The Wagner Group and Africa

A Mercenary Army Invades the Developing World

Ken Briggs

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Russia’s Wagner Group, a private military company (PMC), has been escalating its involvement in numerous African nations by offering military and security assistance. This expansion is facilitating the growth of Moscow’s reach across Africa.

Wagner Group mercenaries in the Central African Republic

In recent times, Wagner and its 10s of thousands of mercenary contractors, has emerged as a powerful instrument for Russia’s overseas policies. Its presence is seen in conflict zones such as Syria, Ukraine, and it is now making its foray into Africa. Since 2017, it has been active in several African nations, delivering direct military assistance, security services, and spreading propaganda.

Who comprises the Wagner Group?

Established by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a Russian entrepreneur, the Wagner Group surfaced during Russia’s takeover of Crimea in 2014. It’s an intricate network of various businesses and mercenary organizations rather than a single unit. These entities work in harmony with Russian military and intelligence. Roughly five thousand of its members are reported to be stationed across Africa, including former Russian soldiers and convicts.

Despite the illegality PMCs under Russian law, the Kremlin leverages the Wagner Group to further its foreign policy goals in Africa. Russia’s chief objective in Africa is to accumulate diplomatic support that can be used in places such as the United Nations.

Originally, Wagner ventured into Africa for its economic gain. However, it has now become a convenient ally for the Kremlin to pursue its diplomatic goals. In 2023, the U.S. government tagged the Wagner Group as a major transnational criminal organization.

Where does it operate in Africa?

Wagner has established a strong operational presence in various African nations, concentrating mainly on security-related issues. It routinely offers security and paramilitary aid and runs disinformation campaigns in support of unstable regimes in exchange for access to resources and diplomatic backing.

Countries with a significant Wagner presence include the Central African Republic (CAR), Libya, Mali, and Sudan, all of which have a strained…

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Ken Briggs

Engineer, tech co-founder, writer, and student of foreign policy. Talks about the intersection of technology, politics, business, foreign affairs, and history