Connect with us


Africans Have Sympathy for Ukraine—Tafesse



Professor Zenebe Kinfu Tafesse Africans have sympathy for Ukraine

By Kestér Kenn Klomegâh

In this snapshot interview conducted by our media executive Kestér Kenn Klomegâh with Professor Zenebe Kinfu Tafesse, a Senior Lecturer at the Moscow International University, President of the Union of African Diasporas (UAD) and Leader of the Ethiopian Community in Russia, he discusses the current Russia-African relations, the significance of the emerging new world order, the forthcoming Russia-Africa summit planned for July 2023 as well as the Russia-Ukraine war, which enters its first year on Friday, February 24. Here are the interview excerpts:

How would you characterize the emerging new global order or alternative called a multipolar world? Do you think this is good for Africa?

The impression is striking of a flashback to the West-Russia tensions that characterized the second half of the 20th century, from the aftermath of World War II until the collapse of the USSR in 1991. The two rival camps are beginning to openly sketch out the comparison, although observers note significant differences. The developments are reminiscent of the first Cold war – the confrontation between the East and the West.

It seems to me that until a new global order was formed, which everyone is talking about, there was the USA and the USSR and the rest, and now the USA and China. Of course, China is not such a virtual player as the USSR, but now rather increasingly becoming an economic power. China has done a lot for developing countries; therefore, sooner or later, it will become one of the global players… the rest of the new players are regional and are still developing. There is always rivalry in geopolitics. Developing countries, especially in Africa, value the non-interference stance of Russia and China, so if Western countries were to affirm a less moralistic foreign policy, they could shift the balance of power in their favour.

Why do you think China and Russia can lead this new direction in dividing the world? What do China and Russia have in common in Africa?

China is perceived favourably by African policymakers because it represents the aspirations of the developing world. Meanwhile, both China and Russia have greater legitimacy in Africa, considering that they did not possess a colonial empire in the region. The noticeable difference is that Russia’s investment in Africa is not up to the scale of China. Furthermore, it seems that they are not exactly allies or competitors. Now, in my opinion, they are more like-minded about their views on some things, of course, China has a goal and a plan to become one of the leaders in the world, but Russia has not seen this yet (except for the official statements of some politicians).

Do you agree with the opinion of the general public that the global crisis was started by both American President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin? And, in particular, what does Africa gain from the Russian-Ukrainian crisis?

I disagree regarding the global crisis; this is a long-standing problem of the centre and periphery of the world. These are financial and market distribution problems. It is a production problem and related to corruption problems of demography. In the end, this is the problem of the lack of faith (trust) when the consciousness of humanity approaches (it happened, the information 21st century opened our eyes to all of us), the problem of the Russian-Ukrainian crisis is a problem of humanity, from which, I hope, all strong and weak countries will learn lessons for the future – but in general, after Joe Biden’s visit to Kyiv on February 20, I think a serious conflict between the US and Russia has already begun.

Obviously, Africa is currently divided primarily due to two main factors: American politics and hegemony and the Russian-Ukrainian crisis. How are these two factors affecting (influencing) the unity of Africa?

In practical reality, Africa is not divided. According to the majority, it maintains a neutral position. Africans, for sure, understand that both the West and Russia have their own geopolitical interests, but at the same time, they understand that Ukraine has suffered. It seems to me that Africans have sympathy for Ukraine, their attitudes and perceptions are different, glaringly indicating that it’s a normal situation. I would like to remind you that Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has, several times, explained Russia’s position – that it is a balance of geopolitical interests, and this forms the core of Russia’s foreign policy. Many people believe that it is imperative to consolidate intra-African solidarity and unity in the context of these global changes, which are marked by worrying uncertainties and could have unforeseeable consequences for Africa.

What can you say about the main trends and directions of Russia’s interaction with Africa over the past few years? So, what can be expected from the next July summit for Africa?

I think there are many expected changes, such as the New Concept of Russia-African policy relations, financial relations, and state investment in Africa and Russia. The most significant positive sign is that Russia has moved from its low-key strategy to vigorous relations. But Russia still needs to find a strategy that reflects the practical interests of Russian business and African development needs, especially in the areas of industry and agriculture. The previous joint declaration has offered the road map, and now Russia has to do more to capitalize on diverse opportunities to increase economic cooperation. Of course, the forthcoming African leaders’ summit is not enough to make all decisions on various aspects of relations with Africa. But if there is a desire of the Russian state, then this will be a platform for future dialogue.

