Russia and Africa: Science, Education, and Innovation for Economic Development


Dynamic development of Africa and its demography create conditions for cooperation in education and technology

“Today two thirds of the African continent’s population are youth. This fact greatly defines our vector of cooperation and contributes to the importance of scientific and educational components,” Mikhail Kotyukov, Minister of Science and Higher Education of the Russian Federation.

“Africa has changed, it is rapidly developing. We also observe massive digital transformation. Just imagine: over the last decades the number of mobile phone users exceeded 500 million, and by 2025 it is expected to reach 650 million, with around 400 Internet users at the moment. I believe that this huge number of young people is a trend that we need to take into account in our educational programmes,” Igor Morozov, Deputy Chairman, Committee for Science, Education, and Culture of the Federation Council of the Russian Federation.

“Russia has a lot to share with the African continent. You have science, research centres, technologies. So we believe that interaction between African countries and Russia will be of great importance for both Russian companies and African countries. Russia has accumulated a lot of knowledge in the mining sector, in fishing, in agriculture and many other areas,” H.E. Mohamed Methqal, Ambassador, General Director, Moroccan Agency for International Cooperation.

“Africa is not satisfied with the catching-up development. Just like Russia, it needs breakthroughs in development of new technologies, science and education,” Irina Abramova, Director, Institute for African Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences; Corresponding Member, Russian Academy of Sciences.

Russia and Africa have extensive experience of cooperation in humanitarian and scientific areas

“We have a rich history of cooperation in education. Today over 17,000 students from the African continent are studying in Russian universities. As a result of the latest enrollment campaign, almost 2,000 people from 49 countries became students of Russian universities,” Mikhail Kotyukov, Minister of Science and Higher Education of the Russian Federation.

“Scientific cooperation also has a rich history. We have joint research programmes. Some projects are implemented by our universities as part of interuniversity cooperation. There are joint departments, joint laboratories,” Mikhail Kotyukov, Minister of Science and Higher Education of the Russian Federation.

“We have interacted very actively, including in 2014–2015, when we were fighting Ebola. This virus did a lot of harm to people’s health in Guinea, in Sierra Leone, in Liberia; and Russia helped us to contain this epidemic. We reequipped our laboratories that worked on medicines against this infection. Also, we created a laboratory for epidemiological research that studies transmission of infectious diseases,” H.E. Abdoulaye Yero Balde, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research of the Republic of Guinea.



Rapid growth of African population poses risks for the labour market and ecology

“Of course, there are problems. Among them are climate change and demography, security and peacekeeping. To respond to the first two challenges, we need to think about education. Today there are 500 million young people in Africa, but the population is to grow further. By 2040, there will be many problems, there is no doubt about that. Each year more and more jobs are needed. At the moment, only 6,000 jobs are created annually,” H.E. Mohamed Methqal, Ambassador, General Director, Moroccan Agency for International Cooperation.

Rapid global changes challenge the existing educational system

“As for the school education, the key question that we need to answer together with our African colleagues and that nobody in the world can answer yet is what the world will look like in 15–20 years, what we should prepare out schoolchildren for. School education implies 10-year planning, and due to the current global and technological changes 10–15-year period can be really unpredictable,” Pavel Zenkovich, First Deputy Minister of Enlightenment of the Russian Federation.



Implementation of joint scientific, educational and technological projects

“Less than a year ago we [Russia and Uganda] signed a cooperation agreement, and by now we have already developed two scientific and educational initiatives in agriculture and in development of mineral resources base. These projects do not exist just on paper, they are almost implemented,” Mikhail Kotyukov, Minister of Science and Higher Education of the Russian Federation.

“This February we signed a memorandum of understanding with Mikhail Kotyukov, Minister of Science and Higher Education of the Russian Federation. This memorandum included six areas. One of them is technologies for geological exploration and subsoil resources development. We are now establishing an research institute that will study our country’s geological structure; but we also need to know our resource base and the true value of these deposits, and how these resources can be used,” Hon. Elioda Tumwesigye, Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation of the Republic of Uganda.

“I believe that we need to think and discuss together with our Ministry of Science and Higher Education and representatives of African countries a possibility to create permanent establishments of the Academy of Sciences in African countries <…> Second, we need to employ young researchers with degrees in Russian institutes <…> And, finally, create some kind of foundation for scientific initiatives, embracing at least ten research areas to begin with,” Yuriy Balega, Vice-President, Russian Academy of Sciences.

