Russia’s strategic engagement in Africa

Under President Vladimir Putin, Russia has returned to Africa. Following his first visit to the continent in 2006, there has been slow, incremental growth in engagement, culminating in a 2019 Russia-Africa summit - the first of its kind and attended by 43 African heads of state. This project explores Russia's strategic engagement and policy impact on the continent.

Russia has commercial, security and political or diplomatic interests in Africa, and joins a host of other external powers such as the US, China, and Turkey, who seek to increase their engagement on the continent.

Russia’s efforts form part of attempts to reclaim its stature as a global power and show that it is a key player in most regions of the world.

Evidence-based research into Russia’s growing presence in Africa is however limited, particularly from the African perspective. Responding to this gap and building on previous work, in March 2021 SAIIA launched a two-year project that will examine Russia’s strategic engagement and policy impact in Africa.

The project will focus on three key themes:

  • Russia and other external actors in Africa   
  • Russia, Africa and norm development
  • Russian influence building in Africa

Understanding the drivers of Russia’s engagement, the instruments adopted by Moscow, and the role of media in shaping public discourse is crucial to developing a broader assessment of Russia’s aims in Africa and their potential impact on the continent.

The project will be carried out in partnership with academics and experts working in the Russia-Africa space. A series of scoping workshops in May and June 2021 will assist in developing a roadmap for the project’s success.

The process so far

Project leaders include Steven Gruzd and Cayley Clifford of SAIIA. For more information about the project or ways to partner with SAIIA, please feel free to contact Cayley Clifford via email:


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