On July 18, the Valdai Club hosted a presentation of the report “Russia and Africa: An Audit of Relations,” prepared specifically for the African Conference of the Valdai Discussion Club, which will be held on July 25 in St. Petersburg. The event was moderated by Oleg Barabanov, Programme Director of the Valdai Discussion Club.
Nathalia Zaiser, Chair of the Board of the African Business Initiative Union, raised the question of the “point of no return”, beyond which Russian-African relations will acquire exceptionally positive dynamics in all areas. “Our economic opportunities give us the right to believe that we have something to offer our African partners,” she stressed. “Moreover, our African partners are extremely positive about the development of these relations.” She considers it necessary to build a long-term Russian-African strategy that includes “road maps” for each of the areas.
Roger Tsafack Nanfosso, Rector of the University of Dschang (Cameroon), suggested getting used to the word “Russafrica”, by analogy with “Francafrica” and “Indafrica”, as a symbol of cooperation and special relations between Russia and the African continent. He identified the five “pillars” on which these relationships are based. In his opinion, these are long-term historical ties, political interaction (including mutual support in the UN), mutually beneficial economic contacts, scientific and educational cooperation, as well as cooperation in the field of security. This security cooperation extends beyond the military to include things like energy security.
Elena Kharitonova, Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Civilizational and Regional Studies of Institute for African Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences, said Soviet assistance to Africa and the lack of past Russian colonial ambitions in the continent are seen as a strength of Russia in its interaction with Africa. “However, it is impossible to build relations solely on the foundation of the past,” she noted. “This is a guarantee of friendship and trust, but at the same time, real steps are needed to develop relations.” She believes that issues of social justice and strategic partnerships are important for Africa at the moment. This image of the future, she said, is now in principle supported by the world’s majority.
Israel Nyaburi Nyadera, Lecturer at Edgerton University (Kenya), discussed the issue of Russian-African educational cooperation. In his opinion, the future belongs to the knowledge economy; therefore, universities today play a special role in shaping ties both between different regions and between different countries. He acknowledged that while education in Africa has made great strides in terms of quantity over the past decades, in terms of quality it lags behind. In this sense, the development of academic mobility and the strengthening of academic contacts with Russia, including the attraction of Russian teachers to Africa, could help, he argues.
Lora Chkoniya, Research Fellow at the Centre for Middle Eastern and African Studies, IMI MGIMO, MFA of Russia, compared the work within the framework of the Russia-Africa summits with similar forms of cooperation with Africa of other countries and regions, highlighting a number of best practices that make sense to observe more closely. In particular, she spoke of mechanisms for tracking interaction between summits at different levels, developed in the context of China-Africa cooperation and allowing better preparation for the summits. She also called the formation of target groups and specialized formats on specific issues a noteworthy approach.
Dmitry Poletaev, Leading Researcher at the Institute of Economic Forecasting of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Director of Migration Research Centre, spoke about African diasporas in Russia and migration issues. Now the African diasporas in the country are small and are mainly associated with educational migration, the level of which, in his opinion, is clearly insufficient at present. However, he believes that the migration flow from Africa to Russia will increase with the growth of the population on the continent. He believes programmes are needed both for the development of educational migration and for the integration and adaptation of migrants. “The theme of African migration should not go into the shadows,” he stressed.
Rasigan Maharajh, Director General of the Institute for Economic Research in Innovation at Tswane Technical University (South Africa), raised issues of scientific cooperation, calling for special attention to be paid to the development of the creative potential of the African continent. “Russia has colossal scientific and technological potential, and this can help strengthen relations,” he concluded. “Based on the goodwill of peoples, we can create a better world for everyone.”