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Russia-Africa in the Mirror of the Media

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Russkiy Mir - Organiser Russia- Africa Media Conference

By Kester Kenn Klomegah

As part of the activities marking Africa Day, (historically celebrated May 25), the Russian Association for International Cooperation (RAMS), the Russkiy Mir Foundation and the Association for Economic Cooperation with African States (AECAS) held a snapshot videoconference under the title, “Russia – Africa in the Mirror of the Media” at the offices of TASS News Agency.

The roundtable discussion was devoted to mapping out strategies on how to inform effectively the African public about Russia and the Russian public about Africa. Nearly all the participants acknowledged the important role media can play in strengthening economic and cultural cooperation between Russia and Africa.

With Russia speedily entering a new phase in consolidating multifaceted relations with Africa, the participants noted that Russian state media needs to make more efforts in getting information to the African public and Russian authorities also have to support African media broadly interested in Russian affairs.

For a successful return of Russia to Africa, it is necessary to expand information cooperation in order, among other things, to destroy negative myths on both sides, and prospects of information interaction between the media in the coverage of Russia on the African continent and Africa in Russia. The media can and indeed must be a decisive factor in building effective ties.

Over the years, many experts and academics have said, during different meetings, conferences and forums, that in African countries as a whole, in the local media market, there is an acute shortage of information about Russia. As a result, the task now could be facilitated by the creation of an Association of Russian-speaking journalists and bloggers in Africa.

But this media cooperation, in practical terms and in the past years, has not been prioritized by authorities. European and Western media brands, such as British Broadcasting Corporation, Cable News Network, Associated Press, Reuters, Agence France Press, Quartz, Al-Jazeera, Bloomberg, Xinhua News Agency et cetera, are active with their African partners, while the Russian media are largely invisible.

Besides the roundtable fixed in the building of TASS News Agency, other participants spoke about culture and education-related topics, on how to tackle existing challenges as well as the continent’s media landscape from Morocco, Egypt, Mauritania, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Cameroon and Nigeria via video communication.

Over the years, many experts and researchers have offered their observations and made several recommendations. Russia has all the institutional tools, such as Russia Today, Sputnik, Voice of Russia, Interfax Information Service and TASS News Agency and many others, to create its own positive image in Africa. Instead, Russia has been critical of western media in Africa, often speak about anti-Russia propaganda and information war.

In addition, the Department of Information and Press of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs holds the responsibility for accreditation of foreign media. It has granted accreditation to only two African media from Morocco and Egypt. Both are from the Maghreb region. Within the foreign policy in Africa, without doubt, North Africa is highly considered a strategic region for Russia.

That, however, the prospects for collaboration in the information sphere in Africa, in November 2018, the State Duma, the lower house of parliamentarians, during a special session on Africa unreservedly called for an increased Russian media presence in sub-Saharan Africa.

Vyacheslav Volodin, the Chairman of the State Duma, told Ambassadors of African countries in the Russian Federation, said “it is necessary to take certain steps together for the Russian media to work on the African continent. You know that the Russian media provide broadcasting in various languages, they work in many countries, although it is certainly impossible to compare this presence with the presence of the media of the United States, United Kingdom and Germany.”

In an email conversation a decade ago, Fyodor Lukyanov, Editor-in-Chief of the Journal Russia in Global Affairs and Chairman of the Presidium of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, wrote “Soft power has never been a strong side of Russian policy in the post-Soviet era. Russian media write very little about Africa, economic and political dynamics in different parts of the continent.”

“Russian media write very little about Africa, what is going on there, what are the social and political dynamics in different parts of the continent. Media and NGOs should make big efforts to increase the level of mutual knowledge, which can stimulate interest for each other and lead to increased economic interaction as well,” according to him.

As far back as 2014, Olga Kulkova, Research Fellow at the Centre for Studies of Russian-African Relations, noted that “in the global struggle for Africa, Russia is sadly far from outpacing its competitors. In terms of stringency of strategic outlook and activity, Russia is seriously lagging behind key global players in Africa.”

