The continent of Africa, characterised by its extensive size and wide-ranging diversity, has historically served as a site of contention for worldwide geopolitical and geoeconomic pursuits. The strategic location, growing population, and abundant resources of the continent in question make it a pivotal participant in the global arena. Throughout history, the continent of Africa has been subjected to various forms of colonisation, exploitation, and conflict, resulting in a multifaceted legacy of political and economic obstacles.
Presently, Africa is confronted with a variety of internal and external forces that have an impact on its stability and progress. The challenges faced by the continent range from poverty and inequality to climate change and resource depletion, necessitating a comprehensive approach. Simultaneously, the burgeoning economic potential and strategic importance of Africa have captured the interest of prominent international powers, resulting in heightened rivalry for sway and dominance.
The objective of this article is to conduct a thorough examination of the geoeconomics and geopolitics of Africa, delving into the intricate interplay between internal and external factors that influence the continent’s direction. This article aims to provide a comprehensive analysis of the challenges and opportunities that Africa faces in the 21st century. It covers a range of topics, including the historical legacy of colonialism, the role of major powers in shaping Africa’s political and economic landscape, as well as current trends and prospects. The goal is to present a nuanced understanding of the complex issues at play in Africa’s development.
The Study of Geoeconomics on the African Continent
The African continent has been acknowledged by major global powers as possessing substantial economic potential, owing to its plentiful natural resources and favourable agricultural climate. The continent harbours abundant reserves of oil, gas, minerals, and timber, while its arable land presents a favourable prospect for agricultural cultivation. Notwithstanding these benefits, Africa continues to be one of the most economically disadvantaged areas globally. Several nations on the continent are facing challenges in delivering fundamental amenities, including education, healthcare, and infrastructure, to their populations. The aforementioned circumstance has led to a prevalent state of destitution and disparity, thereby intensifying societal and governmental strains throughout the continent.
The complex and multifaceted nature of Africa’s underdevelopment is a subject of inquiry. A prominent determinant has been the enduring historical impact of colonialism, which engendered the exploitation of the continent’s resources and populace by European nations for an extended period. Insufficient allocation of resources towards infrastructure and social services in recent times has resulted in several countries on the continent facing challenges in bridging the gap with their more developed counterparts. Furthermore, during the Cold War period, numerous African nations were used as instruments in the geopolitical rivalry between the Soviet Union and the United States, resulting in the establishment of precarious and frequently dishonest regimes.
In addition, the debt predicament experienced in the 1980s and 1990s had a devastating impact on numerous African economies, resulting in the implementation of austerity measures and the privatisation of state-owned assets in order to fulfil obligations to global lenders. In contemporary times, there has been a resurgence of attention towards the economic prospects of Africa, as evidenced by the amplified involvement of global superpowers such as China, the United States, and European nations in the region’s investment activities. The potential efficacy of this investment is yet to be determined, given the persisting apprehensions regarding corruption, inadequate infrastructure, and political volatility in numerous African countries. Despite the challenges faced, Africa still holds significant potential for economic growth and development. Therefore, it is crucial for the global community to collaborate and enhance the capacity of African countries to achieve sustainable development.
The Belt and Road Initiative: China’s Impact on Africa’s Geoeconomic Landscape
The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has significantly altered the geoeconomic landscape of Africa by virtue of China’s economic involvement in the region. The primary emphasis of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) on infrastructure development has facilitated the building of the infrastructure deficit in numerous African nations, particularly in the domains of transportation and energy. The provision of extensive infrastructure projects, such as ports, highways, railways, and power plants, by China has facilitated the integration and openness of African economies, resulting in heightened trade, investment, and economic expansion.
However, as reported in Western media, there has been growing concern in political circles about the longevity and transparency of China’s investments. China’s investment strategy in Africa has been criticised by some for prioritising resource exploitation and debt-trap diplomacy over authentic economic development. According to their assertion, the loan conditions offered by China are frequently unclear, and the payment plans can impose a burden on the economies of African nations. Moreover, as per their claims, Chinese enterprises frequently utilise Chinese labourers and resources for their undertakings, thereby restricting the advantages that accrue to the indigenous economy.
Notwithstanding these apprehensions, it is evident that China’s economic involvement in Africa has exerted a noteworthy influence on the geoeconomics of the continent. The integration of African countries with the global economy has facilitated economic growth. The sustainability of this growth in the long run and the potential of African countries to utilise infrastructure investments for their economic development and poverty reduction are yet to be determined. It can be observed that the Chinese involvement in Africa seems to be predominantly centred on commercial activities as opposed to being motivated by the Western paradigm of hegemony and colonisation.
