Africa and Russia are planning to cooperate more closely in the higher education and scientific research spheres, including formulating joint research and educational projects in nuclear, space, and digital technologies along with artificial intelligence, networking among Russian and African universities, and enhancing student and academic mobility.
The plan was outlined in a declaration that was adopted at the second Russia-Africa Economic and Humanitarian Forum: For Peace, security, and Development held in St. Petersburg, Russia from 27 to 28 July.
University World News reports that the summit marked the second event of its kind. The first one was held in Russia in 2019 and is part of ongoing efforts by Russia to increase its geopolitical influence amid anti-European and anti-United States sentiment in many parts of the continent.
The near absence of Russian foreign direct investment in Africa highlights its reliance on other tools to exert influence, including cooperation with countries in the education sphere.
From some quarters within the academic community, there is concern that the higher education plan is little more than an attempt by Russia to counter the influence of China, countries that form part of the European Union (EU), and the United States in Africa.
Professor Kwadwo Appiagyei-Atua of the School of Law at the University of Ghana told University World News that the Africa-Russia higher education plan is a revisitation of “the Soviet cultural offensive” launched in the 1960s for the “Sovietisation of Africa as an ideological and geopolitical tool to counter Western imperialism”.
“At present, higher education in Africa is going through many challenges which have provoked [it] to resort to marketisation, managerialism and attempts to commodify knowledge through reform activities by the Bretton Woods institutions, including the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank,” Appiagyei-Atua said.
“Also, reliance on internationalisation programmes between Western and African universities has not helped as the relationship is structured and executed in ways that reflect legacies of colonial expansion. African countries are very likely to be attracted to this bait and swallow it – hook, line, and sinker.
“It is going to lead to a realignment of states to the various geopolitical interests in a new Cold War which is resulting in the creation of a tri-polar world,” Appiagyei-Atua predicted.