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Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik
Updated: 2 months 1 week ago

Afrikanisch sein oder nicht?

Thu, 05/10/2023 - 14:42

 

Am 25. Juli 2021 ergriff Kais Saied die uneingeschränkte Macht in Tunesien. Erst 2019 war er demokratisch zum tunesischen Präsidenten gewählt worden. Anschließend löste er das Parlament auf und schaffte die erste und einzige demokratische Verfassung ab, die Tunesien jemals gehabt hatte.

In einer Erklärung vom 21. Februar 2023 sprach er davon, dass Tunesien von „Horden illegaler Migranten“ belagert werde, die eine Ursache für „Gewalt, Verbrechen und inakzeptablen Taten“ seien. Damit meinte er afrikanische Migrant*innen, die versuchten, über Tunesien nach Europa zu gelangen.

Saied betonte, dass ihre Anwesenheit in Tunesien schnell ein Ende finden müsse. Diese illegale Einwanderung sei Teil eines „kriminellen Unterfangens“, das zu Beginn des Jahrhunderts geplant worden sei, um die demographische Zusammensetzung Tunesiens zu verändern“. Das Ziel dieser Verschwörung sei es, Tunesien in ein „rein afrikanisches“ Land zu verwandeln und seinen „arabisch-muslimischen Charakter“ zu verdrängen.

Diese Rede hatte dramatische Folgen. Auf menschlicher Ebene führte sie zu einer regelrechten Hetzjagd auf schwarze Menschen. Studierende mit regulärem Aufenthaltsstatus wurden auf der Straße belästigt; viele wandten sich an ihre Konsulate mit der Forderung, sie in ihre Herkunftsländer zurückzubringen. Ganze Familien wurden aus ihren Wohnungen vertrieben. Racial Profiling wurde zur Norm, von der auch dunkelhäutig gelesene Tunesier*innen betroffen waren. Schlimmer noch, Migrant*innen wurden an die libysche Grenze zurückgebracht und dort mitten in der Wüste ohne Wasser und Lebensmittel sich selbst überlassen.

Auf politischer Ebene hat dieser Skandal Tunesiens Image weiter beschädigt – ein Land, das 2011 mit seiner demokratischen und friedlichen Revolution den sogenannten Arabischen Frühling auslöste und damit der Stolz der arabischen Welt und Afrikas war.

Vor allem aber hat diese düstere und beschämende Episode der modernen Geschichte Tunesiens gezeigt, wie tief drei große Fragen reichen, die nicht nur Tunesien, sondern den gesamten Maghreb beschäftigen: jene nach der Identität, der regionalen Integration und der geostrategischen Verortung.

Die Rede des Putschisten-Präsidenten drehte sich im Kern um die nach wie vor ungelöste Frage, wer wir, die Tunesier*innen und Maghrebiner*innen, eigentlich sind.

Auf diese Frage gibt es in Tunesien, wie im übrigen Maghreb, zwei Antworten, die relativ eng mit der sozialen Zugehörigkeit verbunden sind. Für einen konservativen Teil der Bevölkerung mit niedrigerem sozioökonomischen Status ist unsere Identität ohne Zweifel arabisch-maghrebinisch. `Maghreb´ bedeutet im Arabischen `Westen´, was darauf verweist, dass wir am westlichen Rand der arabisch-muslimischen Welt sind.

Für das westlich orientierte und weitgehend säkularen Bürgertum sind wir in erster Linie Anrainer*innen des Mittelmeerraums, Bewohner*innen des südlichen Westens, wobei mit Westen hier Europa gemeint ist.

Insbesondere in Algerien, Marokko und Libyen werden außerdem zunehmend Stimmen laut, die eine identitäre Zugehörigkeit zur Kultur der Berber oder Amazigh beanspruchen.

Dagegen gibt es keine Stimmen, die sich auf eine afrikanische Identität berufen – obwohl ein Teil der Bevölkerung, insbesondere im Süden der Maghrebstaaten, aus Subsahara-Afrika stammt. Sogar das Wort `Afrika´ selbst leitet sich von dem Begriff `Ifriqiya´ ab, der ursprünglich den Nordwesten Tunesiens bezeichnete und später auf den gesamten Kontinent ausgeweitet wurde.

Die Ablehnung der afrikanischen Identität hat ihren Ursprung in einem Rassismus nach brasilianischem Muster. Bis heute werden Menschen umso niedrigerer auf der sozialen Leiter eingeordnet, je dunkler ihre Hautfarbe ist. Mit diesem latenten Rassismus und der impliziten Zurückweisung unseres Afrikanisch-seins spielte nun der gegenwärtige Putschisten-Präsident. Er erntete dafür Beifall, denn nichts funktioniert heutzutage besser als die populistische Rhetorik der extremen Rechten, die die niedrigsten Instinkte einer Gesellschaft anspricht.

Die menschliche Natur ist leider überall und zu allen Zeiten die gleiche. Deshalb betrachtete der Maghreb im Laufe seiner Geschichte Subsahara- Afrika nur als ein Gebiet, in dem es Reichtümer (hauptsächlich Gold und Menschen für den Sklavenhandel) zu plündern und die eigene Sprache und Religion zu verbreiten galt. Es ist die gleiche Art von kolonialer Beziehung, die der Kontinent unter europäischer Herrschaft erlitten hat.

Die zweite Frage, die durch die rassistische Tirade des Präsidenten mit Gewalt auf die Tagesordnung gesetzt wurde, ist eine politische: In welchen regionalen Raum sollen sich unser Land und der Maghreb integrieren?

Die Arabische Liga ist seit ihrer Gründung im Jahr 1945 eine leere Hülle. Das 1989 in Marrakesch gegründete Projekt der Union des Arabischen Maghreb (UAM), die Libyen, Tunesien, Algerien, Marokko und Mauretanien umfassen sollte, ist aufgrund des Konflikts zwischen Marokko und Algerien um die Westsahara tot und begraben. Die Versuche des ehemaligen marokkanischen Königs Hassan II, der Europäischen Union (EU) beizutreten, lehnte Europa höflich ab. Was also bleibt übrig?

Für die maghrebinischen Politiker*innen, die ihren Gesellschaften ausnahmsweise einmal voraus waren, war die Suche nach engeren Verbindungen mit den Ländern südlich der Sahara die Lösung für die Blockade der interarabischen und intermaghrebinischen Integration.

Der Wettlauf um Subsahara-Afrika wurde durch Libyen unter Muammar Gaddafi eröffnet, der sich als König von Afrika träumte. Weniger folkloristisch und besser organisiert war die marokkanische Politik, die Märkte Zentral- und Westafrikas zu erschließen. Algerien folgte Marokko im Zuge einer Rivalität in alle Himmelsrichtungen. Tunesien war unter Präsident Ben Ali in diesem Rennen völlig außen vor. Diese Abwesenheit, die in erster Linie meinem Land geschadet hat, musste so schnell wie möglich behoben werden.

Nach meinem Amtsantritt als Interims-Präsident 2011 besuchte ich zahlreiche afrikanische Hauptstädte in Begleitung einer Delegation mit rund 100 Unternehmensvertreter*innen, um Beziehungen für wirtschaftliche Zusammenarbeit und Handel zu knüpfen.

