[in] focus


globalorderinunstabletransitionContext: A version of this commentary will eventually appear in the Russian publication, Global Affairs, from which a request was made to respond in 300-400 words to a need to understand current international dynamics beyond tendencies to see them reflective of a New Cold War; rather, to evaluate the current shape of world affairs in terms of “reasons for conflicts and turbulence (political, economical, social, cultural etc.) and what does it mean for the next phase of international development.”


The international system is undergoing a dangerously unstable transition. While not constituting a New Cold War, it reflects in part, the asymmetrical cold war endgame, with what was already a shifting in the center of gravity of the global economy from West to East. In objective terms, global economic integration defines the world’s interdependent and interconnected geopolitical economy. However, this eastward shift left in its wake a deindustrializing dynamic within the northern post-industrial economies of the West, that to varying degrees, has destabilized their postwar social and political compacts.

In the process, this has layed bare historical faultlines of socioracial, ethnic and cultural class contradictions that, given the emergence of information technology as weaponized instruments in geopolitical power-struggles, adds a new and sinister dimension to the global transition underway. A nation’s internal domestic divisions are exploited by external adversaries aiming to shift the targeted nation’s domestic politics along a path of populist destabilization in the hope of shaping favorable geopolitical outcomes at the international level.

The deliberate targeting of African-Americans (among other groups) for voter suppression by Russian interference in the 2016 US election aimed at fuelling the white nationalist-populist alt-right mood in the US. Given that this may be repeated in the upcoming mid-term elections, this is emblematic of the dangerous new ‘hybrid warfare’ trend in international politics. All the more so as this trend, in the service of reactionary anti-progressive conservative internationalism, in its cynical illiberalism, lends itself to obligatory ‘deniability.’ Deniability is the essence of informational hybrid warfare which has its more ‘soft power’ dimensions as well. In any case, the 2016 US electoral outcome contributed to what amounts to an international right wing conspiracy of strongmanism as a throw-back to the yesteryear of Great Power politics that gave us two world wars and the rise of fascism. With the likes of Putin, Trump, Xi, Netanyahu, Erdogan, Salman, Modi, and Duterte among the more notable, the strongmen era certainly seems to be upon us.

The question outstanding is whether or not the regionalizing of multipolarity in the emergence of regional economic communities will evolve toward a deepening of institutionalized global governance reigning in Great Power geopolitical strongmanism in the eventual restabilizing of the international system. This would be one where an amended liberal internationalism reflects a more democratically plural world order: Pluralist Internationalism with a reformed and strengthened United Nations at its core.


Francis A. Kornegay, Jr. is a senior research fellow at the Institute for Global Dialogue associated with UNISA, a member of the JIOR international editorial board and Global Fellow of The Wilson Centre in Washington. The views expressed are those of the author and do not represent IGD/Unisa policy.


scopingSAForPol2018On the 22nd of February the Institute for Global Dialogue associated with the University of South Africa teamed up with the Human Sciences Research Council to convene a roundtable on South Africa’s crowded foreign policy agenda in 2018. Never had there occurred such a jam-packed diplomatic agenda in the country’s recent post-apartheid history and at such a critical juncture in the nation’s domestic politics centered within the governing party. The convergence between South Africa’s heavy diplomatic agenda and the change-over, first within the ruling African National Congress (ANC) and then in the Presidency itself, from the scandal-ridden Jacob Zuma administration to that of his successor, Cyril Ramaphosa could not have been a more dramatic statement of the post-apartheid cross-road the country had arrived at.

When factoring in how Tshwane (Pretoria) had regionally assumed the rotating chair of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) at a time when  neighbouring Zimbabwe was also to experience the post-Mugabe transition within its ruling liberation movement ruling party, it began to dawn on many that the country reputed to ‘punch above its weight’ was facing a cascading ‘cup runneth over’ of other responsibilities it had to navigate and juggle while the incoming Ramaphosa administration was finding its footing.

At the end of 2017, Tshwane had assumed the two year rotating chair of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) at a time when, in 2018 it would also be taking on the Presidency of BRICS (to take place in July) while offloading later in the year, the chair of SADC and the rotating co-chair of the Forum on China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC). South Africa, as Africa’s only member of the G20 would also have to preparing for its summit, set for the first time in a global South country, this time, in Argentina (not to mention the current Commonwealth summit that was not factored into our discussion which President Ramaphosa is currently attending in London). Then, one cannot leave out Tshwane’s continental agenda within the African Union (AU) family of nations. And here, one can begin discerning Ramaphosa’s strategic sense of direction in how his foreign policy is to take shape: Economic Diplomacy.