Kulkova further argued: “Africa needs broader coverage in Russian media. Leading Russian media agencies should release more topical news items and quality analytical articles about the continent, and on-the-spot TV reports in order to adequately collaborate with African partners and attract Russian business to Africa.”

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

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

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

While highlighting the key obstacles facing the development of Russia-African ties during a session at the Urals-Africa economic forum in Yekaterinburg, the Special Representative of the President of the Russian Federation for the Middle East and Africa, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia, Mikhail Bogdanov, assertively remarked: “One must admit that the practical span of Russian companies’ business operations in Africa falls far below export capabilities, on one hand, and the huge natural resources of the continent, on the other.”

According to him, one major obstacle has been insufficient knowledge of the economic potential, on the part of Russian entrepreneurs, needs and opportunities of the African region. “Poor knowledge of the African markets’ structure and the characteristics of African customers by the Russian business community remains an undeniable fact. The Africans in their turn are insufficiently informed on the capabilities of potential Russian partners,” Bogdanov stressed.

The past few years are marked by a noticeable re-activation of the whole complex of relations between Russia and Africa, Professor Irina Abramova, Director of the Institute for African Studies under the Russian Academy of Sciences, explicitly noted in an exclusive interview with me in May 2016.

The media should more actively inform Russians about the prospects for the development of the African continent, its history and culture. Unfortunately, the Russian man, in the street, does not know much about Africa. There has to be active work in the information sphere with the African Diaspora in the Russian Federation.

For Africans, so far, Russia is associated with the Soviet Union, although a majority of Africans still have very warm feelings towards Russia. But that aside, the Russian Federation in Africa and Africa in the Russian Federation are very poorly represented in the media, according to Abramova.

“It is a direct challenge – to move from declarations to deeds by bringing together government, diplomatic, scientific, economic and financial resources in order to promote Russian business on the continent.  I think and will strongly suggest that Russia should take the lead in preserving the balance of interests on the African continent as it seeks cooperation on the full range of African issues,” she added.

On the other hand, Professor Abramova explained that Africans are poorly informed about the possibilities of Russian partnership. Interest in quality-enhancing economic ties, including the line of private enterprises, with a tendency of growth. To do this, first of all, it is absolutely necessary to establish effective exchange of information about the investment potential of the business, to focus efforts on expanding various partnerships.

A number of Moscow- based African ambassadors and senior diplomats have also acknowledged in separate interviews with me that the weak media connectivity between the two regions is one of the deep cracks or potholes in the post-Soviet diplomacy, most especially now when Russia is making efforts at strengthening its relations with the continent. Admittedly, Russians always refer to Africa as a priority region.

In their objective observations, despite prospects for strengthening relations, even as outlined during the first Russia-Africa summit held in 2019, African media and their representatives are hardly supported and encouraged to work in the Russian Federation. The second Russia-Africa summit is planned for 2022 in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia.

Kester Kenn Klomegah is a versatile researcher and a passionate contributor, most of his well-resourced articles are reprinted elsewhere in a number of reputable foreign media.

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AfDB, Sovereign Investors to Develop Climate Resilient Projects

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By Adedapo Adesanya

The African Development Bank (AfDB), Africa50 and Africa Sovereign Investors Forum (ASIF) have signed a letter of intent to collaborate on developing green and climate resilient infrastructure projects across Africa.

The three entities will work together to galvanize financing and drive the development of skills and expertise within the infrastructure sector.

The signing took place on June 20, 2022, in Rabat, Morocco, during an event to launch the Africa Sovereign Investors Forum.

Under the high patronage of His Majesty King Mohammed VI of the Kingdom of Morocco, 10 African sovereign investors including Nigeria, agreed to set up the Forum.

The newly formed platform will accelerate coordination to mobilize patient capital for the continent’s development.

