years, Russia and China have not fully accomplished the first objective: the contradictions, disagreements, and conflicts accumulated through the centuries of these countries’ joint past have not all been ironed out yet. That said, it appears to me that the second objective, that of opening a door to the future, is even more important. That objective has yet to be achieved.

Speech at the 5th International Conference “Russia and China: Cooperation in a New Era

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Victory Day: We must not forget the lessons of history

Sergey Lavrov

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The month of May and the fireworks are now behind us. The country and the world celebrated Victory Day, which is a holiday of war veterans, home front workers, and all the people of Russia and other victorious nations. There was a grand parade on Red Square and a wreath laying ceremony at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The march of the Immortal Regiment – a civil initiative that has acquired a truly global dimension – took place again not only in Russia, but in many other countries as well, with the participation of hundreds of thousands of Russians, our compatriots abroad and citizens of other countries – all people who cherish the memory of Victory and the memory of those who worked to bring it closer.

There’s another date ahead – June 22, the day of memory and grief for those who died during the Great Patriotic War. We will be remembering those who fell in battles, were tortured to death in captivity and concentration camps, or died of hunger and the toils of war. Preparations are beginning for celebrating the 75th anniversary of Victory in 2020, which, of course, will be held at a level appropriate to the scale of the feat and the greatness of the spirit of the heroes of that war. One can’t help thinking about it: what does May 9 mean for the peoples who were on the verge of annihilation, and why do some people loathe this holiday today?

As someone who is part of the first post-war generation, who grew up on the stories told by war veterans and family tales about the war, I believe the answers to these questions are obvious. The peoples of the Soviet Union and other countries became the object of the inhuman ideology of Nazism, and then the victim of aggression on behalf of the most powerful, organised and motivated war machine of that time. At the cost of terrible sacrifices, the Soviet Union made a decisive contribution to defeating Nazi Germany and, jointly with the Allies, liberated Europe from the fascist plague. The victory laid the foundation for the post-war world order based on collective security and state-to-state cooperation, and paved the way to creating the UN. These are the facts.

Unfortunately, however, the memory of Victory is not sacred to all around the world. It is regrettable that there are individuals in Russia who picked up the myths spread by those who want to bury this memory, and who believe that time has come to stop solemn celebrations of Victory Day. The greater the anniversary numbers become, the more we come face to face with the desire to forget.

Bitter as it is to witness, we see the attempts to discredit the heroes, to artificially generate doubts about the correctness of the path our ancestors followed. Both abroad and in our country we hear that public consciousness in Russia is being militarised, and Victory Day parades and processions are nothing other than imposing bellicose and militaristic sentiment at the state level. By doing so, Russia is allegedly rejecting humanism and the values of the “civilised” world. Whereas European nations, they claim, have chosen to forget about the “past grievances,” came to terms with each other and are “tolerantly” building “forward-looking relations.”

Our detractors seek to diminish the role of the Soviet Union in World War II and portray it if not as the main culprit of the war, then at least as an aggressor, along with Nazi Germany, and spread the theses about “equal responsibility.” They cynically equate Nazi occupation, which claimed tens of millions of lives, and the crimes committed by collaborationists with the Red Army’s liberating mission. Monuments are erected in honour of Nazi henchmen. At the same time, monuments to liberator soldiers and the graves of fallen soldiers are desecrated and destroyed in some countries. As you may recall, the Nuremberg Tribunal, whose rulings became an integral part of international law, clearly identified who was on the side of good and who was on the side of evil. In the first case, it was the Soviet Union, which sacrificed millions of lives of its sons and daughters to the altar of Victory, as well as other Allied nations. In the second case, it was the Third Reich, the Axis countries and their minions, including in the occupied territories.

However, false interpretations of history are being introduced into the Western education system with mystifications and pseudo-historical theories designed to belittle the feat of our ancestors. Young people are being told that the main credit in victory over Nazism and liberation of Europe goes not to the Soviet troops, but to the West due to the landing in Normandy, which took place less than a year before Nazism was defeated.

We hold sacred the contribution of all the Allies to the common Victory in that war, and we believe any attempts to drive a wedge between us are disgraceful. But no matter how hard the falsifiers of history try, the fire of truth cannot be put out. It was the peoples of the Soviet Union who broke the backbone of the Third Reich. That is a fact.

The attacks on Victory Day and the celebration of the great feat of those who won the terrible war are appalling.

Notorious for its political correctness, Europe is trying to smooth out “sharp historical edges” and to substitute military honours for winners with “neutral” reconciliation events. No doubt, we must look forward, but we must not forget the lessons of history either.

Few people were concerned that in Ukraine, which gravitates towards “European values,” the former Poroshenko regime declared a state holiday the day of founding the Ukrainian Insurgent Army – a criminal organisation responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of civilian Ukrainians, Belarusians, Russians, Poles and Jews (although in Israel, whose people survived the Holocaust, May 9 is an official holiday, Victory Day). Other glaring examples from neighbouring countries include Nazi Germany-like torchlight processions of neo-Banderites along the main streets of the Hero City of Kiev, and the marches of veterans and supporters of Waffen-SS in Riga and Tallinn. I would like to ask those who do not like the tears of our veterans during parades and who criticise the “militarised” events in honour of Victory: how do you like this kind of “demilitarisation” of consciousness in a European way?

