In Russia, schools to start teaching Swahili this September

May 25, 2023

Swahili, one of three official languges of the East African Community, is the native language of the Swahili people.

In Russia, schools to start teaching Swahili this September

Joseph Kizza
Senior Producer - Digital Content @New Vision


For the first time ever, young learners in at least four schools in Russia's capital Moscow will study Swahili and Amharic languages starting this September, according to Russian news agency Sputnik.

As revealed during a Sputnik roundtable, this is part of a "new special programme" aimed at strengthening Russia-African ties.

Swahili, also locally called Kiswahili, is the native language of the Swahili people, who are predominantly found in eastern Africa.

Kiswahili is widely spoken in Kenya

Kiswahili is widely spoken in Kenya

It is one of three official languges of the East African Community (EAC), with English and French being the others.

Already spoken by more than 200 million people around the world, Swahili now appears set to penetrate the Russian society — starting in schools.

It will debut alongside Amharic, which is the most widely spoken language in Ethiopia.

According to a Thursday release by Sputnik, Yoruba — a language spoken primarily in southwestern and central Nigeria in West Africa — is also being considered for introduction in Russian schools.

Alexei Maslov is the director of Moscow-based Institute of Asian and African Studies at Lomonosov Moscow State University.

He is quoted as saying during the roundtable that from Russia's point of view, "an abrupt turn to Africa requires a completely different type of specialists who could work directly with the economy and would realize that Africa is not just one big continent, but in fact, a patchwork of diverse national, religious and linguistic traditions".

'Joint ventures'

The hybrid discussion, also featuring participants from different parts of Africa, centred around the prospects for economic co-operation between Russia and Africa.

One of the participants was Philani Mthembu, the executive director at the Institute for Global Dialogue in South Africa.

Speaking virtually, he underlined the role of bilateral projects in agriculture and food.

Beyond potential trade in minerals and resources, Mthembu thinks it will also be important for Russia and Africa to consider "potential mechanisms for attracting Russian investment, as well as the creation of joint ventures".

Lubinda Haabazoka, the director of the Graduate School of Business of the University of Zambia, spoke of the need for an alternative international monetary system.

The growth of American power decades ago saw the US dollar become the basis for the international monetary system.

It was formalised in the Bretton Woods agreement of 1944 in the US state of New Hampshire.

'Kind of aburd'

During the Sputnik roundtable, Haabazoka said the Bretton Woods system is "holding back Africa’s growth".

"We are very dependent on the dollar, but at the same time, we do not trade with America. That is, thinking logically, we are not receiving the dollars to continue trading with other countries," he said.

"Even neighbouring Zambia and South Africa use dollars in mutual trade. This is kind of absurd. 

"Therefore, we need to have BRICS create an alternative international monetary system as soon as possible," added Haabazoka.

BRICS is an acronym for five regional economies: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. 

Heads of the BRICS during their 10th summit on July 26, 2018

Heads of the BRICS during their 10th summit on July 26, 2018

Relatedly, Sevias Guvuriro from South Africa's University of Free State discussed the ongoing change in the existing world order and emphasized the special role of BRICS in relations between Russia and South Africa.

Also part of the discussion was the issue of food insecurity in some parts of Africa, including the Horn of Africa.

Since late 2020, countries in that region of the continent, including Ethiopia, Djibouti, Eritrea, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan and Sudan, have endured the worst drought in four decades.

Crops and millions of livestock are reported to have been destroyed as a result of failed rainy seasons, also leaving millions of people in desperate need of assistance.

“The problem of hunger in countries such as Ethiopia can be largely resolved through smart management of the food security system in that country," suggested Andrei Maslov.

He is the director of the Centre for African Studies at Russia's Higher School of Economics National Research University.

Maslov added that his university is developing a training programme in digital public administration for African officials.

On his part, Tunde Ajileye, a partner at Nigeria's SBM Intelligence, said Russia and Africa need to resume student exchange programmes like was the case in the past.

He also spoke of the importance of intensifying co-operation in agriculture, energy and investment.

The roundtable discussion was part of a series of educational and expert events organized with the support of the Alexander Gorchakov Public Diplomacy Fund and the Centre for Assistance to Humanitarian and Educational Programmes.

The engagements explored “new horizons of co-operation between Russia and the countries of the Middle East and Africa".

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