The signatories are Agaciro Development Fund of Rwanda, Fonds Souverain de Djibouti, Fonds Gabonais d’Investissements Stratégiques (FGIS), Fonds Souverain d’Investissements Stratégiques (FONSIS) of Senegal, Fundo Soberano de Angola (FSDEA), Ghana Infrastructure Investment Fund, (GIIF), Ithmar Capital (Morocco), Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) and The Sovereign Fund of Egypt (TSFE).

Africa50 CEO, Mr Alain Ebobissé signed for his organization, African Development Bank Vice-President for Private Sector, Infrastructure and Industrialization, Mr Solomon Quaynor, signed on behalf of the Bank, and Ithmar Capital CEO, Mr Obaid Amrane, who will serve as the inaugural chair of ASIF, signed on the new initiative’s behalf.

Me Ebobissé said: “this is an important step to building strong collaboration between the right stakeholders to meet the substantial infrastructure financing needs of Africa. We must make key regional infrastructure projects attractive and bankable for both global and African private investors and today’s signing will go a long way to address the continent’s infrastructure deficit.

“It is therefore important that we leverage the strength of the African sovereign wealth funds on the continent, who manage significant domestic savings, to drive the growth of Africa’s economies through the development and successful implementation of strategic infrastructure”.

On his part, Mr Quaynor said: “The African Development Bank’s partnership with ASIF and Africa50 would enable stronger collaborations on project development and co-financing, mobilization of capital to fund resilient, green and sustainable infrastructure and identification of investment opportunities to promote Africa’s infrastructure and industrialization.

“This is a key part of the Bank’s strategy to harness the estimated $2 trillion of assets under management from African institutional investors including sovereign wealth funds, pension funds and insurance companies for the continent’s infrastructure and industrialization,” he said.

Mr Amrane said “ASIF main objective is to accelerate the development of investment opportunities and to mobilize patient capital. As sovereign investors, we see strong complementarities with African Development Bank and Africa50, especially since our visions are aligned with regard to project preparation and capital mobilization.

“We are pleased today to formalize ASIF, AfDB and Africa50’s mutual desire to collaborate together, for we have a common objective to foster investment in climate-resilient projects, among others, according to our respective mandate.”

The collaboration agreement will also seek to address the identification and preparation of projects, a critical success factor in attracting financing to any project.

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The Era of Unipolar World Order Has Ended—Putin Tells US, Others

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Vladimir Putin unipolar world order

By Kestér Kenn Klomegâh

At the plenary session of the 25th year of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF), Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin, lambasted the United States and its Western and European allies, wholeheartedly predicted the end of the unipolar system and bristled at the idea of creating a new global order that might ensure equality and drastically change living standards of impoverished millions around the world.

Putin believes that the United States sees itself as a “messenger of God on Earth”, who has interests but no responsibility. “The United States is ostensibly unaware that over the past decades, new powerful centres have emerged around the globe and their voice is heard ever louder. Each of them is developing its own political system and public institutions and implements its own model of economic growth and, of course, has the right to protect them and to ensure national sovereignty,” Putin stressed.

While emphasizing the problems currently faced by the world’s economy at large, unfair competition among states, trade and financial wars, sanctions, restrictions, and so on, he asserted that the era of the unipolar world order has ended. The United States for the sake of ambitions and in the name of preserving outdated geopolitical illusions really don’t understand that the world based on such dogmas is definitely unsustainable.

In his opinion, “we are witnessing objective processes and truly revolutionary tectonic changes,” in the world. “After claiming victory in the Cold War, the United States declared it was the messenger of God on Earth, who has no obligations, but only interests – and these interests are sacrosanct,” Putin said. A world order based on the dogmas of unipolarity is unstable. Western elites are largely “clinging to ghosts of the past,” thinking that Western dominance is “an unchangeable and everlasting thing. Nothing lasts forever.”

New world order is still emerging but it’s clear that its rules will be created by those “who aren’t moving along a path set out by others.” “Only strong and sovereign states can have a say in this emerging world order or they will have to become or remain colonies with no rights,” Putin noted.