No one will admit this, of course, but here are the facts: the United States, NATO and the EU let their junior partners, who are using blatant Russophobia to build their careers, get away with quite a lot. These guys get away with everything, including glorification of Nazi henchmen and hardcore chauvinism towards ethnic Russians and other minorities for the sole purpose of using them to keep Western alliances on anti-Russian positions and to reject a pragmatic dialogue with Moscow on an equal footing.

Occasionally it appears that the purpose of such connivance on behalf of the West is to relieve of responsibility those who, by colluding with Hitler in Munich in 1938, tried to channel Nazi aggression to the east. The desire of many in Europe to rewrite that shameful chapter of history can probably be understood. After all, as a result, the economies of a number of countries in continental Europe started working for the Third Reich, and the state machines in many of them were involved in the Nazi-initiated genocide of Russians, Jews and other nations. Apparently, it is no accident that the EU and NATO members regularly refuse to support the UN General Assembly resolution on the inadmissibility of glorifying Nazism, which was advanced by Russia. The “alternative vision” of World War II among Western diplomats clearly does not stem from the lack of historical knowledge (although there are problems in this department as well). As you may recall, even during the Cold War such blasphemy did not exist, although it would seem that an ideological face-off was a perfect setting for it. Few dared to challenge the decisive role of the Soviet Union in our common Victory back then and the standing our country enjoyed during the post-war period, which our Western allies recognised without reservations. Incidentally, it was they who initiated the division of Europe into “areas of responsibility” back in 1944, when Churchill raised this issue with Stalin during the Soviet-British talks.

Today, distorting the past, Western politicians and propagandists want to make the public doubt the fair nature of the world order that was approved in the UN Charter following World War II. They adopted a policy seeking to undermine the existing international legal system and to replace it with a certain “rule-based order.” They want to create this order based on the principle of “he who is stronger is right” and according to the “law of the jungle.”

This primarily concerns the United States and its peculiar perception of 20th century history. The idea of “two good wars” is still widespread there, as a result of which the United States secured military dominance in Western Europe and a number of other regions of the world, raised confidence in its strength, experienced an economic boom and became the world leader.

Just as enthusiastically as the Europeans, the Americans are creating an image of “militaristic Russia.” However, most of their own history is a sequence of endless wars of conquest. Over 243 years of “American exceptionalism,” interventionism has become an integral part of Washington’s foreign policy. Moreover, the US political elite think of the use of force as a natural element of “coercive diplomacy” designed to resolve a wide range of issues, including domestically.

Not a single election campaign in the United States is complete without the candidates trying on a toga of a commander-in-chief in action. The ability to resort to the use of force for any reason is proof of an American politician’s prowess. There are many examples of such stereotypes being implemented under various “plausible” pretexts: Grenada in 1983, Panama in 1989, Yugoslavia in 1999 and Iraq in 2003. At the same time, America honours its fallen soldiers regardless of what cause they fought for. Memorial Day is celebrated in May, and no one has any suspicions of “militarism” when naval parades and air shows with the participation of military equipment take place in various US cities.

We are essentially accused of preserving the memory of our fathers and grandfathers, who laid down their lives in a sacred liberation war, giving them military honours, and celebrating Victory Day widely and with pride. Was it Russia or the Soviet Union that unleashed two world wars? Is it us who today operate an extensive network of military bases that were created to control the entire world?

For diplomats and politicians, May 9 is also a good occasion to recall that the Allies referred to themselves as the United Nations in 1945. They stood shoulder to shoulder during the war, conducted Arctic convoys and fraternised on the Elbe. French pilots in the Normandie-Neman fighter regiment fought the enemy on the Soviet-German front. Awareness of the common threat in the face of the inhuman ideology of National Socialism had helped the states with different political and socioeconomic models to overcome differences. The belief that the defeat of Nazi Germany will mark the triumph of justice and the victory of light over darkness was the unifying factor.

After the war, the Allies built a new architecture of international relations based on the ideal of equal cooperation between sovereign states. The creation of the UN was supposed to warrant that the sad fate of its predecessor, the League of Nations, will not be repeated. The founding fathers learned the lessons of history well and knew that without the “concert of the great powers” – that is, the unanimous consent of the leading countries of the world which hold permanent seats at the Security Council – the world cannot enjoy stability. We must be guided by this commandment today as well.

This year, as we took part in Victory Day celebrations, we once again told everyone willing to listen: “Yes, just like our ancestors we are ready to decisively repel any aggressor. But Russians do not want war, and do not want to go through horror and suffering again.” The historical mission of our nation is to guard peace. The peace we are trying to preserve. Therefore, we are offering a hand to anyone who wants to be good partners to us. Our Western colleagues have long had our proposals which open realistic ways to overcoming confrontation and putting up a reliable barrier to all those who allow for the possibility of a nuclear war. These proposals were further reinforced by an appeal made by the CSTO member states to the North Atlantic Alliance in May to begin a professional depoliticised dialogue on strategic stability issues.

