Russia – Africa in the media mirror

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As part of the activities marking Africa Day (historically celebrated on May 25), the Russian Association for International Cooperation (RAMS), the Russkiy Mir Foundation and the Association for Economic Cooperation with African States (AECAS ) held an instant videoconference under the theme, “Russia – Africa in the media mirror” at the offices of the TASS news agency.

The roundtable was devoted to strategizing on how to effectively inform the African public about Russia and the Russian public about Africa. Almost all the participants recognized the important role that the media can play in strengthening economic and cultural cooperation between Russia and Africa.

With Russia quickly entering a new phase of consolidating multifaceted relations with Africa, participants noted that Russian state media must redouble their efforts to educate the African public and that Russian authorities must also support African media. widely interested in Russian affairs.

For a successful return of Russia to Africa, it is necessary to expand informational cooperation in order, among other things, to dispel negative myths on both sides, and to understand the prospects for informational interaction between the media in the coverage of the news. Russia over Africa. continent and Africa in Russia. The media can and should be a determining factor in building effective links.

Over the years, many experts and academics have said in various meetings, conferences and forums that in all African countries in the local media market there is an acute shortage of information about Russia. Consequently, the task could now be facilitated by the creation of an Association of Russian-speaking journalists and bloggers in Africa.

But this media cooperation, in concrete terms and in recent years, has not been prioritized by the authorities. European and Western media brands, such as British Broadcasting Corporation, Cable News Network, Associated Press, Reuters, Agence France Press, Quartz, Al-Jazeera, Bloomberg, Xinhua News Agency and so on, are active with their African partners, while Russian media are largely invisible.

In addition to the round table set in the TASS news agency building, other participants spoke, via video communication, on topics related to culture and education, on how to tackle existing challenges as well. than on the media landscape of the continent of Morocco, Egypt, Mauritania, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Cameroon and Nigeria.

Over the years, many experts and researchers have shared their observations and made several recommendations. Russia has all the institutional tools, such as Russia Today, Sputnik, Voice of Russia, Interfax Information Service and TASS News Agency and many others, to create its own positive image in Africa. Instead, Russia criticized the Western media in Africa, often talks about anti-Russian propaganda and information warfare.

In addition, the Information and Press Department of the Russian Foreign Ministry is responsible for accreditation of foreign media. It only granted accreditation to two African media from Morocco and Egypt. Both are from the Maghreb region. In African foreign policy, there is no doubt that North Africa is highly regarded as a strategic region for Russia.

However, the prospects for collaboration in the field of information in Africa, in November 2018, the State Duma, lower house of parliamentarians, during a special session on Africa called without reservation for an increased presence Russian media in sub-Saharan Africa.

Vyacheslav Volodin, Chairman of the State Duma, told the ambassadors of African countries to the Russian Federation, “There is a need to take certain steps together for the Russian media to work on the African continent. You know that the Russian media broadcast in multiple languages, they work in many countries, although it is certainly impossible to compare this presence with the media presence of the United States, United Kingdom and Germany. .

In an email conversation ten years ago, Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of the Journal ‘Russia in world affairs‘and chairman of the Presidium of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, wrote: “Soft power has never been a strong side of Russian policy in the post-Soviet era. Russian media write very little about Africa, economic and political dynamics in different parts of the continent.

“Russian media write very little about Africa, what is happening there, what are the social and political dynamics in different parts of the continent. The media and NGOs should make great efforts to increase the level of mutual knowledge, which can stimulate mutual interest and also lead to increased economic interaction, ”he said.

As early as 2014, Olga Kulkova, researcher at the Center for Studies on Russian-African Relations, noted “in the global struggle for Africa, Russia is unfortunately far from overtaking its competitors. In terms of the rigor of strategic perspectives and activity, Russia lags seriously behind the main world players in Africa. “

Kulkova further proposed: “Africa needs more coverage in Russian media. The main Russian media agencies should publish more news and quality analytical articles on the continent, as well as television reports on the spot in order to adequately collaborate with African partners and attract Russian companies to Africa.

