September 14, 2021

Insider Release

Geopolitical Blog

Private Military Contractor Companies In Africa

Russian and Chinese Expansion in Africa

Several private military contractor companies, better known as PMCs, have been making their way into the international scene for some years now.

Private Military Contractor
PMC – Photo by Maxim Potkin

Currently, Russia and China (and others) are also making extensive use of these “companies”, especially in Africa. Private military contractor companies are becoming a tool increasingly used by major powers. However, it is necessary to premise that Russia and China have not invented anything new. Such strategies have been, and continue to be, employed by the United States in a variety of international scenarios.

Insider Release wants with this article to mention the growth of this “strategic trend” in Russia and China, in relation to the African continent.

Russia – Private Military Contractor Companies – Africa

Moscow is using several private military contractor companies, among which stands the famous “Wagner” in both Africa and the Middle East. Yevgeny Prigozhin is the owner of the company. Yevgeny is considered to be very close to President Putin himself.

The suspicion of many is that this decision may be a diversion to achieving strategic foreign policy objectives.

Generally, the modus operandi follows a precise pattern. The requesting government awards Russia a generic local assistance contract. A legitimate reason to allow the movement of men and means is created. For example, assistance in mining and subsequent provision of security services. Then the use of infrastructure, such as ports and airports, and securing them is provided.

The evolution of the “mutual support ratio” thus allows for the gradual deployment of regular units in support of the operation. One example is the deployment of the Air force and Navy to defend strategic points.

Normal diplomatic procedures are thus circumvented through the lack of rules in this area. In Sudan, Central African Republic, Madagascar and Libya this strategy is already active.

AFRICOM (U.S. Military Command for Africa) confirms the presence of Russian PMCs in at least 15 African states.

At the moment, the Kremlin is particularly active in the Central African Republic, Algeria, Libya, Sudan. It is also strengthening relations with Tunisia, Mali, Mauritania, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Mozambique and Angola.

It is clear that the enormous economic (and strategic) potential of this continent has not gone unnoticed by the leaders in Moscow. They have been able to develop a strategy of rapprochement focused on promises of economic development, mining and military supplies. All this focused on the short term. An idea that appeals to many rulers of African States.

African leaders desperately need to be concrete in the shortest possible time given the continent’s high political and economic instability.

China – Private Military Contractor Companies – Africa

The phenomenon of the use of private military contractor companies also affects China. China’s presence in Africa has been consolidated for a long time, at least economically.

China’s strategy revolves around the “Belt and Road – BRI” initiative.

It is basically a vast communications and trade network consisting of roads, railways, ports and oil pipelines. It is linking China to Europe, via Asia and Africa. The ultimate goal is to massify trade and communication from and to the “rising sun”. The new “silk road” reworked for today’s needs.

Belt and Road BRI
Wikipedia – Belt and Road Initiative

The need to ensure the security of installations and protect investments arises.

Beijing is reluctant to deploy government troops suitable for the purpose. To not to run into diplomatic and logistical problems, has begun to make extensive use of Chinese private military contractor companies.

A marked change from the past during which China still relied on foreign “security companies”. Among the most active Chinese PMC companies in the international scenarios are Beijing Dewe Security Services, VSS Security Group and China Security and Protection Group.

However, compared to the US and Russian antagonists, China faces a “gap” dictated by the lack of experience of its operators on the ground. In this regard, is important to say that almost all the operators of private military contractor companies made in the US or Russia have acquired a long operational experience in the field during their active service in the home army.

Both Russia and the United States are engaged in different theatres of war, and it is undeniable that their military experience puts them at a higher level of preparation than anything else.

Why the growing interest in Africa?

In the global economy, there are few areas to be set up for massive development. These places include the mineral-rich countries that are part of the African continent.

The Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, Central African Republic and South Sudan are key States.

Aside from the complicated dynamics of strategic and military interest, which nevertheless exist and weigh on the choices of the world powers, Africa represents a great economic potential.

An emerging market and a point of connection rich in cheap resources.

Many decades have passed since the official abandonment of colonial policies. However, the superpowers’ dealing way to Africa has remained very similar. A proven approach for world powers in their dealings with Africa is that of the “government-to-government” business model. In the weak African States, the only real power and decision-making is almost always still in the hands of the President.

The signing of trade treaties and agreements with African heads of State is more or less a guarantee that the agreements will become law. The executive will almost always find a way to make this happen despite any kind of opposition.

This course of action is very reminiscent of episodes in the past. It is very similar to treaties signed between european explorers, missionaries and colonial administrators, african kings and rulers in reference to past centuries. The African countries and their leaders are unfortunately still unable to act within the general framework of the collective national interest.

Africa, however, is a continent that is becoming “major”, boasting a growing number of key emerging markets. This is certainly one of the main reasons why the superpowers are once again interested in this beautiful but complicated territory.

Adriano Margarone

for Insider Release

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