Russia in Africa

Putin_Museveni_russia-in-focus

Russia has arguably expanded its influence in Africa in recent years more than any other external actor. These engagements extend from deepening ties in North Africa, expanding its reach in the Central African Republic and the Sahel, and rekindling Cold War ties in southern Africa. Russia’s approach is distinctive among external actors in that Moscow typically relies on irregular (and frequently extralegal) means to expand its influence—deployment of mercenaries, disinformation, election interference, support for coups, and arms for resources deals, among others. This low-cost, high influence strategy seeks to advance a very different world order than the rules-based, democratic political systems to which most Africans aspire. The outcomes from Russia’s interventions in Africa, therefore, will have far reaching implications for governance norms and security on the continent. Following are a series of Africa Center analyses of Russia’s engagements in Africa.

Spotlight

Why Russia is on a Charm Offensive in Africa

By Joseph Siegle
July 26, 2022

Moscow is trying to gain influence in Africa without investing in it, a strategy that can only gain traction if certain African leaders see Russia as a means to validate their own hold on power regardless of popular will.

Testimony

Russia’s Strategic Objectives and Influences in Africa

By Joseph Siegle
July 22, 2022

Russia’s irregular means of gaining influence in Africa are destabilizing for the continent and disenfranchising for African citizens.

African Union leader meets with Putin

Expert Publication

African Union Leader Meets with Putin

By The World
June 7, 2022

At the invitation of President Vladimir Putin, the chairman of the African Union, Senegal's President Macky Sall, headed to Russia on Friday for talks about the impact of the war in Ukraine on African countries. Both Russia and Ukraine are major exporters of grain to the continent, accounting for over 40% of wheat imports to African countries in recent years, according to the UN. Host Marco Werman spoke with Joseph Siegle, director of research at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies. 

Putin’s World Order Would Be Devastating for Africa

Expert Publication

Putin’s World Order Would Be Devastating for Africa

By Joseph Siegle and Jeffrey Smith
May 30, 2022

As Africans grapple with the more present and disastrous aftershocks of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, it is important to recognize the threat this form of authoritarian expansion will have on the continent if it is normalized.

Spotlight

Russia and the Future International Order in Africa

By Joseph Siegle
May 11, 2022

The application of a Russian-shaped international order in Africa would have destabilizing repercussions for the continent.

Infographic

Mapping Disinformation in Africa

April 26, 2022

Russia has pioneered a model of disinformation to gain political influence in Africa that is now being replicated by other actors across the continent.

How Russia is pursuing state capture in Africa

Expert Publication

How Russia is pursuing state capture in Africa

By Joseph Siegle
March 21, 2022

The pushback in African states against state capture is simultaneously a push for better governance. Putin’s vision for Africa, in contrast, is a return to big man rule – where the big man is in Moscow.

Ukraine War: Fresh Warning That Africa Needs to be Vigilant against Russia’s Destabilizing Influence

Spotlight

Strategic Implications for Africa from Russia’s Invasion in Ukraine

By Joseph Siegle
March 9, 2022

The invasion of Ukraine is a wake-up call to the implications of Russia’s attempts to export its governance model to Africa—with sobering consequences for African sovereignty and stability.

The Future of Russia-Africa Relations

Expert Publication

The Future of Russia-Africa Relations

By Joseph Siegle
February 2, 2022

To understand Russia’s engagements in Africa, it is necessary to be clear that the “partnerships” that Russia seeks are not state- but elite-based.

Spotlight

Africa’s Coups and the Role of External Actors

By Joseph Siegle
December 17, 2021

The recent rise in coups in Africa reflects a waning regional and international willingness to enforce anti-coup norms. Reversing the trend requires incentivizing democracy and consistently imposing real costs on coup makers.

تزايد المعلومات المضللة المحلية في أفريقيا

Spotlight

Domestic Disinformation on the Rise in Africa

October 6, 2021

A growing trend of domestic political actors deploying targeted disinformation schemes requires expanded fact-checking capacity in Africa and collaboration with social media organizations.

Spotlight

Russia in Africa: Undermining Democracy through Elite Capture

By Joseph Siegle
September 24, 2021

Russia’s strategic objective of degrading the model of democratic governance in Africa is frequently effected through the cooption of isolated African leaders.

Russia's Wagner Play Undermines the Transition in Mali

Spotlight

Russia’s Wagner Play Undermines the Transition in Mali

By Joseph Siegle and Daniel Eizenga
September 23, 2021

The prospective deployment of Russia’s Wagner mercenaries should not be confused with addressing Mali’s security situation but is a means of expanding Russian influence while propping up the military junta.

Russia’s asymmetric strategy for expanding influence in Africa

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Russia’s Asymmetric Strategy for Expanding Influence in Africa

By Joseph Siegle
September 17, 2021

While projecting the image of a Great Power, Russia relies on asymmetric tactics to gain influence and pursue its strategic objectives in Africa.

Expert Publication

Russia’s Strategic Goals in Africa

By Joseph Siegle
May 6, 2021

While Russia’s engagements in Africa are often viewed as opportunistic, in the space of a few years Moscow has been able to gain a foothold in the southern Mediterranean, become a powerbroker in geographically strategic countries, and undermine democratic norms on the continent.

A Light in Libya’s Fog of Disinformation

Spotlight

A Light in Libya’s Fog of Disinformation

October 9, 2020

Divisions within Libya’s civil war have been amplified by foreign-sponsored disinformation campaigns. Reconciliation and peacebuilding will require local actors to reclaim Libya’s digital spaces.

Spotlight

Russian Disinformation Campaigns Target Africa:
An Interview with Dr. Shelby Grossman

February 18, 2020

The growing sophistication of Russia’s disinformation campaigns in Africa demand greater vigilance from tech companies, internet watchdog groups, and governments.

Presidents Faustin Archange Touadera of the Central African Republic and Vladimir Putin of Russia. (Photo: kremlin.ru)

Expert Publication

Recommended US Response to Russian Activities in Africa

By Joseph Siegle
May 9, 2019

Russia has significantly expanded its engagements in Africa in recent years. These engagements often take the form of propping up embattled and isolated autocratic leaders of countries that are rich in natural resources. The United States can draw a distinction with Russia’s destabilizing role by pursuing a positive engagement strategy in Africa. The United States must avoid the Cold War trap of competing with Russia for the affections of corrupt, autocratic leaders in Africa, however, as such a policy would be disastrous for Africa while not advancing US interests.