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Moscow revives Patrice Lumumba University to regain its influence in Africa

Russia aims to reconnect with Africa, reviving its Moscow University of Friendship between Peoples, which formed African elites in the Soviet era.

Distanced by China and the West, Moscow is making a noticeable comeback on the African continent. At the heart of this strategy of influence is the Moscow University of Friendship between Peoples, which has long trained African elites. This university, called in the Soviet era (from 1961 to 1992) University Patrice Lumumba, named after the Congolese independence hero murdered, was a cornerstone of soft power of the USSR.

The University Patrice Lumumba had made the heyday of the “internationalist” policy of the USSR in the third world. Built at the height of African decolonization and attempts to recover non-aligned countries by Moscow, it lost its raison d'être in 1991 with the fall of communism and the implosion of the USSR.

In the midst of the Cold War, it is she who has trained generations of engineers, doctors and African leaders. Among the best known are South African Presidents Thabo Mbecki, Nigerian Olusegun Obasanjo, Angolan Eduardo Dos Santos and his successor Joao Lourenço, Namibian Sam Nujoma and many others. A strategy of influence in full decolonization.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union and the economic crisis that followed, this hotbed of education was no longer of interest to many, making headlines for racist attacks on its campus, only for its high level. education.

One of the buildings of Patrice Lumumba University in Moscow. (VALERIY SHUSTOV / SPUTNIK)

According to Vladimir Filippov, his current rector interviewed by AFP, the university turned this dark page and found his role in Russian soft power. And this at a time when Russia seeks to return to Africa, as evidenced by the first ever Russia-Africa summit that Vladimir Putin is organizing on October 23 and 24, 2019 in Sochi. Thirty African heads of state and governments are expected.

If at the time of the Cold War, it was to score points in the ideological war with the West and place trusted cadres in the political elite, today is not only with the Westerners who must compete. Moscow must catch up considerably with China, which hosts a large number of African students in its many universities, not to mention the tens of billions invested annually by Beijing on the continent itself.

TheMoscow University of Friendship between Peoples today trains a thousand African students. “Of course, it's still a matter of geopolitical and economic interests”, recognizes his rector Mr Filippov. Thus, this university also wants to convince Russian students to expatriate and organizes, for this purpose, its first job fair baptized I want to work in Africa.

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