African Union Suspends South Sudan Over Annual Dues
By Adedapo Adesanya
The African Union (AU) has suspended South Sudan over failure to honour its financial obligations for the past three years, amounting to $9 million.
South Sudan will, however, remain a member of the Addis Ababa-based organization, but cannot participate in meetings until it clears its obligation.
In clarifying the extent of the suspension, Mr Hakim Edward, deputy Foreign Affairs spokesperson, said the country’s AU membership attained in July 2011 remained intact except that the country cannot participate in AU meetings.
“We would like to confirm to the public that South Sudan is one of the countries that have been sanctioned by the AU due to lack of yearly financial contributions,” Mr Edward said in a statement.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs would like to assure the public that it is coordinating with the ministry of finance to resolve the matter not only with the AU but with other regional bodies,” he added.
It was reported by local media that South Sudan has a lot of unpaid arrears to regional, international, and global bodies it subscribes to. It was also reported, the country was also yet to clear its arrears to the East African Community to which it owes about $24 million.
South Sudan, which seceded from Sudan on July 9, 2011, joined the African Union on July 27, 2011, becoming the 54th member.
In 2019, the AU’s Peace and Security Council voted to suspend neighbouring Sudan from all AU activities until a civilian government has been formed. The decision followed violent military action against pro-democracy activists who helped toppled the government of Mr Omar Al-Bashir.
The council made the announcement after a meeting in Addis Ababa of the member states of the pan-continental body. The country’s membership was restored after the ruling military council and opposition groups agreed to share power in a transition to democracy.
Africa Day in Russia: A Large-scale Program to Celebrate 60th Anniversary of Liberation of Africa
Africa Day is traditionally celebrated in Russia on May 25. This day commemorates the establishment of the Organization of African Unity in 1963, which later transformed into the African Union.
For Russia, the development of relations with Africa is an important strategic direction. Russia plays a vital role in supporting the political, economic, and technological sovereignty of African states while also fostering partnerships and cooperation with African countries. Additionally, Russia actively promotes awareness and understanding of Africa’s rich cultural heritage.
To mark Africa Day, various cultural and business events are planned in cities across Russia. These events include exhibitions, performances by creative groups, and business missions.
Russian universities take an active part in educational activities on this day. The Centre for African Studies at the Higher School of Economics will host a special celebratory event and present the book “Africa 2023: Opportunities and Risks.”
Furthermore, Peter the Great St.Petersburg Polytechnic University will host the Youth Festival “Africa in St. Petersburg,” aimed at capturing the attention of young people and showcasing Africa’s cultural and educational legacy.
Importantly, the African agenda is not limited to a single day of celebration. The International Festival of African Culture “AFROFEST” will be held in Moscow on July 22-23 and in St. Petersburg on July 28-29, marking its fourth occurrence. This festival serves as a platform to broaden cultural horizons and challenge stereotypes by acquainting Russians with Africa’s history, customs, and traditions.
A high-profile business event, the Russia-Africa Summit and the Economic and Humanitarian Forum is scheduled to take place from July 26 to 29 in St. Petersburg.
This Summit and Forum is paramount in Russian-African relations, aiming to strengthen comprehensive and equal cooperation between Russia and African countries across various spheres, including politics, security, economy, science and technology, culture, and humanitarian affairs.
Russia-Africa Diplomacy: Training of Human Resource Key Towards Overcoming Challenges and Ensuring Success
By Professor Maurice Okoli
With the rapidly changing global situation and emphasis on shifting towards the continental south, Russia has initiated processes to restructure its educational programmes. The move is part of measures to ensure the speedy training of a new generation of thinkers, highly qualified professionals, and knowledgeable specialists who would effectively handle its diverse policy initiatives with concrete results, especially in Asia and Africa.
This Kremlin-backed incredibly unique programme aims to raise the weak institutional structures and explore creative methods to improve learning processes, dialogue and exchange of ideas in education. This would enable to turn out graduates who could think outside the box and boldly explore new strategic perspectives across the Asian and African regions.
On 17 May 2023, Minister of Science and Higher Education, Valery Falkov, outlined and comprehensively explained the Asia and Africa program’s framework, its importance and the crucial aspects during the government meeting, including cabinet ministers, with Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin.
In accordance with the government instructions or directives, the absolute majority of the program participants have a chance to study tuition-free, the bulk of state-funded slots to be distributed among the universities in the Russian Federation.
