Russia and Africa: Time to Expand Cooperation

There is major potential for economic and humanitarian cooperation between Russia and African countries. Particularly, Russian organisations and universities can help transfer competencies and knowledge in the fields of agriculture, energy, industrial production, environmental management, climate change, and public administration. Experts and representatives of African embassies in Russia discussed these issues at the round table ‘Russia-Africa Sharing Knowledge’ hosted by HSE University.

Alexey Filimonov, discussion moderator and Executive Director of the National Technology Transfer Association, emphasised how important it is for Russian businesses to cooperate with countries in Africa, ‘a region with powerful natural and human resources’.

HSE Vice Rector Ivan Prostakov noted that the creation of the Centre for African Studies at HSE University is a sign of the expanding geographic scope of research and a logical step in the growth of the university and the Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs that develops competencies related to the regions of the world and expands interdisciplinary research. HSE Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs Academic Supervisor Sergey Karaganov noted the need to shape Russia’s Africa policy through contacts with representatives of the continent’s intellectual elite and business community.

Sergey Karaganov

© Mikhail Dmitriev/ HSE University

‘We will train people who specialise in African countries, of whom we have far too few. We must keep in mind that it will not be possible to quickly train professionals who understand the difficulties and romance of Africa, especially because the continent has many faces’, Karaganov said. He is certain that Russia holds an advantage for Africans because it did not participate in the colonial practices of the past. ‘We can help our African partners build up their sovereignty in an entirely friendly way’, he concluded. HSE Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs Dean Anastasia Likhacheva noted that the Faculty is developing the creation of new centres for regional studies. ‘For researchers and people interested in working on the continent, not only academic knowledge is important, but also the forming of personal connections and networks of interaction’, she said.

HSE Centre for African Studies Director Andrey Maslov spoke about opportunities for Russian-African cooperation. ‘The “transfer of competencies” refers primarily to the organised transfer of knowledge—events aimed at the African audience: experts and politicians responsible for preparing decisions and developing bills and regulations, both in the African Union and in individual African states’, Andrey Maslov explained. In practical terms, the work could consist of organising joint events, carrying out research, publishing and promoting joint expert reports, organising training programmes for civil servants in African countries, and advising executive and legislative authorities on African problems.

‘For many years, HSE University has been a centre for the development of strategies and legislation for the Russian government. This experience may be useful to expert communities in African countries,’ said Andrey Maslov. He singled out digitalisation, sovereign data management, and improving citizens’ living standards (including by reducing food dependence) as areas for such a transfer.

Andrey Maslov

© Mikhail Dmitriev/ HSE University

‘The concept of technology transfer is a proposal. We would like our African colleagues to look at it and provide feedback, to suggest where Russia can be useful to African countries’, Andrey Maslov summed up.

Ethiopian Ambassador to Russia Alemayehu Tegenu Aargau expressed confidence that the transfer concept that was presented would be useful for improving relations between Russia and African countries. He noted that food security remains a key problem for many countries on the continent and that African countries are interested in Russia’s assistance in the development of agriculture and the production of mineral fertilisers. It is important to move on to the implementation of specific initiatives in this area.

Alemayehu Tegenu Aargau

© Mikhail Dmitriev/ HSE University

African countries, half of whose population does not have access to electricity, are also striving to develop the energy sector in cooperation with Russia—not only in its traditional forms, but also in nuclear and renewable energy. African countries are also interested in cooperating with Russia to protect the environment and develop education. ‘We would like to invite Russian teachers to work with our students’, Alemayehu Tegenu Aargau concluded.

Malian Ambassador to Russia Harouna Samake underscored the importance of cooperation between African countries and Russia because it is beneficial for both sides. ‘If we ensure that the entire population has access to electricity, it will be a great achievement’, he said. He also drew participants’ attention to the fact that a significant portion of the population is starving, despite the significant opportunities that exist for agricultural development. Cooperation in the development of food supply is very important for the countries of the continent. The Ambassador noted that many African states hope for Russia’s assistance in the development of agriculture and digitalisation. ‘We know that you have resources that you could share’, he said.

Harouna Samake

© Mikhail Dmitriev/ HSE University

Ndiaga Bey, acting Ambassador of Senegal (the country chairing the African Union in 2022) noted the role HSE University plays in developing cooperation between Russia and African countries. He recalled Léopold Sédar Senghor’s statement about the impossibility of isolating individual countries and continents. ‘People cannot remain in their own corner. Africa needs Russia and Russia needs Africa’. The Embassy is ready to coordinate the work of businesspeople from Russia and Senegal to achieve specific goals. ‘Our role is to accompany and help the Russian investor seeking to invest in Senegal and Africa’, the Ambassador said.

Gaspar Custodio Domingos da Silva, Consul of the Republic of Angola to the Russian Federation, reminded the audience of the long history of cooperation between the two countries, which started to actively develop in Soviet times. Angola is now ready for a new stage of interaction in which the scope of cooperation can grow. ‘This concerns energy, the environment and climate change. They are becoming very dangerous in Africa, often starting the ruin of the country and all of Africa. I propose the transfer of technologies to forestall and counteract possible climate changes’, the Angolan representative said.

Oleg Ozerov, Head of the Secretariat of the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that now Russia and African countries are preparing a second summit, the purpose of which is to realise the potential of cooperation.

Oleg Ozerov

© Mikhail Dmitriev/ HSE University

‘We very much look forward to the work of the Centre for African Studies as an academic hub and an applied tool for building relations between Russian and African businesses’, Oleg Ozerov said. He noted that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and HSE University had developed common priorities for cooperation: issues relating to education, agriculture and energy.

The round table ‘Russia-Africa Sharing Knowledge’ took place at HSE University as part of the XXIII Yasin International Academic Conference on Economic and Social Development. Among the participants were Ethiopian Ambassador to Russia Alemayehu Tegenu Aargau and Malian Ambassador to Russia Harouna Samake, as well as representatives of the embassies of Senegal, Egypt, Tanzania, Nigeria, the Republic of the Congo, and Angola. On the Russian side, the participants included Oleg Ozerov, Head of the Secretariat of the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA); Alexander Polyakov, Principal Adviser to the MFA Africa Department; Ivan Prostakov, HSE Vice Rector for International Relations; Anastasia Likhacheva, Dean of the HSE Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs; and Sergey Karaganov, Academic Supervisor of the HSE Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs. The National Technology Transfer Association was a partner of the event.