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Mikhail Bogdanov’s Passion for Africa and the Critical Russia’s Policy Debates

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Mikhail Bogdanov

By Kestér Kenn Klomegâh

Russian Presidential Special Representative for the Middle East and Africa, Mikhail Bogdanov, in an April interview with Interfax news agency, offered an insight into aspects of Russia’s policy objectives, initiatives and future prospects in Africa.

He highlighted a few obstacles to the Russian government’s inability in realizing its set goals and tasks during the past several years. But what is spectacularly interesting in the interview text concerns Soviet and Russian education for Africans.

Bogdanov authoritatively told the interviewer, Ksenia Baygarova, that Africa has always been an important region from the point of view of the foreign policy of the Russian Federation.

“This cooperation is very multi-dimensional. For instance, how many Africans have studied at our universities? Back at the end of the 1950s-1960s, the Soviet Union played the most important historical role for African peoples in getting their statehood and independence during their fight against colonial rule. Of course, these historical ties give a solid basis for cordial relationships. Many generations of politicians and diplomats have changed but it is good that continuity and solidarity between our country and Africa have been upheld,” he narrated about the past historical records.

Understandably, now is the time for creating the foundation for the restoration of Russia-African ties after a certain pause which was mainly linked to domestic problems in the country. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, other problems emerged and they pushed cooperation with Africa into the background. “Some of our embassies in African countries were closed. Regrettably, much has been lost over this period, and as they say, nature abhors a vacuum. Others, western countries, China, Turkey, and India, filled the vacuum that emerged after our ‘retreat’ from Africa,” he convincingly explained.

Monitoring, researching and analyzing the post-Soviet developments in Africa with information resources on official Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs website indicated that during the past years, there have been several top-level bilateral meetings. The overwhelming truth is that some of the information pointed to the signing of MoUs and bilateral agreements, at least during the past decade. In November 2021, a policy document titled the ‘Situation Analytical Report’ presented at the premises of TASS News Agency was very critical of Russia’s current policy towards Africa.

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 meetings. Apart from the absence of a public strategy for the continent, at the same time, there is a lack of coordination among various state and para-state institutions working with Africa. Many bilateral agreements, at the top and high political levels, have still not been implemented. A lot more important issues have received little attention since the first African leaders’ summit held in Sochi.

In addition to the above, our monitoring and research show Russia grossly lacks public outreach policies that could help form good perception and build an image, especially among the youth and the middle class that form the bulk of Africa’s 1.3 billion population.

Researchers have been making tangible contributions to the development of African studies in Russia. The Moscow-based Africa Studies Institute has a huge pack of research materials useful for designing an African agenda. In an interview, Professor Vladimir Shubin at the Institute for African Studies under the Russian Academy of Sciences reiterated that Russia is not doing enough to communicate to the broad sectors of the public, particularly in Africa, true information about its domestic and foreign policies as well as the accomplishments of Russia’s economy, science and technology to form a positive perception of Russia within the context of the current global changes of the 21st century.

Under the geopolitical changes and circumstances, Russia would have to open up more especially working with strategically chosen social groups and business associations in Africa. China has such a strategy and resultantly has excellent footprints. While Deputy Minister Mikhail Bogdanov still talking about the 1950s-1960s, and about the past Soviet Union education, China’s current focus is on different forms of education, ranging from short-term, requalification courses and academic fellowships to the regular intake of African students.

With far-sightedness and long-term strategy, Beijing is very desirous to win the hearts and minds of Africa’s future leaders and influencers by offering them educational opportunities in China. It is investing and exercising soft power in the education sector, and it is reported that China provided 12,000 scholarships to African students in 2021, despite the fact that it was during the Covid-19 pandemic period.

Besides that, China has been training African civil servants and runs the Confucius Institute in some 20 African countries. It has recently opened the first Party School and admitted the first batch of 120 participants from African ruling parties who are attending the workshop at the US$40 million facility in Tanzania funded by the Chinese Communist Party. There is now a total of 81,562 African students this 2022/23 academic year in China, according to the Chinese Ministry of Education.

The data from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics shows that Asian countries have become the second most popular destination for African students studying abroad with China being number one followed by the likes of India, Japan, Korea, and Israel, among others. Judging from our monitoring and research, India has also taken steps aimed at building a more practical partnership in a number of spheres in the continent. New Delhi has a new set of opportunities in human resources development, information technology and education.