US Economic Engagement in Africa: Balancing Energy Security and Development Goals
The economic involvement of the United States in Africa has been a crucial element of its foreign policy, with the aim of investing in the oil and gas industry in Africa due to China’s increasing influence in the region. This strategy safeguards the US’ energy requirements while simultaneously countering China’s expanding footprint. Apart from its emphasis on ensuring energy security, the United States has also contributed towards extending assistance and backing for developmental initiatives in Africa. The implementation of programmes in the areas of healthcare, education, and governance is widely regarded as essential for the establishment of stable and prosperous societies. The United States has collaborated closely with the European Union to synchronise their economic involvement in Africa, acknowledging the significance of harmonising their strategic concerns in the area. The United States has encountered notable obstacles in advancing its interests in Africa, such as apprehensions regarding governance and corruption due to the long colonial captivity of the European countries. Nevertheless, its involvement in the area remains indispensable to its wider and more coordinated western foreign policy goals, which are primarily focused on keeping China away from valuable natural resources and gaining political and military influence in the region.
Trade, Ties, and Tensions: A Look at the Economic Relations Between the European Union and Africa
The economic ties between the European Union and Africa have a multifaceted historical background that extends over several centuries. Several European Union member states possess a colonial heritage in Africa that has influenced their economic interactions with the continent. Currently, the European Union holds the position of being the primary trading partner of Africa, with a specific emphasis on the trade of natural resources and agricultural commodities. Nonetheless, apprehensions exist regarding the repercussions of the European Union’s trade policies on the African economy. Certain scholars contend that the trade agreements between the European Union and Africa exhibit a bias towards European interests at the expense of African development, thereby exacerbating economic disparities. Moreover, there have been inquiries regarding the level of transparency in the European Union’s investments in Africa, prompting demands for increased oversight and responsibility. Notwithstanding the obstacles, the European Union (EU) has exhibited some endeavours to foster so-called sustainable and equitable economic expansion in Africa via measures such as the Africa-EU Partnership. The potential evolution of Africa as an economic power raises questions regarding the nature of the EU’s economic engagement with the continent and its potential alignment with African-led development initiatives. Almost all the initiatives from the European countries look very noble in papers; however, it is believed that the synchronised geoeconomic strategies of the west are less favourable to the African population than the Chinese approach since it is based on a win-win strategy.
Beyond the West and China: The Middle East and India’s Emerging Economic Influence in Africa
Africa’s economic associations extend beyond the dominant global powers. In contemporary times, the regions of the Middle East and India have emerged as noteworthy actors in the geoeconomic landscape of Africa. Historically, the Middle East has played a role in Africa’s energy industry, specifically in nations possessing substantial oil and gas resources, such as Algeria, Nigeria, and Egypt. The aforementioned relationships have facilitated the acquisition of a consistent energy supply for Middle Eastern nations while simultaneously furnishing African nations with the essential financial resources and specialised knowledge required to cultivate their indigenous resources. Conversely, India has been augmenting its economic involvement with Africa, specifically in domains such as commerce and investment pertaining to agriculture and technology. India’s growing engagement with Africa is motivated by its aspiration to secure dependable sources of raw materials and to extend its footprint in untapped markets. Africa’s economic potential has garnered the interest of major global powers and other regions seeking to leverage its abundant resources and markets.
Significant global powers have acknowledged the economic potential of Africa, and their involvement in the region has had an impact on the geoeconomics of the continent. Nonetheless, there exist apprehensions regarding the durability and lucidity of certain investments, alongside inquiries pertaining to the extent to which they accord precedence to advancement and confer advantages on African nations.
The Contest for Africa’s Geopolitical Significance: Colonial Wounds, Resource Conflicts, and Terrorism
The geopolitical significance of Africa, stemming from its strategic location and abundant natural resources, has rendered the continent a contested terrain for major global powers. The enduring impact of colonialism has resulted in profound wounds on the African continent, resulting in political turbulence and interregional strife. The exploitation of natural resources by external entities has frequently led to conflicts over resources, as various nations compete for dominance over Africa’s reserves of oil, gas, and minerals. The phenomenon has contributed to the prevalence of political instability and conflicts in numerous African nations, thereby intensifying impoverishment and impeding the progress of economic development.
In addition, the emergence of terrorism and extremism has added a layer of complexity to the geopolitical terrain in Africa, creating fresh security obstacles for African countries and their global allies. In recent years, certain groups, including Boko Haram, Al-Shabaab, and ISIS, have extended their operations in Africa, resulting in attacks and violent acts that have caused destabilisation across entire regions. Countering terrorism and extremism has emerged as a primary concern for numerous African nations, along with their global allies, who have been employing a multifaceted approach of military, diplomatic, and economic measures to combat these perils. Notwithstanding, the obstacles presented by terrorism and extremism in Africa continue to be noteworthy, and their influence on the continent’s geoeconomics and geopolitical terrain is expected to endure for an extended period.
