It was four years ago in July 2015 when Teboho Sehloho, founder of Johannesburg-based Generation Next Institute, put pen to paper and signed a cooperation agreement with the Russian Union of Youth as part of the Brics countries efforts to “develop and strengthen friendly relations”.
The agreement stated as one of its aims that the desire to strengthen ties between the Brics countries must involve young people from the partner countries, in this case South Africa and Russia.
Young people would be roped into “the implementation of cooperation programmes in the field of economy, education, science, culture, sports, tourism, employment, public work and other areas on the principles of mutual respect and parity within their powers, and using tools and resources at their disposal”.
Earlier this month Sehloho, who first volunteered to participate in Brics activities in 2014, spent 14 days in the Russian province of Siberia as an official guest for the 2019 Winter Universiade, an international student and youth sporting competition in the city of Krasnoyarsk.
At the opening ceremony of the event, led by Russian President Vladimir Putin and graced by officials from the Russian Federation and other countries, Sehloho attended as the South African delegate.
Sehloho tells City Press that he “had an opportunity to interact with the officials, fans and athletes in the winter games over the period of five days I had spent as an official guest at Krasnoyarsk”.
He says he also had productive discussions with the organisers of the event, including ideas about “future cooperation between South African sport associations and their Russian counterparts”.
“The experience was electrifying and yet heart warming to witness yet another grand opening addressed by President Putin, after I had attended the last World Student Festival where he also spoke,” Sehloho says.
At the famous mining city of Kemerovo, Sehloho was welcomed by Sergey Yungblyudt, the director of the Kemerovo Regional Institution of Advanced Training to the energy ministry of the confederation.
He says the discussions focused on Siberia’s educational practices in the field of mining, and an agreement was signed for the training of South African citizens on the territory of the Russian Federation, including “practical assistance in familiarising trainees with the advanced equipment and technology used in the Russian mining industry, as well as ideas for cooperation between relevant universities and other industry stakeholders”.
“This contract will contribute towards technological cooperation and exchange between the two countries, as well as sustainable development of mining and education in that field,” Sehloho says.
Then he was off to the city of Novosibirsk, hosted by the district government and the chairman of International Organisation for Economic Cooperation, Sergey Stepanov. The organisation, he says, has 4 000 member companies in Russia.
“In the first day in Novosibirsk, in the meeting with Stepanov and his staff, we negotiated a cooperation and common working agreement on strategic infrastructure and other projects in South Africa with Brics partners and investments,” says Sehloho.
He says he also met the director of regional government department of international relations in the district government, Sergey Sannikov, who was interested in forging ties with organisations and companies involving young people in Gauteng, South Africa’s economic hub.
An idea for the summer and winter sports event between South Africa and Russia was on the cards, Sehloho says. He says the Russians were also looking at launching a medical “research centre” in South Africa, working together with local companies and laboratories.
He says having returned to South Africa, it was now up to Generation Next Institute to ensure, with the help of the South African government, that the deals negotiated in Russia “bear fruit for our young people”.