It was no accident that in a State of the Nation Address (SONA) almost devoid of foreign policy content, Ramaphosa specifically targeted for mention the eastern and southern Africa ‘Cape to Cairo’ mega-Tripartite Free Trade Area and the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) for which he was recently present at its Kigale Declaration launch in Rwanda. These will be major priorities on an African agenda likely to be focused heavily on Africa’s regional and continental integration linked to Ramaphosa’s Number One concern: South Africa’s post-Zuma economic recovery involving trade and foreign investment promotion as in the team he led to the World Economic Forum at the beginning of the year and his just launched heavyweight team of envoys including former Finance Minister Trevor Manuel. Within SADC itself, he has already made the rounds in the region with courtesy stops in Angola, Namibia (which is to succeed in chairing SADC) and Botswana where SADC is headquartered.

It is against this fast unfolding backdrop that the IGD/Unisa-HSRC roundtable took place, the proceedings of which are available on the IGD website: https://www.igd.org.za/. Besides IGD panelists, roundtable participants included former South African deputy foreign minister Aziz Pahad, IGD’s founding executive director, Dr. Garth L le Pere and Dr. Gilbert Khadiagala, former Wits University International Relations Head of Department, currently heading up the newly launched African Center on the Study of the United States. HSRC’s director of Democracy and Governance, Dr. Narnia Bohler-Muller who is in charge of the IORA Research Group during South Africa’s IORA tenure, and who arrange the roundtable was also among the panelists.  As chair of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation consultative review body, the South African Council on International Relations (SACOIR), former deputy minister Aziz’s lead-off helped set the tone of reflections. He noted “we had reached a very difficult period in the global world order and therefore our discussions cannot be business as usual” especially in terms of global trends affecting Africa and how Africa must respond.

Follow-up observations to Aziz’s opening re-emphasized the economic diplomacy thrust of the incoming Ramaphosa presidency with its emphasis on strengthening international economic engagement. This was seen as a departure from foreign policy references from previous SONAs where emphasis was more on mapping out external political landscapes South Africa would have to contend with. Noting that South Africa was politically stable and returning to policy certainty, with international markets receiving Ramaphosa’s pronouncement positively, it was time for analysts to begin exploring the nature of the country’s strategic vision that should be forthcoming over the next year, moving into the 2019 national elections. Into this calculus was introduced the VUCA effect as South African diplomacy will have to navigate Vola internationtility-Uncertainty-Complexity-Ambiguity.

This suggested that the global order had become highly fragmented compounded by a series of serious global challenges. In this environment, South Africa would have to re-design and rethink its post-Zuma posture. Agnostically, a more sceptical perspective on BRICS was in order with the world entering what was seen as a post-BRICS era of emerging markets as Ramaphosa charts economic diplomacy. Indeed, BRICS countries would have to contend with geopolitical fluidity and possible realignments that might complicate the BRICS agenda. Moreover, Africa was being sucked into the vortex of these VUCA challenges with particular concern raised about the dynamics of instability in such critically strategic members of the ‘Cape to Cairo’ mega Tripartite FTA, Ethiopia and Kenya. Although not elaborated on, challenges in these countries implicate how much momentum will/can be generated along Africa’s Indian Ocean littoral and extended hinterland in contributing the potential of an Indian Ocean economy. To this is to be added the DRC turmoil.

Taken all together, this fraught landscape was seen as presenting a challenging inter-African peace, security and stabilization agenda on top of South Africa’s more developmental-oriented SADC chair priorities elaborated on. This cooperation agenda, in turn, overlapped into Tshwane’s co-chairing with China of FOCAC. This is to conclude in 2018 in what South Africa had launched two years ago as the 2016-18 Johannesburg Plan of Action in Sino-African relations alongside its broader G20 co-chairing of the G20 developmental working and advisory group on the Compact with Africa. Meanwhile, it was also pointed out that South Africa’s chairing of IORA over the next two years is considered strategic given IORA’s Blue Economy emphasis and Tshwane’s domestic Blue Economy initiative launched by former President Zuma as Operation Phakisa. However, apart from the domestic utility of IORA in terms of Phakisa, there is little indication of a broader South African Indian Ocean vision in consonence with the eastern and southern African mega-trade calculus. Meanwhile, South Africa’s South Atlantic agenda viz-a-viz Latin America is similarly underdeveloped apart from the focus directed toward Argentina’s hosting of the G8.