Do you also agree that Russia, at least compared to other external players, has achieved little in Africa over the past decade? What were the main problems and pitfalls in its policy towards Africa?

With the emerging new world order, it is an opportunity to move towards Africa, although many countries largely continue to have the most extensive relationships with their former colonial powers. Africa is described as rich, with enormous untapped resources. From the interpretation of developments on the side of Russia during the past few years, one can smartly agree with the fact that little has been achieved in Africa. There were many official statements, though, acknowledging this level of low performance and economic weaknesses in Africa.

On the other hand, Russia, exactly similar to the USSR, has given great emphasis or special focus on a few African countries, such as Egypt and South Africa, with reference, for instance, to Algeria and Angola and a few other countries, except for the military-technical cooperation. One point which has been overlooked or underestimated is that Russia can boost its relations by using highly trained African graduates with various academic disciplines to build links with Africa.

We have seen the level of bilateral relations in the sphere of trade, and it’s interesting to note that Russia cannot be compared with other external countries trading with Africa. I think it is important for Russia to prioritise the qualitative expansion of trade and economic cooperation. It may consider raising its economic and trade profiles with Africa in future, but Russia has not yet set such goals, in practical terms, for itself over the past 30 years.


Cote d’Ivoire Launches Startup Act to Support Ecosystem



Startup Act

By Adedapo Adesanya

Nigeria’s West African neighbour, Cote d’Ivoire, may be the latest country in the African continent to get a Startup Act as the Ivorian government unveiled the framework designed to support the country’s most talented start-ups.

The journey began in 2018, and after much deliberations, in August 2021, startup ecosystem players gathered in the capital Yamoussoukro to develop a local law fostering startups in the West African country.

Two years later, the bill was approved by the Ivorian Council of Ministers, the country’s top executive decision-making body.

The bill, among other things, establishes the terms of financing and support for digital startups under Ivorian law. Its special goal is to support the development and sustainability of these vulnerable enterprises’ creative activity until they reach maturity in order to maximise their contribution to the transformation of the national economy and the quality of life of the people.

To give more weight and visibility to young innovative companies, Côte d’Ivoire announced a new legal framework. The Ivorian Startup Act, which is awaiting parliamentary approval, should soon bring a wind of change in the entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Speaking on this recently following a meeting with stakeholders from Tunisia, the first African country to pass a Startup Act,  Florence Tahiri Fadika, who is a technical advisor in charge of innovation and change at the country’s Ministry of Communication and the Digital Economy, said, “A meeting with our Tunisian counterparts during a benchmarking study at the end of 2022 accelerated the process. Tunisia is one of the first countries in Africa to have implemented a Startup Act. Their model is inspiring because it is very operational. The benchmarking mission, organized by the NTF V project, enabled us to benefit from Tunisia’s experience and to identify good practices.”

Following Tunisia’s model, the Ivorian Startup Act is driven by a strong political will and intends to bring concrete results.

“While waiting for the law to be officially voted by our assemblies, we are already working to make the Startup Act a tangible reality. The idea is not to copy the Tunisian legislation but to adapt it to the reality of our economy. A mapping study is underway and should enable us to precisely target the needs of our ecosystem,” Fadika said.

“At the same time, we are developing construction projects for new technology parks and start-up campuses,” she said. “Under the Startup Act, eligible start-ups will be able to benefit from state-of-the-art infrastructure and numerous amenities in order to succeed both regionally and internationally.”

The beneficiary start-ups will be able to access new opportunities in terms of training, financing, promotion, and access to public contracts and international markets.

When it becomes a law, the country will join Tunisia (April 2018), Senegal (December 2019), and Nigeria (October 2022) as African countries with startups backing the legislation.

Continue Reading


Africa is Against Economic Colonization—Mudenda



Economic Colonization

By Kestér Kenn Klomegâh

Parliamentarians from Russia and Africa discussed issues of development of economic cooperation during the first day of their conference March 19 to 20, in Moscow.

The objectives of the conference are to strengthen parliamentary cooperation with African countries in the conditions of formation of a multipolar world, to develop relations and develop common approaches to legal regulation in the economy, science and education and security.

Round table discussions on the topic “Legislative Response to Economic Challenges” was held as part of the International Parliamentary Conference Russia-Africa events.

First Deputy Chairman of the State Duma, Alexander Zhukov, stressed that Africa “is a rapidly developing region with great prospects and that Russia is currently actively working to enhance cooperation with the countries of the African continent.”

