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Time right for Africa to leverage on new geopolitical alliances

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Dynamics have changed since President Trump took over. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Global geopolitical dynamics have been undergoing significant shifts recently. Of particular interest is the Western Alliance, or the spirit of allies’ cooperation that had defined the relationship between the United States (US) and Europe for decades. This is changing due to two factors.

The first is Brexit and the fracturing of the European alliance. Through Brexit, divided as the vote to pull out of the European Union (EU) was, Britain told the world and Africa that they were unhappy with their relationship with the rest of EU and wanted out. African entities can no longer assume that the approach and priorities of EU strategy in Africa will be done in reference to or coordination with Britain going forward, and vice versa.

The bad blood that has emerged between Britain and the EU as a result of Brexit is common knowledge and there are serious questions as to whether there will be any sustainable coordination between Britain and EU in areas such as African policy going forward. What was once a strong European alliance, acting in a fairly united manner in Africa, is now a fraught relationship that no longer enjoys the spirit of mutual trust, cooperation and coordination that had defined their relationship for decades.

The second dynamic is the souring of relations between the US and the EU. The Euro-American alliance has been one with which the continent has had to contend for a long time. Their joint focus on development, governance, human rights, anti-terrorism and the financing of civil society has been a point of commonality in this alliance. Dynamics have clearly changed since President Donald Trump took over.

The Foreign Policy magazine reported that Trump’s views toward the EU have been consistently negative for years and that during the presidential campaign he made several disparaging remarks about the EU. More recently, there has been serious concern in EU capitals that the Trump administration is considering imposing tariffs on EU cars and auto parts. What once seemed to be a stable partnership is being fundamentally challenged and weakened.

Africa is watching the weakening of the Euro-American alliance with interest particularly in the context of a rising China. Africa’s relationship with China is well known, and both Europe and North America have signaled their concern with strengthening Sino-African relations. But quite frankly, the strongest alliances in the world, both within Europe and between Europe and the US, are falling apart at a time China seems bent on consolidating its power and expanding its influence across the globe. Given the concern emanating from Europe and North America with regards to Sino-African relations, the time for the unbuckling of the alliance is not now.

What are the implications of this fracturing of the Western alliance for Africa? Will we see the bickering on Brexit and between the US and EU result in markedly disjointed foreign policy action in Africa? To what extent does the weakening of the alliance deepen a global leadership vacuum that China seems ready to take up?

The bottom line is that while old allies grapple with new problems, they are not in a position to effectively stem the strengthening of Sino-African relations in particular. What this means for Africa is that the world is becoming even more multipolar. Where there was once a monolith, stands a body divided. As usual, it is for Africa to read the signs of the times and leverage changing geopolitical dynamics to its advantage.

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