Russia's Resurgent Interest in Africa: The Cases of Zambia and Tanzania

The Russia–Africa Summit heralded Russia’s new strategy for the continent. Despite the pandemic, Russia has established a number of institutions that should take the implementation of its strategy forward. While some of this engagement takes place at the multilateral level, much of it is occurring bilaterally. This special report tracks two such relationships – that of Russia with Tanzania and with Zambia. It shows that the two relationships have gained strength from historical ties that date back to the Soviet Union era, but are also firmly rooted in the Putin regime’s attempts to further its priorities. These include the need to generate business for Russian companies, which increasingly encounter resistance in the rest of the world. In the face of hostility from Western countries, much of this expansion is happening in Africa. Russia aims to double its trade with African countries and has already achieved some success in Zambia and Tanzania. However, more systemic engagements are needed, and new institutions should provide the backbone for business collaborations and investments. The report maps the main Russian entities active in Tanzania and Zambia, and traces their history there. It also outlines the main areas of engagement, including nuclear, military and COVID-19 vaccine provision. While Russia entertains sizable African ambitions, its relationships with Zambia and Tanzania – beyond political declarations and memorandums of understanding – remain very limited. This reveals some of the hurdles to Russia’s current drive for greater influence in the Global South.