Kester Kenn Klomegah, Moscow Bureau Chief
Moscow, Oct 17, GNA - Africa Active, a new quarterly publication about Africa, to break the information gap between the two regions has hit the market in the Russian Federation.
Nataliya Zaiser, the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of the magazine explained that it would bridge the widening business information gap that existed between Africa and Russia.
The idea is to create authentic business information for businesses and help strengthen bilateral relations especially in business and investment, highlight cultural and social issues between Russia and African countries.
She said in the first editorial, "there is no point in looking back at the missed opportunies. Given the relatively liberal investment climate and the relative absence of bureaucracy, Africa has long become a major investment platform for many: China, India, the United States, Australia, and European states are stepping up trade with the continent."
Zaiser, however, suggested that going forward, “it does not matter what we have not done, but it is important what we want to do, what we can do, and what we are prepared to do."
Russia has to decide its long-term strategy that would be the most efficient in the pursuit of its interest in Africa.
The new publication is the transformation of “The World of Africa” which was first published in 2010. It has the same format and cover design, and has a total circulation of 5,000. It is widely distributed through private and public institutions, diplomatic and commercial networks of the Russian Federation and Africa.
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, there have been efforts by the official authorities to address the information gap between the two regions. However, those efforts have only yielded little results, due to complaints about lack of vital business information which have dominated public speeches.
The Foreign Ministry, for example, published the text of Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov's speech on its official website in July 2013 in which he highlighted the same old problems facing the development of Russia-African ties at a session of the Urals-Africa economic forum in Yekaterinburg.
"One must admit that the practical span of Russian companies' business operations in Africa fall far below our export capabilities, on the one hand, and the huge natural resources of the huge continent, on the other," Bogdanov said.
Of course, one of the obstacles has been insufficient knowledge of the economic potential, on the part of Russian entrepreneurs, as well as needs and opportunities of the African region. "Poor knowledge of the African markets' structure and the characteristics of African customers by the Russian business community remain an undeniable fact. The Africans are also insufficiently informed on the capabilities of potential Russian partners," Bogdanov stressed in his speech, without suggesting any possible solutions.
Re-echoing Deputy Minister Bogdanov, Professor Irina Abramova, the Director of the Institute for African Studies under the Russian Academy of Sciences, also explained that: "as before, we cannot deny the insufficient knowledge of the Russian business structures specificity of Africa, its requirements, and other parameters. On the other hand, Africans are poorly informed about the possibilities of Russian partnership."
For the dearth of vital economic information, the Department of Press and Information, Russian Foreign Ministry, could grant media accreditation to, at least, a few African journalists to work in the Russian Federation to help bridge the business information gap. Most often, African political leaders and corporate businesses have to depend on western media reports about developments in Russia, according to many policy experts.
O. Igho Natufe, PhD (McGill), a Research Professor at the Centre for Studies of Russian-African Relations and Foreign Policy of African Countries, explained in his book titled, “Russian Foreign Policy in Search of Lost Influence" that in order to improve the overall relationship, Russia has to review its policy strategies to employ soft power in dealing with Africa.
Russian authorities have to acknowledge that the media has a huge role to play, thus frequent exchange of visits by Russian and African journalists as well as regular publication of economic and business reports could help create public business awareness and further raise to an appreciable level, the relationship between the two regions.
Igho Natufe, has left the Institute in Moscow to become the Director of the Ukraine-Africa Studies Centre in Kiev.
Some experts say that state support was badly needed to address the challenge with the media. According to Evgeny Korendyasov, Head of the Centre for Russia-Africa Relations of the Africa Studies Institute, such publications were good, given the complex and contradictory business environment in Africa.
He said, a systematic approach should be important to maintain working relations with Africa. “Of course, the state can largely help shape corporate interests and work out a long-term programme of exchange of media representatives and extend other kinds of assistance to the development of African countries.”
The Institute of African Studies is prepared to help the magazine, which it considers first and foremost as a source of trustworthy information for business and economic diplomacy.