Our guest today, Oksana Mayorova, is a co-founder of the Pan-African PPP Development Center. She highlighted the work of her center, the platforms for interaction with Africa that she believes have the most promise, and her impressions at the Russia-Africa Summit in St. Petersburg.
– Ms Mayorova, you are a co-founder of the Pan-African PPP Development Center. What was the major purpose of it as established by you? What goals have you got for the upcoming years?
– I have the specific responsibility of doing what I am and have always been good at. What is the purpose of a public-private partnership? The creation of infrastructural facilities without sacrificing independence may only be possible with PPP as the tool and mechanism.
Every country requires infrastructure to grow, including highways, stadiums, bridges, hospitals, and railroads. Furthermore, these are capital-intensive projects. It is nearly impossible for a developing nation to implement them. So the state establishes PPPs to give them life.
– How does it work? Just in a couple of words…
– The state tells businesses, “Please complete this project; we absolutely need it.” Terms are always negotiable. These projects usually take 20 to 25 to 30 years to complete. Additionally, the outcome is always state property. When a private company constructs a stadium, a road, or a bridge as part of a public-private partnership, the state owns the property, hence it is strategically crucial for the state to maintain control over its infrastructure. In contrast, the private entity is entitled to oversee and generate revenue.
The PPP instrument has advanced significantly in our nation. Recently, a lot of facilities have been constructed that never would have been able to operate under different circumstances. I have worked with numerous African governments as a private consultant, and I am well aware of the significance of this instrument, particularly given that the majority of African nations are moving toward independence. As I envision a use for this tool, I am thrilled to be developing it. Why am I doing this also from Russia? Many of our private financiers are eager to participate in large-scale projects in Africa, but they demand assurances. Public-private partnerships are a guarantee that capital will be returned. Ultimately, the state provides these assurances. I set big goals for myself. My company will hopefully be in 25–27 states in the next five to seven years, but for now, I operate in eleven states.
– You participated in the second Russia-Africa Summit in St. Petersburg. Please share your impressions. Not only from formal events, but also from backstage meetings and conversations. What “aftertaste” did you take away from it?
– The fact that so many of our friends and partners from Africa were present made me pleased and excited. These are the folks who love, trust, and believe in Russia. The most significant impression—which I am even more certain of—is that Russia is a point of trust. We will be on top if we can turn this point of trust into some geopolitical advantages right away. I hope Russia can do it.
– Which are the most promising formats of interaction with the African continent today? For Africa is different, so the approach to different countries needs to be individualized? Is it more appropriate to discuss approaches to various areas of cooperation, such as humanitarian, economic, cultural, etc., rather than approaches to various countries?
– Honestly, I don’t know how it happened, but it is much easier to work with those countries that are friendly to Russia. Probably because we’re at a point of trust and, somewhere in the depths, we have some shared values. We precisely operate under the cooperative principle with these nations. We don’t have the background of colonizers. Although that seems incredibly cliché, it’s true. The first thing I hear about Russia is always this: “Oh, Russia never colonized Africa! Russia has never enslaved anyone. Russia is our brotherly nation. Russia is ready to cooperate with us.”
– I mean, that’s a big plus that we just have to convert!
– That’s true. The remainder of the world is known for colonialism. Russia, on the other hand, acts in a different manner. Our country says: we’ll build a plant, three hospitals, two paramedic stations, one school, and give eight scholarships to educate your children. And the locals agree: it’s fantastic!
Simultaneously, I observe the actions of foreign nations seeking resources in Africa. Perhaps they are acting in a similar social manner as us. However, initially, Africans had a different perspective on them—there’s already a lot that’s been taken, and they now wish to appropriate even more.
It is very comforting to work with countries where we have a similar religion. For instance, everything is handled quite simply in Ethiopia. Orthodoxy was designated the official religion of this nation in AD 330. Well before us. What greetings do they exchange on Christmas and Epiphany? Photographs of Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin taking a dip in a freezing cross-shaped ice hole. They view Yuri Gagarin as a god, our president as a hero, and Russia as a hero.
Working with Muslim countries is simple because we share a desire to protect family and moral values, and traditions.
– Is it any different in nations heavily influenced by the West?
– But the United States and its Western allies are putting tremendous pressure on these nations’ governments. Along with working with people, we also need to collaborate with the government. Additionally, there is no productive cooperation when the authorities hold such a viewpoint. But that doesn’t mean you have to give up. Quite the opposite.
For ordinary Africans, Vladimir Putin is a real hero because he is the only one who was not afraid to say openly that America is wrong, not afraid to confront it.
– What are the possible risks? Which of these have you already dealt with at work? And is there a method by which they can be estimated and minimized?
– First, Africa has a high rate of corruption. Numerous nations heavily influenced by colonialism have a purely consumerist outlook on foreign exchange. Their desires are to receive and spend; they have no desire to earn. They must be instructed in how to make money. It’s hardly much use when your money is viewed as a charity handout provided merely because their ancestors were previously made to work behind chains. The extremely low professional level of front-line personnel should be considered.
– Ms Mayorova, you have been “engaged” in Africa for a considerable amount of time. How long does it take to know the country? What’s it like to you? What do you find attractive about Africa?
– You have to love Africa to know it. And it doesn’t take anything to love it. This must come from the heart. You either are or you’re not.
My Africa is pretty lively. I’ll try to explain. I recently took my Ethiopian friends to the Red Square when they paid me a visit. We watched the Changing of the Guard at the Eternal Flame. Thus, a close friend of mine was shooting the spectators rather than the soldiers and the very process. In answer to my question, “why?” he replied that he wanted to show in his homeland how our people come to a place of remembrance and pride. He has traveled to several nations, and each one has an honor guard change that serves as a tourist attraction. Fur caps, pompoms on their feet… and others come to watch it like a show and smile. And our folks arrive with their kids, just to stand and weep. My friend was crying, too. He continued by saying that all he had to do was demonstrate to his nation how we value and respect our history. And that’s what life is all about. He doesn’t care how brilliant the lights are on the Red Square. He believes it is crucial that our people bring their kids so they may learn to remember, respect, and be proud of themselves instead of just seeing the honor guard march and wave swords.
Furthermore, the presence of a stele honoring Kiev close to the eternal flame startled my Ethiopian friends as well. They were astounded to learn that we are not indiscriminately destroying anything, despite global events and the current state of our relations with Ukraine. For me, that chat was an amazing experience as well.
Then we approached the monument to Georgy Zhukov. We got to talk about his role in helping to win World War II, when I started talking about this outstanding military commander. It was then my turn to seem astonished. It appears that they firmly believe the Americans captured Berlin. Can you believe it?! Residents in a nation that is vehemently pro-Russian are saying this! And that’s when I realized we were losing in terms of propaganda value. There’s a lot of work to be done. As far as education and dissemination of Russian culture is concerned, the future expectations are vast.
Interviewed by Yulia NOVITSKAYA, writer, journalist and correspondent for “New Eastern Outlook”.