Niger welcomes its Russian military instructors

Africa taken by storm by disinformation campaigns

“Actors close to the Kremlin” are responsible for almost half of the campaigns carried out on the continent.

The Center for Strategic Studies of Africa (CESA) is an organization founded in 1999 which depends on the United States Department of Defense. For several years, the CESA has taken a close interest in disinformation campaigns carried out on the African continent and the observation is clear: these campaigns are more numerous each year, practically all countries are now affected and the more unstable the State, the more the campaigns are numerous and targeted.

What is striking in the study carried out in 2023 is the exponential increase in these campaigns. The CESA documented 189, while recognizing that this figure is certainly underestimated, given the particularly opaque nature of these operations. A year earlier, in 2022, these attacks were four times fewer.

Russia champion of disinformation

Another observation is that Russia is well ahead of the states responsible for these campaigns. Eighty of the 189 campaigns documented by the CESA are used by those “close to the Kremlin”. These “Russian” operations affected at least 22 African countries and millions of Internet and social media users. Because, according to several studies, today, the continent has more than 400 million active social media users and 600 million Internet users. “We have seen, particularly in the Sahel, the nuisance capacity and the strike force of the digital army under orders from Moscow”explains an African diplomat who recalls “in particular, the production of cartoons which depict abuses allegedly committed by French or Western forces and which praise the merits of Russian soldiers. These are images which strike a public which is often very receptive and which seeks foreign officials to explain their misfortune. A quest generally amplified by the powers in place who never question their management method”continues a Togolese politician.

The impact of the war in Ukraine

How Russia uses disinformation to gain a foothold in Africa

Since February 20, 2022 and the start of the “special operation in Ukraine”, Moscow has also broadcast the Kremlin’s vision of this war on the continent. A campaign, through hundreds of “X” accounts and WhatsApp channels, which aims to place responsibility for the explosion in the cost of food, which impacts the daily lives of millions of consumers, on the policy pursued by the 'European Union. According to the communication from the troll army led by Moscow, it is the EU sanctions against Moscow that are the basis of this situation. False assertions which are not contradicted by any credible press on the continent. Worse, they are reproduced by local television stations, mainly on YouTube, easily financed by sponsors under the orders of Russia. Some Russian diplomats are particularly active in these operations, as was the case in the Central African Republic, today completely infiltrated by the heirs of the Wagner group.

Team Jorge

The CESA further notes that election time is conducive to all disinformation campaigns which are now only the prerogative of foreign groups. During elections in Kenya (2022) and Nigeria (2023), local political actors have increasingly incorporated disinformation into their campaigning. It is here that an important actor in disinformation which is not limited to Africa also appears, the “Team Jorge”. A nebula originating from Israel which “would have implemented disinformation campaigns to disrupt more than 20 African elections since 2025”, according to the CESA.

“Team Jorge” provides disinformation and smear campaigns. Operations that range from hacking email boxes to spreading rumors via fake news sites and multiple fake profiles on social networks.

They can also clean up an individual's profile by removing anything that could be compromising or, conversely, remove documents including the supposed medical records of their target. explains an African businessman. The first appearance of “Team Jorge” in Africa dates back to 2015 in Nigeria. He then, according to the daily Le Monde, was in contact with Cambridge Analytica (which ceased to exist in 2018) on behalf of rich businessmen who wanted the re-election of Goodluck Jonathan.

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