By Kestér Kenn Klomegâh
Russia’s president Vladimir Putin continues lambasting 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 change the living standards of impoverished millions around the world.
But Russia largely lacks far behind with well-structured public outreach diplomacy with its supposed “friends” in the developing world. It has fragmented relations with public institutions that engage the millions of youth, the future leaders who need to be reoriented toward an emerging model of economic growth and political governance in the new global order.
Putin spoke at the final plenary session of the 19th meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club held on October 27. Under the theme – “A Post-Hegemonic World: Justice and Security for Everyone,” the four-day-long interactive meeting brought academic experts and researchers, politicians, diplomats and economists from Russia and 40 foreign countries.
In 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 country. 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, the evolutionary processes in the new global configuration.
“The so-called cancel culture and in reality – as we said many times – the real cancellation of culture is eradicating everything that is alive and creative and stifles free thought in all areas, be it economics, politics or culture. Today, liberal ideology itself has changed beyond recognition. It has reached the absurd point where any alternative opinion is declared subversive propaganda and a threat to democracy,” Putin told the gathering.
“When we fight for our interests and do so openly, honestly and, let’s face it, courageously, this fact in itself is highly contagious and attractive for billions of people on the planet. You can see Russian flags in many African countries, in some of those countries. The same is happening in Latin America and Asia. We have many friends. We do not need to impose anything on anyone,” Putin added along the line during his discussion.
Arguably there are interpretations and divergent views to the above position. In stark contrast, the United States and Europe rather relate very “friendly” with Africa and attach importance to long-term investment, especially in the youth. Russia allegedly allows its own “cancel culture” by the United States and western allies. In practical terms, creating a multipolar system deals largely with cultural and social orientation; it deals with openness and friendliness. Comparatively, Russia is only chanting slogans.
In the post-hegemonic world, what role can Africa play, what could be the expectations, and how can Russia contribute in order to realize these expectations through the use of public diplomacy? At this new historical reawakening stage, Russia has to focus on building relations, both with substance and approach, and strategically engage with African institutions.
Still analyzing the processes of creating and sustaining the new global order, it is necessary to invest in the youth. Obviously, we are talking about educating the youth, we are talking about knowledge and technology transfer, and educational exchanges. And understandably, Russia lacks far behind the United States and its western and European allies. In addition to this, Russia does little with public outreach policies that could help form good perception and build an image among the youth and the middle class that form the bulk of Africa’s 1.3 billion population.
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.
A series of reports from University World News explicitly show 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. For instance, 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.
But, the number one priority region for studies is still the United States and European countries. As the world focuses on Africa, the United States and Europe offer many academic fellowships and internship opportunities for young Africans, both regions have traditional annual training programmes in various universities and institutes in the Unites and Europe.
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. The United States and Europe show a consistent commitment to ramping up programmes and activities targeting vibrant young people from Africa.
Rossiyskaya Gazeta, a widely circulated Russian daily newspaper, in an article 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 has a huge potential market for knowledge transfer and export education.
Russia claims to have substantial influence in the education sphere. Quite interesting for the coming years, Russia still 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.
Nevertheless, 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 building of sustainable relations between Africa and Russia.
It is certainly true that western and European systems classically appeal more to Africans. If Russia’s ultimate interest is to lead a fairer multipolar system, then it is necessary to share this through the educational sphere in sub-Saharan Africa. Beyond summits and official meetings, Russia and Africa can map out broad initiatives in the sphere of education and culture. As Russia charts a multipolar system, this has to reflect in its current foreign policy and approach, especially toward the developing world, in Latin America, Asia and Africa.
Russia’s Cultural Diplomacy in Multipolar World: Perspectives and Challenges for Africa
By Kestér Kenn Klomegâh
After careful research to find the meaning and implications of the term “multipolar world” often used these days, the free dictionary and englopedia offer insights as a system of world order in which the majority of leading global powers coordinate and commonly agree on economic, political and cultural influence and acceptable directions.
Both dictionaries further explain that countries have multipolar approaches to foreign policy. Participating countries necessarily conceive multiple centres of power or influence in the world and have a multipolar approach to foreign policy. A multipolar world could mean various differences in thoughts, views and ideas regarding anything in particular that different people desire to do across the world.