The Battle for Africa: The Growing Rivalry between China and the United States
The intensifying rivalry for dominance in Africa between China and the United States is a notable phenomenon. The United States perceives China’s economic and political involvement in Africa as a strategic challenge to its own interests, particularly as China advances in domains such as infrastructure development and trade. In response, the United States has implemented a more heavily militarised panic-full strategy, augmenting its military footprint in Africa with a specific focus on nations such as Djibouti, where a significant military installation, Camp Lemonnier, has been established. The current military expansion is a component of the United States’ overarching approach to projecting its power and exerting its influence globally, with a particular focus on areas where it perceives a potential risk to its interests. The United States has endeavoured to advance democratic governance and human rights in Africa as a strategy to counteract China’s authoritarian tactics. The aforementioned strategy, which endeavours to establish partnerships with African countries grounded in mutual principles, stands in opposition to China’s emphasis on financial involvement and the construction of infrastructure.
The European Union’s Geopolitical Endeavours in Africa
Like the US, the European Union has been actively advocating for democracy and human rights in Africa, utilising diplomatic endeavours and development aid to foster good governance and stability in order to maintain the western geopolitical influence on Africa and face the rise of China. As many European countries ruled Africa for several centuries, the European Union is instrumental in negotiating regional conflicts that were once planted by them, including the peace process in Sudan and South Sudan. Notwithstanding these endeavours, the European Union’s impact in Africa has been somewhat restricted by its internal predicaments. The ongoing refugee crisis, resulting in the migration of a significant number of individuals from Africa and the Middle East to Europe, has had the effect of shifting focus and allocating resources from Africa. The process of Brexit has been a noteworthy diversion, requiring a substantial amount of time and effort from policymakers within the European Union. Despite this, the European Union (EU) retains a significant role in Africa’s geopolitical terrain, and its geopolitical endeavours to advance so-called ‘stability, conflicts, democratic governance, and human rights’ in the region are anticipated to weaken if China and Russia advance their activities to reduce the powers of western countries.
Russia’s Rising Influence in Africa: Another Strategic Challenge to the West
The international community has taken notice of Russia’s burgeoning military collaboration with African nations and its proliferation of arms sales in the area. Russia’s strategic objectives in Africa, which seem coordinated with China, are centred on countering the global influence of the West and extending its sphere of influence in the region. Russia’s involvement in Africa is predominantly centred on military collaboration, although it has also demonstrated a keen interest in additional industries such as energy and mining. Russia’s involvement in Africa has been subject to western criticism like that of other regions of the world due to its perceived hostility with the west. According to western critics, Russia’s emphasis on the trade of weapons and military collaboration may contribute to the escalation of regional disputes and instability. They believe that Russia and China have the power to complicate the western free-riding adventures in Africa. Russia’s expanding footprint in Africa is indicative of its aspiration to assert its global clout with a strategic partnership with China and contest the prevailing international system, despite facing sanctions.
Ultimately, the escalating prominence of Africa as a site of geopolitical competition between dominant global actors has become more conspicuous in contemporary times. With a focus primarily on the development of infrastructure, China’s Belt and Road Initiative has facilitated its emergence as a significant participant in Africa’s geoeconomics. Nonetheless, there are ongoing apprehensions regarding the durability and openness of China’s investments in Africa. Both the United States and the European Union possess noteworthy economic stakes in Africa, with the former concentrating on the extraction of oil and gas and the latter on the acquisition of natural resources and agricultural commodities. In the interim, Africa has established economic partnerships with other global regions, including the Middle East and India. The enduring impact of colonialism has resulted in profound wounds on the African continent, giving rise to political turbulence and territorial disputes, which are further compounded by the emergence of extremist ideologies and acts of terrorism. The expanding influence of China in Africa is perceived as a potential challenge to the interests of the United States and its allies. In contrast, the European Union has been actively engaged in advancing democratic values and human rights, as well as in mitigating regional disputes. Russia’s involvement in Africa has predominantly been centred on military collaboration and the vending of weaponry, which is perceived as a strategy to enhance its worldwide sway and counteract Western dominance. With the increasing significance of Africa in the global economy, it is probable that the region will persist as a crucial arena for geopolitical power struggles in the foreseeable future.
Written by Rajeev Ahmed
Illustration: Midjourney AI, Economist