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Wagner’s Presence in Africa

Consequences and Future Trends

Africa, Transnational - Security & Conflict - Format: PDF - Size: 823.82 KB - Date: Mar, 2024 - Pages: 24 - Copyright: NATO Strategic Direction South HUB - Tags: Africa, Russia, Organised Crime


The aim of this report is to analyze the patterns of activity and presence of the Wagner Group, now Africa Corps, in relevant North African and Sahelian countries, how they serve Russian foreign and security policy, and the challenges they pose to NATO and its Allies.


For nearly a decade, Russia has used proxies in North Africa and the Sahel to disguise their direct affiliation with the Russian government as part of its hybrid warfare. The Wagner Group (Wagner) is the best known and most notorious of these proxies. Wagner’s activities in Africa are growing in number and scope, affecting the region’s democracies, western influence and partnerships, economic relations, access to critical resources and, most importantly, the security landscape. In Africa, Wagner has exacerbated civil conflict, terrorism and human displacement. The aftermath of Prigozhin’s death has not changed Russia’s ambitions or hybrid approach in Africa. The new Wagner in Africa, called the ‘Expeditionary Corps’ or ‘Africa Corps’, will continue its activities under tighter control by the military and its intelligence service, the GRU.

Key insights

  • In Africa, Wagner has served Russia's foreign, economic and security policy and ambitions well, providing it with a very valuable tool for its hybrid approach to managing conflict and gaining political influence while benefiting from ambiguity and deniability: all at relatively low cost.
  • Wagner's presence in Africa varies from country to country and region to region. Its presence is more significant in the Sahel, the Central African Republic, Libya and Sudan.
  • In the Sahel, Wagner has supported undemocratic regime change, interfered in elections, provided disinformation to promote anti-Western sentiment, engaged in counter-terrorism operations and supported the withdrawal of UN, Western and EU security missions and/or operations. They also undermine the West's political and economic access in these countries, including to critical resources such as lithium and uranium.
  • In Libya, Wagner has supported Haftar's side, participated in military operations against Tripoli, and provided military equipment, expertise and security services. Wagner has military bases in the country, which serve as a logistical platform for Wagner's expansion in Africa.
  • Wagner's (attempted) coup and Prigozhin's mutiny did not significantly change Russia`s strategic objectives and hybrid approach. On the contrary, Putin's rapid response in establishing a new leadership for Wagner in Africa, closely linked to the Ministry of Defense and the GRU, giving it a new name and reassuring local partners of its commitments, has proved successful.
  • Wagner is an integral part of Russia's Africa policy, which affects the interests of NATO and its allies in the Sahel, North Africa and the Mediterranean. For NATO, it could have serious implications for current and future partnerships.
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