Criticism Highlights Russia’s Media Weakness in Africa

Image

By Kester Kenn Klomegah

In her weekly media briefing July 23, Russia’s Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, criticised the United States support for educational programs, media and NGOs in Africa.

In addition, Zakharova said, “the allocation of grants fits into the White House’s efforts to promote the idea that there is no alternative to Western concepts regarding state governance and the imposition of alien values on sovereign states, and this represents another manifestation of neo-colonialism and an element of covertly formalizing inequality in the overall system of international ties.”

Russia’s position as contained in her briefing is available on the official website, and part of which is quoted here: “We have no choice but to comment and explain why we perceive this as Washington’s striving to eliminate the favourable regional socio-political background with regard to Russia that became particularly obvious following the Russia-Africa Summit in Sochi in October 2019.

“It appears that the United States is deliberately encouraging anti-Russia publications in some African media outlets and is trying to portray Russia as a destabilizing force. We are confident that such methods of unfair competition and misinformation show that there is no hard evidence confirming the so-called Russian policy of propaganda and misinformation, and this is also the consequence of weak US approaches in the field of public diplomacy.”

That well-said of the United States, it is equally important to note that since the Soviet collapse in 1991, the question of media representation both ways, in Russia and in Africa, has attracted unprecedented concerns and discussions.

Over the years, nearly 30 years after the Soviet era, Russia has not encouraged African media, especially those from south of Sahara, to operate in the Russian Federation.

On the other hand, Russian media resources are largely far from eminent in Africa, and these include the media conglomerate popularly referred to as Rossiya Sevogdnya (RIA Novosti, Voice of Russia and Russia Today), TASS News Agency and Interfax Information Service.

These are powerful and reputable Russian brands, compared to most well-known Western and European media organizations that operate in and cooperate with Africa.

Even not quite long, that was in November 2018, the State Duma, the lower house of parliamentarians, called for an increased Russian media presence in African countries, while Russia has closed its doors in offering opportunities for Africa media representation in the Russian Federation.

During the meeting that was scheduled to brainstorm for fresh views and ideas on the current Russia-African relations, State Duma Chairman Vyacheslav Volodin told Ambassadors from African countries: “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 the presence of the media of the United States, United Kingdom and Germany,” Volodin said, and promised that the State Duma would create the necessary legal basis for this long-term media cooperation.

Experts say that neither Russia has an African media face nor Africa has a Russian media face. Thus, in the absence of suitable alternative sources, African political leaders and corporate business directors depend on western media reports about developments in Russia and from the developed world.

Interestingly, the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Information and Press Department has accredited media from Latin America, the United States, Europe and Asian countries, and only two African media came from the Maghreb region (Morocco and Egypt) in North Africa.

The official information presented during the first Russia-Africa Summit, held in October 2019, explicitly showed the degree of priority given to African media.

Some 300 media bureaus from 60 countries are currently operating in Russia, including 800 foreign correspondents while there are only two African news bureaus from Egypt and Morocco, according to Artem Kozhin, who represented the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Information and Press Department, at the panel discussion on media.

According to his interpretation, this extremely low representation of African media hardly meets the level of current dynamically developing relations between Russia and Africa.

“We invite all interested parties to open news bureaus and expand media cooperation with Russia,” Kozhin said at the gathering, inviting Africa media to Moscow.

Nearly all the panellists noted precisely that western media dominates in Africa. “Oftentimes, unique news offerings created by the Russian media simply do not make to the users and viewers in many regions, including Africa.

“Evidently, this vacuum gets filled with one-sided information from other players in the media market. This information can be biased, or outright hostile towards Russia and residents of other countries,” said Mikhail Bogdanov, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation and Special Presidential Representative for the Middle East and Africa.