I am confident that the citizens of Russia and other countries will be watching parades in honour of the 75th anniversary of the Great Victory on May 9, 2020 and joining the ranks of the Immortal Regiment with St George ribbons attached to their lapels with thoughts of peace in their minds. The memory of those who fell in battle fighting the enemies of the homeland, the enemies of civilisation, will remain alive as long as we mark the great holiday of victorious nations, the holiday of salvation and the holiday of liberation. And there is no need to be embarrassed about the grandiose scale of this celebration.

From our partner International Affairs

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Russia–Africa: Partnership for Development

Kester Kenn Klomegah

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On May 30, under the theme “Russia–Africa: Partnership for Development,” the Russian Chamber of Commerce of Russian Federation and the National Guild of Producers and Importers held a one-day mini-business forum that provided a unique opportunity for open and comprehensive discussions on a wide range of critical business issues between Russia and Africa. 

In a brief media release, it noted the importance for African countries as strategic partners and its reliable business institutions in the provision of solutions to current challenges facing economic cooperation between two parties.

It further noted that the forum was a step towards preparation of documents with fact-based research from business executives who can inject new thinking and approaches in shaping new policy directions and their implementation.

Besides, the organizers further described the driving factor as “Development of economic cooperation of the Russian Federation with African countries as a response to the strengthening of global challenges of our time.”

The programme included three plenary sessions on the following distinctive directions: roundtable (i) «Cooperation Russia-Africa in agriculture», (ii) «Development of industry production, energy sector and transport in African countries – perspective of cooperation with Russia» and (iii) «Cooperation Russia-Africa in medicine».

All the plenary sessions reviewed the state and prospects for the economic sectors for development, attempted at identifying the most promising areas of cooperation and offered recommendations for the development of mutual ties in the fields between Russia and African countries.

The Chairman of the Board of the Foundation, Ekaterina Popova, at the plenary session, discussed at length the global challenges and the development of economic cooperation of the Russian Federation with Africa.

She pointed to the importance and peculiarities of the expansion of the Russia-African economic partnership are due to a number of factors. Russia’s total exports to Africa over the past decade have amounted to about US$100 billion.

“By the way, this is the only continent where, in recent years, there has been a significant increase in Russian exports. At the same time, there are significant barriers to our business relations, without which it is impossible to talk about the breakthrough pace of development of Russia-African cooperation,” Popova told the gathering in her introductory remarks.

If the task of the government is to create good conditions for doing business on the African continent, then entrepreneurs have their own goal – to realize this potential, according to the Advisor to the President of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCI) of the Russian Federation, Georgy Petrov.

He further informed the participants that large Russian companies such as Gazprom, Rosatom, Lukoil and others have already occupied their niches in the African market. However, small and medium-sized businesses have to do a lot for the realization of their possibilities and goals in Africa.

Last year, the Federal Chamber held presentations on the economic, industrial and investment potential of Ethiopia and Mauritius. Russian CCI President Sergei Katyrin met with ambassadors from Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, South Sudan and a number of other African countries. Contacts with Chambers of Commerce and Industry of the African continent are actively developing.

This year, the largest Association of Russian Entrepreneurs co-organized meetings of the Presidents of Zimbabwe and Angola with business representatives during their official working visits to Moscow. Business missions were organized to South Africa and Nigeria. The work continues both at the interstate level and on the B2B format.

Director of the Department of Asia, Africa and Latin America of the Ministry of Economic Development, Alexander Dianov, noted that the role of the African continent in the world economy is constantly growing. The pace of development of African countries is ahead of the main trends, and almost seventy percent of their population is under the age of thirty.

“In these circumstances, Russia’s return to Africa plays a special role. But if in Soviet times, the development of our relations with the countries of the continent was dictated mainly by political considerations, now economic interests come to the fore in a different way,” Dianov argued.

Ekaterina Shulekina, the Program Director at the Chamber of Commerce, explained in an interview with me that Russia already renders enormous support for and still searching to identify mutual investment sectors in Africa, and that the forum will facilitate meaningful networking connections on a large-scale, encourage ideas that could change the economic profile in Africa.

She added that many Russian companies are increasingly interested in advancing business cooperation, thus the preparatory business gathering could help build business confidence, contribute to the sound development of these relations and allow us to outline new forms of fruitful cooperation during the Russia-Africa Summit to be held October in Sochi.

The participants included representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russian Federation, Ministry of Industry and Trade, Ministry of Economic Development and Ministry of Agriculture.

There were also leading experts in the field of trade and economic relations with African countries, the heads of working Russian groups in Africa, as well as ambassadors and entrepreneurs from African countries: Ethiopia, Rwanda, Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana, Angola, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Mauritius and South Africa.

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