Wir wurden überall sehr herzlich empfangen und brachten Kooperationsvorhaben, insbesondere im Gesundheits- und Bildungsbereich, auf den Weg. Diese ganze Arbeit wurde nun durch einen inkompetenten und unverantwortlichen Diktatorenlehrling zunichte gemacht.

Es bleibt allerdings festzuhalten, dass Tunesien, wie alle Maghrebstaaten, mit einem realen Problem konfrontiert ist, das sich weiter verschärfen wird, und das mit seiner geostrategischen Lage verbunden ist.

Aufgrund politischer Instabilität, des Klimawandels, wirtschaftlicher Krisen und einer rasanten demographischen Entwicklung, hat die Jugend in Afrika südlich der Sahara keine andere Wahl als zu emigrieren, vor allem in Richtung Europa. Der Maghreb liegt dabei auf der kürzesten Route und sieht sich Druck aus zwei Richtungen ausgesetzt: dem Migrationsdruck aus dem Süden und dem politischen Druck aus dem Norden, diese Migrationsbewegungen zu stoppen – einschließlich wirtschaftlicher Erpressung als Hebel).

Zwischen diesen beiden gegensätzlichen Kräften gefangen, stehen Tunesien und der Maghreb grundsätzlich vor unmöglichen Entscheidungen.

Unsere eigenen wirtschaftlichen und politischen Krisen schüren den Ansturm gen Norden, der in den Zielländern starke politische Reaktionen auslöst. Heute nutzt die extreme antidemokratische Rechte in Europa die Angst vor Migration und versucht Europa in die 1930er Jahre zurückzuführen. Welche Folgen hätte es für die Demokratie und die Welt, wenn Europa in die dunkelsten Stunden seiner Geschichte zurückkehren würde?

Diese drei großen Fragen konfrontieren alle Maghrebiner*innen – und nicht nur sie – mit enormen Herausforderungen.

Die Frage der irregulären Migration von Nordafrikaner*innen und Afrikaner*innen südlich der Sahara kann nur durch eine großangelegte und langfristige Politik der wirtschaftlichen Zusammenarbeit gelöst werden – eine Zusammenarbeit zwischen Europa und Afrika als Regionen mit einem geteilten Schicksal.

Die Identitätsfrage stellt sich aufgrund der Globalisierung weltweit. Nur wenn wir unsere Vorstellung von Identität verändern, können wir das gefährliche Monster namens Rassismus in Schach halten. Für uns Maghrebiner*innen bedeutet dies, dass wir aufgrund unserer Geographie und Geschichte arabisch-berberisch-afrikanisch-mediterran sind und unser Afrikanisch-Sein in gleichem Maße annehmen sollten wie die anderen drei Komponenten unserer Identität.

Allein die Integration innerhalb der Region, das heißt die Wiederbelebung der UAM, kann die Wirtschaft unserer Region ankurbeln und damit die Gründe für die Auswanderung unserer Jugend verringern – und zwar auch die der qualifizierten Jugend, die jedoch nur selten von den aufnehmenden Ländern als Geschenk der Ärmsten an die Wohlhabendsten verstanden wird.

Zum Schluss bleibt noch die Frage nach der menschenwürdigen Behandlung von Migrant*innen. Die Maghrebiner*innen würden die schlechteste aller Lösungen wählen, wenn sie die Region in ein von Europa finanziertes Internierungslager verwandeln würden. Für die Europäer*innen wiederum wäre es die schlechteste aller Lösungen, den Kontinent in eine belagerte Festung umzubauen.

Es geht schließlich um unserer aller Zukunft und mehr noch, um unsere Ehre.

Dr. Moncef Marzouki war von 2011 bis 2014 der erste demokratisch gewählte Präsident der Republik Tunesien. Vor der Revolution von 2011 war Marzouki Medizinprofessor und Menschenrechtsaktivist. 2015 gründete er die Partei al-Irada, die sich 2019 in al-Harak umbenannte.

Die Verantwortung für die im Artikel vorgetragenen Inhalte, Meinungen und Quellen liegt beim Autor.

Der Euro angesichts der Dollar-Dominanz

Thu, 05/10/2023 - 02:00

Die Frage der internationalen Rolle des Euros, der nach dem Dollar die zweitwichtigste Währung im internationalen Finanzsystem ist, sollte bei den Bemühungen um eine Stärkung der strategischen Autonomie der EU einen höheren Stellenwert haben. Das Haupthindernis für eine weitere Internationalisierung des Euros sind das Fehlen eines Souveräns, der hinter ihm steht, sowie die Heterogenität und die strukturellen Probleme der Mitgliedstaaten. Der internationale Status des Euros kann aktiv verbessert werden, indem seine Rolle bei der grünen Transformation und bei der weiteren Vertiefung und Integration des Finanzmarkts in Europa gestärkt wird – und durch eine Förderung des Projekts »Digitaler Euro«. Die gegenwärtigen Tendenzen einer wachsenden geopolitischen Rivalität, der Digitalisierung und des Aufstiegs von Plattformunternehmen in der Weltwirtschaft werden sich auf die Entwicklung des internationalen Finanzsystems hin zu einer stärkeren Regionalisierung auswirken.

„Wir müssen konkrete Angebote machen, ohne neue Abhängigkeiten zu schaffen.“

Wed, 04/10/2023 - 13:31

 

Megatrends Afrika (MTA): Welche aktuellen Entwicklungen und Herausforderungen machen es nötig, dass Deutschland seine Afrikapolitik neu ausrichtet?

Dr. Karamba Diaby (KD): Afrikas Gewicht in der Welt wächst stetig. Der Kontinent verfügt über ein immenses Potenzial für erneuerbare Energien, Digitalisierung und landwirtschaftliche Produktion, über Rohstoffvorkommen und eine chancenreiche junge Bevölkerung. Die Afrikanische Union und andere Regionalorganisationen gewinnen international erheblich an Bedeutung.

Während der Corona-Pandemie ist viel Vertrauen in die globale Solidarität verloren gegangen. Wir beobachten, dass sich immer mehr afrikanische Staaten nach Alternativen zum „westlichen Modell“ umsehen. Bei den jüngsten Machtwechseln in Burkina Faso, Mali und Niger haben lokale Akteure auch Kritik an westlichen Partnerländern geübt. Seit Beginn seines Angriffskriegs auf die Ukraine steht zudem der Einfluss Russlands auf dem afrikanischen Kontinent bei uns auf der politischen Tagesordnung.

Doch globale Herausforderungen können wir nur gemeinsam lösen. Der Klimawandel wird Krisenherde verschärfen und Auswirkungen auf die 17 Nachhaltigkeitsziele der Agenda 2030 haben. Um vorhandene Partnerschaften zu stärken und neue aufzubauen, müssen wir auf aktive Diplomatie setzen. Wir müssen afrikanischen Staaten konkrete Angebote machen, ohne neue Abhängigkeiten zu schaffen.

MTA: Wie sollte die deutsche Afrikapolitik neugestaltet werden, um die Zusammenarbeit mit afrikanischen Staaten zu verbessern und die nachhaltige Entwicklung in Afrika zu fördern?

