Kleptocratic Cooperation in Africa: How Russia and China Undermine Democracy

September 06, 2023
02:00 pm - 03:00 pm

This event will be held virtually. RSVP below to receive livestream information.




About the Event

Please join the International Forum for Democratic Studies, J.R. Mailey (Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime), Andrea Ngombet (Sassoufit Collective), and Jodi Vittori (Georgetown University) for a discussion on how two global authoritarian powers, Russia and China, provide surge capacity to kleptocratic networks in Africa, drawing on findings from a new report from the International Forum. Melissa Aten (International Forum for Democratic Studies) will moderate the discussion. The event will be streamed on NED’s YouTube channel.

Authoritarian actors, namely Beijing and Moscow, play a crucial role in enabling kleptocracy across sub-Saharan Africa. At a time when Moscow is increasingly isolated diplomatically and economically, the Wagner Group’s corrosive commercial interests and cozy relationships in parts of Africa with some of the continent’s most diplomatically isolated regimes reveal the extent to which a global kleptocratic support network has taken shape. Additionally, the Chinese party state and its proxies also are entrenched in corrupt networks in Africa—tapping into like-minded networks on the continent and helping to embolden and empower local kleptocrats seeking to enrich themselves at the expense of their populations. An effective response must tackle this pervasive, complex issue at a systemic level. Until countries committed to the rule of law act collaboratively to tackle this challenge, kleptocratic mutual support networks will continue to adapt and elude the measures taken against them. 


Melissa Aten (moderator)
Senior Program Officer for Combatting Kleptocracy, International Forum for Democratic Studies 

J.R. Mailey
Senior Expert, Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime 

Andrea Ngombet
Founder, Sassoufit Collective 

Jodi Vittori 
Professor of the Practice and Concentration Co-Chair for Global Politics and Security, Georgetown University 

About the participants

J.R. Mailey is a senior expert at the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime (GI-TOC), where he works on corruption, organized crime, and illicit financial flows. Prior to joining GI-TOC, he was Director of Investigations for the Sentry, overseeing investigations into financial crimes and corruption linked to violence and atrocities. Prior to joining the Sentry and the Enough Project, J.R. was a research associate at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, where he specialized in natural resources, corruption, and security in Africa. While at the Africa Center, he authored the ACSS Special Report, “The Anatomy of the Resource Curse: Predatory Investment in Africa’s Extractive Industries.” He also previously worked as a researcher for the U.S.-China Economic & Security Review Commission, where he was co-author of “The 88 Queensway Group: A Case Study in Chinese Investors’ Operations in Angola and Beyond.” Follow him on Twitter @MaileyJR.

Andrea Ngombet Malewa is a civil society leader, a Reagan Fascell-Fellow and a Stanford Draper Hill Fellow. He is a member of the International Coalition for Democratic Renewal and founder of the Sassoufit Collective, which advocates for democracy and rule of law in the Republic of the Congo. He holds a Bachelor in History from Sorbonne Paris IV university. Follow him on Twitter @andrea_ngombet 

Jodi Vittori is an expert on the linkages of corruption, state fragility, illicit finance, and U.S. national security. She is Professor of Practice and co-chair of the Global Politics and Security program at Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service and a non-resident fellow with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Vittori also served in the U.S. Air Force; her overseas service included Afghanistan, Iraq, South Korea, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Saudi Arabia, as well as Bahrain, and she was assigned to NATO’s only counter-corruption task force. She is also a founder and co-moderator of the Anti-Corruption Advocacy Network (ACAN) which facilitates information exchange on corruption-related issues amongst over 900 participating individuals and organizations worldwide. Vittori is a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy and received her PhD in International Studies from the University of Denver. Follow her on Twitter @j_vittori. 

Melissa Aten is a senior program officer at the International Forum for Democratic Studies, a center for research and analysis at the National Endowment for Democracy, where she specializes in transnational kleptocracy and its impact on democracy and governance around the world. She is the co-author of the January 2018 Journal of Democracy article, “The Rise of Kleptocracy: A Challenge for Democracy,” and as editor of several kleptocracy-related publications. In her spare time, she is a passionate advocate for animal adoption, serving as holding multiple volunteer positions at a Washington, DC-based animal rescue. She holds an MA in International Relations from the George Washington University and a BA in English Literature from St. Edward’s University in Austin, TX. Follow her on Twitter @melissaaten.




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