It appears from several reports that China and Russia intend to lead the new world order. Speeches from both sides are extremely critical of “based rules and regulations” given by the United States and Europe. The United States’ global dictatorship might end so that the unipolar would then become a multi-polar world, in which democracy could actually thrive.
In practical terms and in order to lead a multipolar system requires an outward, broad and integrative approach. While China, to a large extent, has portrayed this practical approach which is readily seen around the world, Russia’s method is full of slogans and highly limited. With the emerging new global order, China appears more open and integrative than Russia. Despite the fact that it madly advocates for creating and ultimate establishment of this multipolar world, Russia exits significantly from the global stage, thus isolating itself and further contributing towards its own “cancel culture” instead of the opposite.
Whether people like it or not, the United States will conveniently operate within the emerging multipolar system. It has the instruments to operate within the framework of multilateralism and an integrative multicultural environment. The United States is and remains an “indispensable” power. Russia and a few of its allies in this evolutionary process, without adopting cautious steps and strategic approach, will definitely remain “dispensable” in the end.
In order to deepen our understanding of the emerging multipolar world, it is useful to make comparisons. The United States’ new strategy acknowledges that Africa will shape the future – not just the future of the African people but of the world. And as such deals with civil society, women and the youth, which it refers to as the megaphone of governance. These have an influence on policies and processes engaging policy-makers.
It further works in various directions closely with the African Union, and one more new direction is the African diaspora. The United States has the largest African diaspora with social inroads and business inter-linkages and a hugely significant impact on developments inside Africa. In contrast, Russia has grossly ignored the African diaspora and even those African professional specialists it has indeed trained from Soviet times to and currently. In the emerging new multipolar world, to overlook these would be a sad mistake from a policy perspective.
Russians seriously brush aside the relevance and the role of culture, for that matter, soft power in foreign policy while advocating for this emerging new order. Examining, in broad terms, all aspects of culture that basically includes continuing the struggle for self-determination, for creating the grounded opportunity to live in peace and preserving one’s valuable traditions. Language, of course, plays its unifying role.
Some contradictions and different interpretations might exist. On the other hand, there are divergent views and different perceptions relating to the current geopolitical changes, but frankly speaking, the study of foreign languages, including English, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, and the emerging interest in the Chinese and Russian languages, has been a long part of people’s lives, especially those who hope to move across borders and dream to have smooth interactions with other nationals from different countries around the world.
For the past three decades since the collapse of the Soviet era, Russian language studies have been low, for example, among the African population, primarily due to a lack of overwhelming interest and adequate motivation, and a lack of consistent interactive cultural activities by Russian authorities, experts at the Africa Studies Institute frequently say, and warmheartedly admit that things have slow with Russia’s return to Africa.
Most Africans prefer to study foreign languages to ensure smooth participation in interstate activities such as trade and in order to maintain relationships with people abroad. Foreign countries, for example, Britain, the United States, European countries and now China, are their traditional favourites. There are always interactive programmes and cultural activities throughout the year operated by foreign missions and NGOs.
Interpreted from different perspectives, Russia has not been a major economic giant in Africa compared to Western and European countries and China. Due to this historical truth, Africans have little interest in studying the Russian language and its culture. The Russian language itself does not sound attractive in terms of its economic opportunity, and therefore, Africans prefer to study languages that readily offer opportunities. China is making huge contributions to the continent, and this has made Africans see the need to understand the language in order to have better interaction with them.
The obvious worst-case scenario is that the Russian government has not created the necessary conditions and reasons to study the language simply because it has little influence in the continent. Besides that, the trade and commercial links between Russia and Africa are quite negligible, so there is no desperate demand for the Russian language for businessmen. Admittedly, Russia is not a welcoming holiday destination for African elites and the middle class, which is twice the total population of Russia and constitutes 40% of the 1.3 billion population of Africa. Travel and tourism is an increasingly huge business, and the unique geographical landscapes and changing attractiveness of Moscow, St Petersburg and Sochi – are unknown to the African elite and the growing middle class.
