Norms and Values
Training Highly Qualified Personnel for African Countries: The Role of Russia

Russia is extremely interested in making education accessible to Africans. Today, according to various estimates, about 35,000 students from Africa study at Russian universities. In order to make education in Russia more accessible to students from Africa, the Russian-African Network University was created in August 2021, in which 12 Russian universities participate, Konstantin Pantserev writes.

Today, the transition to a modern innovative economy with the use of advanced technologies is a key task for African countries. In order to ensure this transition, human capital is required, namely, highly qualified specialists, primarily technical specialties, who are trained by the leading universities and schools of the world.

In recent years, African countries have begun to make significant efforts to solve the problem of inadequate training. For this purpose, modern scientific and educational centres have been established in South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Rwanda, and some other African countries. However, it is clear that they are not able to meet the demand for highly qualified personnel, as the shortage affects the whole continent. As a result, many promising young professionals are often forced to leave the continent in order to receive a high-quality technical education; not all of them come back.

In many ways, in order to make higher education more accessible, African countries are actively developing online education platforms today. Back in 1997, the African Virtual University (AVU) was created, which is precisely aimed at significantly expanding access to high quality higher education and training through the innovative use of information and communication technologies.

It is noteworthy that it was originally a World Bank project that started in Washington in 1997, but later in 2002 the headquarters of the university was moved to Nairobi, Kenya, and in 2003 it became a pan-African intergovernmental organisation to improve the quality of education in Africa. Now 54 African universities are participating in its activities.

The African Virtual University regularly takes the initiative to hold various international conferences to discuss the problems of access to education in Africa, and test new educational technology aimed at making education more universal.

In 2016, the African Virtual University launched the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) online portal, which hosts a large set of various online courses aimed at developing students’ competencies in various fields.

However, in addition to the actual initiatives of the African Virtual University, a number of start-ups have been launched in recent years, aimed at helping Africans in the development of various educational programmes. Among them, the most significant are:

  • OkpaBac — Launched in January 2016 in Togo, this start-up is a platform that provides Togolese students with access to a vast array of educational resources to prepare for their bachelor’s exams. The mobile application contains lecture notes, exam tests from previous years, as well as questions for testing one’s knowledge, so that students can better prepare for exams.

  • Samaskull is a Senegalese online platform that provides users with access to a database of various educational materials. The slogan of this platform is “made by Africans for Africans”. Among other things, this platform provides access to open online courses, as well as small private online courses for those who would like to study one-on-one in private. By and large, Samaskull is an analogue of the world-famous online platform Coursera, but the Senegalese project has a very ambitious goal of becoming an innovative and open platform that allows Africans to fully control their future.

  • Daptio — This start-up appeared in Cape Town in 2013, and immediately began to position itself as a leader in the field of adaptive learning. Using artificial intelligence, it helps students find the right content, which makes it possible to build an individual approach to education.

Norms and Values
What African Strategy for Russia?
Oleg Barabanov
We see a real increase in global competition for Africa, a kind of ‘race of billions’ in cooperation programmes with it. This, by the way, gives the African countries themselves the opportunity to choose, writes Oleg Barabanov, Programme Director of the Valdai Discussion Club.

Based on the above, the following conclusions can be drawn:

1. The problem of access to higher education is still a serious problem for African countries.

2. In order to solve this problem, many African countries have launched various online learning platforms. At the same time, one of the key priorities in this area is the creation of an extensive system of online courses, which, in fact, can make higher education more accessible. Since the problem of access to higher education is a problem that confronts all African countries without exception, it is necessary to review ways to solve it, first of all, at the pan-African level. Of course, there should be national platforms for online education and they need to be developed, but still the platform of the African Virtual University seems to be the most preferable.

Russia is extremely interested in making education accessible to Africans. Today, according to various estimates, about 35,000 students from Africa study at Russian universities. In order to make education in Russia more accessible to students from Africa, the Russian-African Network University was created in August 2021, in which 12 Russian universities participate.

According to Russian Minister of Science and Higher Education Valery Falkov, the creation of this University should help strengthen cooperation in the field of education, science and economic development between Russia and African countries.

The importance of the Russian-African Network University was also discussed in March 2023 at the Russia-Africa Interparliamentary Conference by Konstantin Mogilevsky, Deputy Minister of Science and Higher Education. However, we have to admit that during the entire period of its existence, the Russian-African Network University has not been able to fully solve the tasks it faces and become a kind of driver for effective cooperation between Russia and Africa in the field of education. Perhaps this is due to the fact that not all the leading universities of the country are taking part in the work of this University. Participants in the project include Kazan Federal University, the Southern Federal University, the Pushkin State Institute of the Russian Language, and the A. O. Kovalensky RAS Institute of Biology of the Southern Seas Federal Research Centre. But at the same time, neither People’s Friendship University, nor Moscow State University, nor St. Petersburg State University are among the participants.

Nevertheless, it is certainly necessary to develop this platform, one should follow the path, on the one hand, of involving all the leading universities in Russia and the leading universities of African countries, and on the other hand, establishing cooperation with the African Virtual University, which is the leading supplier of online courses for African countries.

Russia-Africa: Two Halves of the Planet’s Heart
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Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.