BASEES Annual Conference 2022

Russia’s information influence in Sub-Saharan Africa, from international broadcasting to media outsourcing

Fri8  Apr02:40pm(20 mins)


Maxime Audinet


After an abrupt disengagement following the fall of the USSR, Russia stepped up  its presence in Africa in the late 2000s. In October 2019, the Sochi summit materialized this comeback. While military-technical cooperation is its main marker, the footprint of Moscow’s information influence has expanded and diversified in recent years.
This presentation highlights its heterogeneous practices and ecosystem in Francophone Sub-Saharan Africa. The case of the Central African Republic prevails, as Russian actors have been increasingly involved in the country since late 2017. I explore two sides of the spectrum of Russia’s information influence in the region: on the one hand, its mediated public diplomacy, with the French-speaking branches of the state-sponsored news network RT and Sputnik; on the other hand, a Bangui-based and Russian-funded private radio station, Lengo Songo. I argue Radio Lengo Songo epitomizes the way Russian “entrepreneurs of influence” externalize their practices to better target local audiences, spread more offensive contents and dilute their responsibilities. 
Using lexicometric analysis (IRaMuTeQ, GDELT), I also examine the contents these actors have produced over the past years; I emphasize the various narratives they promote, especially for the purpose of disparaging foreign actors (France, MINUSCA) and legitimizing Russia’s presence in Africa.