VUCA: A Gateway to Russia-Africa Cooperation and Development?

Russia's position in Africa is unique. It is founded on well-established historical ties and on the fact that Moscow owns resources and technologies that are now in demand on the Black Continent. However, these relations can become even more effective. According to the participant of the special session of the XVI Annual Meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club, titled “Africa: Prospects, Opportunities, Risks, Threats” Alexandra Arkhangelskaya, that requires more analysis and improving dialogue with the regional countries.

Wherever we look around us, we find claims and concerns that the world is increasingly getting out of control. Whether it is the business press, the media more generally, or our personal conversations, we are witnessing an increased feeling of uncertainty, turbulence, and change. This feeling has recently culminated in the notion of ‘VUCA’, the idea that the world has become unprecedentedly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. Through digitalization, big data, artificial intelligence, robotization, (de)globalization, terrorism, financial crises, climate change and global shifts in power, we feel an increased volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity in the world around us. How does this relate to Africa: Prospects, Opportunities, Risks, Threats and Russia?

Africa and Russia have a long history of friendship. In the context of growing interests of Russia – Africa relationship, the upcoming Russia-Africa summit, together with a permanent seat on the UN Security Council and a large commercial role in military cooperation, Russia’s importance to the continent needs to be better understood both for the efficacy of the relationship and a more contextualized assessment of its impact on African business and development prospects.

Russia’s position in Africa is unique in comparison to the old and the new players in that it has a mixture of a historical presence in independent Africa cemented by ties to African elites and considerable experience, knowledge and techniques needed for the fast developing African states.

Russia’s importance to the continent needs to be better understood:

First, the history and the nature of  Russian - African relations.

Second, the contemporary ambience for bilateral relations. The world order is undergoing significant changes, VUCA is here. There is a process of power shift that must be acknowledged.

Third, it is essential to understand current foreign policy principles of Russia and African states. It is important to understand the current Russian imperatives on the world arena. The foreign policy doctrine as well as some recent events should be revised to estimate the place and role of Africa in Russian politics.

Moreover, the last few years of bilateral relations should go under revision to draw a conclusion on the nature and perspectives of development of bilateral initiatives in politics, business and culture as well as potential for the future development of partnership relations between Russia and the African continent.

Expansion of many-sided ties with African states meets Russia’s interests, it allows “to employ the African factor for advancing Russian interests in the international arena” and tackling its own economic tasks. It regards “the cooperation potential that was amassed in previous decades, including traditional ties with leading elites of African states, the experience of interaction in the economic, commercial, scientific, technological, investment and other fields, and the similar approaches to shaping a new world pattern resting on the principles of equality of all states, multilateral diplomacy and respect for international law” as “important prerequisites” for expanding multifaceted interaction. So “it is necessary to persistently search further for ways to streamline dialogue with the countries of Africa and their regional and sub-regional organizations, primarily the African Union”. The level of political cooperation is high.

We are yet to explore the levels of economic and strategic cooperation in the waters of VUCA which could be regarded as the times of opportunities when all the traditional principle and frameworks are questioned on the terms of efficiency, longevity and adequate response.

African Vector in the Russian Foreign Policy
Nathalia Zaiser
Russia is ready to actively expand, strengthen and solidify a dialogue with African partners, both with respect to general international issues and on various aspects of bilateral relations.
Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.