In the final analysis, the discussion and exchanges generated wide-ranging speculation on the prospects facing South African diplomacy in the months ahead, on into 2019. The purpose of this roundtable kicking off IGD’s 2018 agenda was to set the stage for assessing where this journey has taken South Africa by the end of the year when we reassemble to revisit the terrain covered. By year’s end, the Ramaphosa era in South Africa’s diplomacy may emerge more sharply into focus as the ANC seeks a new electoral mandate in 2019.  


This article was first published by Journal of the Indian Ocean Region


Francis A. Kornegay, Jr. is a senior research fellow at the Institute for Global Dialogue associated with UNISA, a member of the JIOR international editorial board and Global Fellow of The Wilson Centre in Washington. The views expressed are those of the author and do not represent IGD/Unisa policy.


trumpBy abrogating the Iran Nuclear Deal at the behest of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s dog-and-pony show pretext, US President Donald Trump has further isolated the US into a weakened geo-strategic position globally and especially in reference to the emerging Eurasian-Indian Ocean continental-maritime geopolitical-economic complex. For now, Washington hooks its Middle Eastern wagon to Israeli-Saudi Arabian détente in an anti-Iran alliance aimed at checking Tehran’s regional ambitions. In so doing, Trump is more than willing to give short shrift to Europe and to threaten it with sanctions if it doesn’t toe the line on Iran. Trump has nothing but contempt for the European Union. Yet there is another dimension rounding out Trump’s exit from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). This has to do with factoring in the possibly sustained rapprochement between North and South Korea, with China’s oversight, irrespective of what comes out of the Kim-Trump tete-a-tete.

If one combines these two developments, as they continue to unfold, with Trump’s exit from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, what emerges is a potentially new northern hemispheric landscape from Atlantic to Pacific uniting Europe and Asia. By ignoring advice from Britain, France and Germany not to abandon the JCPOA which is crucial to Europe’s geoeconomic autonomy from Russian energy dependence via Iran, Europe is being driven ever closer into a Greater Eurasian scenario driven by China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) amid a fragmenting transatlantic Euro-American alignment, already weakened by Brexit. In the process, the only option facing Brussels is greater strategic autonomy from Washington while avoiding co-optation into Beijing’s trans-Eurasian integration project via the Sino-Russian co-chaired Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) to which Iran will eventually join along with new members India and Pakistan. Beijing is first among equals in co-leadership with a Kremlin trying to wedge its Eurasian Economic Union into the east-west Eurasian equation as a means of enhancing its restoration as post-cold war great power.

By the US opting out of the Iran Nuclear Deal, it geo-strategically plays into the Great Game agendas of both Russia and China. Moscow, after all, is angling to reconfigure Middle East power equations in such a way as to reinsert Russia into pole position in shaping regional realignment through its Syria-driven Turkey-Iranian triple entente. With or without the JCPOA, there is no way Russia will be forced into sanctions renewal against Tehran. The same goes for China as Iran occupies the geo-strategic hub in conjunction with the Afghanistan-Pakistan nexus linking the Levant and Southwest Asia to Central Asia and the offshore interconnectivity of the Indian Ocean. India’s reactive military aligning in its Quad with the US, Japan and Australia will not disrupt Beijing’s continental-maritime momentum although India could more or less make peace with China’s agenda were it to envision a Zone of Peace and Cooperation in the Indian and Pacific Oceans encompassing the Indian Ocean Rim Association and the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium. There is no reason why such an inclusive initiative complementing China’s BRI would not accommodate Delhi’s Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR).

With or without India, China’s BRI Eurasian continental-maritime momentum, with Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) financing will power ahead in forging transcontinental integration between East Asia and Europe while drawing in the African intersection at the Northwest Indian Ocean entre into the eastern Mediterranean. For Europe, as transatlantic ties weaken and Europe assumes greater autonomy viz-a-viz the US, the EU will evolve a new ‘West Eurasia’ identity within the trans-Eurasian landscape. What about the other end of this political geography? This is where the dramatic developments on the Korean Peninsula take on major significance. Irrespective of arriving at a Korean Peace Treaty out of the prospective US-North Korean summit, a non-aggression pact or understanding between the two Koreas placing peace before ‘denuclearization’ (instead of the other way around) could create a de facto geopolitical-economic and security arrangement backed by China and supported by Russia marginalizing the US into a more sharply defined offshore strategic posture.