KD: Die deutschen Afrikapolitik orientiert sich an den Zielen der afrikanischen Staaten selbst. Diese formulieren selbstbewusst Zukunftsstrategien, die wir mit unserer Afrikapolitik flankieren. Im Bereich Frieden und integrierte Sicherheit heißt das auch die Zusammenarbeit mit den einschlägigen Regionalorganisationen zu stärken. Sie kennen die lokalen Gegebenheiten am besten.

Weiterhin bleibt es wichtig, unser Engagement an den 17 Nachhaltigkeitszielen auszurichten, die Klimaversprechen einzuhalten und die Zusammenarbeit im Bereich der Globalen Gesundheit und der Erneuerbaren Energien zu fördern. Zentral ist dabei, unsere Afrikapolitik an den Erwartungen von Frauen und marginalisierten Gruppen auszurichten. Diese progressiven Inhalte greift die neue Afrikastrategie des Bundesministeriums für wirtschaftliche Zusammenarbeit und Entwicklung (BMZ) auf und sollen auch in die Leitlinien der Bundesregierung einfließen. Dazu gehören Initiativen wie der Klimaclub von Bundeskanzler Olaf Scholz, das Bündnis für globale Ernährungssicherheit von Ministerin Svenja Schulze und unser Engagement für Just Energy Transition Partnerships.

MTA: Wie wollen Sie sicherstellen, dass die deutsche Afrikapolitik sowohl die eigenen Interessen als auch die Bedürfnisse und Prioritäten der afrikanischen Staaten und Gesellschaften berücksichtigt?

KD: Neu ist, dass wir unseren Partnern nicht nur unsere Konzepte aufzwingen. Wir hören den afrikanischen Staaten mit ihren individuellen Zukunftsstrategien zu und fragen: Wie lauten Eure Prioritäten? Was erwartet Ihr euch von einer Zusammenarbeit?

Die Anerkennung von kolonialen Kontinuitäten und die entscheidende Rolle von Frauen, der Jugend und indigenen Minderheiten werden endlich explizit benannt. Progressive Afrika-Politik bedeutet, dekolonial zu denken, also koloniale Kontinuitäten aufzubrechen; die 54 afrikanischen Länder und ihre Prioritäten differenziert zu betrachten und nicht immer nur von dem „einen Afrika“ zu sprechen. Und besonders: von den Menschen vor Ort zu lernen.

Es bedeutet, in der afrikapolitischen Betrachtung weg von der alleinigen Entwicklungszusammenarbeit zu kommen und weitere Handlungsfelder mitzudenken. Das Muster, wir müssten „Afrika helfen“, ist mehr als veraltet! Wir sollten die vielfältige Zivilgesellschaft aktiv miteinbeziehen. So gelingt eine Ausrichtung unserer Politik an den konkreten lokalen Bedürfnissen. Gleichzeitig gilt es, uns ehrlich zu machen und eigene Interessen im Dialog mit den Partnerländern klar zu benennen.

MTA: Welche blinden Flecken nehmen Sie in der deutschen Afrikapolitik wahr, die Sie gerne stärker auf die politische Agenda setzen würden?

KD: Im Bereich Digitalisierung und Digitalwirtschaft bietet der Kontinent enormes Potenzial, von dem Deutschland noch lernen kann. Diese Chancen ebenso wie der sozial gerechte Übergang zu Erneuerbaren Energien gehören auf unsere Agenda.

Auch im Ausbau der sozialen Sicherungssysteme bieten sich stärkere Kooperationen an. Das hat sich die Bundesregierung ausdrücklich vorgenommen. Deutschland kann bei der Stärkung der nationalen Gesundheitssysteme ein verlässlicher Partner sein. Bereits jetzt fördern wir die lokale Produktion von Impfstoffen, Medikamenten und Diagnostika. Wissenschafts- und Bildungskooperationen spielen dabei eine wichtige Rolle. Aber: Wir verlieren Vertrauen, wenn wir uns einerseits für Bildungs- und Forschungsförderung; das aber andererseits nicht für Visa-Gerechtigkeit und vereinfachte Migrationsverfahren tun.

Die Auswärtige Kultur- und Bildungspolitik bleibt ein zentraler Bestandteil der deutschen Außenpolitik. Schwerpunkt sollte darüber hinaus eine faire Handelspolitik sein, die die nachhaltige Wertschöpfung in Afrika selbst zum Ziel hat. Die afrikanische Freihandelszone ist eine Chance für den Kontinent, die Deutschland zusammen mit der Europäischen Union stärker unterstützen sollte.

Dr. Karamba Diaby (SPD) ist Mitglied des Deutschen Bundestages und Mitglied im Auswärtigen Ausschuss, sowie dem Ausschuss für wirtschaftliche Zusammenarbeit und Entwicklung. Dieses schriftliche Interview wurde im August 2023 geführt und ist Teil unserer Mini-Serie „Vier Fragen“, in denen wir Abgeordnete nach ihren Prioritäten für die neuen Afrikapolitischen Leitlinien fragen.

Abwahl McCarthy: "Es ist jetzt erst einmal ein Machtvakuum da"

Wed, 04/10/2023 - 09:49
Der Chef des US-Repräsentantenhauses, Kevin McCarthy, ist abgewählt worden. Ein parteiinterner Streit hatte hierzu geführt, denn der rechte Flügel der Republikaner empfand den Politiker als zu nachsichtig. Wie die Demokraten darauf reagieren und wie handlungsfähig die Regierung nun ist, weiß Johannes Thimm von der Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik.

«Russland spielt auf Sieg», sagt Claudia Major – die Sicherheitsexpertin schliesst Frieden in der Ukraine auf absehbare Zeit aus

Mon, 02/10/2023 - 13:43
Die russische Regierung unter Wladimir Putin hat gelernt, dass man seine Interessen mit Kriegen aggressiv verfolgen und durchsetzen kann

Endspurt bei der Reform des Gemeinsamen Europäischen Asylsystems

Thu, 28/09/2023 - 15:00

Noch steht nicht fest, ob das Asyl- und Migrationspaket der EU-Kommission vor den Europawahlen 2024 verabschiedet werden kann; viele Elemente bleiben im Rat sowie zwischen Rat und Parlament umstritten. Angesichts der hitzigen Debatte über die asyl- und migrationspolitische Handlungsfähigkeit der EU und der Wahlerfolge rechts­populistischer Parteien steht viel auf dem Spiel. Die ursprünglich angestrebte Balance von restriktiven und schutzorientierten Elementen wurde im Rat deutlich in Rich­tung Abschreckung verschoben. Aktuell zeigt sich das insbesondere bei der sogenann­ten Krisen-Verordnung. Die Bundesregierung sollte sich in den weiteren Verhand­lungen dafür einsetzen, dass diese Verordnung nicht für sachfremde Ziele instrumen­talisiert wird, dass mit Blick auf das gesamte Reformpaket die Überwachung grund­rechtlicher Standards glaubwürdiger und robuster wird und dass sich die EU mit den Reformen nicht noch abhängiger von autokratischen Drittstaaten macht.