During the Russia-Africa Summit, Professor Alexey Vasiliev, the first appointed Special Representative of Russian President for Relations with Africa (2006-2011) and currently the Head of the Center for African and Arab Studies at the Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia (2013-2020), told the audience there in Sochi: “Africa is largely unaware of Russia since African media mainly consumes information the Western media sources and then replicates them. And all the fake news, the Rusophobia and anti-Russian propaganda, spread by the western media, are repeated in the African media.”

“Measures are needed to enable us to better understand each other,” suggested Professor Vasiliev, who regularly advises the Presidential Administration, the Government of the Russian Federation, both chambers of the Federal Assembly, and the Russian Foreign Ministry.

Some experts have consistently argued that Russia has discriminated against the media from sub-Saharan Africa. That trend remains unchanged even after the first Russia-Africa Summit, held in Sochi with the primary aim of helping identify new areas and forms of cooperation, put forward promising initiatives that would bring collaboration between Russia and Africa to a qualitatively new level and contribute to strengthening multifaceted cooperation between the two regions.

Let that be the acceptable case, but both Russia and Africa have basic questions that still need quick answers. The questions raised at the panel discussion on media in Russia-Africa gathering: What issues are currently encountered in the formation of the modern media landscape? What role does the media play in Russian-African relations? What are the prospects for collaboration in the information sphere? What needs to be done to develop a Russian media agenda in Africa? What is the role and place of Russia in the information space of Africa today? What role can African media play in promoting further Russia’s image in Africa?

In practical terms, the highly successful spade-work was the first Russia-Africa Summit. The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has to layout some new mechanisms and adopt a more favourable approach that could readily attract African media to operate in the Russian Federation.

Russia and Africa need to examine every sphere based on shared partnership interests and redefine a practical approach to realizing whatever plans on media cooperation. Media and NGOs, as instruments for improving adequately public knowledge, especially on developments and emerging opportunities, have not been persuaded to match the desired future objectives and policy goals.

The stark reality is that Russia needs Africa media and Africa needs Russian media, in order for them to enlighten ties in the economic spheres, to promote a better understanding among African elites and the middle class through media reports. The middle class is twice Russia’s population and almost the size the population of the United States.

Professor Vladimir Shubin, the former Deputy Director of the Institute for African Studies, explained in an interview with me that political relations between Russia and Africa, as well as the economic cooperation, would continue to attract more and more academic discussions. Such scholarly contributions, in essence, would help deepen understanding of the problems that impede building solid relationship or partnership with Russia.

In order to maintain this relationship, both Russia and Africa have to pay high attention to and take significant steps in promoting their achievements and highlighting the most development needs in a comprehensive way for mutual benefits using appropriately the media, according to Professor Shubin.

“African leaders do their best in developing bilateral relations,” he added. “Truly and passionately, they come to Russia more often than ten years ago, but a lot still has to be done; both Russian and African media, in this case, have a huge role to play.”

Perhaps, one of the reasons why some African leaders appear to have “written off” Russia has been lack of adequate information about Russia, or rather plenty of distorted information they have received from the Western media coverage of Russia, Professor Shubin concluded.

“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 the 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’ and also the Chairman of the State Council on Foreign and Defense Policy.

“To a certain extent,” Lukyanov said, “the intensification of non-political contacts may contribute to increased interest. But in Russia’s case, the main drivers of any cooperation are more traditional rather than the political interests of the state and economic interests of big companies. Soft power has never been a strong side of Russian policy in the post-Soviet era.”

Similarly, Bunn Nagara, a Senior Fellow of the Institute of Strategic and International Studies, member of the Valdai Discussion Club, has observed that “Russian businesses face a number of challenges. First, there is little information available internationally about the opportunities and possibilities for partnerships between Russian and foreign businesses.”

“Russia is a large country spanning both Europe and Asia. So, it can do much to bring Asian and European business linkages together and build on them. Better public relations and improved information dissemination are very important. To do this, it needs to do more in spreading more and better information about its achievements, the progress so far, its future plans, and the opportunities available,” Bunn Nagara said.

