Russian and African Media: Exercising Soft Power

Image: Getty, Peter Dazeley
Image: Getty, Peter Dazeley

Under President Vladimir Putin, there has been a resurgence of Russian interest and involvement in Africa. The October 2019 Russia–Africa Summit in Sochi was reported as being a key milestone in Russia’s return to the African continent.

Summary:

  • Following Russia’s resurgence in Africa, attempts to influence the media landscape and perceptions on the continent are clear.
  • Through state-owned media outlets, Russia is striving to create narratives that portray itself as an ally, while discrediting Africa’s traditional partners such as France and the US.
  • Attempts to influence the media landscape have proven somewhat effective in Africa, where Russia’s anti-imperialist credentials find resonance. However, African countries also have agency and exercise choices about who their partners will be according to their own interests.
  • Social media is a key aspect of Russia’s media strategy in Africa. Online influence campaigns are intended to sow confusion and cast doubt on the legitimacy and presence of foreign actors on the continent.
  • Social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter have become adept at identifying inauthentic behaviour. This, together with low levels of connectivity on the continent, could prove to be a challenge for Russia.
  • Although Russia has managed to restore its image as a genuine power in some parts of the continent, it does so on a limited budget and, so far, with limited benefit.

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27 Jun 2022