It is no secret to anyone that the US is actively interfering in the domestic policies of African states. Often, Washington does not directly impact the affairs and use various non-profit organizations instead. However, the US list of the priority countries of influence on the “black continent” more often remains open until the next coup d’etat or “color revolution” begins.
The fact that US agents of influence oftentimes do not hide their interference in the internal affairs of other states makes it possible for the curtain to come down over the issue. Moreover, they even release the related records, although in a very truncated form.
The National Endowment for Democracy Foundation (NED), an organization recognized in Russia as undesirable) is one of the largest structures that advances the US interests worldwide. Formally, the Foundation promotes democratization around the world. In fact, the NED acts very selectively (none of its projects ever concerns the US ally – the absolutist Saudi Arabia) and in strict compliance with the course of the United States authorities, who are its main sponsors.
The NED activity analysis in Africa does not allow us to find out the US strategic plans regarding the “black continent”. However, a study of the Fund’s actions allows us to identify key areas and forms of influence on the domestic policies of African countries.
In 2018, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) Fund allocated nearly $ 24.7 million for 277 projects in Africa.
The average grant amounted to about $ 89,000. However, most of the grants (157 out of 277) belong to the “light weight class” (from $ 25,000 to $ 50,000).
The grants are divided into regional (or pan-African) and country ones. Out of the 26 largest grants (ranging from $ 250,000 to $ 1 million), 11 were regional or pan-African and 15 – country ones. The total grant cost is $ 11.7 million (47% of the total funding for the Fund’s African projects).
The most considerable portion of the funds among regional and pan-African projects was secured to support the following programs:
Mobilizing the Private Sector to Combat Corruption, $ 782,000: the project aims to support civil society organizations specializing in fighting against corruption, especially in the information field. In fact, one is talking in effect about organizations similar to the Russian Anti-Corruption Fund (FBK), founded by the opposition leader Alexei Navalny. Particularly intensive grant activities were carried out in Kenya, Sudan, Rwanda and Zambia;
Increasing Workers’ Capacity to Participate in Peace Promotion Processes in the East Africa Community, Nigeria and Somalia, $ 782,000. The stated program objectives being to fight for the trade union rights and reinforce its role in the struggle for “democratization” in the countries with the areas of armed conflict. Given that Sudanese unions are currently one of the main driving forces of the protest movement in Sudan, these goals are hard to assess as elusive;
Promoting Public-Private Collaboration to Counter Violent Extremism and Promote Security in the Sahel, $ 668,000, aims to create a coalition of non-governmental organizations specializing in combating extremism and security issues, including think-tanks. In this case, it should be clarified that geographically the Sahel is a part of Africa covering the transitional areas between the Sahara and the savannah. Its length reaches 400 km, it extends from Mauritania and Senegal in the west, through Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad to Sudan in the east;
Supporting Civil Society to Advocate for Democratic Reform in the Great Lakes Region, $ 550,000. The official project objective is to support NPOs promoting political and electoral reforms in the countries within the Great African lakes region;
Creating networks of political activists, empowering citizens and increasing potential to strengthen democratic governance in Africa (Networking, Empowering and Building Capacities to Strengthen Democratic Governance in Africa), $ 500,000. The project aims to consolidate regional networks of youth organizations, engage and train young political leaders.
Regarding financing country projects, the NED resources are concentrated on supporting programs in 10 countries of the given region: Zimbabwe, Kenya, Niger, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, Mali, Ethiopia, Sudan, Côte d’Ivoire and the Gambia. The total grant support costs for these 10 countries amounted to over $ 15.3 million, or 62% of the total funding for African projects. In 2018, 190 projects were funded (about 69% of their total) as part of its “democratization”. A detailed list of the key countries in the region in terms of the NED projects implementation can be found below.
Zimbabwe – 25 grants, $2,573,342.
Kenya – 14 grants, $2,395,872.
Niger – 28 grants, $2,282,175.
Democratic Republic of the Congo – 35 grants, $1,810,042.
Nigeria — 23 grants, $1,513,110.
Mali – 25 grants, $1,334,244.
Ethiopia – 10 grants, $1,077,198.
Sudan – 19 grants, $1,060,026.
Côte d’Ivoire – 6 grants, $961,470.
The Gambia – 5 grants, $317,156.
Overall, it may be concluded that the domestic political field of African states is being reformatted through the National Endowment for Democracy grant programs. US agents of influence are built into the structure of political actors set up through intensive work with representatives of local elites and counter-elites. At the same time, emphasis has been placed on monitoring the situation in specific countries and sub regions which seem to be the most promising in terms of promoting US interests in the medium and long term.
Nikolay Ponomarev, Leading Analyst, Foundation for the Protection of National Values