Beyond BRICS: Growing Russian Presence In Africa Is Linked To ‘Putin’s Chef’

Kevin Mwanza
Written by Kevin Mwanza
Putin's Chef
FILE – In this Friday, Nov. 11, 2011, file photo, Yevgeny Prigozhin, left, serves food to Russian President Vladimir Putin during dinner at Prigozhin’s restaurant outside Moscow, Russia. (AP Photo/Misha Japaridze, Pool, File)

A man known as “Putin’s Chef”, who became a billionaire from catering contracts with the Kremlin, is leading Russia’s push into Africa.

The past decade has seen a surge of Russian interest in Africa. The country’s foreign ministry reported more than a three-fold trade increase with African countries over the past decade.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, a former hot dog seller, is alleged to have helped Russia seize parts of Ukraine, turn the tide in the Syrian war and meddle in U.S. elections. Now Prigozhin is being credited with reaching deep into Africa with an army of mercenaries and spin doctors in tow, according to a Bloomberg report.

Sanctions for ‘Putin’s Chef’

The tycoon was slapped with new sanctions by the U.S. Treasury Department after a segment featuring his private military company, Wagner Group, aired Sept 30. on Vesti Nedeli. Vesti Nedeli (News of the Week) is a weekly program on Russian TV network Rossiya 1.

Russia’s presence in Africa has been growing as President Vladimir Putin firms up his grip on the lucrative energy sector in Africa and increases military, business and diplomatic outposts with African leaders.

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When asked about the activities of Russian private companies in Africa, Putin downplayed the influence that entities such as Prigozhin’s Wagner Group have on the continent.

“So long as they don’t violate the law, they have the right to push their business interests anywhere in the world,” Putin told journalists during his annual marathon news conference in 2018.