Norms and Values
Russia and Africa: Working Together for a Better World

It is in our hands to improve, expand, and consolidate Russia-Africa Relations. The five foundations of historical, political, economic, scientific and academic, and security offer us a good-enough pathway towards our common and shared futures, writes Rasigan Maharajh in the run-up to the Russia-Africa conference of the Valdai Club.

Nelson Mandela International Day commemorates the life of Tata Madiba and his inspirational role in the struggle against colonialism and apartheid. The theme for 2023 is derived from Mandela’s statement in addressing the scourge of poverty, suffering and deprivation, where he said: “It is in your hands to make our world a better one for all, especially the poor, vulnerable and marginalised”.

The Valdai Club’s report “Russia and Africa: An Audit of Relations“ clearly resonates with the theme of Nelson Mandela Day as the relationship between the Russian Federation and the continent of Africa already occupies our thoughts and deeds and therefore it will ultimately bein our hands to realise.The Report offers a critical review of the period since the 2019 Russia-Africa Summit, whilst also providing more in-depth analysis of the longer historical relationship between the Russian Federation and the continent of Africa, and also proposing mechanisms gleaned from studying a number of other international initiatives which sought to advance closer engagements with Africa.

Norms and Values
What Africa Expects From Russia
Nourhan ElSheikh
The Russian-African partnership is the core for a new multipolar world order that would be more fair and just for all. Africa expects a lot from Russia. Historical cooperation between the two and the huge capabilities that Russia possesses confirm its ability to meet these expectations and move forward together to the future, writes Valdai Club expert Nourhan ElSheikh.

At the onset, it is crucial to realise that we are not comparing equivalent units of analysis. Whilst the Russian Federation is a constitutionally mandated political entity, Africa is the second most populous continent in the world. Based on the demographic estimates of the United Nations, Africa is currently home to at least 1.46 billion people, or approximately 17.89% of the total world population. The uncertainty about the true population size of all of the 55 member states of the African Union draws our attention to a significant constraint in the continent’s development which are its capacities, capabilities, and competences in research, statistics, science, and technology.

It is therefore important to acknowledge that the Audit Report correctly proposes that “Universities [are] key to creating stable Russian African relations”. This assertion it itself a reflection of learning from the praxis of solidarity and cooperation between the Soviet Union and the struggles for decolonisation and against imperialism. Such learning and teaching in the context of collaborative struggles forged bonds that persist long since the disestablishment of the USSR.

The Audit Report also recognises the withdrawal of interest by the Russian Federation from Africa in its adoption of capitalist reconstruction in the last decade of the 20thcentury, and the subsequent generation of a lacuna in knowledge about each territory and its peoples since then. Our contemporary conjuncture remains mired in combined and uneven development. The polycrises resulting from the contradictions of unequal exchange and the battle for hegemony in world systems are converging to illuminate extreme precarities and vulnerabilities that demand our urgent attention.

The recent report of the UN Global Crisis Response Group has just pronounced that “Countries are facing the impossible choice of servicing their debt or serving their people. Today, 3.3 billion people live in countries that spend more on interest payments than on education or health”. Our International Systems of Payments are also constrained by the predominance of some and the weaponization of the global reserve currency against others; thereby furthering unequal power relations. Core to ensuring a better world for all is a more equitable distribution of knowledge capacities, capabilities, and competences. The authors of the Audit Report must also be complimented for recognising that “Enlightenment [is] a key to developing ties between Russia and the African continent”.

The other aspect worth paying further attention to is the concession that it would prove more efficient to join in with continental initiatives rather than merely pushing individual projects. Some additional elements to compliment the focus on building the Africa of the Future could include engaging with the five sub-regional economic communities that are advancing the African Continental Free Trade Area.

Russia has a wealth of scientific and technological expertise and competences that can help in all these endeavours. Core science, technology, and innovation tools would undoubtedly add value to efforts currently being undertaken. Such initiative also holds the prospects for mutual learning and re-installing trust and cooperation.

As the 2023 Mandela Day theme advises us all: It is in our hands to improve, expand, and consolidate Russia-Africa Relations. The five foundations of historical, political, economic, scientific and academic,and security offer us a good-enough pathway towards our common and shared futures.

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.