Monday, November 4, 2019

New Think Tank Helping Russia Gain Influence in Africa

Here is more from the New York Times:

Mr. [Jose] Matemulane runs a think tank called Afric, which describes itself on its website as “funded by donors with a common passion to foster Africa’s development,” without mentioning Russia. In an interview, though, Mr. Matemulane said the group was launched last year with support from a St. Petersburg businessman he declined to name.
Afric received prominent billing at a summit for dozens of African leaders hosted by President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia at the Black Sea resort of Sochi last week, and announced it would partner with a Russian propaganda specialist who had previously focused on the United States.
It also drew the notice of Mamadou Koulibaly, a candidate for president of Ivory Coast in elections next year.
“I will ask them if they can introduce me to people with money who will help me,” Mr. Koulibaly said of Afric. “This is important. A campaign needs money.”
Afric — an acronym for Association for Free Research and International Cooperation — is building ties with African politicians and commentators while publishing articles that extol the benefits of cooperating with Russia. It has also invested heavily in election monitoring missions that mirror Russia’s approach in its own elections: bringing in sympathetic foreigners who praise the votes’ fairness and transparency, even as established Western organizations criticize them.

The article goes on to note that investigative journalists have reported that Afric is funded by Yevgeny Prigozhin, who was indicted by the US for running the "troll farm" that sought to sway the 2016 US presidential election.  Afric employees deny any connection.

In July, a Russian think tank with links to an infamous troll farm said two of its employees were detained in Libya.

Here is a 2017 report on Russian think tanks and soft power from the Swedish Defense Research Agency.