Geo- politics beyond Washington: Africa’s alternative security and development partnerships JOSePhINe OSIKeNA
With little fanfare, the US government launched Africa Command (AFRICOM) on 1 October 2008. Ironically, this twenty-first-century defence arrangement has been relegated to reside in Stuttgart, Germany, as there is little (with the exception of Liberia), if any, appetite in Africa for it to be relocated to the continent. How relevant is AFRICOM for Africans and Africa? To what extent is Africa’s response to AFRICOM, and broader US strategic interests, influenced and challenged by Africa’s alliances with new global centres of power beyond Washington who have competing motives and approaches to development and security? What are the implications of all this for US policymakers in a new administration? This chapter explores the challenges associated with AFRICOM’s predominant focus on the militarisation of African security, by surveying examples of African partnerships with non-OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) actors. In an emerging world order with a shifting global balance of power, the chapter provides an illustrative analysis of African attempts to identify and address their broader strategic security interests. It examines the geo-political alliances that Africa has attracted in the areas of: aid, investment and trade, as well as development cooperation and the opportunities and challenges this poses for US engagement across the continent. The first section explores Brazil-Africa collaboration in the sphere of social development. It demonstrates how Brazil has ostensibly been able to set aside its own short-term gains and national commercial interests to promote long-term sustainable development, by sharing and exchanging examples of its own development experience. This section also discusses what lessons this form of engagement provides which could be the basis for developing better US Africa relations. The second section examines Africa’s diplomacy and power partnerships with India, which have helped to secure greater self-determination and underpin Africa’s (and India’s) sense of sovereignty and improve integration and cooperation, both amongst African states and throughout the developing world, as well as advance efforts to make global governance institutions more representative. This section identifies that this political assertiveness does not always produce a convergence of interests between Africa and India, and discusses the implications that this dynamic might bring to bear on US Africa relations. The third section explores
the continent’s expanding relations with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the impact this has had on Africa’s own economic growth agenda, particularly in the areas of commodities and infrastructural development. It demonstrates that China’s significant presence in Africa represents a sizable challenge for both American and African strategic interests, and unless the United States is able to provide a coherent and informed response to this challenge, there is a risk that US interests may become increasingly marginalised in Africa. The final section examines the emerging role that Africa has begun to play regarding food security in the Middle East. It examines how Africa can exploit its comparative advantage in abundant arable land and surplus labour to ensure its own food security and agricultural development needs are met, as well as meeting regional and global demand. The section also discusses the challenges Africa faces in employing agriculture as a platform for industrialisation and the implications of this for US Africa engagement. In closing, the chapter raises a number of questions for US policymakers to consider: how, in a changing world with the rise of new centres of power, might US Africa policy better connect with African people and African governments? How might a more informed and coherent US approach better serve Africa’s own development and security agendas, as well as secure strategic US interests on the continent? Indeed, it asks if this is even possible.