He further described as “thoughtless” and “insane” unprecedented sanctions imposed on Russia by a number of Western countries. “The idea was clear: crush the Russian economy violently, in a swoop, and deal a blow to industries, finance and living standards of people by destroying business chains, forcibly pulling Western companies out of the Russian market and freezing domestic assets,” he said.

Putin highlighted six principles constituting the basis for the development of the national economy during the forum. These are openness, reliance on freedoms of entrepreneurship, balanced macroeconomic policy, social justice, advanced development of infrastructure and achievement of technological sovereignty.

State sovereignty cannot be partial or fragmentary in the 21st century, all of its elements have equal importance. They reinforce and complement each other. That is why it is important not only to defend the political sovereignty and national identity but also to strengthen everything that ensures the country’s economic independence, its self-sustainability and independence in the matters of finances, workforce and technology,” Putin explained.

The president said that Russia changed in recent years through a planned effort to create a sustainable macroeconomic structure, ensure food security, enable import substitution and establish its own payment system.

Nevertheless, the sanctions have brought about “numerous difficult tasks” that Russia has to solve, he continued. “On the other hand, this situation creates new opportunities for us. We are saying this quite often, but this is really so. All of this will be an incentive to build an economy whose technological, production, workforce and scientific independence and potential is full rather than partial,” Putin said.

In a clear and concise but tense language, he expressed optimism that Russia would become stronger than before, taking advantage of emerging opportunities and new initiatives to build a better economy. With Russia under wide sanctions after sending troops into Ukraine, Putin spoke at length acknowledging the economic difficulties Russia faces as it tries to promote itself to international businesses, and the evolutionary processes in the new global configuration.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, by video link, took part in a plenary meeting together with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev. The forum brought representatives from Latin America, Africa and mostly Asia. There were a number of international organizations as well as representatives from more than 90 countries, compared to 140 countries during the pre-corona pandemic years.

Under the chosen theme ‘New Opportunities in a New World’ that reflects the changing global situations, the conference from June 15 to June 18 marked the 25th year of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) since its establishment. Over the last 24 years, the forum has become a leading global platform for members of the business community to meet and discuss the key economic issues facing Russia, emerging markets, and the world as a whole. Since 2006, has been held under the auspices of the President of the Russian Federation.

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43% of Africa’s Population Lack Access to Electricity—IEA

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lack access to electricity

By Adedapo Adesanya

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has said that $25 billion in annual investments could bring full access to electricity to Africa by 2030.

This is as the number of Africans with access to electricity fell during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Paris-based agency said Monday.

The IEA said 600 million people, or 43 per cent of the continent’s population, lack access to electricity — mostly in sub-Saharan Africa.

The number of people living without electricity increased by four per cent, or 25 million people, between 2019 and 2021, after a decade of progress.

According to IEA chief, Mr Fatih Birol, speaking ahead of the release of the agency’s African Energy Outlook 2022.

He said before COVID, there had been “lots of good developments in countries such as Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda.

“But because of Covid and the economic difficulties, we see that this positive trend is reversing now,” Mr Birol said.

It was also revealed that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has added to the economic strains on Africa from the COVID pandemic, as the conflict has sent the prices of energy, food and other commodities soaring.

“When I look at 2022, with the high energy prices and the economic burden on the African countries, I don’t see many reasons to be hopeful,” Mr Birol said.

But Africa could get universal access to electricity by the end of the decade with $25 billion in annual investment, according to the IEA.

Countries need to give international financial institutions, especially development banks, a “strong mandate” to make Africa and clean energy on the continent “an absolute priority”, Mr Birol said.

“It’s not the case now,” he added.

Africa is facing more severe effects from climate change than most other parts of the world, despite emitting less energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) than any other region, the IEA said.

“We have to see a huge amount of investment coming in Africa in all parts of the energy system, but the most important one will be clean energy options,” Mr Birol added.

“We would need to double the energy investments to reach our energy and climate goals.”

Renewables — including solar, wind, hydropower and geothermal — could account for over 80 per cent of new power generation capacity in Africa by 2030, the IEA report said.

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