Early October 2019, the Valdai Discussion Club released an ebook titled “Russia’s Return to Africa: Strategy and Prospects” jointly or collectively authored by Vadim Balytnikov, Oleg Barabanov, Andrei Yemelyanov, Dmitry Poletaev, Igor Sid and Natalia Zaiser.

The Valdai Discussion Club was established in 2004, with a goal is to promote dialogue between Russian and international intellectual elite and to make an independent, unbiased scientific analysis of political, economic and social events in Russia and the rest of the world.

The authors explicitly suggested the need to take steps in countering Western anti-Russia clichés that are spreading in Africa and shaping a narrative whereby only dictators and outcast partner with Russians. Therefore, efforts to improve Russia’s image must target not only the continent’s elite but also a broader public opinion. It would be advisable to create and develop appropriate media tools to this effect.

Media and NGOs, working with the civil society, have to support official efforts in pushing for building a positive image and in strengthening diplomacy. Displaying an attentive and caring attitude towards the African diaspora in Russia, the key objective is to overcome racist stereotypes that persist in marginal segments of Russian society. Helping highly qualified educated African migrants to integrate through employment. This will, in addition, showcase and shape public opinion about Africa in the Russian Federation.

According to the authors, building a more and consistent positive public opinion within Russia and Africa should be considered extremely important at this stage of relations between Russia and Africa. Should Russia assist other countries for political purposes only? Will the recipient countries be willing to lend Russia their political support, and can they be trusted? Should Russia build its partnerships exclusively based on the principle of economic expediency?

The authors wrote: “Russia will have to answer these questions as it moves towards implementing its African strategy. Its experience in working with public opinion and governments across Eurasia to shape public perceptions will come in handy in Africa.”

In the context of these existing challenges, leaders on both sides have to draw a roadmap. Inside Africa, Africans have had enough of all these public debates. The time has come to make progressive changes to the current approach, create a new outlook or simply call it “media facelift” instead of maintaining the old status quo. It, therefore, means taking concrete practical steps toward an effective media cooperation, this will substantially not only broaden but deepen two-way understanding of current developments in Russia and in Africa.

The irreversible fact is that there is the need to have an informed African society, and this has to be done largely, systematically and necessarily through the media. Africa has the largest number of young people, who look at the world with open eyes and are ready for cooperation with partner countries. This is a good opportunity to inform the young generation, bring them together through knowledge from Russia, Eurasia, and Africa. According to UN forecasts, Africa’s middle class, constitutes a very huge vibrant information-consuming market, will exceed 350 million by 2025.

Kester Kenn Klomegah writes frequently about Russia, Africa and the BRICS. Most of his well-resourced articles are reprinted elsewhere in a number of reputable foreign media.

Share
Related Stories
Image
07-February-2024

Saving Ubeji Community in Delta State From Devastating Impacts of Gas Flaring

By Jerome-Mario Utomi If President Bola Ahmed Tinubu-led federal government is desirous of ending gas flaring in the country, then, the administration should consider as urgent, taking both practical and pragmatic steps to save the people of Ubeji Community, a sleepy satellite community located around the Warri petrochemical company in Warri South local government area of Delta State, from the choking soot which reportedly emanates from the towering chimney that pierces the skyline of the community, a facility reportedly owned by a famous gas company in the country. Again, if the Governor of Delta State, Sheriff Oborevwori, recognises that the

Image
13-February-2024

Is Reciting the National Anthem by Force?