Valery Falkov noted that with changes in the geopolitical situation and the growing role of the eastern vector, it has become necessary to significantly increase the number of state-funded slots in the Department of Oriental and African Studies, up from 860 to almost 1,000. In addition, it is envisaged to proactively develop a draft programme for promoting education and research in a number of priority areas to meet the challenges of the geopolitical changing times of the Russian Federation.
The draft programme for developing training in Oriental and African studies was developed in collaboration with leading scientific institutes and universities and with the involvement of large Russian companies with interests in Asian and African countries.
Historically, Russian Oriental studies is a complex research area; it includes the study of various aspects of the life of Asian and African peoples and countries. Further, it includes the study of their history, philology, ethnology, political, social, economic development and international relations. Of course, Oriental and African studies are both based on an in-depth knowledge of the respective languages and national traditions.
Recognized world centres for Oriental and African studies have been established in Russia: at Lomonosov Moscow State University, at St Petersburg University, at MGIMO, and at the Higher School of Economics. The same goes for great scientific organizations: for instance, the Institute for African Studies, the Institute for Oriental Studies, and the Institute for China and Modern Asia. And, of course, we are speaking about the traditions of Russian Oriental studies, which must be preserved and expanded.
Therefore, it is important that while working on the programme, three goals have been precisely identified:
The first one is to consolidate the efforts undertaken by research institutes, universities, public authorities and businesses to improve the quality of education and research in this area.
The second goal is to expand Oriental studies and research in the country’s regions. The demand is overwhelming. It is believed that the Primorye, Khabarovsk and the Trans-Baikal territories, Buryatia, the Irkutsk and Tomsk regions, Kalmykia and other regions should become centres for a new Orientalist training system and for promoting research in this sphere. There is a plan to support them separately as part of this special programme.
It is important to mention here the Russian-Arctic Research Consortium, which was created by the initiative of North-Eastern Federal University (NEFU) Yakutsk to develop cooperation in the Russian Arctic-Asian direction, which will contribute to the expansion of international relations of the northern Russian regions with the countries of Asia in the face of new global challenges.
The third goal is to ensure Russia’s academic and expert leadership in global leadership based on the traditions and research schools developed over many decades. This matters a lot in establishing effective intercultural communication. It is imperative to support the existing professional association of Orientalists, research schools and groups of researchers led by recognized scholars and, of course, to support talented youth.
The development programme includes several key activities, particularly the development of new curricula with a stronger practical component, which will form part of the effort to form a national higher education system.
According to Minister of Science and Higher Education, Mr Valery Falkov, the development of academic mobility comes second. This applies to students, teachers and researchers equally. “We believe that internships in the countries under study should become a mandatory part of professional education, without which it is impossible to fully master the language, understand the culture, or conduct high-quality research,” he stressed in his presentation.
“Of course, we will focus on attracting talented young people to this area by creating new youth scientific laboratories. This tool has a proven track record. We are confident that once implemented, the programme will provide a system-wide effect to achieve the country’s strategic priorities, while the demand for well-trained specialists, as well as the results of their research, will be high,” concluded Mr Falkov.
It was not the first time this issue was raised. Last year, during the ‘Government Hour’ at the Federation Council, the Upper Chamber of Parliament, Russian Science and Higher Education Minister Valery Falkov mentioned it. And here I would like to quote him: “We need specialists who are not just fluent in languages of the regions and have a profound knowledge of their history and culture, but who are also proficient in economic and geopolitical matters,” he said at the Federation Council.
Understandably, more than three decades after the Soviet collapse, Russia has few well-trained multipolar-oriented specialists and professionals to work seriously in Asian and African regions. That has been the narrative during the past few years. There were complaints of an acute shortage of multipolar-oriented policy leaders with the necessary adequate knowledge and expertise to direct, coordinate and monitor purpose-driven activities in Asia and Africa.
As far as these questions are concerned, we have to look at them a bit seriously. With the emerging multi-polar world, there is increasing competitiveness for influence and the need to reinforce cooperation between government and business sectors in the social and cultural spheres in the regions.
Perhaps, we must acknowledge that the challenging task requires adopting suitable strategies for implementing a set of result-expected policy goals. On the other hand, Russia has so many reputable educational institutions graduating thousands of candidates yearly.
Closely connected with the questions under discussion here, an elaborate policy report was presented in November 2021. That report, titled ‘Situation Analytical Report’, was prepared by 25 policy experts headed by Professor Sergei A. Karaganov – Dean and Academic Supervisor of the Faculty of World Economy and International Relations of the National Research University’s Higher School of Economics (HSE University). Karaganov is also the Honorary Chairman of the Presidium of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy.