Coups in Africa – Why They Happen, and What Can (Not) Be Done about Them

Thu, 28/09/2023 - 13:56

 

A New Epidemic of Coups

The recent events in Niger and Gabon show that military coups are again a common trend in African politics. Although the armed forces never ceased playing a role in politics, military coups had become less frequent since the early 1990s. The number of successful coups had continuously declined after 1990 and came to an all-time low of six military coups in the period from 2010 to 2019. Less than four years into this decade, at least eight putsches have succeeded. Burkina Faso and Mali both saw two military takeovers, Guinea one in 2021, and Niger and Gabon one each in July and August 2023, respectively. The developments in Sudan in 2021 constitute an additional case. In Chad, the unconstitutional takeover by Mohamed Déby Jr after the death of his father in 2021 might even bring the count to nine. However, the succession from father to son did confirm the military as the actual power centre of the country. We do not know whether the trend will continue. If no decisive action is taken however, it will be more likely to do so.

Coups Don’t Come out of the Blue

While coup causes are always country-specific, three conditions have been key drivers: acute crises, politicized armed forces and an increasingly self-reinforcing dynamic.

First, all countries were facing crises before the coups and had entrenched socio-economic challenges. Discontent grows when politicians do not deliver public goods, and they lack legitimacy because of corruption. The recent political crises have taken different shapes: Power struggles, such as those between civilian presidents clinging to power despite term limits, have been important sources of crises in Guinea and Gabon. In Mali and Burkina Faso, jihadist insurgencies have spread in West Africa in recent years and intensified instability and dissatisfaction.

Second, a military coup is much more likely in places where the armed forces have previously intervened in politics, which is true for around 40 per cent of all sub-Saharan countries, with West Africa as its epicentre. The specific interests of those within the ranks of the military are often the triggers for coups. The coup in Mali in 2012 was motivated by dissatisfaction with the government’s support in fighting against the rebels, who inflicted heavy casualties. In the recent case of Niger, coup leader Omar Tchiani faced the threat of being ousted as the leader of the presidential guard. Rumours persist that the defence ministry embezzled large amounts of the military budget.

Third, coups breed coups. Successful military takeovers in other countries may inspire further coups and create a self-reinforcing dynamic. A further motivating factor for takeover attempts is that would-be plotters of coups might hope for Russian support, as with the junta in Mali.

Consequences: Rarely Better Governance and Delicate Geopolitical Implications

Given the dissatisfaction with civilian leaders, the military juntas initially enjoy considerable popularity. However, as a rule, military involvement does not improve governance. A military government is not only an indicator of instability but may also lead to further trouble: If the root causes of a coup persist, countries may face additional attempts, as recent events in Burkina Faso and Mali have exemplified. Moreover, military officers – who initially claim to be the “salvation” of the country – often develop a taste for ruling once they are in power. This is frequently accompanied by self-enrichment and serious human rights violations. Yet, there are exceptions. In Mali in 1991 and in Niger in 2010, armed forces ousted authoritarian leaders and went on to become “democratising soldiers”. Ghana’s Jerry Rawlings – after implementing economic experiments that initial failed – led the country to relative prosperity and democracy. Gabon, where an oil-fuelled authoritarian regime was overthrown, has the chance of becoming such a success story.

The recent wave of coups is connected to geopolitical changes, especially Russia’s return to the region and the decline of Western – specifically French – influence. Russia takes advantage of these coups and the offer is straightforward: It provides security support for the regime, often through the infamous Wagner mercenaries, and generates revenues from resource extraction in return. Support for Russia at the international level follows suit. None of the coup countries condemned Russia’s imperialistic aggression against Ukraine. The support from Russia and other countries for military juntas and other authoritarian regimes may accelerate a “new scramble for Africa”. African governments can attract foreign support either from non-Western countries or entice Western countries to turn a blind eye to authoritarian or corrupt governance to keep them in their “camp”.

Addressing Root Causes and Lowering Expectations

It is necessary to adopt a firm stance against military coups and strengthen international and regional anti-coup norms in order to stop the contagion. Professionalizing the armed forces can help. First, the military needs to remain under stable civilian control and refrain from politics. Second, professional armed forces are capable of tackling and – preferably – deterring security challenges, such as the jihadist insurgencies that have indirectly led to the coups in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger. Direct military support remains necessary if one does not want security to further deteriorate. However, any long-term strategy requires addressing the socio-economic and political root causes of the coups and other manifestations of instability. The long-term answer is socio-economic and political transformation.

We have no magic bullets to fix the related structural problems quickly. Practitioners and the public expect too much too fast and give up quickly if improvements do not materialise rapidly. However, things can be done. African political leaders must work for the common good and be held accountable to their populations. External actors such as Germany, the European Union (EU) and the United States should evaluate and rethink their policies. Although general concepts such as “security and development” do make sense, instruments such as traditional development cooperation as well as training programmes for African militaries have produced mostly disappointing results.

The European training missions for African militaries share some of the pitfalls of civilian development aid. Programmes are usually designed by Western experts rather than developed according to the needs of local partners. Western instructors apparently refused to train Malian forces in offensive tactics out of fear they would exact vengeance on insurgents and their constituencies. As a result, ownership is lacking and participants view the programmes as sources of income, not as opportunities to improve their professional skills. Relatedly, corruption in the military often undermines efforts to improve their performance.

A revision of the programmes first requires in-depth analysis. We must acknowledge tensions between goals: The coups call for working on the integrity of partners. Security problems – one of the root causes of the coups – require strengthening military capabilities. Western partners need to decide to what extent the latter is conditional on the former. The key is to incentivise ownership by better tailoring programmes to the ideas and needs of African partners. This will also make programmes less prone to abuse. But again, expectations must be realistic. The causes of coups and deficiencies of armed forces cannot be changed overnight and from the outside. African challenges require African solutions.

A Geopolitical Dilemma for Western Actors?

The West faces a mild dilemma, at the very least. Letting things take their course might push the region towards greater turmoil. Russian assistance and military rule are unlikely to remedy either the jihadist surge or other causes of coups. The retreat of Western forces is likely to accelerate the spillover of the jihadist wave and coups to the continent’s western coast. At the same time, Western engagement – military or otherwise – will play into an anti-Western narrative of “neocolonialism” and also be fuelled by Russian disinformation and deeply entrenched anti-French resentment. EU countries must develop a joint position that considers the mistakes of the past. Supporting responsible governance is the solution in the long run, not short-sighted geopolitical goals such as maintaining zones of influence, regardless of the character of the regimes. In the present situation, the best option is still to support African regional organisations such as the African Union and ECOWAS in their anti-coup policies. Instead of falling into the trap of engaging in a scramble for Africa with China, Russia and others, Germany, the EU and the West need to revise their Africa policy in terms of long-term goals, coherence and – in particular – instruments.

Matthias Basedau is the director of the GIGA Institute for African Affairs. His research interests are causes of peace and conflict as well as democratization and civil–military relations. 

Responsibility for content, opinions expressed and sources used in the articles and interviews lies with the respective authors.

