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Cool Czechia: Deepening partnership for more impact, By Kolapo Olapoju

Cool Czechia: Deepening partnership for more impact, By Kolapo Olapoju

Through a multi-faceted strategy, Czech Republic is looking to expand its partnership with Africa, while creating a long lasting positive impact on the continent… And what better demographic to forge a relationship with than young Africans on track to become important voices in their respective countries.

Czech Republic: Courting Young African Leaders

Between 1948 and 1989, Czechoslovakia – as it was then known – was under communist rule. For decades, there was the absence of an opposition in government, while restrictions were in place to prevent Czechs and Slovaks from traveling to non-communist countries.

But in November 1989, an hunger for change and an end to the status quo spread across the country like wildfire. Although sparked by peaceful demonstrations organised by students, renowned dissidents such as the iconic Vaclav Havel would eventually inspire the movement to grow into a clamour for political restructuring and an end to communist leadership.

By 28 November of that year, the agitation yielded fruit as the federal assembly removed the provision in the constitution which regarded the Communist Party as the controlling authority in the country.


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The movement would later be coined as the Velvet Revolution, acclaimed as a remarkable non-violent transition of power.

Given its experience with oppression and subjugation, it is perhaps no surprise that Czechia opened its doors to the Ukrainains following the Russian invasion of the country in February 2022.

Since the outbreak of the war, the country has admitted more than half a million refugees from Ukraine, with over 100,000 fully employed across different parts of Czech Republic.

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The 18-month-old war, and its ripple effects, have seen many Western nations realigning and restragising their partnerships across the world.

The African Allure 

As Africa improves its economic and geopolitical outlook, many foreign nations are looking to boost their alliances and gain the continent’s support in multilateral fora. The Czech Republic is not left out.

Through a multi-faceted strategy, Czech Republic is looking to expand its partnership with Africa, while creating a long lasting positive impact on the continent.

And what better demographic to forge a relationship with than young Africans on track to become important voices in their respective countries.

Hence the “Cool Czechia; Young African Leaders Study Trip”, a flagship initiative conceptualised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic.

From 26 July to 3 August, several young African leaders were invited to history-rich Prague – and later to serene and picturesque Telc – for an intensive nine-day workshop on democratic values, economic and trade policies, security, among others.

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The invitees – comprising journalists, activists and changemakers from Nigeria, Zambia, Morocco, Ghana, Kenya, Algeria and more – exhaustively engaged Czech thought leaders, political icons and government representatives, like State Secretary Radek Rubeš, on a wide array of pertinent issues.

But what exactly is Czech Republic’s agenda in Africa?

Efforts Towards Improving Security 

In its ‘Engaging in Africa’ blueprint, Czech Republic outlined its strategy to increase functioning security systems and contribute to building Africa’s overall security architecture, with the aim of preventing a potential spillover of terrorism and armed groups into Europe.

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One of the ways to achieve this goal is by sharing knowledge and expertise to defeat terrorist groups like ISIS and Boko Haram.

This and more were thrashed out during meetings with Viktor Vojtko, member of the chamber of deputies, and Jan Skopeček, the deputy speaker, at the parliament building in Prague on 27 July.

“We want to take an active role in the Africa Focus Group, established in 2021 in response to the growing threat of Daesh/ISIS on the African continent,” the strategy document reads.

“The Czech Republic will engage in other (existing and future) security activities of the EU and its member states in Africa, especially in the Sahel, on an ad hoc or bilateral basis. In any case, our engagement will reflect our strategic national interests and flexibly respond to the given region’s security and political dynamics.”

Social Media: Good Servant, Bad Master

Another way to improve security, Czech said, would be by countering disinformation tactics by countries seeking to root out the EU’s participation in Africa and influence elections that would support their “hostile” agenda.

The Czech Republic hopes to build and strengthen the institutional framework for cyber-security to make institutions and states more resilient to cyber-attacks, and increase the capacities of institutions to combat cyber-crime, because “many African countries fall short of the mark in digitisation and IT literacy, which makes them a frequent target of cyber criminals.”

During a session with Filip Rozanek, a journalist and expert on new media, who serves as editor of Digizone.cz, discussions were held on the perils of social media and efforts made by the European Union to sanitise the ecosystem.

“Social networks are like fire: a good servant but a bad master. The fuel of social networks is emotion. And the fire is fuelled primarily by hate,” Rozanek said in his presentation at the Summer School of European Studies in Telč.

Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine in January 2022, the Czech domain administrator and operators shut down access to several websites to curtail the spread of fake news and disinformation.

It is for this reason, among others, that the EU conceived the Digital Services Act and the Digital Market Act as forms of regulation for activities on social media. The regulation is expected to take effect from 17 February, 2024, with defaulting parties expected to be fined as much as 6% of their annual turnover.

Prosperity and Sustainability 

The landlocked Central Europe country said it is looking to help Africa become more stable, prosperous, healthy, and educated.

Africa does not yet play a major role in the Czech Republic’s foreign trade; however, in absolute numbers, its share is growing while the number of substantial Czech investments is on the rise.

“Our economic diplomacy will focus on the sectors where we have substantial know-how and experience: health care, agriculture, water and sanitation, the building of infrastructure including energy infrastructure, mining, textile and food industry equipment, defence and security industry, IT and cyber-security,” the country’s foreign ministry said.

Czech also said it will increase awareness for its private sector about the investment opportunities available in Africa and encourage companies and industry associations to offer Africa complex solutions and not just products.

In light of the impact of the Russian-Ukraine war on food security in Africa, it is clear that support of agricultural development will play a key role in the continent’s economic, social and security stability.

Czech’s foreign ministry said the country will promote comprehensive approaches designed to increase agricultural productivity and diversification, and to improve access to safe, nutritious and sufficient food for all groups of the population.

The country also intends to focus on supporting small and middle-scale African farmers by improving the knowledge of resilient and sustainable agricultural practices, and encouraging mechanisation, smart farming solutions, and the building of local value chains for agriculture and food production.

“Our efforts to help increase Africa’s agricultural productivity will not omit to address the impacts of climate change. We will seek to improve access to water (irrigation technologies) and water management including wastewater treatment,” Czech Republic said in its strategy document.

Improving Healthcare Systems 

The COVID-19 pandemic made it clear that Africa’s prosperity, sustainable development and economic and social stability largely depend on the health of its population. Although Africa had lower infection rates than Europe and other parts of the world, the impact of the pandemic on economic growth was significant.

As such, one of Czech Republic’s strategies is to promote academic, scientific, and technical cooperation with African countries, by helping to reinforce local healthcare capacities and deliver healthcare and medical supplies, ranging from vaccines to intensive care unit equipment, and hospitals.

“Our engagement in this area will continue in the coming years,” the country said.

“To help improve the health resilience of African countries, we will bring in leading Czech medical equipment manufacturers and healthcare solutions providers. We will draw on our scientific and academic expertise, as well as on our experience with development cooperation projects and the MEDEVAC programme.

“Our aim is to offer our African partners comprehensive healthcare solutions and to help make quality healthcare accessible to all.”

As Czech Republic forges ahead with it efforts to ramp up its relationship with Africa on different levels, the youths of the continent – who are building and innovating – are waiting to see how it unravels.

Kolapo Olapoju, the Editor of TheCable, writes from Lagos.


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