By Prince Charles Dickson PhD The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Ajuri Ngelale, sent out a State House press release, the summary being that the President was directing the Mandatory Recitation of the National Pledge After the National Anthem at Official Engagements. I wrote this piece in its original form in 2006…but I am rehearsing it again because (1) we don’t listen, (2) it is important that we listen, and (3) Cassandra in Greek legend, I recall, was condemned to know the future but to be disbelieved when she foretold it. Hence the agony of foreknowledge

Image
19-February-2024

From Transaction to Transformation; The NDDC Way

By Jerome-Mario Utomi A peep into the profile of members of the present board and management of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), an agency conceived in the year 2000, as a fresh beginning and a more focused effort on development in the Niger Delta with its mission chiefly to sustainably develop the region in terms of infrastructure and human capital, will reveal that it is arguably filled with some of the best trained and most highly skilled personalities from the Niger Delta region, in the history of the commission. For instance, Chiedu Ebie, a lawyer, technocrat, former commissioner, former

More Stories
Image
13-April-2018

European Equities Rise on Hopes for Improved Corporate Earnings

By Investors Hub European stocks have moved mostly higher on Friday as geopolitical worries faded and the dollar index rose on hopes for improved corporate earnings. While the U.K.?s FTSE 100 Index has inched up by 0.1 percent, the French CAC 40 Index is up by 0.4 percent and the German DAX Index is up by 0.7 percent. On the economic front, Eurostat reported the euro area trade surplus increased in February as the decline in imports was bigger than the fall in exports. Exports fell 2.3 percent in February from January. At the same time, imports declined 3.1 percent.

Image
14-January-2019

Senate 2019: Projections Favour APC’s Uduaghan in Delta South

By Modupe Gbadeyanka Barring any unforeseen circumstances, the 2019 general elections will kick off with the Presidential and National Assembly elections on Saturday, February 16, 2019. As it stands in Delta South Senatorial District, the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate representing the district, Dr. Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan, is the most favoured to win the seat at the expense of his opponents. A lot of factors are currently working in his favour, chief among them being the popularity he earned while in the saddle as the governor of Delta State. Mr Uduaghan, who is the immediate-past executive governor of the state,

Image
13-April-2022

Standard Chartered Unveils $40m New Head Office in Zambia

By Modupe Gbadeyanka A new head office of Standard Chartered Bank in Zambia has been officially launched, with the commissioning carried out by the country’s President, Mr Hakainde Hichilema. The energy-efficient edifice located in the new business district of Lusaka, Zambia, is said to have gulped about $40 million. It is the first-ever EDGE certified building in Zambia. Mr Hichilema described the new head office as an immovable asset that becomes an integral part of the national balance sheet and underscores Standard Chartered Bank’s endurance, commitment and desire to build a better Zambia. In his speech, the Regional CEO of

Image
20-July-2018

Never Eat These Foods on Empty Stomach

By Adeniyi Ogunfowoke Rolling out of bed with very hungry makes us very hungry that we just eat anything that comes first in our sight. What you do not know is that there are some foods you should never eat on an empty stomach because these foods could actually be harming your body. Jumia Food, Nigeria’s no 1 food ordering platform, shares these foods. Spicy food  Eating spices on an empty stomach may irritate the stomach lining which can lead to acidic reactions and cramps. They are very sharp and strong taste and as such, it can trigger indigestion. Garlic, hot chili, and ginger are

Image
23-May-2023

Google Adds More Countries to Flood Hub Platform, Offers 7-Day Forecasts

By Aduragbemi Omiyale More countries have been added to the Google Flood Hub platform to address the devastating impacts of floods and provide critical support to vulnerable communities through Artificial Intelligence. Floods claim tens of thousands of lives and cause billions of dollars in damages each year across the world. Their impacts are particularly severe in low-resource regions that often lack effective early warning systems. By equipping governments, aid organisations, and individuals with advanced flood forecasting tools, Flood Hub empowers communities to take proactive measures and make informed decisions to reduce the devastating effects of floods. To further enhance flood

Image
17-February-2021

Senate Orders NAFDAC to Create Cosmetics Products’ Database

By Ahmed Rahma In line with a motion on the need for the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) to move swiftly to regulate the production and distribution of cosmetics, the Senate, on Tuesday, resolved to put an end to the circulation of fake and substandard cosmetics, mandating the committee on Health to investigate the procedure for quality and safety certification. It also charged the committee to propose a way forward on enforcing safety compliance on the motion which was sponsored by member of the chamber, Mrs Oluremi Tinubu. The Senate, in its resolution, directed NAFDAC

