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Russian Diplomatic Campaign in Africa

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Russian Diplomatic Campaign in Africa

Since 2017, Russia has been expanding its influence in Africa through security and economic initiatives. This strategic push is causing concern among former colonial powers, particularly France

Russian diplomacy in Africa : Multifaceted strategy

Russia’s diplomatic offensive in Africa features a focused security and economic strategy. Since 2017, Moscow has employed various methods to assert its influence, disrupting existing geopolitical balances. By exploiting the weaknesses of former colonial powers, Russia presents itself as a credible alternative, especially compared to France and the Western world.

Arms market : Booming market

Between 2014 and 2019, Russia emerged as Africa’s primary arms supplier, providing nearly 49 % of the continent’s military equipment. Algeria and Egypt are the top buyers from Russia’s military industry, with a significant 2 billion USD agreement signed in 2019 to supply SU-35 fighters to Algeria. Other key partners include Nigeria, Rwanda, and Mali. In 2021, the Wagner Group deployed between 1,500 and 2,500 troops to Mali, underscoring Russia’s increasing commitment to security in the region.

Security leverage : Alliances with military regimes

Russia primarily targets military regimes in Africa. In Algeria, Vladimir Putin canceled a 4.7 billion USD debt in exchange for a 7.5 billion USD arms contract. In Libya, debt forgiveness came in return for railway contracts and facilities for Gazprom. This strategy extends to other countries, such as Egypt, where a 3.5 billion USD arms contract was signed in 2014. In 2019, Russia deployed between 300 and 1,000 paramilitaries to Libya to support Marshal Haftar, demonstrating its intent to bolster its military presence. Additionally, a cooperation agreement with Rosatom in Egypt includes constructing a nuclear power plant in Dabaa, highlighting a strategic energy partnership.

Natural resources : Strategic interest

Russia is particularly interested in Africa’s natural resources. Rusal mines bauxite in Guinea, while Rosatom extracts uranium in Namibia. In Angola and Zimbabwe, Alrosa, the world’s largest diamond mining company, is seeking to expand its operations. Trade between Russia and Africa has doubled since 2015, reaching about 20 billion USD annually by 2021. Russia exports 14 billion USD worth of goods and services and imports around 5 billion USD worth of African products.

Information warfare : Asset for Moscow

Russia also leverages the media to influence public opinion in Africa. Outlets like Russia Today and Sputnik promote a positive image of Russia. Influence campaigns by groups like Patriot Media Group aim to bolster pro-Russian sentiment, especially in Mali and Burkina Faso.

The limits of the Russian offensive

Despite its successes, Russia’s presence in Africa must be viewed in context with other powers. China, for instance, holds much greater influence through investments and economic partnerships. Additionally, Russia faces challenges related to stability and governance in its partner countries. The actions of groups like Wagner also raise ethical and legal concerns. The controversial actions of these mercenaries could damage Russia’s reputation and ultimately limit its long-term influence.

New geopolitical dynamic

Russia’s diplomatic offensive in Africa is part of a complex geopolitical dynamic. African countries, by diversifying their partners, aim to maximize their national interests. Russia, seeking new markets and diplomatic channels, is positioning itself as a key player but must carefully navigate to maintain and strengthen its alliances. Despite its pragmatic and multifaceted strategy, Russia’s position in Africa rests on fragile foundations. It must continually adjust its approach to sustain its influence amid intense international competition and intricate local challenges.

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