Japan would have every incentive to focus on a triangular relationship with China and the two Koreas as already exists in ASEAN + 3 on the Asian side of the Indian Ocean. This would round out ‘East Eurasia’ in an evolving regionalized multipolarity where, the US, post-Trump, depending on the trajectory of America’s domestic politics will have to renegotiate its way back into a much diminished global leadership role. Thus, amid the flimflam of a masculine toughening and firmness now being attributed by some in the mainstream American media to Trump as they try indulging him away from his hostility, US global primacy is in retreat. Retreat is driven by a domestic partisan political agenda coming from the alt-right instead of from the left which was always accused of wanting America to abdicate global leadership. Quite an irony and all the more so when trying to decifer what President Barack Obama had in mind. Stay tuned.

Francis A. Kornegay, Jr. is the senior research fellow at the Institute for Global Dialogue associated with UNISA and Global Fellow of The Wilson Centre in Washington.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not represent IGD/Unisa policy.

Can South Africa Navigate Trumpian Cascades?

trumpcrusadesIt remains to be seen if the Trump administration will go through with its threat to cut aid to South Africa as recently reported. This would be primarily because South Africa voted against the US in the UN, opposing a US resolution declaring Jerusalem Israel’s capital. For good measure, Washington refused to exempt South Africa from ‘trade war’ tariffs on steel and aluminum which, according to Business Day could cost South Africans 7500 jobs.

Clearly South Africa is ‘Beloved Country’ no more in Trump’s Washington! Apart from the notion of penalizing South Africa as among states more likely to vote against the US at the UN being a blatantly imperialist display of bullying on the basis of Tshwane joining most other UN members in opposing indefensible pro-Israel/anti-Palestinian policies, such a prospect also intersects a number of converging dimensions in US-Middle East policy.

This convergence has the potential to generate an anti-apartheid activist remobilization linking the liberation of black South and southern Africans and the unfulfilled liberation of Palestinians from an increasingly apartheid-like yoke of oppression under an increasingly autocratic settler-dominated Israeli regime. Such linkage need not stop there given Saudi Arabia’s inclusion as a key alliance partner with Washington and Tel-Aviv against Iran and an Iran Nuclear Deal the Trump administration has already violated.

Trump’s problem with the nuclear deal is simply this: his predecessor, President Barack Obama did it and neither Israel nor the Saudis like it and prefer confrontation instead of diplomacy between the US and Tehran. Never mind how this resonates in the North Korea ‘denuclearization’ sweepstakes. What Trump’s policy of basing bilateral diplomacy on US-UN Ambassador Nikki ‘taking names’ Haley’s UN Voting Practices Report boils down to is an exercise in coercive diplomacy: to bully key regional states in different parts of the world into an America First imperium anchored in an anti-Iranian sectarian geopolitical alliance with Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Such interlinkages in any American-based and/or international campaign of resistance to Trumpian Cascades in the foreign policy realm holds out the potential for very real SA-US bilateral tensions centered around Israel’s problematic role in the Middle East as opposed to the domestically -orchestrated anti-Americanism of former President Jacob Zuma. How President Cyril Ramaphosa navigates this terrain apart from Nigeria’s very pronouced pro-Trump posture reflected in Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari’s recent White House visit remains to be seen. Indeed, the timing of Buhari’s visit and its high profile Rose Garden news conference coverage is a statement in how Washington is defining its Africa policy under Trump. For good measure, in the immediate run-up to the visit, Abuja and Lagos-based Premium Times carried a report titled “Boko Haram: Nigeria did not get required support from Obama – Presidency,” citing Buhari’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu.    

Of course, Nigerians know very well, playing into Trump’s racist ego in bashing Obama will get them everywhere in today’s Washington. This is as Obama makes it down to South Africa in July to deliver the 16th Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture in Johannesburg. The question this poses: will Obama, a former anti-apartheid activist in his student days, have anything to say about the deteriorating state of US-South African relations under Trump? One shouldn’t hold one’s breath on this one as African-American leadership, even including the former White House occupant, is largely ‘missing in action’ these days.

This is all unfortunate for President Ramaphosa as his DNA dictates he would definitely like improving US-South African relations. These were not helped by the less than friendly vibes emanating from his predecessor. Quite an irony this, because Zuma conveyed a cold war anti-imperialist divide between a South Africa-aligned BRICS and the US and the West as if BRICS were the alliance it is not. Now Ramaphosa, having launched his economic diplomacy offensive hits the wall of Pax-Americana’s Trumpian impulsiveness.