While Indian companies rely more on African talent, they do capacity building for the local population. The Indian diaspora plays its own bridging role between India and Africa. As the world focuses on Africa’s fast-growing economies, India offers many academic fellowships and internship opportunities for young Africans, it has the traditional annual training programmes in various universities and institutes in India.

The United States and European countries are investing in the youth. These European and Western countries, which Russians often criticized, train thousands yearly, ranging from short-term courses to long-term academic disciplines. During the days of Barak Obama, the White House created the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI). It brings 500 Africans to the White House in Washington and this YALI still runs various academic and training programmes for Africans. Before Covid-19, The Times Higher Education index indicated that approximately 43,000 Africans enrolled on American universities. There are many African universities and institutes with joint agreements running programs, including fellowships, together with Westerners and Europeans. That is compared to Russia’s annual scholarship of about 1,800.

The European Union (EU) has been focusing on the African youth. It embraces them with different kinds of training, fellowship programmes et cetera under its flagship policy on education. Many African countries have enormously benefited from educational initiatives during the past years. For instance, in August 2022, it offered postgraduate scholarships to over 200 young Nigerians in top European universities for the academic year. And if considering the whole of Africa, this is just the tip of the iceberg. The EU shows a consistent commitment to ramping up programmes and activities targeting vibrant young people from Africa.

France is a member of the European Union. France’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs together with the Ministry of Education is collaborating with French-speaking African countries to offer intensive orientation and educational training for 10,000 French teachers in Africa. The five-year training programme aims at strengthening France’s soft power.

Besides training French teachers, it has regular students intake from Africa. France, like any other foreign player, has been looking for effective ways of improving its public diplomacy, especially in French-speaking African countries.

From the Arab world and Gulf region, Turkey has been making inroads these years into Africa. It has shifted direction and now pursues a more diversified, multidimensional foreign policy since the end of the Cold War. Turkey was accorded observer status by the African Union. In a reciprocal move, the AU declared Turkey its strategic partner in 2008, and since then relations between Africa and Turkey are still gaining momentum. It trains more and more agricultural specialists for Africa.

In 2009, there were only 12 Turkish embassies in African countries, with five of them in North Africa. Now, there are 43. With tourism promotion at the hotspot, Turkish Airlines has flights to 60 different destinations in 39 countries on the continent while the Turkish International Cooperation and Development Agency (TIKA) has nearly 30 coordination centres throughout Africa.

Arguably, the Presidential Special Representative for the Middle East and Africa, Mikhail Bogdanov, most probably understands all these when he admittedly said in his Interfax interview that other foreign players are active and operating in Africa. Statistics on African students are, in fact, still staggering. Russia’s Ministry of Science and Higher Education, citing confidentiality, declined to give the current figure for Africa.

For the coming years, Russia needs a model template of social policy for Africa. With the emerging new world order which invariably incorporates in its fold education and cultural influence – the importance of soft power – for making alliances and inroads, networking and collaborating with institutions, in Africa. In a transcript posted to the State Duma’s official website, during the inter-parliamentary conference, Chairman of the State Duma, Viacheslav Volodin, was convinced that cultural and educational cooperation could be equally important areas needed to be developed and intensified in Russia-African relations.

Professor Vladimir Filippov, former Rector of the Russian University of People’s Friendship (RUDN), popularly referred to as Patrice Lumumba Friendship University, has underscored the fact that social attitudes toward foreigners first have to change positively, the need to create a multicultural learning environment, then the need to expand educational and scientific ties between Russia and Africa.

Established in 1960 to provide higher education to Third World students, it later became an integral part of the Soviet cultural offensive in non-aligned countries. His university has gained international popularity as an educational institution located in southwest Moscow.

“The present and the future of Russia-Africa relations is not about charity, it’s about co-development,” stated Evgeny Primakov, Head of the Russian Federal Agency for International Humanitarian Cooperation (Rossotrudnichestvo) and also a member of the Secretariat of the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum.

The Secretariat of the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum works under the Russian Foreign Ministry. It has, under its aegis, three coordination councils namely business, public and scientific councils. Primakov heads the humanitarian council that deals with education and humanitarian questions for the Foreign Ministry. While talking about initiatives especially in the sphere of education within the framework of the relationship between Russia and Africa, Primakov explicitly underlined the changing state of affairs in education and added that the number of Russian state scholarships for African citizens – for the whole continent made up of 54 African countries – has only increased from 1765 in 2019 to 1843 in 2020.

