Pope Francis on his recent trip to DR Congo urged global predators to lay their hands off Africa and stop choking the continent. Africa should not think that this will happen easily, for the world is driven by interests. Geopolitical competition in Africa is as old as the continent. Global powers have competed to tailor Africa’s social, cultural, political, and economic landscape in an effort to secure their geopolitical interests.
There is a litany of geographic alliances across Africa formed specifically to shore up nation states’ bargaining power and standing within the international community even as China, Russia, the United States, Europe, and Gulf states seek to strengthen their influence across the region. No new game is at play, rather, new players are actively displacing old ones on the African scene. A contest between new players whose activities range from investments, trade, finance, technology, and education and display of power are rapidly gaining ground against the 500-year-old West’s grip on Africa. The short run impact of this contest on Africa is disruption of supply chains, inflation, turmoil in financial markets, energy crises, food insecurity, reversal on skills gains and ultimately socio-political tensions.
Africa is indeed a battlefield of clashing systems. It is urgent that African leaders, intellectuals and academia, take time to reflect and develop a position from which Africa can navigate the ongoing strategic geopolitical competitions. A joint foreign relations strategy that draws from Africa’s experience in history and an eye on Africa’s own interests should be of the continent’s top priority
Africa should craft a strategy to convert the appetite for resources by global powers into a geopolitical advantage for the continent. In the ongoing predator victim contest, Africa must strategically avoid being the victim. The continent should use its natural resource ability, intellectual resource, and multiple players courting the continent as a bargaining tool for a win-win deal for Africa. The question should be, who has better strategic offers that address Africa’s long term interests? It is important that Africa capacity-builds and positions its bulging population projected to be 2.5 billion by 2050 to be strategic players in the comity of nations. Looking inward, enhancing intra-Africa trade, and strengthening the “morning economy” that draws inspiration from Africa’s production rhythm and culture can also enable Africa to proactively plug into global markets.