Europe’s diminishing role in Africa? - What a multipolar world order means for African nations
29 May, 16:00 (CET)
Spanning across 54 distinct countries, Africa is the fastest growing continent that has witnessed profound political transformations and continues to navigate its way through a complex socio-political landscape. From the struggles for independence to the challenges of post-colonial governance, Africa's history is marked by a pursuit of self-determination and the quest for equitable development. When almost half of Africa’s states abstained condemning Russia’s aggression against Ukraine in the United Nations emergency session on March 2, 2022 (1 vote against, 17 abstentions and 8 absent), it sent shockwaves through Western diplomatic circles, exposing a long lack of serious engagement. It was a wake up call to face the fact that Europeans did not engage with their African counterparts and had neglected Africa’s significance and potential for a while.
While African affairs have not gotten much geopolitical attention in Europe over the past decades, China has established itself as a geopolitical player in the region through its Belt and Road Initiative and its control of critical raw materials. In countries such as Mali and Burkina Faso, Russia has crowded out France by providing military assistance via the notorious Wagner group. One-sided deals and unfair arrangements have long been the norm between the EU and African nations. However, despite a reduction in share, the EU is still Africa’s largest trading partner. With its population of 1.3 billion people being set to double by 2050, Africa represents an important partner. So while each presents the other with great opportunities, they also share a myriad of problems. Changes in climate, demographics, technology and geopolitics all demand a reevaluation of the EU-Africa relationship.
European policy-makers increasingly view Africa as a theater of strategic competition with other (rising) powers. From a European perspective, it may seem as if African nations are becoming increasingly alien actors in the new multipolar international order. But if you ask our upcoming guest Fonteh Akum, it just means that Africa has entered an era of choice. African nations are discovering they have agency in a changing global environment. This means they have the freedom to identify, define and pursue their interests. How will this new dynamic shape the geopolitical arena on the African continent? What does it mean for European involvement and its strategic interests in the region? How is Europe viewed by African nations today? What kind of relationships will we see emerge between the EU, its member states and African nations to tackle the issues of our time?
This discussion took place on 29th of May with Fonteh Akum – executive director of the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), Africa’s leading multidisciplinary human security organization.