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'Russia is providing Africa an alternative to what Western countries have offered' - analyst

Russian President Vladimir Putin, African leaders and heads of delegations posing for a family photo at the second Russia-Africa summit in Saint Petersburg on July 28, 2023.   -  
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Late Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin had many lives: hot dog vendor, owner of a restaurant and holder of lucrative government catering contracts. All this was cut short when his jet crashed on August 23rd.

Less than a month prior, Vladimir Putin had said at the Russia-Africa summit that it was urgent to fight Western neo-colonialism. Analysts say Prigozhin's demise didn't signal a shift in Russia's plans for Africa.

"Prigozhin was a CEO per se, so that means that the organization functions independent of him and the entire infrastructure around that organization, for which Africa is a key component in terms of financing, in terms of money laundering and other factors. So that entire infrastructure is still in place," Yan St-Pierre, Eastern Circles think tank.

"Russian military officials from the deputy defense minister, minister and military intelligence officials came to visit some of these countries," Pauline Bax, International Crisis Group (Africa Program Deputy Director).

"Central African Republic, they've visited Mali... And there have been contacts with the leaders in Burkina Faso. It was made clear to leaders in place that the Russian Defense Ministry will now overtake or take Wagner."

On August 25, President Putin signed a decree requiring members of Russian paramiliary groups locally known as volunteer groups and other state-run security entities to swear allegiance to Russia and to obey the Russian military chain of command.

In 2022, Moscow overtook Beijing as Sub-saharan Africa's main arms supplier.

"A lot of what Russia and Wagner have done in the last two years or so has been, to put it crudely, to stick up its middle finger to France," Pauline Bax said.

"And I think France has been its main target. So it has targeted former French colonies in Africa. And that worked surprisingly well. However, it does not really invest. It does not provide development aid. It does not provide humanitarian assistance."

"The fact that it's willing to support a lot of the younger people, their dynamics in terms of saying, well you know, we support what you're doing and we're not going to judge you if you have human rights abuses," Yan St-Pierre.

"That's well received. What Russia is doing well is providing an alternative to what Western countries offer or have offered for the last few decades."

At the latest UN general assembly where Africa is one of the strongest regional blocs, leaders from the continent condemned foreign paternalism.

Guinea's transitional president for instance said his country was neitheir "pro or anti Russian, nor pro-US, nor pro Turkish, but pro African."