Primarily due to the coronavirus outbreak, Russian universities since then potential students have had difficulties with transportation, safety, and financing scholarships allocated through the budget. The Russian system of higher education needs to be adapted to the new realities so that it could gain more value on the international market, especially for Africa’s middle class whose kids could study on contracts in the Russian Federation. This is strictly not humanitarian aid as perceived by Mikhail Bogdanov and Evgeny Primakov.

Similarly at the Valdai Discussion Club, academic researchers from the Institute for African Studies and policy observers held discussions on current Russia’s policy, emerging opportunities and possibilities for partnerships in Africa. Quite interestingly, the majority of them acknowledged the need for Russia to be more prominent as it should be and work more consistently to achieve its strategic goals on the continent.

The Valdai Discussion Club was established in 2004 with the primary goal to promote dialogue between Russia and the rest of the world. It hosted an expert discussion themed “Russia’s Return to Africa: Interests, Challenges, Prospects” to brainstorm views on Africa. Officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Africa Department were present and noted that there have been developments in relations with Africa.

Russia claims to have substantial influence in the education sphere. It consistently claims to have trained thousands and thousands of Africans from the 1950s and 1960s as emphatically explained by Deputy Minister Bogdanov. But why currently are the African youth and the middle class, African NGOs and civil society, so remote in Russia’s policy towards Africa? Cultural issues are catastrophic, indeed! There is nothing African, except African diplomatic offices in the Russian Federation. Who runs public outreach programmes that could change perceptions in Africa?

With the youth’s education, experts are still critical. Gordey Yastrebov, a Postdoctoral Researcher and Lecturer at the Institute for Sociology and Social Psychology at the University of Cologne (Germany), argues in an email interview discussion that “education can be a tool for geopolitical influence in general, and for changing perceptions specifically, and Russia (just like any other country) could use it for that same purpose. However, Russia isn’t doing anything substantial on this front, at least there is no consistent effort with obvious outcomes that would make me think so. There are no large-scale investment programmes in education focusing on this.”

He explains that Russian education can become appealing these days, but given that Russia can no longer boast any significant scientific and technological achievements. Western educational and scientific paradigm embraces cooperation and critical independent thinking, whereas this is not the case with the Russian paradigm, which is becoming more isolationist and authoritarian. Obviously, by now, Africa should look up to more successful examples elsewhere, perhaps in the United States and Europe.

In an interview with Professor Natalia Vlasova, Deputy Rector at the Department of International Relations and Cooperation of the Ural State University of Economics (USUE) in Yekaterinburg, explained that many African countries are developing rapidly, and the African elites and the growing middle-class are great potentials for sponsoring their children’s education abroad. She explained the necessity to develop bilateral ties not only in the economic sphere but also in education and culture and to promote the exchange of people and ideas in the social sphere.

“We must use the full potential interest and mutual sympathy between the peoples of Russia and Africa, a great desire of Russians and Africans to visit each other to make friends, establish new connections. It will be of high appreciation to African countries when Russian authorities create a social platform towards strengthening Russian-African relations,” suggested Vlasova.

According to her, Russia could still offer credible alternative programmes bringing together Russians and Africans. She finally concluded: “In times of Soviet Union, African countries were strategic partners, and now we should reactivate these relations because in the nearest future they will have big economic and political power. This could, indeed, be a huge market and has a potential basis for future diversified business.”

Nevertheless, experts from the Moscow-based Center for Strategic Research acknowledged in an interview with this author that the percentage of Russian universities on the world market is considerably low. Due to this, there is a rare need to develop Russian education export opportunities, and take progressive measures to raise interest in Russian education among foreigners. This would raise the collaboration between Russia and Africa to a qualitatively new level and ultimately contribute to the economies and prosperity of both Africa and Russia.

As part of the renewed interest in Africa, Sergey Lavrov and Mikhail Bogdanov at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and top officials at the Ministry of Higher Education and related agencies have to work more on opportunities and diverse ways to increase the number of students, especially tuition paying agreements for children of the growing elite families and middle-class from African countries. It has to review its cultural component in its current foreign policy, undoubtedly, be directed at strengthening relations. It is certainly true that western and European systems classically appeal more to Africans. If Russia’s ultimate interest is to lead a fairer and more stable global system, then it is necessary to share these interests through the educational sphere in sub-Saharan Africa.