Coups in Africa – Why They Happen, and What Can (Not) Be Done about Them

Thu, 28/09/2023 - 13:56

 

A New Epidemic of Coups

The recent events in Niger and Gabon show that military coups are again a common trend in African politics. Although the armed forces never ceased playing a role in politics, military coups had become less frequent since the early 1990s. The number of successful coups had continuously declined after 1990 and came to an all-time low of six military coups in the period from 2010 to 2019. Less than four years into this decade, at least eight putsches have succeeded. Burkina Faso and Mali both saw two military takeovers, Guinea one in 2021, and Niger and Gabon one each in July and August 2023, respectively. The developments in Sudan in 2021 constitute an additional case. In Chad, the unconstitutional takeover by Mohamed Déby Jr after the death of his father in 2021 might even bring the count to nine. However, the succession from father to son did confirm the military as the actual power centre of the country. We do not know whether the trend will continue. If no decisive action is taken however, it will be more likely to do so.

Coups Don’t Come out of the Blue

While coup causes are always country-specific, three conditions have been key drivers: acute crises, politicized armed forces and an increasingly self-reinforcing dynamic.

First, all countries were facing crises before the coups and had entrenched socio-economic challenges. Discontent grows when politicians do not deliver public goods, and they lack legitimacy because of corruption. The recent political crises have taken different shapes: Power struggles, such as those between civilian presidents clinging to power despite term limits, have been important sources of crises in Guinea and Gabon. In Mali and Burkina Faso, jihadist insurgencies have spread in West Africa in recent years and intensified instability and dissatisfaction.

Second, a military coup is much more likely in places where the armed forces have previously intervened in politics, which is true for around 40 per cent of all sub-Saharan countries, with West Africa as its epicentre. The specific interests of those within the ranks of the military are often the triggers for coups. The coup in Mali in 2012 was motivated by dissatisfaction with the government’s support in fighting against the rebels, who inflicted heavy casualties. In the recent case of Niger, coup leader Omar Tchiani faced the threat of being ousted as the leader of the presidential guard. Rumours persist that the defence ministry embezzled large amounts of the military budget.

Third, coups breed coups. Successful military takeovers in other countries may inspire further coups and create a self-reinforcing dynamic. A further motivating factor for takeover attempts is that would-be plotters of coups might hope for Russian support, as with the junta in Mali.

Consequences: Rarely Better Governance and Delicate Geopolitical Implications

Given the dissatisfaction with civilian leaders, the military juntas initially enjoy considerable popularity. However, as a rule, military involvement does not improve governance. A military government is not only an indicator of instability but may also lead to further trouble: If the root causes of a coup persist, countries may face additional attempts, as recent events in Burkina Faso and Mali have exemplified. Moreover, military officers – who initially claim to be the “salvation” of the country – often develop a taste for ruling once they are in power. This is frequently accompanied by self-enrichment and serious human rights violations. Yet, there are exceptions. In Mali in 1991 and in Niger in 2010, armed forces ousted authoritarian leaders and went on to become “democratising soldiers”. Ghana’s Jerry Rawlings – after implementing economic experiments that initial failed – led the country to relative prosperity and democracy. Gabon, where an oil-fuelled authoritarian regime was overthrown, has the chance of becoming such a success story.

The recent wave of coups is connected to geopolitical changes, especially Russia’s return to the region and the decline of Western – specifically French – influence. Russia takes advantage of these coups and the offer is straightforward: It provides security support for the regime, often through the infamous Wagner mercenaries, and generates revenues from resource extraction in return. Support for Russia at the international level follows suit. None of the coup countries condemned Russia’s imperialistic aggression against Ukraine. The support from Russia and other countries for military juntas and other authoritarian regimes may accelerate a “new scramble for Africa”. African governments can attract foreign support either from non-Western countries or entice Western countries to turn a blind eye to authoritarian or corrupt governance to keep them in their “camp”.

Addressing Root Causes and Lowering Expectations

It is necessary to adopt a firm stance against military coups and strengthen international and regional anti-coup norms in order to stop the contagion. Professionalizing the armed forces can help. First, the military needs to remain under stable civilian control and refrain from politics. Second, professional armed forces are capable of tackling and – preferably – deterring security challenges, such as the jihadist insurgencies that have indirectly led to the coups in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger. Direct military support remains necessary if one does not want security to further deteriorate. However, any long-term strategy requires addressing the socio-economic and political root causes of the coups and other manifestations of instability. The long-term answer is socio-economic and political transformation.

We have no magic bullets to fix the related structural problems quickly. Practitioners and the public expect too much too fast and give up quickly if improvements do not materialise rapidly. However, things can be done. African political leaders must work for the common good and be held accountable to their populations. External actors such as Germany, the European Union (EU) and the United States should evaluate and rethink their policies. Although general concepts such as “security and development” do make sense, instruments such as traditional development cooperation as well as training programmes for African militaries have produced mostly disappointing results.

The European training missions for African militaries share some of the pitfalls of civilian development aid. Programmes are usually designed by Western experts rather than developed according to the needs of local partners. Western instructors apparently refused to train Malian forces in offensive tactics out of fear they would exact vengeance on insurgents and their constituencies. As a result, ownership is lacking and participants view the programmes as sources of income, not as opportunities to improve their professional skills. Relatedly, corruption in the military often undermines efforts to improve their performance.

A revision of the programmes first requires in-depth analysis. We must acknowledge tensions between goals: The coups call for working on the integrity of partners. Security problems – one of the root causes of the coups – require strengthening military capabilities. Western partners need to decide to what extent the latter is conditional on the former. The key is to incentivise ownership by better tailoring programmes to the ideas and needs of African partners. This will also make programmes less prone to abuse. But again, expectations must be realistic. The causes of coups and deficiencies of armed forces cannot be changed overnight and from the outside. African challenges require African solutions.

A Geopolitical Dilemma for Western Actors?

The West faces a mild dilemma, at the very least. Letting things take their course might push the region towards greater turmoil. Russian assistance and military rule are unlikely to remedy either the jihadist surge or other causes of coups. The retreat of Western forces is likely to accelerate the spillover of the jihadist wave and coups to the continent’s western coast. At the same time, Western engagement – military or otherwise – will play into an anti-Western narrative of “neocolonialism” and also be fuelled by Russian disinformation and deeply entrenched anti-French resentment. EU countries must develop a joint position that considers the mistakes of the past. Supporting responsible governance is the solution in the long run, not short-sighted geopolitical goals such as maintaining zones of influence, regardless of the character of the regimes. In the present situation, the best option is still to support African regional organisations such as the African Union and ECOWAS in their anti-coup policies. Instead of falling into the trap of engaging in a scramble for Africa with China, Russia and others, Germany, the EU and the West need to revise their Africa policy in terms of long-term goals, coherence and – in particular – instruments.

Matthias Basedau is the director of the GIGA Institute for African Affairs. His research interests are causes of peace and conflict as well as democratization and civil–military relations. 

Responsibility for content, opinions expressed and sources used in the articles and interviews lies with the respective authors.

Not Just Statistics: Why We Need to Overcome Youth Unemployment in Nigeria

Thu, 28/09/2023 - 13:50

 

Africa has the world’s youngest and fastest-growing population. This is particularly evident in Nigeria, where nearly two-thirds of our 220 million people are under the age of 25. Nigeria’s future, both as a nation and a key player on the African continent, indisputably hinges on its youth. But high unemployment and underemployment rates hinder their progress. Empowering them is crucial for their active political and economic participation. To that end, Nigeria and Germany are intensifying their joint commitment in three essential areas: skills development, supporting young entrepreneurs and promoting political engagement.

