Africa’s Place in a New Global (Dis)order

Dr. Vasu Gounden is Executive Director of the African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD). Dr. Andrea Prah is a Researcher at ACCORD. You may follow their organization on Twitter @ACCORD_online.

Thirty years after the end of the Cold War, Europe is once again facing the familiar threat of bombardment, displacement, and uncertainty—this time with more sophisticated weaponry and a greater impact on other parts of the interdependent world. While there are other important developments taking place in the Global South, the discussion of world affairs has become defined by events in Europe. One could argue that a new Cold War is emerging, characterized by a new race in arms, space, and cyber-technology. In addition, another age-old race for land, resources, and influence proceeds at an accelerated pace. Once again, Africa, like the rest of the world, finds itself in a precarious position in an emerging global disorder.

However, this reality is not only driven by events in other parts of the world, but also by developments within the African continent. This article aims to provide an overview of the current challenges and opportunities for the continent within the context of the current geopolitical and economic crisis, which, at the time of this writing, have come to be defined by the Russo-Ukrainian war.

The African Landscape

Recently, the African peace and security landscape has been dominated by a rise in violent extremism in the West, East, North, and for the first time, Southern Africa. Additionally, a resurgence in violence is noticeable from armed groups in Central Africa, while an increase in coup d’états and unconstitutional changes of government have only added to a growing sense of instability.

Military officers, emboldened to conduct coups, have done so in the full knowledge that they will be supported by regional and external actors with vested interests in regime change. With weak deterrence measures in place, all of this demonstrates the need for more effective policy frameworks and responses of the African Union (AU) and the international community. Since 2010, there have been 40 coups and attempted coups across Africa—half of which occurred in West Africa and the Sahel alone. Since 2019, West Africa has experienced six coups in Gabon, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Guinea-Bissau, and two in Mali. In addition to the recent spate of coups, there have been serious constitutional disputes in Ethiopia, Algeria, Guinea, Mali, and Kenya, all of which have had destabilizing effects.

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