The report was very critical of Russia’s current policy toward Africa. It indicated deep-seated inconsistencies in policy implementation and further underlined that there have been few definitive results from various efforts in dealing with African countries. It says in part: “Apart from the absence of a public strategy for the continent, there is a shortage of qualified personnel and lack of coordination among various state and para-state institutions working with Africa.”
The Institute for African Studies under the Russian Academy of Sciences was founded in 1959. Since then, it has undergone various changes and conducted huge scientific research on Africa. It has nearly a hundred staff including well-experienced researchers, academic fellows and specialists on various African issues and directions.
In Russian media reports, Professor Dmitri Bondarenko, Deputy Director of the Institute for African Studies (IAS), indicated – just before the first Russia-Africa summit and precisely the 60th anniversary of the IAS – that state institutions and business companies seek the Institute’s consultancy services. In particular, the Institute played an important role in preparation for the first Russia-Africa summit held in October 2019.
“The situation has been changing during the last few years. Today, the importance of Africa for Russia in different respects – including political and economic – is recognized by the state; the Russian Foreign Ministry and other state institutions dealing with Russia-African relations in various spheres ask us for our expert advice on different points quite often,” said Bondarenko.
According to him, the situation now is much better for African studies than before the early post-Soviet years. In particular, today, there are many more opportunities for doing fieldwork in Africa. Russian Africanists and their work are becoming better known in the global Africanist community. Quite a lot of junior researchers join the academy nowadays. In an assessment, African studies in Russia are on the right road, broadening international cooperation with Africanists worldwide.
In one of the regional studies, the majority of my academic colleagues noted serious indicators that the young African generation is desirous of embracing Russia. But most of them hold the balance between the United States and Europe on one side and Russia and China on the other. Sharing further my views that there is a need for building and consolidating relations with the youth. Short-term and re-qualification courses and youth leadership programmes could be appealing here, those by the educational institutions in Russia.
The youth could critically help to shape public opinion on Russia. Learning and embracing group ideas, even mere group interaction, helps build relationships. Thus, on a broader scale, it is necessary to tap into this spectrum of the population with youth and women’s programmes. The youth could easily be attracted to stimulating activities by the Russian authorities. Russia’s long-term geopolitical stake should be noticeable, too, in Africa.
In summary, I would like to underline that the accelerated development of human resource potential is inextricably linked to economic development. The 21st century has heralded the rise of a knowledge economy, and Russia needs people who will be able to make vital contributions to tackling the social and economic challenges facing Africa. The Soviet Union made an invaluable contribution to developing the scientific and educational potential in many African countries and is now the Russian Federation’s explicable turn.
Professor Maurice Okoli is a fellow at the Institute for African Studies and the Institute of World Economy and International Relations, Russian Academy of Sciences. He is a fellow at the North-Eastern Federal University, Russia
Russia’s ‘Return to Africa’ Sparks Policy Controversy
By Kestér Kenn Klomegâh
During Africa Day, celebrated annually on May 25th, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov reiterated that Moscow’s decision to return to Africa is strategic due to the geopolitical changes, and its return has become a popular post-Soviet slogan in Russia’s establishment. The second Russia-Africa summit in St. Petersburg, due in July, is a strategic decision by Moscow concerning its long-term goal of regaining presence on the continent, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov told the local Russian media TASS.
“This is not a one-time event. It is a strategic decision. It is our long-term policy and practice under the slogan of Russia’s return to Africa. Of course, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, some things were lost. There was stagnation in our relations. Some embassies were closed. Now we are actively working to reopen and restore the work of our embassies,” said Bogdanov.
Extensively speaking on several questions with the media on the eve of Africa Day, the Russian diplomat noted that some African countries were more dependent on Western aid than others, but Russia was not imposing anything on anyone because it proceeded from the sovereign equality of the UN member states. Moscow’s role is to help African countries in the UN Security Council and other UN structures, as well as on a bilateral basis, Bogdanov explained.
“In principle, we have equal, good relations with all countries. With some, of course, they are more advanced,” he added and wished African friends, especially on Africa Day, stronger sovereignty and further development so that economic opportunities support this sovereignty. This will let them strengthen political sovereignty in accordance with their genuine national interests and not listen to some outside noise,” Bogdanov said.
