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Wagner’s Strategic Control in Africa: Yevgeny Prigozhin’s Legacy

Written by: Vera Calabrese

Edited by: Clelia Vettori

Supervised by: Syuzanna Kirakosyan

Following the recent death of Yevgeny Prigozhin, the former leader of the Wagner Group, uncertainty clouds the future trajectory of this mercenary group and its strategic operations across Africa. Wagner has long been shrouded in ambiguity, often categorized as a Private Military Group (PMC), a Private Security Company (PSC), or simply a band of mercenaries. However, some analysts argue that it extends beyond these definitions, asserting that its influence campaigns are orchestrated on behalf of the Russian government to bolster Russia’s position in strategic competition with the West (Pokalova, 2023). 

Over the past decade, the Wagner Group has wielded substantial influence across Africa, utilising defence and security services to obtain access to strategically vital natural resources. Moreover, emerging evidence from Russian documents suggests a deliberate endeavour by the Kremlin to reshape Africa’s mining sector, with the aim of sidelining Western competitors from critical strategic areas. Despite Prigozhin’s demise, the Wagner Group’s continued expansion across various African nations, including the Central African Republic (CAR), Mali, and Sudan, underscores its persistent pursuit of objectives with unwavering determination. After setting the context for Wagner’s activities under the leadership of Yevgeny Prigozhin, this paper will explore the current situation of the mercenary group’s operations in three African countries (CAR, Mali, and Sudan). It will illustrate how the group offers security services in exchange for access to natural resources and how it has gained momentum in these contexts, partly due to the absence of a Western presence.