The annual Tana High-Level Forum on Security in Africa that was held in Ethiopia mid last month brought together African Heads of State and Government representatives, academicians and opinion leaders.
The theme “Africa in the Global Security Agenda”, was equally apt and timely. The informal nature of the discussions allowed participants to engage in frank and honest debates on the gains, challenges and possible solutions to peace and security issues on the continent.
The general consensus of participants was the slow but increasingly influential role of Africa as a key actor on the global stage within a systemic balance of power that is gradually shifting from a unipolar and towards a more multipolar system. This slow but steady rise of Africa is contrary to previous decades, especially during and in the aftermath of the Cold War era when the continent was viewed as a mere pawn on the global political chessboard.
The emergence of new economies, more so China, has presented Africa with more trading opportunities as well as easy access to grants with minimal pre-conditions.
In essence, the relations between Africa and its new “friends” have to an extent provided the continent with leverage on the global stage. This has been witnessed by power plays in the Security Council, in most cases mainly between China and Russia on one hand, and the United States and its allies on the other. The power plays have more so been with regard to key peace and security issues affecting the continent.
Despite the slight, but increasing assertiveness of Africa’s voice on the international stage, the continent still has a long way to go before it can forcefully stump its authority on key global institutions, particularly in the United Nations Security Council.
In light of these, one of the main challenges that came out during the forum was the lack of internal institutional funding for the African Union (AU) to effectively and efficiently tackle peace and security issues afflicting the continent.
The other hindrance to Africa’s voice on the global stage was cited as disconnect between the AU and representatives of the continent at the United Nations headquarters. This has led to conflicting diplomatic stand on various issues of interest to the continent.
Nevertheless, it’s important to note that the varied sovereign States across the continent have their own interest that they aim to protect and promote. Hence, unless the AU member states agree on and adopt a common supranational kind of foreign policy on major issues of concern to the continent, Africa’s stand on the international stage will be of less impact than other global actors and regional players.
Despite these challenges, the future of a brighter or bleak Africa depends more importantly on the political goodwill of its leaders to establish and strengthen fundamental institutions and organisations from the regional level, through sub-regional and national levels, to the sub-national levels.
The increased participation of youth in the discourse of key issues affecting the continent is likely to accelerate the attainment of Africa’s Agenda 2063, positioning the continent as an indispensable actor on the global stage.
In contrary, the continued marginalisation and disenfranchisement of Africa’s young population is likely to undermine the economic gains that the continent has gained over the last decade.
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