What is referred to as Africa Day is celebrated on May 25, the day on which the Organization of African Unity (now the African Union) was established in 1963. Until 2002, when the organization was transformed, it had been Africa Liberation Day. The African Union’s headquarters are located in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
According to official sources, Mikhail Bogdanov is the Russian President’s Special Presidential Representative for the Middle East and Africa, Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister of the Russian Federation. He has served as Deputy Foreign Minister since June 2011, as Special Presidential envoy for the Middle East since January 2012, and as Special Presidential envoy for the Middle East and Africa since October 2014.
In practical terms, Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov’s critical assessment of Russia’s return to Africa, the goals of signing several bilateral agreements which remain unimplemented, decades-old pledges and promises undelivered, anti-Western rhetoric and hyperbolic criticisms of foreign players which form the main component of Russia’s policy – these indicating the slogan of Russia’s return to Africa. Beyond its traditional rhetoric of Soviet-era assistance rendered to sub-Saharan African countries, Russia has little to show as post-Soviet achievements in contemporary Africa.
At least, Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Foreign Minister Qin Gang have indicated on their side that Africa is not the field for confrontation but rather the field for cooperation to uplift its development to an appreciable level. China has heavily invested in developing infrastructure in different economic sectors. Its slogan ‘win-win’ cooperation and ‘share common future’ have shown visible results across Africa.
During these past years, there have been several meetings of various bilateral intergovernmental commissions and conferences both in Moscow and in Africa. Official visits to and from proliferate only end up with the display of eternal passion for signing documents called Memoranda of Understandings and bilateral agreements with African countries. From the highly-praised historic first summit held in 2019, there are 92 agreements.
Currently, the signs for Russia-African relations are impressive – declarations of intentions have been made, and a lot of important bilateral agreements signed; now it remains to be seen how these intentions and agreements entered into over these years will be implemented in practice, argued Professors Vladimir Shubin and Alexandra Arkhangelskaya from the Institute for African Studies.
“The most significant positive sign is that Russia has moved away from its low-key strategy to strong relations, and authorities are seriously showing readiness to compete with other foreign players. But, Russia needs to find a strategy that reflects the practical interests of Russian business and African development needs,” said Arkhangelskaya, a Lecturer at the Moscow High School of Economics.
Several authentic research reports have criticised Russia’s policy in Africa. As expected, those weaknesses were compiled and incorporated in the ‘Situation Analytical Report’ by 25 policy researchers headed by Professor Sergey Karaganov, Faculty Dean at Moscow’s High School of Economics. This 150-page report was presented in November 2021, offering new directions and recommendations for improving policy methods and approaches with Africa.
With about 1.3 billion people, Africa is a potential market for all consumable goods and services. In the coming decades, there will be accelerated competition between or among external players over access to resources and economic influence in Africa. Despite the growth of external players’ influence and presence in Africa, says the report, Russia has to intensify and redefine its parameters as it has now transcended to the fifth stage. Russia’s Africa policy is roughly divided into four periods, previously after the Soviet collapse in 1991.
Now in the fifth stage, still marking time to leverage to the next when it would begin to show visible results. While the number of high-level meetings has increased, the share of substantive issues on the agenda remains small. There are few definitive results from such various meetings and conferences. Apart from the absence of a public strategy for the continent, there is a shortage of qualified personnel and a lack of coordination among various state and para-state institutions working with Africa. The report lists insufficient and disorganized Russian-African lobbying, combined with the lack of “information hygiene” at all levels of public speaking, among the main flaws of Russia’s current African policy.
Another policy report, titled ‘Ways to Increase the Efficiency of Russia’s African Strategy under the Crisis of the Existing World Order’ (ISSN 1019-3316, Herald of the Russian Academy of Sciences, 2022), co-authored by Professors Irina O. Abramova and Leonid L. Fituni castigated or reprimanded authorities who are squeezed between illusions and realities with policy ambitions in Africa. Against the backdrop of geopolitical changes and great power competition, Russian authorities need to have an insight/understanding into the practical investment and economic possibilities on the continent.
The authors said that: “It is time for Russia, which over the past 30 years has unsuccessfully sought to become part of the West, to abandon illusions and reconsider its foreign economic and policy strategy, reorienting itself to states that are turning from outsiders into significant players in the international political and economic space and are willing to interact with our country on a mutually beneficial and equal basis.”
