Hamid Ait El Caid 2017-09-16
“Can Africa depend on itself?" - students' perspective

Student Chamber of the Department of Public Policy organized the Africa day fully devoted to Africa. Special attention was paid to the phenomenon of racial discrimination during most parts of the event.

HSE Africa day was organized for the first time at the University, reflecting therefore the increasing number of students coming from African continent to study at HSE. The event saw massive participation of students and professionals who had the pride in wearing their traditional dresses.  A number of students from Asia, Europe and Russia also attended the event to see what has been achieved and what steps needed to be done in Africa regarding areas of economy, environment, sustainable development and protection of intrinsic human rights.

The event started with a panel discussion chaired by Student Chamber of the Department of Public Policy and Organizing Committee head, Hamid Ait El Caid, who gave the floor to distinguished experts and guest speakers to speak on interdisciplinary topics involving Africa’s problems and prospects for strategic solutions. First speaker was Dr. Olga Kulkova, from the institute for African Studies of the Russian Academy of Science. Ms Kulkova gave a thorough presentation on the topic: Africa and the new UN sustainable development goals: prospects and perspectives. The entire presentation included statistics, graphs and quantitative details about the situation with development in selected African countries and regions, In addition to several problems that could hinder the accomplishment of the new UN sustainable goals. Second speaker was Barbara Rogers, young US national working in the Moscow Protestant Chaplaincy for social services (MPCss). Barbara explained the work of MPCss towards vulnerable migrants in Moscow. In her notes, she presented overall social services offered for both children and adults of African origins in Moscow. These services include supporting schoolchildren, medical aid, extracurricular language classes and anti-racism campaigns. Audience was able to take free stickers, leaflets and small anti-racism comics presented by MPCss. Next speaker was Mr Kehinde Oluremi Banwo, Nigerian architect and expert in the field of human trafficking from Africa. Mr Kehinde gave an overview about factual situation of African women trafficking, and then alarming that women who are forced to earn money by offering sexual services in Russia are ill-treated and lack adequate psychological and social support. He stated that over 50 % of foreign women working as prostitutes in Russia come from Africa. His speech was evidenced by shocking photos about one of those women who were thrown from the fourth floor of a building. Kehinde had also urged current and future policy makers (pointing his finger to attending students) to reconsider the rights of these women since they were obliged to make a living in such a manner.

Last speaker was Mr Ismail Merabet, a diplomat from Algerian embassy, who though he was not included in the program, organizing committee tended to include him in the panel to make short statements about the program’s theme. He talked about peace and security as a basic condition for solving other problems, including those related to fighting racial discrimination. Mr Merabet pointed out that the African Union has made considerable efforts in establishing peace and security in a number of war zones in Africa, through peacekeeping missions and supporting national defense systems.

After all the presentations were delivered, a discussion was opened in which the audience asked questions and received answers from the panelists.

After a short tea break, all participants gathered into the room to attend the debate session on the topic “Can Africa depend on itself”? Volunteer debaters were divided into two opposite groups with 3 participants in each. The groups had enough time to prepare for a 5 minutes position statement during the tea break, before starting to exchange 3 concise questions and convincing answers respectively in front of the jury members as well as entire audience.  Debate atmosphere went amid high prudence and sometimes tension, and yet fun acts by both the debaters. Hamid Ait El Caid moderated the debate, controlling its process, time and marking assessment points given by audience and members of the jury. The latter consists of Imanni Burg, Executive director of MPCss beside Kehinde Oluremi Banwo and Olga Kulkova who led the panel discussion in the first part of the event. Results revealed the group, whose answer to the topic was “NO”, to win the debate with only 4 points difference from the opposite debaters.

During the last part of the event, three poems were personally written and delivered by students of HSE especially for the event. Attendees enjoyed the sound and substance of the poems which were meant by the performers to show their life in Russia and sincere attachment to their home countries in Africa. First poem entitled “Land of Cold” was delivered by Master’s student in applied social psychology, Brenda Asa Blue from Ghana. The poem tells about Brenda’s first experience and personal view to Moscow and Russia. Next poem was entitled “Africa Isn’t enough”, delivered by Andy Atta-Yeboah of the same country and Master’s program as Brenda. Andy tended to correct some stereotypes associated with Africa through his nicely performed poem. Last performer was Moroccan student Abdelilah Ghazoui of the Master’s in Political Analysis and Public Policy who expressed through the poem entitled “Mama Africa”, his deep sorrow, but yet optimistic, about the existing problems his home continent still bears.

At the end of the event, all attendees danced in the rhythms of some African musical tracks together with the students from Africa.