The initiative group of the new community includes higher education institutions supported by their Governments. This will allow them to participate on equal terms in the implementation of partnership programmes envisaged by the agreement.
On Wednesday, 13 December at the Empress Catherine II St. Petersburg Mining University, an agreement on the creation of a consortium of universities "Subsoil of Africa" was signed. Rectors of Russia's first technical university Vladimir Litvinenko and Admiralty University of Nigeria Paul Omojo Omaji, who was elected president of the new collaboration, put their signatures under the document.
Its participants are more than 130 different organisations from 42 countries of the sunny continent - not only universities themselves, but also scientific institutions, geological communities and mining and metallurgical companies. Our country has been assigned a coordinating role in this structure, and this is due not only to the historical context, i.e. the positive experience of co-operation in the Soviet times, but also to modern realities.
It is no secret that in spring President Vladimir Putin initiated the launch of a pilot project to improve the system of personnel training for various sectors of the national economy. Its implementation has already begun, and it is Mining University that has made the most serious progress in this area. All of its first-year students have been transferred to a five and a half year training programme, which is the optimal period for educating a new generation of employees.
"Any state invests in the education system, first of all, to ensure its scientific and technological progress, which requires competent scientists and engineers. This is relevant for the whole planet, including Russia, but especially for Africa, as it is vital for your continent today to make an accelerated transition from an agrarian to an industrial economic model. At the same time, about 90% of universities globally, instead of producing specialists, are solely engaged in humanising young people. What is this for? Industrialised industries, wherever they are located in the world, need more and more engineers. It is obvious that technical universities should urgently reconsider their functions and focus their efforts on achieving priority goals," emphasised Vladimir Litvinenko, Rector of the Empress Catherine II St. Petersburg Mining University.
All participants of the Consortium absolutely agree that the current two-tier training system imposed on us by the West does not meet the challenges of the time. In order for Africa to escape the clutches of neo-colonialism, it simply needs to adopt a different model of higher education. It is expected that in the foreseeable future, branches of Russian universities will open in a number of mainland countries to fulfil this task. In particular, the Russian language will be taught there.
Among other areas of cooperation, the parties named the creation of joint scientific teams and engineering centres, both in Africa and in St. Petersburg (with the participation of representatives of the continent). They will be engaged in the implementation of specific industrial projects. These will include prospecting and exploration of mineral resources, assessment of natural resource reserves, analysis of the profitability of field development, as well as scientific support for the construction of processing plants to produce end-use goods.
Another most important mission of the consortium is the development and testing of model laws in the sphere of subsoil use management with a focus on state regulation. This is necessary to ensure that the main rent from the exploitation of deposits remains in the countries of Africa, and not, as it is now, in the pockets of shareholders of Western transnational corporations. Taking advantage of their technological, human and financial superiority, they impose absolutely predatory conditions on national governments, giving the population of the continent no chance to improve their standard of living.
"I keep talking about the great paradox that we have to solve. It is that we are walking on untold riches lying in our bowels, but we cannot escape poverty. We do not need half-measures, we need a solution that will allow us to take a leap forward and turn the situation around. The establishment of the Russian-African Consortium of Higher Education Institutions is the most important mechanism to achieve this great goal," Mr Omaji, President of the Subsoil of Africa Consortium of Higher Education Institutions, said after the signing of the agreement.
He also accused the World Bank and other such organisations of "artificially holding back the continent's development" by pushing its people into the "abyss of poverty". In fact, the investments that supposedly go to the development of the region are in fact invested primarily in Western-controlled enterprises and oilfields. And the loans that are issued under the guise of "humanitarian aid" are so expensive to service due to the need to pay interest on them that they are more of a well-constructed scheme to drag developing countries into debt than real support.
Almost all the participants in the event, explaining the motivation for their visit to St Petersburg, said that for many decades they had been constantly hearing promises of some kind. These promises are made, above all, by the former metropolises, which, although they recognised the independence of the colonies in words, have not in fact changed their policy towards them. The guests see Russia, which has never had colonies, as an equal partner capable of ensuring a much fairer distribution of income from joint business.
"We, for example, need personnel with competences in mineral prospecting and exploration. We hope that it will be possible to establish an academic exchange with Russia of young researchers and students who will get all the necessary knowledge and skills here. It is no less important to introduce the best international practices of effective management of enterprises in the mineral sector, especially processing plants, on the territory of our country. We also hope to learn this with your help," said Hadi Li, vice-president of the association of private geologists in Mali, called GEOPRIM.
Alexei Demidov, Chairman of the Council of Rectors of Higher Education Institutions of St. Petersburg and the Leningrad Region, said during the signing ceremony of the agreement on the establishment of the consortium that "the self-proclaimed golden billion has no right to tell the other seven billion people of the planet how to live, develop and what system of education to cultivate". He emphasised that all universities in the city on the Neva are ready to do their utmost to support partners living both south and north of the Sahara.
The same point of view was expressed by representatives of the Nedra consortium, which can be called the Russian analogue of the new African collaboration. Among its participants are more than a hundred Russian higher education institutions whose curricula include training areas related to subsoil use. As Vladimir Litvinenko, Rector of Mining University, explained at the end of the meeting, in the future these communities also plan to conclude a co-operation agreement. This will take it to a new level and give an additional impetus to the development of partnership relations between Russia and Africa.