Little is known about Africa in Russia, as well as about Russia in Africa. Both are presented poorly in the information space, and this is a drawback. The civil societies of our countries practically never interact, and communication must be the basis of peace and development, said Andrey Bystritskiy, Chairman of the Board of the Foundation for Development and Support of the Valdai Discussion Club, at the plenary session of the 2nd Russian-African Public Forum (RAPF 2020), which opened on November 5 in Moscow.
The first Russian-African public forum was held on October 22, 2018 in Moscow and in 2019, the Russia-Africa summit took place in Sochi. The importance of its holding was noted by all participants of the plenary session. ts importance was noted by all participants of the plenary session. In particular, Mikhail Bogdanov, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, said that the first summit gave impetus to the development of relations between Russia and Africa, and this dynamics remained even amid the context of the 2020 pandemic. Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the Federation Council Committee on International Affairs, agreed with him. He stressed that much has been done since then, but even more could have been done: the past two decades have been impeccable in terms of diplomacy, but practical deeds have not always followed the good formulations.
Nevertheless, there is a will to expand the partnership between Russia and Africa; active work is underway to give Russian-African interaction a systemic and comprehensive character. Russia, unlike its geopolitical rivals, has a unique resource that is part of its Soviet legacy: the training of personnel from the African continent in Russian universities is remembered warmly today. That is also why Russia's relations with African countries are based on the principles of cooperation and mutual trust.
Natalia Zaiser, moderator of the plenary session, said that she had read the annual report of the Valdai Club "History, To Be Continued: The Utopia of a Diverse World". Written in the genre of utopia, the report includes a speech by illusory UN Secretary General Gan Twang Eng at the inaugural meeting of the UN General Assembly in Nairobi in 2045. Zaiser said that for her, as Chair of the Board of the African Business Initiative, it is "music to the ears", and due to the fact that Africa is developing confidently, this episode does not seem to be an unachievable utopia for her continent.
Andrey Bystritskiy agreed with the moderator. According to him, the Valdai Club has written a lot about the changing configuration of the world. During the pandemic, it became clear that we live in a world of individual states, and all countries must learn to live on their own.
New opportunities are opening up for multilateral relations, and unifying international organisations are more important than ever, as interdependence grows.
“For example, the general world policy on the creation of a vaccine against coronavirus is not visible, while the countries agree among themselves at the bilateral level. Bilateral and multilateral ties represent the new multilateralism, Bystritskiy said, adding that Africa is a fertile ground for the development of this phenomenon, while Russia, in turn, can maintain a balance of power.
Andrey Bystritskiy raised another important problem: the imperfection of communications. “We live in a new informational world that is uncontrollable. The situation can be compared with the emergence of nuclear weapons: after their invention, they had to be placed under control. The virtual world, into which we all moved during the pandemic, must also be somehow kept under control,” he said.
According to him, little is known about Africa in Russia, as well as about Russia in Africa. “Our countries are poorly represented in the information space - this is a minus,” he said. The present forum is very important for the development of this area, but this happens at the expert level, and the civil societies of our countries hardly interact with each other, and this must be corrected.
Communication is the foundation for peace and development. The pandemic emphasised the importance of communication: if there is no communication, there will be nothing, Bystritskiy stressed.
The Russian-African public forum is held within the framework of the strategic objectives of Russia's foreign policy to develop and strengthen trade, economic, social and cultural relations with the countries of the African continent. This year, it is distinguished by its wide range of participants and contains a rich agenda, which includes the topics of humanitarian interaction, healthcare, the effectiveness of cooperation between the analytical centres of Russia and Africa in the field of foreign policy, world economy and international security, the export of modern Russian education etc.
The plenary session of the forum was also attended by Andrey Kortunov, Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council, Jeanne d'Arc Mujawamariya, Minister of Environment of the Republic of Rwanda, Jean-Claude Gakosso, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of the Congo, Duke Michel Ngebana, Deputy Chairman of the World Coordination Council of Russian Compatriots, Honorary Consul of the Russian Federation in Pointe Noire (Republic of the Congo).