Rossiyskaya Gazeta, a widely circulated Russian daily newspaper, in the article also reported that Russia has to focus on the young population from developing countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America. It has to target the elite and middle class in these markets for the export of education which has great potential. The Gazeta concluded that Africa’s fast-growing population is a huge potential market for knowledge transfer and export education.

Beyond all these trends in the Russia-African relations discussed above, it is necessary here to recall that President Vladimir Putin particularly noted the good dynamics of specialist training and education in Russian educational institutions for African countries. Putin, however, suggested to Russian and African participants map out broad initiatives in the sphere of education and culture during the first summit in Sochi. For the joint work, there was a final joint declaration, adopted at the end of the summit. The document outlines a set of goals and objectives for further development of Russia-African cooperation.

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Rosatom Plans Small Nuclear Power Plants For Africa

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Rosatom power solar power

By Kestér Kenn Klomegâh 

At least 600 million people in Africa without access to electricity and inadequate funding for power generation, Russia’s Rosatom state nuclear energy corporation now proposes to provide, over the next several years, mini nuclear plants for generating reliable and affordable power in a number of African countries.

According to the latest information obtained at the Atomexpo-2022, Rosatom is discussing, as part of the energy mix, the use of small nuclear power plants (SNPP) and floating nuclear plants for African countries. The African Energy Chamber reports say Africa expects to achieve universal access to affordable electricity by 2030. Many countries are finding ways to expand access to electricity.

President of Rusatom Overseas (part of Rosatom state corporation) Yevgeny Pakermanov said at the Atomexpo-2022 forum that his company is holding a series of dialogues with African colleagues. “We continue to work with Rwanda, Nigeria and other countries of the region. A floating NPP may be very promising in this region, and we are also discussing the use of floating nuclear heat and power plants for the African region,” he said.

According to figures provided by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), there are around 50 projects and concepts for small nuclear power plants, or small modular reactors (SMRs), as the IAEA defines them, throughout the world. The majority of them are at various stages of development.

Leaders of African governments are keenly interested in adopting nuclear energy to end chronic power deficit, but some may be forced either to keep on postponing or completely abandon the project primarily due to lack of finance or credit guarantees.

Usually, Russia does not grant concessionary loans and has not publicly allocated a budget for Africa. But in this exceptional case, Russia and Egypt signed an agreement, and the total cost of construction is fixed at $30 billion. Russia provides Egypt with a loan of $25 billion, which will cover 85% of the work. The Egyptian side will cover the remaining expenses by attracting private investors. Under the agreement, Egypt is to start payments on the loan, which was provided at 3% per annum, in October 2029.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has reiterated that Rosatom is considering a number of projects that are of interest to Africans, for instance, the creation of a nuclear research and technology centre in Zambia. Nigeria has a similar project. There are good prospects for cooperation with Ghana, Tanzania and Ethiopia.

Foreign and local Russian media reported that Russia wanted to turn nuclear energy into a major export industry. It has signed several agreements with as many as 14 African countries with no nuclear tradition, including Rwanda and Zambia, and is set to build a large nuclear plant in Egypt.

Nuclear is too high an economic risk for countries that cannot afford to make big mistakes. However, they must be guided by Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine and Fukushima in Japan; millions of people are still suffering from radiation and radiation-related diseases today.

Currently, many African countries are facing an energy crisis for both domestic and industrial use. Energy poverty affects millions of their citizens. Over 600 million in Sub-Saharan Africa, out of more than one billion people, still do not have electricity. The industrial sector needs power for its operations and production for the newly established single continental market.

The international forum Atomexpo-2022, held November 21-22, is one of the most important events in the global nuclear sector. Leading experts and specialists from over 50 countries participated in the forum under the theme Nuclear Spring: Creating a Sustainable Future.

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Gearing Up for mid-December White House’s African Leaders Summit

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African Leaders Summit

By Kestér Kenn Klomegâh

As the White House gears up for the mid-December African Leaders Summit, several reports indicated that a few African countries might not attend. U.S. President Joe Biden plans to hold an African leaders’ gathering in Washington as a further major step to strengthen geopolitical dialogue and multifaceted relations between the United States and Africa.

