Africa and external actors

Africa and external actors

The Cape Town seminar in August 2016 brought together about 30 key scholars, policymakers, and civil society activists to assess bilateral and multilateral relations between Africa’s traditional and non-traditional actors in the post–Cold War era.

Key issues pertaining to Africa’s relations with global actors were discussed under the following three broad themes: bilateral relations with traditional powers: the United States (US), Russia, China, France, and Britain; bilateral relations with  non-traditional powers: India; Japan; the Nordics; and Europe and the Arab world; and multilateral relations: the United Nations (UN), the BRICS bloc (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa), the European Union (EU), the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the World Trade Organisation (WTO). This meeting examined Africa’s relations with eight key bilateral actors or blocs and six major multilateral actors, assessing progress made in the continent’s efforts to increase its leverage in global politics through engagement with external actors.
 
Policy recommendations:
  • pro-Africa lobbyists in the US need to collaborate closely with legislators in the US Congress as well as Washington-based interest groups as they did during South Africa's anti-apartheid struggles in the 1980s. The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) should also be mobilised to support these battles
  • the tens of thousands of highly-educated Africans in America should further help to build a viable constituency for Africa
  • people-to-people relations are important in Africa’s relations with Russia. Russian cultural centres could therefore contribute to building Russo-African cultural relations to improve language barriers and to strengthen business partnerships with a view to changing stereotypes on both sides
  • African countries should seize the potential opportunities presented by a weakened, less confident, and less cohesive post-“Brexit” Europe to redefine their relations with the European Union. This includes Africa calling for a moratorium on the economic partnership agreements while the EU completes its “divorce settlement” with Britain, and formulating substantive policy responses to issues such as Brexit
  • African countries should leverage China’s and India’s interest in the continent to reduce their dependence on traditional Western powers such as the US, Britain, and France, while Beijing and New Delhi should assist Africa in broadening its export base through technology transfer and knowledge-sharing. Francophone countries on the continent should reduce their political, economic, and cultural dependence on France. Furthermore, Africa must explore how it can borrow from India’s attitude towards aid and development, which is to accept aid as and when needed, and in specific ways to further its own socio-economic development based on a clear definition of its specific interests
  • African governments should develop clear, coordinated positions on their goals and the strategies for achieving them in fora such as the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation; the Tokyo International Conference on African Development; and in respect of other rapidly emerging economies in the “global South” such as Brazil and India
  • Africa remains a supplier of primary products to external actors, and should change its trade structures so that technical capacity transfer and capacity-building become more of a focus for partnerships with external actors, with local procurement and beneficiation given more prominence. Furthermore, African countries should claim their own individual and collective agency, and strengthen efforts to add value to their primary commodities; diversify their economies; and increase the competitiveness of the export of manufactured products
  • building on the experiences of the Economic Community of West African States Ceasefire Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) in Liberia and Sierra Leone, and the African Union missions in Burundi, Darfur, and Somalia, Africa needs to create an effective peacekeeping force; it must fund its own institutions to a greater extent in order to prevent external actors such as France and the US intervening in Africa in pursuit of their own parochial interests
  • African countries need to regain their influence in the UN General Assembly and Secretariat, and find a unifying issue such as UN Security Council reform, that is of benefit to the entire continent and its Southern allies
  • besides providing the capital to carry out infrastructure projects in Africa, the BRICS New Development Bank should be used as a knowledge development bank to help to differentiate sources of capital and to create more opportunities for investment, trade, and development
  • African countries and their Southern allies must continue to push for genuine transformation of the World Bank and IMF to make decision-making more equitable; African governments at the World Trade Organisation should also continue to work together and develop strategies to achieve trade deals, as well as to build coalitions and develop regional consensus on important issues such as climate change and de-industrialisation
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