“Unlike many Western countries, Russia does not have colonial experience, and the contribution of the Soviet Union to the liberation of African countries from colonial dependence is also well known to everyone,” he explained.

“An important part of the cooperation should be the exchange of legislative experience with African countries in key areas,” he said.

“Our mutual economic interests include investments, cooperation within production chains, cooperation in strategic infrastructure projects, energy, medicine, financial technologies, and that, of course, along with the traditional supply of grain and fertilizers,” said the First Deputy Chairman of the State Duma.

Africa stands for an equal partnership

Jacob Mudenda, the Speaker of the National Assembly of the Republic of Zimbabwe, stressed that there should be a “specific approach” to provide a legislative response to economic challenges.

“Africa has resources, including those that cannot be found in other countries, even in developed ones. That is why Africa is the best investment option,” he said.

“Africa is against economic colonization; Africa stands for equal partnership,” said Jacob Mudenda.

Speaking about legislative issues, he said that the continent needed infrastructure and its development, such as road improvements, rail and air transport.

“If there is no infrastructure, it will be impossible to trade even with developed countries such as Russia and with Africa,” said the Speaker of the National Assembly of the Republic of Zimbabwe.

He also noted the necessity to develop the energy sector for industry and sufficient water for agriculture.

Energy cooperation

The Chairman of the State Duma Committee on Energy, Pavel Zavalny, said that signing intergovernmental agreements was an important tool of political support for enhancing energy cooperation between Russia and African countries.

He emphasized that energy was one of the most promising areas of economic cooperation between Russia and African states. Economic growth and energy demand are shifting to Asia and Africa in global economic and geopolitical transformation conditions.

“One of the tools for intensifying economic cooperation is political support. Currently, there have been established economic cooperation with 14 countries of the continent at the state level, there were created high-level bilateral commissions, and signed intergovernmental agreements,” stressed Zavalny.

“The development and harmonization of energy legislation can play an important role in enhancing mutually beneficial energy cooperation between Russia and African countries. And that is the work that we should do in the interests of our nations,” concluded the Chairman of the State Duma Committee on Energy.

Multipolar world instead of hegemony

Jean-François Buzonni, a deputy spokesman assistant for the Union of the Congolese Nation (Congo) political party, said he was very pleased that Russia had turned its attention to the African continent, “which for many years has been under the yoke of Western countries.”

“The world no longer lives under the hegemony of one country. We see the transformation processes of a multipolar world,” he stressed.

“I am glad that Russia is seeking to develop equal partnership relations with the countries of the region for the common benefit,” added Jean-François Buzonni.

Transition to national systems of settlement

According to Maxim Topilin, the Chairman of the Committee on Economic Policy, the sanctions and pressure that Russia is experiencing just prove that “any situation in which a country maintains its independent position can lead to the destruction of all economic ties.”

“That should be a lesson to us,” he added.

Topilin said that in relations between Russia and Africa, it is necessary to focus on national systems of settlement. “It is very important not to be based on those standard principles, use those currencies that we used in the framework of joint projects,” he said.

Topilin is convinced that for further cooperation between Russia and Africa, it is necessary to create new international organizations. “We should think about new supranational institutions for recognition, certification, and admission to the markets of certain goods. There is a lot of work that should be done,” said the Chairman of the Committee on Economic Policy.

Topilin also recalled that a draft law on Islamic banking was being prepared for the second reading, and members of the State Duma plan to adopt it during the spring session. “From the point of view of cooperation with Islamic countries, that definitely will be a very serious breakthrough in the financial strategy,” he added.

More than 40 parliamentary delegations from African countries arrived at the conference, which was also attended by members of the State Duma, senators of the Federation Council, and representatives of the educational and business community. The conference was held just a few months before the second Russia-Africa summit, which is planned to be held in July 2023 in Saint Petersburg.

Continue Reading


Russian, African Parliamentarians Stand Against United States in Africa



African parliamentarians

By Kestér Kenn Klomegâh

Russia and African parliamentarians continue forging solidarity against growing neo-colonial tendencies in Africa. The parliamentarians, far ahead of their symbolic gathering, have intensified political dialogue and support for Russia’s war on neighbouring Ukraine and further expressed readiness to support Africa’s economic development.

Russia has come under stringent economic sanctions from the United States and Europe due to the ‘special military operation’ that it began in February 2022, more than a year that has adversely affected Africa. It has also divided Africa’s voting at the United Nations, with some experts arguing that such sharp divisions, in terms of voting either for or against, abstaining or keeping neutral, could influence Africa’s unity in the continent.

