UP EXPERT OPINION: A vision for Africa’s post-Ukraine global order

Posted on August 22, 2022

Professor Adekeye Adebajo writes about recent high-level visits to Africa by the foreign ministers of Russia and the US, Sergei Lavrov and Antony Blinken. 

With recent high-level visits to Africa by the foreign ministers of Russia and the US, Sergei Lavrov and Antony Blinken, respectively, it is critical that the continent define its own vision of a post-Ukraine world. Africa must focus on concrete strategies in the three areas of security, political, and economic decolonisation.

The continent from the Sahel to the Horn continues to be racked by violent extremism fuelled by socioeconomic inequalities and poor governance. Africa must thus prioritise democratic governance to curb conflicts and consolidate popular participation in decision-making.

South Sudanese scholar-diplomat Francis Deng’s 1996 concept of “sovereignty as responsibility” should be urgently embraced to protect populations that are at risk and manage diversity more effectively.

The US, France and Russia continue to launch damaging military interventions across Africa. Africans must therefore return to late Kenyan scholar Ali Mazrui’s notion of Pax Africana, which argued for a “continental jurisdiction” and “racial sovereignty” to keep meddling outsiders out of African disputes.

The continent’s regional bodies should work closely with the UN, as envisaged by the first African UN secretary-general, Egypt’s Boutros Boutros-Ghali.  

These organisations must also be strengthened urgently. The clearest failure of Pax Africana is the non-operationalisation of the 25,000-strong African Standby Force first announced in 2003 leading to improvised and non self-sustaining interventions. African governments should therefore increase financial and logistical capacity in this critical area, and the UN must use assessed contributions to support these efforts.

Africa should also pressure the anachronistic 15-member UN Security Council to bring in powers such as Nigeria, SA, Brazil and India.

In pursuit of political decolonisation Africans must craft a radically reformulated “non-alignment”. This was an approach employed by the newly independent developing countries from the 1950s to balance East and West and avoid becoming Cold War proxies. Such a strategy could be useful in future battles between two Pax Americana and Pax Sinica-led blocs.

In the spirit of the 1955 Bandung Conference and its prophets  Jawaharlal Nehru, Gamal Nasser and Kwame Nkrumah  African states must pursue “positive neutrality”, abstaining from collective defence arrangements with great powers. The foreign military bases of the US, France and China  and Russia’s military presence  must therefore be dismantled.

Africa should, of course, still support the rules-based international order, condemning wars of aggression in Ukraine as it does in Iraq.

The final strategy Africa must promote is economic decolonisation. It must work with its Global South allies to reverse international trade inequalities and gain greater leverage in the Western-dominated World Bank, IMF and World Trade Organization. Africans should also push for the building of infrastructure, and the transfer of technology.

With intra-African trade a paltry 16% of the continent’s total, it must embrace Nigerian scholar-technocrat Adebayo Adedeji’s vision of five effective subregional pillars, before it can build a genuine African Common Market. The heavily polluting rich world should fulfil its annual $100m pledge to tackle climate change in Africa.

The same solidarity that helped the Global South achieve political liberation through the UN has failed to reverse the economic inequalities built into the continuing system of “global apartheid”. Africa must therefore work with powerful countries such as China, India, Brazil and Indonesia to establish a more equitable global economic system.

Beijing’s economy of $18-trillion is now larger than all 27 EU countries combined ($15.7-trillion), and is due to overtake the US’s in the next decade. Africa should thus leverage its relations with Beijing  as its largest trading partner at $254bn and builder of a third of its infrastructure  to craft better deals with Western governments and investors. 

EU countries may also be forced to look to African countries to replace Russia’s 40% contribution to their gas supplies.   

Professor Adekeye Adebajo is professor and senior research fellow at the University of Pretoria’s Centre for the Advancement of Scholarship.

This article first appeared in Business Day on 21 August 2022.

- Author Professor Adekeye Adebajo

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