Expansion of humanitarian cooperation

“If we return to Africa for a long time, we need to redistribute these resources and invest some of them in humanitarian cooperation. Then we can work together with our main operator – Rossotrudnichestvo (Federal Agency for the Commonwealth of Independent States, Compatriots Living Abroad and International Humanitarian Cooperation). Today we have eight centres in African countries, very few, because before 1991 there were 31 of them,” Igor Morozov, Deputy Chairman, Committee for Science, Education, and Culture of the Federation Council of the Russian Federation.

Digitalization of education

“The best area of cooperation with our colleagues in education is digitalization. It is not just a trendy idea, it is a necessity, because digital technologies and online education, as well as educational platforms offering best local and global practices provide access to best methods for teachers and to best knowledge, best lessons, and best additional education for students,” Pavel Zenkovich, First Deputy Minister of Enlightenment of the Russian Federation.

“As digitalization is developing really fast and young people are so into it, we have created a virtual university, and it has a lot to offer. I mean online education for our young people, for the African continent in general. I believe this is one of the most important issues that we need to jointly work on with our Russian colleagues,” H.E. Hala Helmy Elsaid Younes, Minister of Planning, Monitoring and Administrative Reform of the Arab Republic of Egypt.

Expansion of master’s and postgraduate programmes for African students in Russia

“We would like as many students to enroll in postgraduate studies as possible. So now the Angolan government is trying to send at least 300 Angolan students to the best world’s universities each year. We are happy to see that these students study in Russia quite successfully,” H.E. Maria do Rosario Braganca Sambo, Minister of Higher Education, Science, Technology and Innovation of the Republic of Angola.

“We need to consider the quality of selection of African students. This means that we need to help gifted schoolchildren, create a system of enrollment of those numerous bachelor’s degree holders in postgraduate and master’s programmes. We need to enroll students not only in Russian bachelor’s studies, but master’s and postgraduate programmes as well,” Vladimir Filippov, Rector, Peoples' Friendship University of Russia.

“We would like Russian government to work with us more closely, help us develop our studies not only in medicine, but also in other areas <…> What does it mean for us? Our students studying abroad. <…> We need to develop master’s and postgraduate programmes, so that they can receive grants and continue their scientific work,” Aiah Gbakima, Minister of Technical and Higher Education of the Republic of Sierra Leone.

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“We highly value the results of our joint work at the summit. I am sure the achieved results are creating a good foundation for further deepening the Russia-Africa partnership in the interests of our nations’ prosperity and wellbeing.”

President of the Russian Federation
Vladimir Putin

The Russia–Africa Summit, which is taking place in Sochi on 23–24 October 2019, encapsulates the historically friendly relations between the African continent and the Russian Federation. This Summit carries great significance as it is the first of its kind to emerge during a period of major global and international transformations. In response to the aspirations of the people it is representing, the Summit intends to build a comprehensive framework for expanding Russian–African relations into broader horizons of joint cooperation across different fields.

The African nations and Russia share a common understanding of international relations, based on the principles of respect for the rule of international law, equality, non-interference in the internal affairs of states, and the peaceful resolution of disputes. Both sides affirm their commitment to support multilateral actions to oppose new international threats, be they terrorism and extremism in all their forms, or declining growth rates. The two sides share a firm conviction regarding the importance of developing trade flows and supporting mutual investment in such a way as to ensure security, peace and development for the African and Russian people.

African countries have huge potential and opportunities that will allow them, once efforts to streamline their economies have been achieved, to emerge as real global players. In recent years, the nations of this continent have achieved major successes spanning the political, economic, social and administrative spheres. Africa has flourished in terms of growth over the past decade, reaching a continent-wide growth rate of 3.55% in 2018.

The African Union Summit, which was held in Niger in July 2019, continued the efforts of the African countries and saw the African Continental Free Trade Agreement come into force, along with its operational instruments. The agreement is one of the key objectives of Agenda 2063, an African development strategy that has been created to address the African people’s desire for prosperity and decent living standards.

These successes are opening up wide-ranging prospects for cooperation between African countries and the Russian Federation, and confirm the determination of African governments and their people to cooperate with multiple partners in order to establish mutually beneficial relations.

With this in mind, we express our hopes that the Russia–Africa Summit will help in the establishment of constructive strategic relations, based on partnership between two sides across various fields, and in the service of fulfilling the hopes and aspirations of the African people and their friends in Russia.

President of the Arab Republic of Egypt
Abdelfattah ALSISI