Some policy experts still expect high symbolism at the 2023 Russia-Africa summit as official working visits have become more frequent and Africa receives greater coverage in Russian media. The experts say instead of measuring the success of the summit by African leaders’ attendance, as happened in 2019, the parties give greater attention to the substance of the agenda, which is under development. Russia should try to increase its presence in Africa while avoiding direct confrontation with other non-regional and foreign players.

According to the experts, Russia’s efforts, for now, are not practically showing tangible results. Russia has to open its doors more to African visitors and tourists; these could bring together anyone interested in expanding all-inclusive dialogue and anyone who is ready to help promote initiatives possibly for increasing socio-economic development between Russia and the African states and raising the well-being of their citizens.

That however, undeterred by the pressure from the United States ‘to cancel Russia’ in their relationship, African parliamentarians have arrived in Moscow for a two-day working gathering to methodically develop Russian-African relations in various fields. In addition, to the political dialogue, they are also focusing on economic, cultural, humanitarian and scientific cooperation.

According to the plan, Russian parliamentarians and African colleagues fixed topical issues of the international parliamentary agenda for discussions: parliamentary support of scientific and educational cooperation, a legislative response to economic challenges, indivisible security: capabilities and contributions of parliaments, and neocolonialism of the West: how to prevent the repetition of history.

On March 20, the main conference entitled “Russia-Africa in the multipolar world” at the State Duma (the Pillar Hall of the House of the Unions). More than 40 official parliamentary delegations from almost all African countries have already arrived for the conference. Representatives of the scientific, educational and expert communities from Russia and African countries, members of the State Duma, federal executive authorities, senators of the Federation Council, and chairmen of the legislative bodies of the constituent entities of the Russian Federation.

There was a bilateral meeting of the Chairman of the State Duma, Vyacheslav Volodin and the Speaker of the National Assembly of the Parliament of South Africa, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, at the State Duma. The Speaker stressed that the Republic highly appreciated the dialogue with Russia.

Speaker Volodin noted that attempts by Washington and Brussels to isolate Africa and Russia have failed. He is convinced that the parliaments could do a lot for further development of relations on the principles of respect, non-interference in the internal affairs of other states and mutually beneficial cooperation.

He stressed that relations between Russia and the Republic of South Africa were developing with the help of cooperation between the presidents of the two states. “We have great capabilities, and we should use the parliamentary dimension to do everything to enhance our cooperation in various areas,” added Volodin. He suggested preparing and signing a relevant agreement between the State Duma and the National Assembly of the Parliament of South Africa, as well as creating a high-level commission. Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula supported his suggestion.

Mapisa-Nqakula thanked Vyacheslav Volodin for sending the invitation to take part in the Parliamentary Conference before adding “It is very important for us that Russia gives priority to the African continent. Many countries consider Africa as a great possibility to get African resources. But taking into account the history of our cooperation, we, like many other African countries, believe that Russia has other, more genuine interests in Africa.”

“Our cooperation started decades ago. And we felt your support in the worst times for us, during apartheid. We understand that now it is a difficult time for Russia as a country. But I would like to assure you that South Africa will continue cooperation and discuss areas of cooperation that are important for us. We look forward to its start,” said Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula.

The speakers also discussed issues of cooperation within the framework of the BRICS, as it is South Africa’s chairmanship. “For us, the cooperation between the parliaments within the BRICS framework is very important, as we can discuss issues of common interest,” emphasized the Speaker of the National Assembly of the Parliament of South Africa.

“Our Conference will be an important stage in the process of preparing for the second Russia-Africa summit, which is planned to be held in Saint Petersburg this summer with the participation of the heads of state,” concluded the Chairman of the State Duma.

According to reports monitored by this author, there are 17 specialized working groups that focus on various areas of cooperation between Russia and Africa. The expectation is that these working would come up with useful initiatives to be incorporated into an action plan for 2023-2026 and further cement the entire complex of relations between Russia and the African countries.

Russian President Vladimir Putin will speak at the Russia-Africa parliamentary conference on Monday, Kremlin aide Yury Ushakov told reporters. “On March 20, when the president receives the Chinese leader, he will address the 2nd parliamentary conference Russia-Africa,” Ushakov, who heads the organizing committee of the summit, said, adding that the event would pave the way for the 2nd Russia-Africa summit, scheduled to take place from July 27-28 in St. Petersburg, second largest city of Russia.

Continue Reading
%d bloggers like this: