ArchivedAugust 9 2022, 13:16 pm

Russia’s Influence in Africa Growing, Report Says

Polit­i­cal Vio­lence at a Glance, a US online mag­a­zine, has recent­ly pub­lished a report exam­in­ing Rus­si­a’s grow­ing influ­ence in Africa. The report argues Rus­si­a’s influ­ence is based on the Sovi­et Union’s anti-impe­ri­al­ist lega­cy, a patron­age-based mod­el of pol­i­tics and busi­ness, and the fused nature of Russ­ian mil­i­tary and non-mil­i­tary activ­i­ties. Accord­ing to the report:

July 14, 2022 West­ern ana­lysts are often pre­oc­cu­pied with con­cerns about Chi­nese inroads into the African con­ti­nent, which have a much larg­er foot­print and con­sist of vis­i­ble infra­struc­ture projects and increas­ing­ly less con­cealed attempts to influ­ence pol­i­tics. Rus­sia by con­trast man­ages to accrue influ­ence more hap­haz­ard­ly by play­ing to its strength and exploit­ing West­ern weak­ness­es. And while the sus­tain­abil­i­ty of Moscow’s influ­ence can be doubt­ed, at present its efforts are prov­ing effec­tive and can be con­duct­ed on the cheap.  How is Rus­sia able to exert a grow­ing influ­ence on the African con­ti­nent? Moscow has active­ly latched onto the Sovi­et Union’s lega­cy of sup­port­ing lib­er­a­tion strug­gles and post-colo­nial gov­ern­ments, which res­onates with many African lead­ers who, despite hav­ing a gen­er­al sus­pi­cion towards exter­nal actors, most often per­ceive neo-colo­nial influ­ence as explic­it­ly West­ern. […] Russia’s polit­i­cal pow­er pro­jec­tion in Africa is not run pri­mar­i­ly through agents of the state but by Russia’s “shad­ow state,” a vast net­work of politi­co-oli­garchic indi­vid­u­als and their net­works that inter­sect with polit­i­cal admin­is­tra­tions and secu­ri­ty ser­vices but often act on their own accord. […] While the notion of Russ­ian mer­ce­nar­ies con­jures up images of for­mer Russ­ian para­troop­ers in polo shirts car­ry­ing Kalash­nikovs (an image they active­ly cul­ti­vate), the Company’s activ­i­ties tran­scend the mil­i­tary sphere by com­bin­ing para­mil­i­tary, diplo­mat­ic, and “soft­er” instru­ments to gar­ner influence.

Read the full report here.

The report says that Yevge­ny Prigozhin, a Russ­ian oli­garch who leads the infa­mous Wag­n­er Group mer­ce­nary force, is the most vis­i­ble ele­ment of Rus­si­a’s shad­ow net­works in Africa. The Glob­al Influ­ence Oper­a­tions Report has pre­vi­ous­ly report­ed that Prigozhin runs an obscure think tank called Asso­ci­a­tion for Free Research and Inter­na­tion­al Coop­er­a­tion (AFRIC) which has deployed elec­tions observers to var­i­ous African coun­tries. AFRIC has also host­ed sev­er­al con­fer­ences in Africa and pub­lished reports on the future of Africa. AFRIC’s web­site is cur­rent­ly offline, and the think tank appears defunct.

The report also indi­cates that Rus­si­a’s influ­ence activ­i­ties in Africa are high­ly suc­cess­ful, giv­en that many African coun­tries abstained from vot­ing on Rus­si­a’s sus­pen­sion from the UN Human Rights Coun­cil and refused to com­ply with West­ern sanc­tions fol­low­ing the inva­sion of Ukraine. We have recent­ly high­light­ed that Russ­ian nar­ra­tives about its inva­sion of Ukraine are lin­ger­ing in African online spaces and that oth­er African actors repli­cate its mod­el of disinformation.


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