Russia’s relations with Africa: Small, military-oriented and with destabilising effects


  • Karolina Lindén

Publish date: 2023-02-01

Report number: FOI Memo 8090

Pages: 15

Written in: English


  • Russia
  • Africa
  • Wagner Group
  • foreign policy
  • Africa policy
  • diplomacy
  • economics
  • security
  • Algeria
  • Egypt
  • Central African Republic
  • Sudan
  • Mali
  • South Africa
  • Red Sea
  • Ukraine
  • Military coups
  • disinformation
  • arms export
  • UN security council


Russia's invasion of Ukraine has drawn increased attention to Russia's engagement in Africa and its implications for African states and the West. This paper presents Russia's political, economic and military-security relations with Africa in 2020-2022. The main conclusions are:  Despite what many believe, Russia's engagement in Africa remains small. It consists of both an official and an unofficial approach. Both frequently use anti-colonial sentiments to denounce the West.  According to the official approach, trade relations remain small (except for arms export) and Russia has no military base of its own. The large arms export is mainly due to substantial deliveries to Algeria and Egypt.  According to the unofficial approach, Russian private military corporations provide mercenary and disinformation operations in states such as the Central African Republic, Sudan and Mali. This has destabilising effects for African states and is weakening democratic norms and institutions.  Russia's interest in strengthening the relations to African states can be expected to grow, not least to blunt the impact of Western sanctions imposed after the invasion of Ukraine. At the same time, the invasion will also limit the ability to provide mercenary operations in African states.  Russia's engagement has geostrategic implications for the southern flank of EU and NATO, and for the control of the strategic waterways in the Mediterranean and Red Seas.