What is the problem?

Nigeria’s burgeoning youth population stands at a crossroads. They signify both a beacon of hope and a source of concern. We see a demographic dividend waiting to be unlocked, and with it a generation that can actively drive economic growth as well as social progress in our country. This youth cohort is a reservoir of untapped energy, creativity and innovation. Recent elections have also shown what a significant voting bloc they form. Half of the 93.5 million eligible voters were below the age of 35.

At the same time, the World Bank reported an unemployment rate of 13.4 per cent in 2022. The National Bureau of Statistics even gave a much higher estimate – 53.4 per cent – for that same year. These are not just statistics. High youth unemployment is a harbinger of social disenchantment, unrest and the underutilisation of human capital, all of which can have severe consequences for the nation’s stability and prosperity. The second problem is underemployment, a situation in which workers only hold seasonal or short-term positions that do not allow for financial stability and predictability.

This leads to the disillusionment of individuals in our population, but it also has broader societal implications: High youth unemployment can contribute to rising crime rates, political instability and a host of other challenges that can impede the nation’s progress.

What we can do about it together

It is imperative that we empower Nigeria’s youth and strategically invest in their skills and labour market access. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO) concrete initiatives such as vocational training and job placement services can kick-start positive change in labour markets. Germany has a wealth of experience and expertise in these areas that it could bring to the table when looking for ways to increase cooperation with Nigeria. Some key areas where we could cooperate and share best practices are:

  1. Skills Development: Germany and Nigeria should continue to establish vocational training centres and opportunities to equip young Nigerians with essential skills. It is crucial to customize these programmes based on the current needs of and trends in local and regional industries. Germany’s successful vocational training system can serve as a valuable best practice when designing solutions that are suitable for Nigeria. Additionally, by focussing on STEM education, we can invest in accessible digital learning platforms and other technological infrastructure to align education programmes with industry requirements.
  1. Supporting Young Entrepreneurs: To harness the entrepreneurial spirit of the Nigerian youth, both countries should support their aspirations of starting their own companies by providing much needed funding opportunities. Support for young entrepreneurs should cover seed funding, while accompanying network programmes could offer mentorship and access to global markets, fostering a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem. A particular focus should be placed on promoting green and sustainable business practices, supporting the transition to clean energy, biodiversity and conservation efforts, and sustainable agriculture.
  1. Promoting Political Participation and Youth Governance: Young voters in Nigeria already constitute a significant voting bloc, and their political influence will only grow in the future. Nigeria and Germany have the opportunity to collaborate on promoting youth participation in politics. Berlin can broaden exchange programmes between youth leaders and youth parliaments, emphasizing democratic values and practices. It is crucial to prioritize models that emphasize youth representation and engagement in politics.

 

Obiageli “Oby” Ezekwesili is an economic and public policy expert, advisor, advocate and activist. She is a former vice president for the World Bank’s Africa region (2007–2012) and previously served as the Federal Minister of Solid Minerals (2005–2006) and Federal Minister of Education (2006–2007).

Responsibility for content, opinions expressed and sources used in the articles and interviews lies with the respective authors.

Not Just Statistics: Why We Need to Overcome Youth Unemployment in Nigeria

Thu, 28/09/2023 - 13:50

 

Africa has the world’s youngest and fastest-growing population. This is particularly evident in Nigeria, where nearly two-thirds of our 220 million people are under the age of 25. Nigeria’s future, both as a nation and a key player on the African continent, indisputably hinges on its youth. But high unemployment and underemployment rates hinder their progress. Empowering them is crucial for their active political and economic participation. To that end, Nigeria and Germany are intensifying their joint commitment in three essential areas: skills development, supporting young entrepreneurs and promoting political engagement.

What is the problem?

Nigeria’s burgeoning youth population stands at a crossroads. They signify both a beacon of hope and a source of concern. We see a demographic dividend waiting to be unlocked, and with it a generation that can actively drive economic growth as well as social progress in our country. This youth cohort is a reservoir of untapped energy, creativity and innovation. Recent elections have also shown what a significant voting bloc they form. Half of the 93.5 million eligible voters were below the age of 35.

At the same time, the World Bank reported an unemployment rate of 13.4 per cent in 2022. The National Bureau of Statistics even gave a much higher estimate – 53.4 per cent – for that same year. These are not just statistics. High youth unemployment is a harbinger of social disenchantment, unrest and the underutilisation of human capital, all of which can have severe consequences for the nation’s stability and prosperity. The second problem is underemployment, a situation in which workers only hold seasonal or short-term positions that do not allow for financial stability and predictability.

This leads to the disillusionment of individuals in our population, but it also has broader societal implications: High youth unemployment can contribute to rising crime rates, political instability and a host of other challenges that can impede the nation’s progress.

What we can do about it together

It is imperative that we empower Nigeria’s youth and strategically invest in their skills and labour market access. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO) concrete initiatives such as vocational training and job placement services can kick-start positive change in labour markets. Germany has a wealth of experience and expertise in these areas that it could bring to the table when looking for ways to increase cooperation with Nigeria. Some key areas where we could cooperate and share best practices are:

  1. Skills Development: Germany and Nigeria should continue to establish vocational training centres and opportunities to equip young Nigerians with essential skills. It is crucial to customize these programmes based on the current needs of and trends in local and regional industries. Germany’s successful vocational training system can serve as a valuable best practice when designing solutions that are suitable for Nigeria. Additionally, by focussing on STEM education, we can invest in accessible digital learning platforms and other technological infrastructure to align education programmes with industry requirements.
  1. Supporting Young Entrepreneurs: To harness the entrepreneurial spirit of the Nigerian youth, both countries should support their aspirations of starting their own companies by providing much needed funding opportunities. Support for young entrepreneurs should cover seed funding, while accompanying network programmes could offer mentorship and access to global markets, fostering a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem. A particular focus should be placed on promoting green and sustainable business practices, supporting the transition to clean energy, biodiversity and conservation efforts, and sustainable agriculture.
  1. Promoting Political Participation and Youth Governance: Young voters in Nigeria already constitute a significant voting bloc, and their political influence will only grow in the future. Nigeria and Germany have the opportunity to collaborate on promoting youth participation in politics. Berlin can broaden exchange programmes between youth leaders and youth parliaments, emphasizing democratic values and practices. It is crucial to prioritize models that emphasize youth representation and engagement in politics.

 

Obiageli “Oby” Ezekwesili is an economic and public policy expert, advisor, advocate and activist. She is a former vice president for the World Bank’s Africa region (2007–2012) and previously served as the Federal Minister of Solid Minerals (2005–2006) and Federal Minister of Education (2006–2007).

Responsibility for content, opinions expressed and sources used in the articles and interviews lies with the respective authors.

