PIR Center Publishes a New Analytical Report on the Potential of Sub-Saharan African States in High-Tech and the Prospects for Promoting Russia`s Interests

January 15, 2024

MOSCOW. JANUARY 15, 2023. PIR PRESS. «Certainly, the Russian perspective and the tools we have for establishing economic and technological cooperation with Sub-Saharan African countries are of particular interest in research in both the near and foreseeable future. We have something to offer African states, which, in turn, have substantial reasons to rely on Russian contributions and technologies in specific areas, where we possess undeniable competitive advantages and rich experience in international collaboration. …I would like to emphasize the relevance of the research, its practical significance in understanding the importance of high technologies for African states as a driver of economic and social progress. For Russia, the turn towards Africa (as well as Asia) is not a momentary but a strategic long-term task. It signifies the emergence of new horizons for cooperation, as well as undeniable risks that can be calculated and anticipated in advance, based on serious studies of the African market and the political context surrounding it», — Mr. Igor Vishnevetsky, independent expert, Former Deputy Director of the Department for Nonproliferation and Arms Control of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, reviewer of the report High-Tech Renaissance in Sub-Saharan Africa: Challenges and Opportunities for Russia.

PIR Center published a new analytical report, dedicated to the potential of Sub-Saharan African states in the field of high technologies and the prospects for promoting Russia’s interests in this area. The report was prepared by Mr. Leonid Tsukanov, Consultant of the PIR Center`s Global & Regional Security: New Ideas for Russia Program under the scientific supervision of Dr. Vladimir Orlov, PIR Center Founding Director, Professor at MGIMO University.

As the global order transforms, the role of the African continent in international relations is changing. The region is increasingly viewed not only as an exporter of instability and a stage for geopolitical games of superpowers but also as a rapidly developing market for high technologies and cutting-edge solutions. The New Africa, discussed by experts since the 2000s, is gradually taking shape and asserting its share in the high-tech market.

Particular attention is drawn to Sub-Saharan Africa, a large cluster where the enduring influence of past connections (the so-called colonial legacy) combines with the aspirations of national states to play a leading role in advanced sectors of the economy. This, in turn, evokes both interest and deep concern in the expert community and among decision-makers, as Africa’s transformation course is associated with numerous risks to international security.

Against this backdrop, it becomes relevant to assess the current positions of African states in the high-tech market, as well as the role that external players (including Russia) can play in the ongoing transformation of the region.

The research focused on studying several categories within the high-tech group, including:

  • cybersecurity and emerging technologies (cybersecurity, fintech industry, robotics, cryptocurrency operations);
  • energy (renewable energy sources, nuclear energy);
  • space research (satellite and space programs);
  • biotechnology (advanced medical technologies).

Methodological foundation of the research contains materials from international organizations, reports and documents from regional ministries and agencies, media materials, and statistical databases. Various methods of scientific inquiry were applied, such as systems analysis, event analysis, modeling, SWOT analysis, case-study, and others.

“Today, amidst the current instability and powerful political turbulence, Russia faces an urgent need to seek new foreign policy allies. Indeed, African countries are of certain interest to Russia, and the intensification of scientific and technological cooperation is one of the most promising directions. In this regard, Leonid Tsukanov’s report is very relevant and extremely timely (and, one might even say, long-awaited). Currently, there is a lack of systematic work on this issue in Russia. In the presented analytical report, the author provides a comprehensive overview of the scientific and technological policies of Sub-Saharan African countries, considers their high-tech potential, and reviews some technologies whose development the author sees as crucial for this region. Most importantly, Leonid Tsukanov conducts a serious analysis of the prospects for the development of scientific and technological cooperation between Russia and the target states,” — notes Dr. Sergey Sebekin, expert at the Institute for Contemporary International Studies of the Diplomatic Academy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, senior lecturer at the Department of Political Science, History and Regional Studies of Irkutsk State University.

So, the technological dimension of Sub-Saharan African countries is in a phase of active transformation. The majority of regional states view the high-tech sector as a potential area for development and express readiness to invest in its advancement. However, only a smaller portion of them has sustainable positions. The most active players capable of operating in high-tech industries on a global level include South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, and Kenya.

Overall, favorable conditions have emerged in the region for Russia to increase its presence in the national high-tech markets — primarily in the areas of cybersecurity, E-Gov, electronic education, as well as atomic and hydro energy. Moscow is less subject to the influence of colonial discourse than most competitors, but it faces other restraining factors.

In turn, Russia’s media image in the context of high technologies, despite an active discrediting campaign, is formed in a balanced manner, with a loyal attitude from the business sector. However, among representatives of relevant industries, pessimistic (in some cases, alarmist) assessments of the prospects and duration of cooperation between Russia and Sub-Saharan Africa are significantly pronounced.

This analytical report was prepared within the framework of  implementing the PIR Center and MGIMO University joint project “Global Security, Strategic Stability, and Arms Control” under the auspices of the Priority-2030 Strategic Academic Leadership Program. 

In case of any questions please contact Ms. Elena Karnaukhova, PIR Center Deputy Director-Education & Training Program Director, executive editor of the report, via email edu@pircenter.org. 

Key words: Africa: High-Tech; Global Security