In addition, the report underlined the fact that Russia’s elite demonstrates a somewhat arrogant attitude toward Africa. High-ranking officials have often used the phrase ‘We (that is, Russia) are not Africa’ to oppose attempts at changing the status quo to change the approach toward Africa. Despite the thoughtless imposition of the idea that Africa is the most backward and problematic region of the world in Russian public opinion, qualified Africanists – including Western experts, call Africa the continent of the 21st century: attributing this to the stable growth rates of the African economy over the past 20 years, and the colossal resource and human potential of the African region.
The report acknowledges the fact that African countries consider Russia as a reliable economic partner, and it is necessary to interact with African public and private businesses on a mutually beneficial basis. In this regard, Russian initiatives should be supported by real steps and not be limited to verbal declarations about the “return of Russia to Africa,” especially after the Sochi gathering, which was described as very symbolic.
The authors, however, warned that due to the failure on Russia’s side to show financial commitment, African leaders and elites from the Anglophone, Francophone and Lusophone nations will still be loyal and inseparably linked by nostalgic post-colonial master relationships. And this relates to the furtherance of economic investment and development, education and training – all to be controlled by the former colonial powers as African leaders choose development partners with funds to invest in the economy.
South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA) has its latest policy report on Russia-African relations. It shows the dimensions of Russian power projection in Africa and new frontiers of Russian influence and provides a roadmap towards understanding how Russia is perceived in Africa. It highlights narratives about anti-colonialism and describes how Russian elites transmit these sources of solidarity to their African public. To seek long-term influence, Russian elites have often used elements of anti-colonialism as part of the current policy to control the perceptions of Africans and primarily as new tactics for power projection in Africa.
The reports delved into the historical fact that after the collapse of the Soviet era, already over three decades, Russia is resurgent in Africa. While Russia has been struggling to make inroads into Africa these years, the only symbolic event was the first Russia-Africa summit held in Sochi, which fêted heads of state from 43 African countries and showcased Moscow’s great power ambitions.
The authors further wrote that “Russia’s growing assertiveness in Africa is a driver of instability and that its approach to governance encourages pernicious practices, such as kleptocracy and autocracy promotion, and the dearth of scholarship on Moscow’s post-1991 activities in Africa is striking.” Records further show that Russia kept a low profile for two decades after the Soviet collapse. Russia’s expanding influence in Africa is compelling, but further examination reveals a murkier picture. Despite Putin’s lofty trade targets, Russia’s trade with Africa is just $20 billion, lower than that of India or Turkey.
In the context of a multipolar geopolitical order, Russia’s image of cooperation could be seen as highly enticing, but it is also based on illusions. Better still, Russia’s posture is a clash between illusions and reality. “Russia, it appears, is a neo-colonial power dressed in anti-colonial clothes,” says the report. Simply put, Moscow’s strategic incapability, inconsistency and dominating opaque relations are adversely affecting sustainable developments in Africa. Thus far, Russia looks more like a ‘virtual great power’ than a genuine challenger to European, American and Chinese influence.
Of course, Russian-African relations have been based on long-standing traditions of friendship and solidarity, created when the Soviet Union supported the struggle of African peoples against colonialism. Since Africans are struggling to transform their economy and take care of the 1.3 billion population, the bulk is still impoverished. African leaders must remember their election campaign pledges made to the electorate while still holding political power.
Unlike Western countries, European Union members and Asian countries, which focus particularly on what they want to achieve with Africa, Russia places the anti-colonial fight at the core of its policy. In short, Russia knows what it wants from the continent: access to markets, political support against Ukraine and general influence in the continent. It is time for African leaders to clarify what it wants concretely from Russia during the July 2023 Russia-Africa summit.
Latest News on Business Post
- Stock Market Gains N1.5trn After Tinubu Vows to Jump-Start Economy May 30, 2023
- Wema Bank Equip Teenagers With Relevant Digital Skills May 30, 2023
- Abidemi Ademola Leaves Unilever Nigeria Board May 30, 2023
- 6 Ways Google is Working With AI in Africa May 30, 2023
- Nvidia Joins Exclusive $1trn Market Cap Club May 30, 2023
- Adesina Tasks Tinubu on Fiscal Stability May 30, 2023
- Adegoke’s Murder: Court Sentences Ife Hotelier Rahman Adedoyin to Death May 30, 2023
- Ope Banwo’s Naija Lives Matter Refocuses Priorities May 30, 2023
- Nigeria’s Dollar Bonds Rise After Tinubu Inauguration May 30, 2023
- CBN to Review Nigerian Sustainable Banking Principles May 30, 2023