The new numbers are expected to see the total number of Africans in Russian universities on state scholarships rise to more than 10,000 in 2024. An estimated 6,000 are currently benefiting from the bursaries and enrolled in universities across the Russian Federation.
In what is turning out to be a strategy to place education at the core of its cooperation with Africa in the face of increased international isolation over the war against Ukraine, the scholarships announced by President Vladimir Putin, will see the number of Africans studying in the country grow to nearly 40,000 with 35,000 already studying in the country.
“Training of skilled personnel has always been and remains a traditional area of Russia-Africa cooperation,” Putin told a gathering that included African heads of state during the Second Summit and Russia–Africa Economic and Humanitarian Forum last week.
“Nearly 35,000 African students are studying at Russian universities, and this number is growing every year.
“The quota for African students financed from the federal budget has increased by 150% over the past three years and will exceed 4,700 people in the next academic year,” he added.
The country also plans to open campuses of ‘leading’ Russian universities in African countries. Besides teaching of Russian language, proposed consortiums for academic and research cooperation between the two countries will come under the framework of the Russian-African Network University, in what could be a new way of using education to fight international isolation.
“An agreement on the establishment of the Russian-African consortium of technical universities, the Subsoil Resources of Africa, was signed at St Petersburg Mining University on July 26,” he disclosed at the high level event.
“It provides for the joint training of professionals for the mineral resources sector, and I regard this as an extremely important and interesting area for cooperation.”
At the same time, Russia will continue to help African countries develop their system of higher education as well vocational training, train teachers, mentors and technical personnel for schools and colleges, he continued.
“I regard this as an extremely important and interesting area for cooperation”
Additionally, “joint schools” will be established for which “adapted teaching aids based on a combination of Russian and African national education programs are being prepared”, he further noted.
Even more important and in a major step to boost Russian as an international language in Africa, the country was planning on opening Russian schools in Africa where a number of subjects will be taught in Russian.
“I am confident that the implementation of projects such as the study of Russian and the introduction of Russia’s high educational standards will create the best foundation for our continued mutually beneficial and equal cooperation,” he continued.
In 2024, he added, an international Russian language organisation will begin operating, and will invite all countries interested in the language and culture to join.
According to Valery Falkov, Russia’s minister of Science and Higher Education, over 310,000 qualified specialists from the continent have been trained in Russia “during the history of cooperation” with Africa.
Currently, the number of scholarships for Africans had grown from 1,700 in 2020 and will stand at 4,700 by next year, the minister elaborated at a session of the event.
According to Paul Gundani, vice chancellor of the Zimbabwe Open University, there was no reason why Russian was not one of the popular languages in Africa, and universities in the Southern African country will start teaching Russian.
The time had come to develop the study of the Russian language in African universities as a first step, then develop joint scientific projects, and strengthen the program to support African students in Russian universities and send more students to study there, said Victor Kalunga Tshikala, rector of the University of Kalemie, Democratic Republic of Congo.
A total of 51 agreements focused on education and science were also signed at the event signifying a deepened education cooperation with Africa in the future.
Russia has been on an aggressive drive for African students over the past four years that has seen numbers more than double, despite deaths of two African students killed fighting for it in Ukraine.