With the current evolving political and cultural processes, the West and Europe will still have a strong classical grip on Africa, influencing everything first from culture and tourism and moving onward to politics and economics. Perhaps, Russia has to play the correct strategic openness and welcome African travellers, tourists and visitors. Closing doors in these critical times might negatively distract Africa’s support for Russia.
The worrying tendency is that Rossotrudnichestvo, an agency under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, pays little attention to educational and cultural questions in Africa, compared to its assertive counterparts – USAID, Alliance Française de France, The Goethe Institute, British Council, Instituto Cervantes that operate throughout the world.
Another Russian organization – Russkiy Mir Foundation, which is directly responsible for promoting the Russian language and culture abroad, does extremely little in sub-Saharan Africa. In addition, cultural officers work in all 38 Russian embassies in Africa.
Russia appears quite removed from Africa’s development issues, it is only mentioned in limited areas like weapons and military equipment supplies to French-speaking West Africa. Nowadays, China is being viewed as a strong strategic partner in Africa, given its (China’s) strong footprints in diverse economic sectors. China has more than 20 Confucius Centers and a party school in Africa. Western and European, and China support civil society, youth programmes and women’s issues – these are completely not on Russia’s radar.
Russia allegedly allows its own ‘cancel culture’ and significantly not by the United States and its European allies. In practical terms, creating a multipolar system deals largely with cultural and social orientation, it deals with public perceptions through openness and friendliness. At this new historical reawakening stage, Russia has reviewed itself and tried to focus on building relations, both with substance, trustful and refined approach and strategically engaging with civil society, youth organizations and non-state institutions in Africa.
By and large, Russia has to intensify its people-to-people connections, soft power and cultural diplomacy with Africa. There is a huge cultural gap in new thinking, working with young professionals and associations to promote people-to-people diplomacy through business links, cultural exchanges and competitions. As Russia charts loudly for the multipolar system, this has to reflect in its current foreign policy and approach, especially towards the developing world, in Latin America, Asia and Africa.
Late October, during the final plenary session of the 19th meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club, the focus was on matters related to the changing geopolitics and civilisation diversity, the new world order and its future developments. Under the theme, A Post-Hegemonic World: Justice and Security for Everyone, the four-day-long interactive meeting brought academic experts and researchers, politicians, diplomats and economists from Russia and 40 foreign countries.
President Vladimir Putin discussed, at considerable length, so many controversial questions. According to him, classic liberal ideology itself today has changed beyond recognition. They predicted the end of the United States’ global dominance but fell short in proposing an appropriate Russian template – the principles and mechanisms – for realizing the lofty idea and approach to establishing a multipolar world.
Putin did not say anything about Russia becoming a power but awarded that position to China. Giants like China, India and Indonesia with large populations are showing economic growth; in Africa, large countries – some of them with a population of 200 million – are emerging and making progress, as well as countries in Latin America.
According to him, Russia still has friends around the world. He mentioned that in Central America and Africa, Russian flags are flying everywhere. “There are flags in European countries and in the United States too; we have many supporters there. By the way, a large proportion of the US population adheres to traditional values, and they are with us, we know this,” he added in his assertive conversation at the Valdai gathering.
Putin, along the line, argued that the support for multipolar order largely exists in the global south. Russia is not the enemy and has never had any evil intentions as regards the European countries and the United States. He appreciated Africa’s struggle for independence and against colonialism. These absolutely unique relations were forged during the years when the Soviet Union and Russia supported African countries in their fight for freedom.
In this context and in relation to Africa, Natalia Zaiser, Founder of the African Business Initiative Union, apparently talked about the new historical stage need to establish new or different institutions of international partnership.
Her series of questions to Putin: “Mr President, what is your vision of a new international partnership institution? Which basis of parities is Russia ready to offer at the international level? Which mechanisms, tools and personalities are needed to acquire new allies, partners and friends, not at a declarative level but at the level of unquestionable responsibility in terms of agreements? Do you think we should also change or build up other approaches within the future international partnership?”
Putin’s answer was: “We must, and we can focus on cooperation, primarily, with countries which have sovereignty in taking fundamental decisions. This is my first point. My second point is that we need to reach a consensus on each of these decisions. Third, we need to secure a balance of interests. Part of which institutions can we do this? Of course, these are primarily universal international organizations, and number one is with the United Nations.”
