On January 25, the Valdai Club hosted an expert discussion, titled “Russia and South Africa: Is Africa closer than it seems?” The moderator was Oleg Barabanov, Programme Director of the Valdai Club.
Oleg Ozerov, Ambassador-at-Large of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Head of the Secretariat of the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum, pointed out that in the context of reformatting international relations, the very course of events has led to Russia and South Africa finding themselves on the same side. In addition to the historical experience of their joint struggle against racism, the two countries are united by membership in the BRICS and the G20 and joint participation in building a multipolar world. The Ambassador also noted the growth of trade between Russia and the Republic of South Africa and expressed hope for the further development of cooperation and humanitarian ties, not only at the bilateral, but also at the interregional level. “We have a common vision with South Africa. We stand for a multipolar world based on equality, on respect for the sovereignty of states, on their right to choose their own socio-economic models without being imposed by other centres of power,” Ozerov stressed.
Rasigan Maharajh, Director General of the Institute for Economic Research in Innovation at Tswane Technical University, listed a number of global stresses that humanity is facing, both in connection with environmental problems and in connection with economic problems. This makes cooperation between such important players as Russia and South Africa an extremely pressing issue. He provided a brief outline of this cooperation in the past, and acknowledged that its current level in the field of science and technology is insufficient. He called for its more active development, and the strengthening of the atmosphere of trust between the two countries’ academic communities. “Russia supported South Africa when South Africa was just creating its scientific and technological base,” he concluded. “I hope that in the future our research will continue in the spirit of friendship and cooperation.”
“The Russian-African topic is becoming more and more relevant, not only due to the geopolitical situation, but also due to the building up of relations with the continent,” believes Natalia Zaiser, Chairman of the Board of the African Business Initiative Union. After analysing the role of South Africa in the BRICS and noting with regret that the hopes placed on the republic’s joining the group have not yet been fully justified, Zaiser noted that it makes sense for Russia to develop cooperation with South Africa, including this platform, and not only in the economic sphere. Speaking about the development of public diplomacy, she emphasised the prospects for cooperation at the NGO level as a key element of humanitarian cooperation and pointed out the importance of the multilateral nature of cooperation between the two countries.
Mikatekiso Kubayi, a researcher at the Institute for Global Dialogue associated with UNISA and a research fellow at the Institute for Pan African Thought and Conversation, noted that South Africa continues to grow in population and needs to develop both the digital economy and other industries. Russia could offer it its potential in technology, healthcare, space, agriculture, the processing industry, and the defence industry. As a member of the BRICS and the G20, South Africa is ready to contribute to the promotion of multilateralism in the interests of all countries of the world and is open to proposals in the field of cooperation and dialogue.
Andrey Maslov, Director of the Centre for African Studies at the National Research University Higher School of Economics, stressed that the stage has come when it is necessary to move from mutual political understanding to practical steps to create joint institutions and permanent mechanisms, both at the bilateral level and at the BRICS level. In his opinion, the global majority needs its own mechanisms that will allow the development of trade relations without regard to the external decision-making centres that control the potential of world trade with the help of logistical, financial and other restrictions. He spoke about the key areas of cooperation between Russia and South Africa, noting the construction of logistics corridors with access to the Indian Ocean basin, the development of financial infrastructure for trade, and the intensification of travel between the countries, including not only tourism, but also scientific and educational programs.