France’s Africa Policy under President Macron

Thu, 28/09/2023 - 02:00

Since his election in 2017, President Emmanuel Macron has tried to distance himself from established and widely criticised patterns of France’s Africa policy. He diversified relations with Africa in regional and substantive terms, integrated non-state actors and cultivated a comparatively open approach to France’s problematic past on the con­tinent. However, Macron’s efforts to craft a narrative of change was overshadowed by path dependencies, above all the continuation of the military engagement in the Sahel and incoherent relations with autocratic governments. The involuntary military withdrawal first from Mali (2022), from Burkina Faso (2023) and finally from Niger (announced for late 2023) marks a historic turning point in Franco-African relations. The question is no longer whether relations between France and its former colonies will change; the real question is whether Paris will be able to shape this change or if it will be a mere bystander to a transformation that is largely driven by African actors.

Shadow Players: Western Consultancies in the Arab World

Thu, 28/09/2023 - 02:00

Across public sectors in the Arab world, international consultancy firms already play a pivotal role and are further expanding their operations. Among other projects, con­sultancies have (co-)designed such high-profile strategies as Saudi Arabia’s‎ “‎Vision 2030”‎ and Morocco’s‎‎“‎Green Agenda”. Currently, they are stepping up their activities in national energy and climate strategies. Their operations involve almost no local public participation, which diminishes the legitimacy and quality of the policies crafted and undermines local development. Besides the ramifications for the Arab world, the consultancies’ work in that region also affects German and European interests, even when it is commissioned by European actors or international orga­nizations. If negative impacts are to be avoided, greater awareness and more transparency about the consultancies’ activities are needed. Moreover, it is crucial to scrutinise whether, when and to what extent it is expedient to commission inter­national consultancy firms.

»Polska A« gegen »Polska B«

Wed, 27/09/2023 - 08:19
Polen im Wahlkampf: Schlammschlacht in einem gespaltenen Land

Turkey-Iran Rivalry in the Changing Geopolitics of the South Caucasus

Wed, 27/09/2023 - 02:00

The South Caucasus has long been a theatre of Turkish and Iranian cooperation and rivalry. While these two regional powers have historically balanced their inter­ests, there are signs that rivalry is taking precedence. Turkey’s unwavering backing of Azer­baijan during the 2020 Karabakh War consolidated Ankara’s footprint in the region. Azerbaijan’s retaking of the rest of Karabakh in the latest military strikes on 19 September 2023 makes a peace accord between Azerbaijan and Armenia more likely, furthering Turkey’s interests, and potentially limiting Russia’s role in the region. However, the prospect of a “less Russia, more Turkey” dynamic heightens Tehran’s apprehensions towards Ankara. Particularly concerning for Iran is the clause with­in the Moscow-brokered ceasefire of November 2020 that mandates the rebuild­ing of a road and rail link connecting Turkey to mainland Azerbaijan via Azerbaijan’s Nakhchivan exclave and Armenia’s south-eastern Syunik province; this risks marginal­ising Iran. In addition, Tehran is anxiously observing the deepening of ties between Turkey’s close ally, Azerbaijan, and Iran’s key adversary, Israel.

EU-Mercosur Agreement: The EU must overcome its trade impasse

Tue, 26/09/2023 - 09:23

Cooperation, financial aid, trade compensation, but no sanctions: According to media reports, these are the demands of the Mercosur countries Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay. They are responding to the EU’s request this spring to amend the forest and climate protection provisions of the EU-Mercosur Association Agreement within a supplementary declaration. Simultaneously, rules on deforestation-free sales into the EU have already been established in parallel.

Hard struggle for conclusion

After more than 20 years, the two major regional markets actually agreed on a joint trade agreement in June 2019. But then the Brazilian government under Jair Bolsonaro abandoned the prior climate protection pledges and allowed large-scale slash-and-burn agricultural practices. Under these changed circumstances, the EU was not willing to conclude the agreement. After his election in 2022, President Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva announced that he would return to his previous climate-conscious policies. However, this did not satisfy the EU, which had become aware of the critical importance of deforestation, leading to a much tougher stance: The EU Regulation on deforestation-free supply chains, which came into force in May, requires European importers of certain products such as soy, beef, and cocoa to ensure a deforestation-free supply chain and, in practice, to buy only appropriately certified goods. This will impact production methods and their documentation, and thus will also affect costs for supplier countries such as Brazil. In addition, the EU sought to make the negotiated agreement more sustainable: A supplementary declaration was intended to address corresponding weaknesses in the text, and also allow EU member states that had previously objected, such as France and Austria, to approve of the agreement.

The Mercosur countries have become increasingly critical of the unilateral EU initiatives developed in parallel, which they perceive as being intrusive and contradicting the idea of bilateral – and thus joint – negotiations on the agreement. The EU Regulation on deforestation-free supply chains, as a unilateral instrument, does indeed provide for cooperation, for example in developing tools for implementation. In this context, it also offers room for a more favourable risk classification for exporting countries, which reduces administrative burdens and costs. It is unknown whether these possibilities were taken into account in the agreements’ negotiations. The supplementary EU declaration proposed in February – prior to the regulation entering into force – does not yet address this issue.

More cooperation required for the trade agreement

The Mercosur countries’ response to the EU’s supplementary declaration now addresses this cooperation consistently: They demand EU support in implementing the necessary standards, including financial resources, the exclusion of trade sanctions regarding commitments and, above all, the introduction of a compensation mechanism, which is intended to be triggered if the unilateral EU legislation nullifies the trade benefits of the agreement. The latter did not appear out of the blue, given the large number of new unilateral sustainability commitments: In addition to the EU Regulation on deforestation-free supply chains, the European Supply Chain Directive, which is similar but covers all products, is well advanced in the Brussels legislative process, and a ban on imports of products from forced labour is being prepared. All of these new unilateral approaches impose partially different requirements on sales within the EU regarding deforestation, climate protection, labour standards, and human rights.

The recent demands of the Mercosur countries touch upon the fundamental question of how sustainability and fair trade are achieved. European legislation can prevent the EU and its consumers from unintentionally contributing to deforestation, environmental degradation, inhumane working conditions, and human rights abuses. However, in the case of global sustainability goals such as climate protection by preventing deforestation, strict rules can lead to trade being diverted to other, less strictly regulated markets. The sustainability goal will thus be undermined, albeit not by European consumers. Sustainability goals can therefore only be fully achieved with the acceptance and support of trading partners. Trade agreements can assist with this, if they are judiciously coordinated with the aforementioned unilateral instruments. In return, however, partners will expect clarity from the EU on what commitments they have to make and what the EU and its member states can contribute towards their implementation. Moreover, partners will demand more trade and competitive advantages in return for greater sustainability commitments.

The Mercosur proposal now offers opportunities to link unilateral actions with trade agreements. This is exactly what the EU itself envisaged in its review of the sustainability chapters in trade agreements in summer 2022. The Mercosur proposal should therefore be used constructively as a template, even if the design of individual elements still requires further discussion: For example, the EU should – for reasons of synergy and even more as a sign of appreciation – make greater efforts to utilise and at the same time support existing sustainability approaches on the Mercosur side, such as own certification. The proposed compensation mechanism could also increase the much-needed acceptance of sustainability goals. It fits into a well-known logic of trade agreements and Mercosur could conceivably impose protective tariffs, or the EU could offer increased market access, provided that unilateral sustainability targets are met.

The EU can now play a key role in linking sustainability and trade as well as promoting fair trade, also from the perspective of its partners. A failure of the agreement would benefit China in particular, which has already offered a trade agreement to individual Mercosur countries. Last but not least, the EU should seize the opportunity to design a forward-looking model for linking sustainability and trade to overcome the impasse on geo-strategically important agreements with other partners.