EU, IFC Launch €25m Fund to Rebuild Ukraine
By Adedapo Adesanya
A new agreement between the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and Ukraine’s Energy Efficiency Fund will channel up to €25 million in EU funds to help homeowners’ associations restore war-damaged residential buildings, the organisations announced on Monday.
The effort will support Ukrainian families amid the ongoing war and boost the resilience of Ukraine’s residential sector. Since February 24, the conflict in Ukraine has substantially damaged or destroyed the homes of 2.4 million Ukrainians, according to the Ministry for Communities and Territories Development of Ukraine.
The Kyiv School of Economics estimates that the total number of the affected housing stock in Ukraine is up to 136,000 buildings or 40 per cent of the total number of residential buildings, including almost 16,000 multi-apartment buildings. As it stands, there is not enough public and private financing to rebuild the sector.
IFC will support the Energy Efficiency Fund’s Restoration Program by channelling the EU grants to homeowners’ associations across Ukraine, covering the costs of restoring multifamily buildings that did not suffer structural damage.
The programme will cover the replacement of windows, doors, roofs, and walls, among other elements, and IFC will also help the Fund with a pipeline of reconstruction projects as well as support beneficiaries with the application process.
A €5 million pilot phase is being rolled out in Kyiv, Zhytomyr, Sumy, and Chernihiv, larger cities in northern and central Ukraine that have come under increased attacks over the last two months.
Speaking on this, Mr Yehor Farenyuk, director of the state-owned Energy Efficiency Fund, said, “This programme launched by the Energy Efficiency Fund provides vital support to homeowners’ associations to help them restore buildings damaged by Russia’s military aggression.
“This is substantial support for many war-affected Ukrainians since the program will cover 100 per cent of the cost of all construction materials and work. We are very grateful to our partners — the EU and IFC — for their engagement and support, and we hope to continue our fruitful cooperation in this area.
“Rebuilding efforts in war-torn Ukraine cannot and should not be stalled,” said Ms Rana Karadsheh, IFC’s Regional Director for Europe. “We are grateful to the EU for their ongoing assistance, enabling us to provide vital support to Ukraine during these challenging times. We are committed to supporting Ukrainians and their efforts to restore residential and other economic sectors devastated by the war.
“The EU stands with Ukraine as it fights off Russia’s aggression and supports its people. We are happy to join forces with our trusted partners Ukraine’s Energy Efficiency Fund and IFC to help rebuild Ukrainian’s homes that were destroyed by Russia,” said Ms Katarína Mathernová, Deputy Director General of the Directorate General for Neighbourhood & Enlargement Negotiations and Head of the Support Group for Ukraine at the European Commission.”
Since October 2019, the original Ukraine Energy Efficiency Fund Program, led by IFC in partnership with the EU, has channelled grants worth nearly €15 million into energy-efficient renovations of 229 residential buildings in Ukraine, of which 109 are fully completed, with the remaining 120 projects continuing to implement the energy efficiency modernizations amid the war.
As part of IFC’s broader response to the war in Ukraine, in October, IFC launched another €25 million EU-supported programme to help municipalities to renovate municipally owned buildings to host internally displaced people.
The Role of African Export-Import Bank in AU Agenda 2063
By Kestér Kenn Klomegâh
At the 12th Extraordinary Summit on Industrialization and Economic Diversification and the Extraordinary Session held in Niamey in late November, the African Export-Import Bank offered an instrumental report about the pace of economic diversification and industrialization across Africa. It was one among several review reports dealing with the present and the future of Africa.
In the first place, the African bank offers strong financial support, engages in external fundraising campaigns and collaborates with the African Union and the AU members. Beyond that, the bank gives advisory services relating to the development of various economic sectors, all these in attempts to improve the conditions, as espoused in the shared “Agenda 2063: the Africa We Want” in Africa.
With several initiatives and programmes, Afreximbank has pursued, with courage and determination, using the necessary high-level platforms within Africa and outside Africa to drum home the necessary funds for development. What is required here for African leaders to exhibit good governance, design and implement the best policies and speak with one voice to realize the set AU Agenda 2063.