The White House National Security Council in November told Today News Africa the criteria for inviting African governments to attend the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit scheduled for December 13-15. While the primary goal is to host a broadly inclusive gathering of high-powered delegations from across the African continent, a number of African countries were blacklisted.

In a statement, four countries were not invited because they were suspended by the African Union (AU) following military coups and counter-coups. Currently, four countries – Burkina Faso, Guinea, Sudan, and Mali – are suspended by the AU and were not invited. All four countries not invited are currently run by strong men who took political power with guns. The United States recognizes most African nations, except a few like Western Sahara.

According to reports monitored by this author, the U.S.-African summit will discuss the emerging global order and changing geopolitical and economic issues and will also offer enormous funds for various development projects as well as for good governance and human rights. Under the plan, Washington says the summit will focus on existing challenges, especially those relating to peace and security, food security to climate change and poverty alleviation directions across Africa.

The high-level dialogue is expected to set the scene for reviewing the opportunities for the United States and corporate leaders from various African public and private sectors and review thoroughly how to strengthen the economic partnership between the United States and Africa.

That U.S.-Africa summit “will demonstrate the United States enduring commitment to Africa and will underscore the importance of U.S.-Africa relations and increased cooperation on shared global priorities. Africa will shape the future – not just the future of the African people, but of the world. Africa will make the difference in tackling the most urgent challenges and seizing the opportunities we all face,” according to a statement from Biden Administration.

Washington considers the United States’ collaboration with leaders from African governments, civil society, the private sector, and the African diaspora would help tackle some of the existing and future challenges, especially in efforts to offer billions of dollars for various development projects, including building badly needed infrastructure and support energy security for the population.

In terms of broadening trade and economic cooperation, according to our monitoring sources, African leaders would be required to bring huge delegations for special sessions during the mid-December summit. Together with their potential American investors would examine ways for exploring and leveraging the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

The AfCFTA aims to create a single market with an estimated population of 1.3 billion population and ultimately requires all kinds of business services and consumable products. Quite challenging, though, but there are new legislations that stipulate localizing production and distribution inside Africa.

The United States government and private sector leaders, together with African political and corporate business leaders, have been consistently working over these years to share insights on critical issues and policies influencing the US-Africa economic partnership.

The U.S. Agency for International Development would be working closely with African institutions and organizations; it would be working closely on the participation of Africans. During these past months, USAID has provided approximately $1.3 billion in aid to the Horn of Africa. Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia are listed as beneficiaries to help stave off mass starvation and deaths in the drought-stricken region of Africa.

Further to that, Dana Banks, White House Senior Director for Africa, said the White House administration has been pushing for the Prosper Africa Build Together Campaign that would drive billions of dollars of investment in Africa. Summit details will soon be announced further detailed information, according to Washington and the Corporate Council on Africa (CCA).

In August, on her African trip, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said the long-planned trip is not part of global competition with either of America’s rivals, but it is part of a series of high-level U.S. engagements “that aim to affirm and strengthen our partnerships and relationships with African leaders and people.”

Her trip from Aug. 4-7 was followed immediately by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visits to South Africa, Congo and Rwanda from Aug. 7-11. “We’re not catching up. They are catching up,” Thomas-Greenfield said. “We have been engaging with this continent for decades, and even my own career is very much evidence of that.”

Thomas-Greenfield first went to Africa as a student in the 1970s, and in her career as a U.S. diplomat, she rose to be Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs from 2013 to 2017. Many American corporate business leaders have visited and invested significantly in various sectors in Africa.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has made a resonating announcement that the foundation will spend $7 billion over the next four years to improve health, gender equality and agriculture across Africa. Strengthening and supporting these sectors have become necessary due to increasing complaints about lack of funds and, worse, due to the negative impact of geopolitical changes.

It will further continue to invest in researchers, entrepreneurs, innovators and healthcare workers who are working to unlock the tremendous human potential that exists across the continent, according to the statement, noting that the Russia-Ukraine crisis was reducing the amount of aid flowing to the continent and created global instability. It appeals to global leaders to step up their commitment to finding solutions to multiple problems in African countries.

Noteworthy to reiterate here that President Biden has held several summits since his inauguration in January 2021. For instance, on December 9-10, 2021, President Biden held the first of two Summits for Democracy, which brought together leaders from government, civil society, and the private sector in a shared effort to set forth “an affirmative agenda for democratic renewal and to tackle the greatest threats faced by democracies today through collective action.”

