December 1, 2023

As America fails to support pro-US African media outlets, Kremlin-backed RT channel is joining China’s CGTN to counter western rhetoric in Africa amid war in Ukraine

European Council President Charles Michel said: 'The big question remains: does the Kremlin want dialogue?' [Sputnik/Sergey Guneev/Kremlin via Reuters]
European Council President Charles Michel said: 'The big question remains: does the Kremlin want dialogue?' [Sputnik/Sergey Guneev/Kremlin via Reuters]

As the United States fails to support media outlets seeking to promote stronger ties between Africa and the United States, RT, the Kremlin-backed television network formerly known as Russia Today, is setting up its first Africa bureau to counter accusations from the United States and Europe that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is unjustified and driving up global food and fuel prices. RT will be competing against other government-backed broadcasters such as British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and China Global Television Network (CGTN).

RT Africa will be headed up by Paula Slier, a South African broadcaster and a former employee of the South African Broadcasting Corporation who previously ran RT’s Jerusalem Bureau. Slier began running RT’s Middle East Bureau in 2005. RT will be broadcast in English to reach an African audience that often watches western news.

The development comes as President Vladimir Putin seeks to court African allies amid pressure from the west following the devastating invasion of Ukraine that has displaced millions of people and killed thousands on all sides. It also comes as the United States fails to support African media outlets seeking to promote ties and interactions between the United States and Africa.

Media outlets such as Today News Africa, which focus on highlighting ties between the United States and Africa, have not received any support from the United States, even as China and Russia invest heavily to dominate the narrative on the continent.

Before the war, Russia had planned to establish an RT African hub in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital, and not in South Africa. In February, the network said on RT’s website that it was planning to recruit African journalists for its hub in Nairobi.

RT was banned by the European Union, the United Kingdom, and Canada, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February. European Commission President Ursula von der leyen said at the time that RT and Sputnik, another Russian broadcaster, “would no longer be able to spread their lies to justify Putin’s war and to sow division in our union.” RT filed an appeal in June, asserting that the EU was silencing its journalists.

Africa’s biggest-pay-TV provider, MultiChoice Ltd. haled RT’s channel afterEU sanctions stopped a global distributor from providing the broadcast.

In Africa, where millions of people were sold into slavery to work in American plantations for hundreds of years with no pay or dignity, and where colonialism devastated the continent for many more years, Russia and China have often pointed to that dark history to convince Africans that America and the West are not friends but enemies and that Russia and China have always been fair to the continent.

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