Image
06-December-2022

Angola Hopes for Russia’s Support in Manufacturing Military Equipment

By Kestér Kenn Klomegâh  Russia has made military-technical cooperation its key component in relations with Africa, and African leaders with high enthusiasm express readiness to pay for deliveries. Some African leaders have bartered for such deliveries by granting complete access to lucrative natural resources. Reports indicate that Russia has signed military-technical agreements with over 20 African countries. Angola stands distinctively out of the 20 African countries. President João Lourenço went on an official working visit in April 2019 and held talks with President Vladimir Putin. “Angola is a reliable and old partner. We need to consider what we need to do,

Image
22-August-2023

Flutterwave Insists on IPO Despite Controversies

By Adedapo Adesanya Flutterwave, Africa’s largest startup, is pressing ahead with plans for an initial public offering (IPO) despite controversies about the unicorn and its co-founder, Mr Olugbenga Agboola. According to the firm’s CEO, who came under intense scrutiny following a series of allegations and his denial of his involvement in such, the company is forging ahead with its planned listings because it is very crucial to realise its targets. Mr Agboola, in an interview with Bloomberg, said going public has become necessary for the company to attract large global clients. According to the publication, Mr Agboola brushed aside accusations

Ad
Ad
Recent Stories
Image
05-March-2024

Dangote Renames Lagos Refinery Road After Herbert Wigwe

By Modupe Gbadeyanka The road to the Dangote Refinery in the Lekki area of Lagos State has been renamed after the late group chief executive of Access Holdings Plc, Mr Herbert Wigwe. This development was announced on Monday night by the owner of the oil facility, Mr Aliko Dangote, during the Celebrating Herbert Wigwe’s Professional Legacy, who said this gesture was to immortalise his friend. The Nigerian billionaire businessman and the richest black man on earth, in an emotional tribute to the late banker, who died in a helicopter crash in the United States on February 9, 2024, along with

Image
05-March-2024

Investors of Unlisted Securities Lose N43bn

By Adedapo Adesanya It was a bad day for investors of unlisted securities in Nigeria as the NASD Over-the-Counter (OTC) Securities Exchange ended the first trading session of the week on a negative note with a 3.11 per cent loss triggered by four stocks on the platform. The culprits were UBN Property Plc, Aradel Holdings Plc, Central Securities Clearing System Plc, and Resourcery Plc. They were under selling pressure during the trading session. This resultantly trimmed N43 billion from the market capitalisation of the bourse to N1.449 trillion from N1.542 trillion, as the NASD Unlisted Security Index (NSI) dropped 35.53

Image
05-March-2024

Naira Value Improves at Official Market, Deflates at Parallel Market

By Adedapo Adesanya The Naira appreciated further against the greenback in the Nigerian Autonomous Foreign Exchange Market (NAFEM) segment of the FX market on Monday, March 5 by N14.06 or 0.9 per cent to trade at N1,534.19/$1 compared with last Friday’s value of N1,548.25/$1. The improvement in the value of the domestic currency happened as the forex market attempts to find stability after months of turbulence due to a shortfall in the supply of Dollars into the system. Yesterday, the value of forex trades depreciated by 39.7 per cent or $117.37 million to $178.63 million from the $296.00 million recorded

Image
05-March-2024

Oil Market Falls Despite OPEC+ Cut Extension

By Adedapo Adesanya  The oil market fell slightly on Monday, as demand headwinds outweighed a widely expected extension of voluntary output cuts through the middle of the year by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies (OPEC+). Brent futures dropped 81 cents to quote at $82.74 a barrel while the US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) weakened by $1.22 to trade at $78.75 a barrel. The OPEC+ producers agreed over the weekend to extend their voluntary oil output cuts of 2.2 million barrels per day into the second quarter to cushion the market amid global economic concerns and