Now the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit comes just a few months after Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken unveiled the new U.S. policy for Africa in South Africa in August. The new policy says that the United States will pursue four main objectives in Africa. The four objectives of the new strategy are fostering openness and open societies, delivering democratic and security dividends, advancing pandemic recovery and economic opportunities, and supporting conservation, climate adaptation and a just energy transition.

The new strategy begins by acknowledging that “Sub-Saharan Africa plays a critical role in advancing global priorities to the benefit of Africans and Americans” and that it “has one of the world’s fastest-growing populations, largest free trade areas, most diverse ecosystems, and one of the largest regional voting groups in the United Nations (UN).”

To realize its ‘openness and open societies’ objective, the U.S. will promote government transparency and accountability, increase the U.S. focus on the rule of law, justice, and dignity, and assist African countries to more transparently leverage their natural resources for sustainable development.

For democracy and security dividends, the United States will focus on “working with allies and regional partners to stem the recent tide of authoritarianism and military takeovers, backing civil society, empowering marginalized groups, centring the voices of women and youth, and defending free and fair elections, improving the capacity of African partners to advance regional stability and security and reducing the threat from terrorist groups to the United States Homeland, persons, and diplomatic and military facilities.”

The mid-December Summit has already gained wide popularity among African leaders and, for the second time, will be the biggest U.S.-Africa gathering in Washington since former President Barack Obama hosted African leaders in 2014.

 In addition, Obama also started the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), which brings every year a group of young Africans to the White House. Until today, YALI continues to run various educational and training programmes, including seminars for Africans. The Times Higher Education index indicated that approximately 43,000 Africans have currently enrolled on and are studying in American universities.

Angolan President, João Lourenço, in an interview with Hariana Veras, White House correspondent, praised President Joseph R. Biden Jr. for hosting the U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit, saying that it will help create a win-win partnership between the United States and Africa, accelerating industrialization, increase direct foreign investment and further cement the already good collaboration between Angola and the United States.

According to that report, he pointed to the assertiveness of the Biden administration’s focus on trade and investment in Africa, highlighted America’s commitment to Africa’s security, its democratic development, and its people, as well as emphasize the depth and breadth of the United States commitment to the African continent.

The Angolan leader advised that the Russian and Ukraine war should open the eyes of advanced countries to lead efforts in increasing investment in more alternative energy sources besides the traditionally used energy sources. As the Russia-Ukraine war rages in Europe and its ramifications are extended to other parts of the world, including in Africa, Lourenço called for increased food production and investment in African nations, saying that the global food crisis has badly affected Africa.

Despite some negative criticisms, African leaders continue sourcing different kinds of economic assistance and support provided by the United States. The African leaders are mostly western-oriented, admire its never-failing practical soft-power play, and, in turn, maintain long-term geopolitical interest with the West. The United States has political, economic and cultural ties with independent African countries.

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Kazakhstan Opens Doors to Broader External Cooperation

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Kazakhstan broader external

By Kestér Kenn Klomegâh

Kazakhstan, one of the Russian neighbours and former Soviet republics, opens its doors to a broader external expansion. Given its geographical location and combined with current political reforms aimed at transforming its economy from the Soviet system to a more modernized system infused with a western culture of life, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has chosen multi-vector policies.

Reforms began to be implemented after the election of Kassym-Jomart Tokayev in June 2019. Tokayev has consistently advocated for more openness and improving necessary conditions for attracting foreign business and investors to participate in the various economic sectors, including the cultural and educational sectors.

“I believe that given our geopolitical situation, given the fact that we have over $500 billion involved in our economy, given that there are global companies operating in our market, we simply have to pursue a multi-vector, as they say now, foreign policy,” Tokayev said in the context of growing confrontations, contractions and emerging new world order.

The 69-year-old Tokayev took office in 2019 after Kazakhstan’s previous president resigned amid protests. After surviving unrest in January triggered by fuel price rises, Tokayev unveiled reforms – including constitutional amendments and a hike in the minimum wage – and called snap elections.

Amid popular demand for sweeping change, he has recently accelerated plans to increase the amount of Kazakh oil exported west across the Caspian Sea, avoiding Russia to the north. It currently relies heavily on the Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC), one of the world’s largest pipelines that cross Russia to the Black Sea port of Novorossiisk. Out of total exports of 68 million tonnes a year, 53 million tonnes of Kazakh oil move through it.