While the bank has done a lot during the past few years, not many African leaders have achieved what was expected. That Afreximbank intervened strongly during the COVID-19 pandemic, disbursing over $8 billion to central and commercial banks to avert looming trade debt payment defaults and support the procurement of test kits, PPEs and other COVID-19 containment materials.
The Afreximbank supported the first ever pooled procurement by African Union members in an emergency when it provided a $2 billion financing towards the procurement of 220 million doses of Johnson and Johnson vaccines.
And as the Russia-Ukraine crisis rages on, the bank has also stepped up and already disbursed over $5 billion towards the procurement of food, fertilizer and grains. Beyond that, the bank is closely working with UNECA, the AU and the AfCFTA Secretariat to create a pooled procurement platform called the Africa Trade Exchange (ATEX), which is helping African countries to procure grains, edible oils and fertilizers at a much-reduced cost.
It continues to support the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA). During the five years to 2021, Afreximbank disbursed over $20 billion in support of intra-African trade and investments and plans to double this to 40 billion US dollars during the five years of 2022 to 2026.
Afreximbank is helping African economies to manage the exodus of international banks by financing African-owned financial institutions to acquire those banks, helping to build a strong interconnected African financial system. It is re-creating banking systems so that they can serve Africa better. It has also onboarded about 500 of the continent’s 600 regulated commercial banks into Afreximbank Trade Finance Facility (AFTRAF) and provided them with Trade Credit Confirmation lines.
The goal is to grant an aggregate of $8 billion in Trade Confirmation lines to these African banks and ensure that every country on our Continent has at least one bank that has a dedicated credit line to support intra-African trade. Afreximbank sits today at the centre of the most extensive messaging network, with connections to almost 500 banks. It has built a web that will form the architecture for an integrated African banking network.
These mentioned above are the bank’s efforts to support Africa’s economic development prospects defined by the extent of control the continent wields over its financial system, that it is access to and control of capital that defines the future of the continent.
As partners, Afreximbank, the African Union Commission and the AfCFTA Secretariat have launched the commercial operations of the Pan-African Payment and Settlement System (PAPSS). It has now become possible to conduct intra-African trade payments in African national currencies. The bank is proud to be backing settlements under this system with a facility, thanks to the leadership of the African Union and the Commission for their strong support towards this transformative initiative.
Afreximbank is working with the AfCFTA Secretariat and Council of Ministers for Trade to establish the AfCFTA Adjustment Fund. The Fund is expected to help countries to adjust in an orderly manner to AfCFTA tariff removals and prepare them to participate in the new trading regime. The Bank was earlier this year appointed the Fund Manager of the $10 billion Fund, which it is supporting with a $1 billion facility and a $10 million grant directed at the Base (Compensation) Fund.
With industrialization, the bank is working with various African governments to develop and expand Industrial Parks (IPs) and Special Economic Zones (SEZs) to deal with infrastructural constraints to industrialization. These parks are ongoing across ten African countries, including two parks in Malawi and one in Cote d’Ivoire under development. It has also commenced discussions for the creation of industrial parks in DRC, Zambia, Rwanda, Kenya and Botswana.
In the first-ever Africa-Caribbean Summit in 2021, Afreximbank has taken steps to accelerate the integration of the two regions. In early September, the first-ever Africa-Caribbean Trade and Investment Forum which attracted over 1,000 participants from Africa and the Caribbean.
Since then, about 9 of 14 CARICOM countries have signed a Partnership Agreement, a treaty instrument akin to the Afreximbank Establishment Agreement, thereby opening up the region for bank interventions. This partnership creates an opportunity for Afreximbank to facilitate and promote trade and investment flows between the two regions and attract African investments into the Caribbean and Caribbean investments into Africa.
In that regard, it has conducted successful trade and investment missions to the Caribbean with African corporates and banks to explore opportunities in that market. Plans are advanced towards opening an Afreximbank office in the Caribbean so that it can support Africa-Caribbean trade and investments better.
With the mandate to forge greater partnerships, Afreximbank is seriously working jointly to push ahead with the pan-African trade and industrialization agenda. These dynamic collective efforts are directed towards the realization of the shared developmental goals with Agenda 2063. Afreximbank remains alive to that responsibility with African Union.
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