Prior to the start of the colonial era in Africa in the late 19th century, European states conducted relations with African rulers through a variety of means. Formal diplomatic exchanges characterized relations with polities that Europeans recognized as states, between European diplomats and officials of the Congo Kingdom of present-day Angola, Ethiopia, and Liberia, for example. Other African authorities occupied intermediate positions in Europeans’ views of international relations, either because these authorities ruled very small territories, defended no fixed borders, or appeared to outside eyes to be more akin to commercial entrepreneurs than rulers of states. Relations between Europe and these authorities left much more room for proxies and ancillary groups. Missionaries, explorers, and chartered companies commonly became proxies through which strong states in Europe pursued their relations with these African authorities. So too now, stronger states in global society increasingly contract out to private actors their relations toward Africa’s weakest states. Especially in the United States, but also in Great Britain and South Africa, officials show a growing propensity to use foreign firms, including military service companies, as proxies to exercise influence in small, very poor countries where strategic and economic interests are limited. This privatized foreign policy affects the worst-off parts of Africa—states like Angola, the Central African Republic, Liberia, Mozambique, and Sierra Leone—where formal state institutions have collapsed, often amidst long-term warfare and disorder.