Professor Vladimir Shubin, from Institute of African Studies, explained in an interview with me ten years ago, that political relations between Russia and Africa as well as economic cooperation would attract more and more academic discussion, and such academic contributions, in essence, would help to deepen understanding the issues that hinder building a strong relationship or partnership with Russia.

In order to maintain the relationship, Russia and Africa must pay great attention and take significant steps to promote their achievements and highlight the most developing needs comprehensively for mutual benefit using the media, according to the media. university professor.

“African leaders are doing their best to develop bilateral relations,” he added. “Really and passionately, they come to Russia more often than ten years ago, but there is still a lot to do; Russian and African media, in this case, have a huge role to play.

Just recently, the media issue was raised and debated at length again at the Second Russia-Africa Public Forum. There is a need to maximize the potential of public, cultural and commercial diplomacy using the basic instrument of the media, according to the chairman of the board of the Foundation for the Development and Support of the Valdai International Discussion Club, Andrei Bystritsky, speaking at the plenary meeting of the Second Russia-Africa Public Forum held in November 2020.

“On the one hand, the Russian public does not know much about Africa. And I guess people in Africa know little about Russia, ”he noted, and further explained that Russia and Africa need to communicate more. It is important to create the conditions for the conversation, because communication is the foundation of development and will help to strengthen the mutually beneficial ties between Russia and Africa.

While highlighting the main obstacles facing the development of Russian-African relations during a session at the Ural-Africa Economic Forum in Yekaterinburg, the Special Representative of the President of the Russian Federation for the Middle East and Africa, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said confidently: “It must be admitted that the practical scope of the business operations of Russian companies in Africa is far below the export capabilities, on the one hand, and of the continent’s enormous natural resources, on the other hand.

According to him, a major obstacle has been insufficient knowledge of the economic potential, on the part of Russian entrepreneurs, of the needs and opportunities of the African region. “The poor knowledge of the structure of African markets and the characteristics of African customers by the Russian business community remains an undeniable fact. Africans in turn are insufficiently informed about the capacities of potential Russian partners, ”Bogdanov stressed.

The last years have been marked by a noticeable reactivation of the whole complex of relations between Russia and Africa, explicitly noted Professor Irina Abramova, director of the Institute for African Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences in a report. exclusive interview with me in May 2016.

The media should more actively inform the Russians about the development prospects of the African continent, its history and its culture. Unfortunately, the Russian man in the street does not know much about Africa. There must be active work in the field of information with the African diaspora in the Russian Federation.

For Africans, so far Russia has been associated with the Soviet Union, although the majority of Africans still have very warm feelings towards Russia. But that aside, the Russian Federation in Africa and Africa in the Russian Federation are very poorly represented in the media, according to Abramova.

“It is a direct challenge – to move from declaration to action by bringing together governmental, diplomatic, scientific, economic and financial resources to promote Russian affairs on the continent. I think and will strongly suggest that Russia take the initiative to preserve the balance of interests on the African continent as it seeks to cooperate on all African issues, ”she added.

On the other hand, Prof. Abramova explained that Africans are poorly informed about the possibilities of Russian partnership. Interest in the quality of economic links, including the sector of private companies, with a tendency for growth. To do this, it is first of all necessary to establish an effective exchange of information on the investment potential of the company, to concentrate efforts on the development of various partnerships.

A number of African ambassadors and senior Moscow-based diplomats have also acknowledged in separate interviews with me that the poor media connectivity between the two regions is one of the deep cracks or potholes in post diplomacy. -Soviet, especially now that Russia is making efforts to strengthen its relations with the continent. Of course, the Russians always refer to Africa as a priority region.

In their objective observations, despite the prospects for strengthening relations, even outlined at the first Russia-Africa summit held in 2019, the African media and their representatives are hardly supported and encouraged to work in the Russian Federation. The second Russia-Africa summit is scheduled for 2022 in Addis Ababa, capital of Ethiopia.

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