In addition, in late October, Tokayev said that in the coming years, the authorities of the republic plan to launch a network of border trade and economic centres with Russia, China, and Central Asian countries. In September, Tokayev emphasized that Kazakhstan would make every effort to further develop allied relations with Russia, an eternal strategic partnership with China, and comprehensive cooperation with brotherly Central Asian states.

Declaring the creation of a fair Kazakhstan as its main goal, Tokayev has emphasized that the foreign policy course must also aim at the protection of national interests, strengthening of mutually beneficial cooperation with all interested states, and international peace and security.

In pursuit of sharing the fresh experience of nation-building, the president noted the importance of better quality education and the implementation of best global practices in domestic higher educational establishments at a meeting with Almaty students and young researchers, according to the presidential press service.

“Academic cooperation with the leading foreign universities is increasing on my orders. Branches of higher educational establishments from the UK, Germany, Canada, the Netherlands, South Korea and the United States will open in Kazakhstan shortly. The integration into the global education space will bolster the competitiveness of our higher educational establishments and will raise the appeal of Kazakh higher education,” the press service quoted Tokayev as saying.

Interestingly, the English language has been gaining popularity among the younger generation since the collapse of the Soviet Union. It, however, projected that the people of Kazakhstan in the future would speak three languages (Kazakh, Russian and English). As part of promoting a multicultural and friendly society, Kazakhstan has seriously made in-bound tourism as one of its priority spheres, so it has established a visa-free regime for citizens of 54 countries, including the European Union and OECD member states, the United States, Japan, Mexico, Australia and New Zealand.

Even long before the war, Kazakhstan had resisted significant leverages, including a push by Moscow in 2020 for a single currency and joint parliament within the post-Soviet Eurasian Economic Union, as part of a five-year strategic plan.

Noteworthy to reiterate here that during the discussions at St. Petersburg Economic Forum held in June, where Tokayev shared the stage with Putin, he explicitly said his government did not and would not recognize Russian-controlled regions in eastern Ukraine and that Kazakhstan upheld the inviolability of internationally recognized borders.

Kazakhstan’s government has noticeably pushed back publicly against territorial claims made by Russian President Vladimir Putin in Ukraine, souring relations between the former Soviet republic and Moscow. Russia and Kazakhstan share the world’s longest continuous land border, prompting concern among some Kazakhs about the security of a country with the second-biggest ethnic Russian population among ex-Soviet republics after Ukraine.

Kazakhstan has a GDP of $179.332 billion and an annual growth rate of 4.5%. Per capita, Kazakhstan’s GDP stands at $9,686. Its increased role in global trade and central positioning on the new Silk Road gave the country the potential to open its markets to billions of people. Further to this, it joined the World Trade Organization in 2015.

According to some reports, Kazakhstan has an abundant supply of accessible mineral and fossil fuel resources. Development of petroleum, natural gas, and mineral extractions has attracted most of the over $40 billion in foreign investment in Kazakhstan since 1993 and accounts for some 57% of the nation’s industrial output (or approximately 13% of gross domestic product).

On 6 March 2020, the Concept of the Foreign Policy of Kazakhstan for 2020–2030 was announced. The document outlines the following main points:

– An open, predictable and consistent foreign policy of the country, which is progressive in nature and maintains its endurance by continuing the course of the First President – the country at a new stage of development;

– Protection of human rights, development of humanitarian diplomacy and environmental protection;

– Promotion of the country’s economic interests in the international arena, including the implementation of state policy to attract investment;

– Maintaining international peace and security;

– Development of regional and multilateral diplomacy, which primarily involves strengthening mutually beneficial ties with key partners – Russia, China, the United States, Central Asian states and the EU countries, as well as through multilateral structures – the United Nations, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the Commonwealth of Independent States, and a few others.

Kazakhstan is the world’s largest landlocked country, located in Central Asia and partly in Eastern Europe. It declared independence on 16 December 1991, thus becoming the last Soviet republic to declare political independence. Nursultan Nazarbayev became the country’s first President. Records show that he was replaced by Kassym-Jomart Tokayev.

It was the last Soviet republic to declare independence after the Soviet collapse in 1991. With approximately 20 million population, Kazakhstan strictly recognizes its political freedom, national interest and territorial sovereignty and is a member of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

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