Russia has rapidly increased its engagement in Africa in recent years, both politically and economically, as it seeks to expand its influence on the continent. However, Russia’s activities in Africa are subject to controversy. Our new report sheds light on the Wagner Group, a private military company rapidly becoming the most effective form of Russian engagement in Africa.

The group comprises a network of political influence operations and economic entities such as mining companies. It has been accused of using whatever means necessary to achieve its aims, including criminal activity. The US government recently designated Wagner as a ‘transnational criminal organization,’ allowing for broader sanctions against Wagner and its enablers.

The report argues that the Wagner Group is unique as an organization in the breadth, scale, and boldness of its activities. However, the study also shows that Wagner did not emerge in a vacuum: The group’s activities and characteristics reflect broader trends in the evolution of Russia’s oligarchs and organized crime groups, their respective relationships with the Russian state, and their activities in Africa.

By focusing on case studies in several African countries, the report helps to shed light on the complex dynamics between Russia, its oligarchs, and its criminal networks and how they interact with African governments, businesses, and populations. This report draws on research conducted since July 2022, as well as other sources from across the continent, providing a comprehensive overview of the Wagner Group’s operations in Africa.

The report provides important insights into the evolving relationship between Russia and Africa and how this is shaping politics and economics on the continent, serving as a resource for journalists, policymakers, and researchers seeking to understand the complex dynamics of Russian engagement in Africa.