Zeiten-What-Now? Why Germany’s Idea of Epochal Change Fails to Resonate Across Africa

Mon, 25/09/2023 - 13:00

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 was a decisive rupture in international affairs, sparking heightened global geopolitical tensions among major powers not seen in the post–Cold War era. Although many Western countries swiftly and universally condemned Russia’s aggression as a clear violation of the international rules-based order, as enshrined in the United Nations (UN) Charter, the responses of African states have been far more divided and ambiguous. In fact, the region represented by the African voting group in the UN General Assembly has consistently been the most divided globally regarding support for the adoption of resolutions seeking to condemn Russia’s aggression, upholding Ukraine’s territorial integrity or addressing the fallout of the conflict in terms of human rights violations and the humanitarian consequences.

The collective positions of African states on the ongoing conflict sharply contrast with those of countries such as Germany, whose leaders have characterised it as a watershed moment – famously captured by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s “Zeitenwende” address to the Bundestag on 27 February 2022. This speech marked a decisive shift in German foreign and defence policy, signalling increased budgetary allocations for defence spending and a more pronounced stance on military deterrence than has been seen since the country’s reunification. This has certainly resonated with many countries that do indeed view the brazenness of Russia’s invasion as the effective end of the post–Cold War international system, and the beginning of a new form of European security order.

For many African states, however, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has barely registered as a blip on their respective foreign policy agendas, with Africa consistently accounting for the largest number of abstentions in the UN General Assembly’s 11th Emergency Special Session on Ukraine. For many of these countries, the conflict in Ukraine is seen in terms similar to most other conflicts that have been raging across the continent for many years. Accordingly, the framing of the Russian invasion as some form of “epochal change” for the entire global order is viewed as puzzling at best, or disingenuous at worst.

In light of these contrasting positions, the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) undertook a study of Russia-Africa relations in 2022. One of the aims was to analyse why concepts such as “Zeitenwende” have gained little traction among African governments. The study was based on an analysis of recent political and economic developments between Russia and African states, primary source interviews as well as a statistical analysis of the UN Security Council and UN General Assembly voting patterns of Russia and African states. We came up with three main findings.

What it is not: Russian influence in Africa

The general reluctance of many African states to explicitly condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has very little to do with Russian influence on the continent (beyond a handful of states that have clearly benefited from Russian military and financial support in recent years). For many countries, Russia has remained a marginal player across the African continent when compared to other traditional and emerging powers. From trade and development assistance to investment in infrastructure, mining, energy and other key economic sectors, Moscow lags far behind the continent’s major partners, such as China, the United States, the European Union, and even India and Turkey.

Accordingly, Moscow maintains very little political leverage over African states, despite a strategic pivot back to the African continent in recent years – particularly following the inaugural Africa-Russia Summit in 2019. In sum, Moscow is still largely attempting to catch up with other global powers that capitalized on its disengagement from Africa throughout much of the 1990s and 2000s. The only major exception, however, is the arms trade, where Russia has remained either a top or leading exporter.

Despite this limited economic investment, Moscow is nonetheless seen as having achieved an outsized degree of political influence in a handful of African states, building upon its relatively frugal investments. This may be explained by longstanding historical ties, or, more likely, by the shared worldviews of African states, which see their marginal place in the international system as a consequence of its unjust, unfair and unrepresentative structure. Against this backdrop, Moscow plays on these deep-seated grievances, framing its partnership with the continent as an attractive alternative to the West, which remains burdened by a history of abuse and exploitation in its engagements with Africa.

What it could be: Shared historical links

Longstanding historical and interpersonal ties between Soviet-era officials and former liberation struggle stalwarts in Africa are one important factor for understanding contemporary relations between Russia and African states. Many African leaders currently in power received considerable material and financial support from the former Soviet Union, including military training, arms and education (often centred around trainings in the Marxist-Leninist school of thought). Extensive Soviet support for African liberation movements ranged from the African National Congress (ANC) in South Africa to the South West Africa People’s Organisation (SWAPO) in Namibia, the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) and the Liberation Front of Mozambique (FRELIMO), among others.

This shared history has been wholly claimed by Russia (to the exclusion of other former Soviet Socialist Republics), given its position as the official legal successor to the Soviet Union. Consequently, the modern Russian state and the former Soviet Union continue to be viewed in fairly analogous terms across Africa, despite glaring substantive differences that are becoming increasingly difficult to ignore. As Moscow has more recently sought to rekindle these old ties, it has specifically honed in on these deep, historical, ideological and emotive relationships that were defined through a common struggle against the ongoing abuses of colonial and imperial powers across the world. This has afforded Moscow a particularly privileged position, in contrast to many of the continent’s Western partners.

What it is: Shared worldviews of African states

ISS research suggests that one of the main reasons for Africa’s ambiguous response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is not so much the engagements or relations of African states with Russia. Instead, it is due to the frustrations of African states and growing disillusionment with the nature of the current global order. Whereas Germany’s “Zeitenwende” seeks to develop a response to a significant turning point in the international system based on the brazenness with which global laws and norms have been violated, for many African states, on the other hand, this invasion simply parallels many other instances in which the international rules-based order was disregarded by a major power – in pursuit of their own narrow interests. Accordingly, the Russian invasion of Ukraine does not represent any significant deviation from the standard behaviour of any major power, let alone an “epochal change”.

The ongoing conflict has simply reinforced the need for the meaningful reform of an international system that has consistently failed the African continent, namely by failing to constrain the aggression and abuses of power by dominant states, and to address the continent’s persistent marginalisation in world affairs. Of course, not all 54 African states share such a dim view of the international system, but the broad contours of a shared worldview can indeed be found based on common historical experiences in overcoming colonialism, and the hard lessons learnt during the Cold War. Accordingly, the divided response across the continent’s 54 states is not so much an indictment of their commitment (or lack thereof) to a rules-based global order, but rather a sign of growing mistrust in a flawed system that does not treat all conflicts or countries equally.

What it means for Germany’s Africa Policy

Germany and other Western partners’ engagement with African countries needs to be grounded in a realistic and pragmatic framework that clearly acknowledges the divergent worldviews of African states. Although the “Zeitenwende” may carry a lot of weight in Germany, and across Europe, this framing of the international system’s future does not align with contemporary international relations of African states. Accordingly, German policymakers should seek to broaden and nuance their conception of a “Zeitenwende” by attempting to understand the utility of this term from a “Southern” perspective – beyond the conceptual or policy confines of the immediate European security environment. In doing so, policymakers could better recognise that the foreign policy perspectives of many African states are primarily informed by their continued marginal position in an international system that is perceived as flawed, inequitable and unjust. In the absence of major changes, African states will remain naturally poised as revisionist actors on the world stage, pushing them into a closer orbit with other states in the Global South, as was recently illustrated by the expansion of the BRICS group. This could result in a greater pursuit of a more multipolar international order at the expense of the liberal normative bedrock underpinning the current system.

Priyal Singh ist Senior Researcher für Africa in the World am Institute for Security Studies (ISS) in Pretoria, Südafrika.

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