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Russia’s Use of Disinformation to Gain Political Influence in Africa Is Being Replicated by Other Actors across the Continent, Study Finds

June 22nd, 2022 14:51

In April, the Africa Cen­ter for Strate­gic Stud­ies, a US think tank, report­ed that a pio­neer­ing Russ­ian mod­el of dis­in­for­ma­tion to gain polit­i­cal influ­ence in Africa is now being repli­cat­ed by oth­er actors across the con­ti­nent. Accord­ing to a report by the Africa Center:

April 26, 2022 Dis­in­for­ma­tion is the inten­tion­al dis­sem­i­na­tion of false infor­ma­tion with the intent of advanc­ing a polit­i­cal objec­tive. Africa has been the increas­ing­ly fre­quent tar­get of such cam­paigns. In recent years, dozens of care­ful­ly designed cam­paigns have pumped mil­lions of inten­tion­al­ly false and mis­lead­ing posts into Africa’s online social spaces. The ensu­ing con­fu­sion in deci­pher­ing fact from fic­tion has had a cor­ro­sive effect on social trust, crit­i­cal think­ing, and cit­i­zens’ abil­i­ty to engage in pol­i­tics fairly—the lifeblood of a func­tion­ing democ­ra­cy.  Rus­sia has been the lead­ing pur­vey­or of dis­in­for­ma­tion cam­paigns in Africa with at least 16 known oper­a­tions on the con­ti­nent. […] Russ­ian dis­in­for­ma­tion cam­paigns are direct­ed toward a polit­i­cal objec­tive. These typ­i­cal­ly involve prop­ping up an iso­lat­ed African regime, which is then behold­en to Moscow. […] In addi­tion to pro­mot­ing a favored regime and Russia’s role on the con­ti­nent, the mes­sages of these cam­paigns are anti­de­mo­c­ra­t­ic, anti-West, and anti-UN. Russ­ian suc­cess in reach­ing a large African audi­ence online with lit­tle over­head has inspired dis­in­for­ma­tion cam­paigns by oth­er for­eign gov­ern­ments. Domes­tic actors have adopt­ed sim­i­lar tac­tics for polit­i­cal ends in a grow­ing num­ber of African coun­tries. Of the more than 50 doc­u­ment­ed dis­in­for­ma­tion cam­paigns on the con­ti­nent, rough­ly 60 per­cent are exter­nal­ly dri­ven, though these fig­ures are inher­ent­ly imprecise.

Read the rest here.

The report notes that Yevge­ny Prigozhin, a Russ­ian oli­garch who leads the infa­mous Wag­n­er Group mer­ce­nary force, has export­ed dis­in­for­ma­tion cam­paigns to every African coun­try where Wag­n­er has oper­at­ed. The Glob­al Influ­ence Oper­a­tions Report has exten­sive­ly cov­ered Prigozhin’s activ­i­ties in the West.

In April, we report­ed that Russ­ian social media influ­ence oper­a­tions are suc­ceed­ing out­side West­ern infor­ma­tion spaces where antipa­thy for the West is deep and sym­pa­thy for Rus­sia real.