Behind the scenes of the preparation of the Russia-Africa summit

By Jeune Afrique, Jeune Afrique

Posted on Monday, 20 February 2023 11:02
Russian President Vladimir Putin, speaking during a plenary session at the Russian-Africa Summit of Sochi (Russia), October 23, 2019. © Mikhail Metzel/Sputnik/AFP

Six months from the Saint Petersburg summit, where African and Russian journalists and influencers were scheduled to come together for an online webinar. What happened during this closed discussion?

It is a summit that satisfies every fantasy, while the Russian offensive on the African continent platforms as many hopes as fears. Less than six months of holding a new Russian-Africa summit, behind the scenes, preparations have already started.

A very discreet webinar was organised on 9 February with handpicked participants. Utilising the now-famous Zoom platform, around 60 journalists, intellectuals, and African and Russian influencers were invited by the University of Moscow and the Russian ministry of foreign affairs through the Russian African Club (a recently created organisation aimed at strengthening the influence of Moscow in Africa).

Among them was news agency Sputnik’s Vasily Pushkov, Salim Aggar, managing director of Al24 News (Algeria), Ghanaian journalist Ibrahim Sannie (formerly of the BBC), and Le Panafricain’s Abdou Karim Diakhaté of Senegal.

New votes

Among many things, it was made clear at this summit that information concerning Russia is subject to a good deal of bias on the African continent, with much of the bias coming from Western media outlets like France 24 and RFI. In the interest of amplifying additional voices, all sides were reported to have agreed to weave new partnerships between Russian and African media, not unlike partnerships that have since been made with China or the former USSR.

While Russia Today and Sputnik Radio are already available throughout the continent in multiple languages, Africa Média’s Ladan Mohamed Bachir, based in Cameroon, expressed the idea that this collaborative effort is taking the form of a media content exchange.

The creation of an association of African and Russian journalists by the Russian-Africa summit was mentioned, as well as the granting of scholarships to young journalists and influencers from the continent for training in Russia. Direct funding of certain media was also put on the table.

Disinformation campaign

Aliou Tounkara, member of the Malian Conseil national de transition (CNT), has expressed a strong desire to know Russia, with his point of view on the conflict in Ukraine to counter the France-based disinformation campaign against Russia and Africa.

The Russian military presence, via the Wagner mercenary company, was not mentioned during the two hours of debate. While many participants wanted to express themselves, a decision was made that this virtual meeting would continue soon.

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