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TOPIC: russia and africa

FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

What Does Prigozhin's Death Mean For Russia's Ambitions In Africa?

Russia has entered the race for influence in Africa over the past decade, largely on the shoulders of the Wagner Group and its founder, Yevgeny Prigozhin. What happens now is unclear, though Vladimir Putin won't want to cede any ground to other world powers in the race for influence on the continent.

Africa will become increasingly important in Russian foreign policy in the near future, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov recently declared. Statements by Russian officials are often empty words — but not this one.

Russia entered the race for influence in Africa in the second half of the 2010s, when it became obvious that cooperation with the West was coming to an end. The annexation of Crimea, the war in Donbas and sanctions were already things of the past.

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Now, the full-scale invasion of Ukraine has returned Moscow's foreign policy to the Cold War era, when it was critical to have political spheres of influence. But Russia is struggling: it has almost nothing it can offer Africa. Instead, it is Russia that needs Africa’s support. As one of the largest blocs of countries voting in the UN, and one of the most promising regional economies, Africa is of huge strategic importance for Russia.

Moscow's return to Africa began after its military operation in Syria in 2015. After it had regained influence in the Middle East, many governments in the Global South appreciated the strength Russia demonstrated in defending Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and turned to Moscow to aid in resolving regional conflicts.

As confrontation with the West intensified, Moscow needed allies, if only from a rhetorical standpoint. Indeed, Russia’s emphasis on the hypocrisy of Western elites and their colonial projects resonate with people in Africa.

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