Image
05-March-2024

Investors Mop up Nigerian Stocks on Economic Optimism

By Dipo Olowookere The Nigerian Exchange (NGX) Limited witnessed a 0.10 per cent growth on Monday amid optimism that the trip of President Bola Tinubu to Qatar over the weekend will yield positive results. At the Nigeria-Qatar Business and Investment Forum in Doha, Mr Tinubu assured Qatari investors that they would not face any bottleneck while attempting to repatriate their funds. This assurance was welcomed by stock investors, who saw light at the end of the tunnel for the nation’s economy, which is currently suffering because of the shortage in the supply of foreign exchange (FX) into the market. Since

Image
04-March-2024

UK Announces £37.3m to Boost Livelihoods in Nigeria, Others

By Adedapo Adesanya The United Kingdom has announced new funding for the Mobile for Development Programme to help more people access mobile and digital technologies to find new opportunities and boost their livelihoods in Nigeria and other developing countries. UK’s Minister for Development and Africa, Mr Andrew Mitchell MP, during a speech at Mobile World Congress last week, announced that the UK is providing £37.3 million of new support for the Mobile for Development Programme. The new UK funding for innovative mobile phone technology will help change lives in developing countries around the world by harnessing AI technology to provide

Image
04-March-2024

Newly-Listed Transcorp Power Targets N500bn Revenue by 2031

By Adedapo Adesanya The latest company to join the Nigerian Exchange (NGX) Limited, Transcorp Power Plc, has announced a revenue target of N500 billion by 2031, tapping opportunities in the capital market and sustainable energy. This was disclosed by the Managing Director of the firm, Mr Peter Ikenga, during the Facts Behind the Listing held at bourse on Monday. The firm, owned by businessman and Chairman of UBA Plc, Mr Tony Elumelu, listed its stocks on the Main Board of the nation’s flagship exchange by introduction. It listed 7,500,000,000 ordinary shares of 50 Kobo each at N240.00 per share. Speaking

Image
04-March-2024

DisCos Must Promptly Respond to Customers’ Complaints—FCCPC

By Aduragbemi Omiyale Electricity distribution companies (DisCos) in the country have been charged to respond to customers’ complaints quickly for better service delivery. This task was given to the energy firms by the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC), which said the companies must design a quick response mechanism to address issues from their customers. Speaking last Saturday at a four-day one-stop-shop for addressing billing, metering, transformer, connection, disconnection, customer service and other electricity consumer issues in Ikeja Electric coverage areas, the acting executive chairman of FCCPC, Mr Adamu Abdullahi, said the highest number of complaints received by the

Image
04-March-2024

Omokungbe Wants Implementation of Initiatives on Women’s Entrepreneurship

By Aduragbemi Omiyale A former Rector of Yaba College of Technology (YabaTech), Lagos, Mr Obafemi Omokungbe, has called for the implementation of programmes and initiatives designed to promote women’s entrepreneurship in Africa. Speaking at the just-concluded 10th anniversary of the African Women Foundation for Nation Building (WINBAFRICA) in Lagos, Mr Omokungbe, a fellow of the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE), also appealed to African countries to renew their commitment to women’s empowerment, saying it is a crucial step towards nation-building. According to him, the journey toward women’s empowerment in Africa involves a comprehensive approach that spans various sectors, including education,

Image
04-March-2024

NGX Group Declares 75 Kobo Final Dividend Amid 57.4% Surge in FY’23 Earnings

By Aduragbemi Omiyale A final dividend of N1.5 billion, amounting to 75 Kobo per share has been declared by the board of the Nigerian Exchange (NGX) Group Plc for the 2023 financial year. This brings to N1 the total dividend to be paid by the company after paying 25 Kobo (N495.5 million) as interim dividend at mid-year. In its audited financial statements for the year ended December 31, 2023, the NGX Group said its gross earnings increased by 57.4 per cent to N11.8 billion in FY 2023 from N7.5 billion in FY 2022 because its performances in core revenue and