“Russia’s growing presence in Africa and its implication for EU policy”, Guido Lanfranchi and Kars de Bruijne (Clingendael Institute, The Netherlands)

The growth of Russia’s presence across Africa over the last decade has generated significant international concern, further exacerbated after Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. Russia’s engagement can affect the interests and policies of the European Union (EU) and its member states (MS) in Africa. How should European policymakers understand these developments and respond to them? To answer this question, this report looks at Russia’s engagement in Africa, reaching three main conclusions.

First, Moscow’s engagement with Africa has so far remained limited as compared to that of other global players, particularly in the economic domain. The current level of (media) attention devoted to Russia’s role in Africa is thus not supported by sufficient evidence of its actual engagement in the continent. At the same time, however, the growth of Russia’s presence is a real trend.

Second, Russian actors are guided by a rather loose strategy when it comes to Africa. The Russian state has some interests that act as a broad framework. However, the actual engagement is carried out not only by state actors, but also by state-backed conglomerates and politically connected private businesses. These latter actors have their own specific interests, which are not always fully aligned with those of the Russian state. While state actors are often driven by geopolitical considerations, Russian companies are more interested in economic opportunities.

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