Moreover, Obama arrives in Johannesburg in what amounts to ‘BRICS Month’ when the BRICS Summit takes place in South Africa. Thus, do prospects of a Trump-inspired cold war against Ramaphosa’s economic diplomacy amid a prospective US-Nigeria axis portend possibly reinforcing fissures between South Africa and Nigeria at a time when Tshwane needs to flesh out Zuma’s ‘regional outreach’ in articulating a compelling BRICS-Africa strategy on the continent? The possible pathway out of these dilemmas may suggest itself in the forging of a pan-African Kigali Declaration alliance that Ramaphosa recently signed South Africa up to which should lead to ratifying the African Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA). This would be in tandem with generating momentum in the eastern and southern African ‘Cape to Cairo’ Tripartite FTA between the Common Market of Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the East African Community (EAC).

This implicates the need for building up a comprehensive Afroasiatic Indian Ocean Rim strategy beyond the functionalism of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) in forging geoeconomic links with Southeast Asia’s ASEAN Economic Community. But this takes South Africa right back into the thickets of the Middle East as the geopolitics of the fractured Gulf Cooperation Council destabilizes the Northeast African-Red Sea subregion of the Cape-to-Cairo mega-FTA while Ethiopia and Egypt remain at loggerheads over the impact of Addis’ Ethiopian Grand Renaissance Dam (GERD) on Nile River Basin waters.  Can South Africa insert itself into calming these waters sufficiently to benefit interregional trade integration along the eastern-southern African littoral? Could this not form part of its BRICS agenda as it sticks to its guns on Israel-Palestine while waiting out the follies of US foreign policy a la Trump. Perhaps, if and when Nigeria ends its aloofness to the KigalI Declaration, South Africa and Nigeria might overcome the implicit divide-and-conquor overtones of Trumpian Cascades. As someone we know likes to say: “We shall see what happens”!  


Francis A. Kornegay, Jr. is the senior research fellow at the Institute for Global Dialogue associated with UNISA and Global Fellow of The Wilson Centre in Washington.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not represent IGD/Unisa policy.

Africa and globalisation: Transforming from taker to shaper?

africaIn recent years, a growing number of G20 nation states have used various forms of summit diplomacy to enhance engagement with the African continent through regular high-level meetings. These have been operationalised through initiatives such as the Forum on China-Africa CooperationIndia-Africa Forum SummitAfrica-EU Summit, the Korea-Africa Forum, the Turkey-Africa Partnership Summit, the United States-Africa Leaders Summit, and the Tokyo International Conference on African Development.

Except for the summit with the EU, all of these initiatives are essentially putting together a single country with an entire continent. The partnerships span the parameters of both South-South and North-South cooperation, presenting opportunities for the African continent to diversify its international relations and cooperation.

Africa’s growing web of global partnerships

The increased interest in Africa comes within the context of a continent that experienced an extended period of growth, with six to seven African countries repeatedly appearing in the list of the fastest growing economies in the world for an entire decade. With a young population projected to double to 2 billion by 2050, Africa was no longer only looking like the world’s problem, even though that narrative continues to be pervasive. It is increasingly obvious that Africa presents an opportunity for global powers; indeed the evidence suggests many opportunities to capitalize on the demographic dividend in Africa. This places a responsibility on African stakeholders to design strategies that will enhance the livelihoods of Africans and Africa’s place in the world.

The African continent needs to seize the initiative and shape those partnerships according to the individual, sub-regional, and collective interests of African stakeholders. Otherwise, it risks being mastered by its complex web of international partners instead. As the G20 seeks ways to engage the African continent, two important matters will have to be tackled in order to enhance African agency and institutionalise relation on equal terms. First, the issue of African representation in global summitry, and secondly, reducing the dependency on donors to finance Africa’s institutions such as the regional economic communities (RECs) and the African Union.

Who constitutes ‘Africa’ at global Summits?

The Kagame report on the imperative to reform the African Union, building on past initiatives such as the AU panel chaired by the late Professor Adebayo Adedeji, calls for the continent to rationalize its external partners, and to have a better distribution of labour between the various components of the AU system. The recommendations face the challenge of African nation states jealously guarding their sovereignty or looking to establish a sense of sovereignty in the first place. A key question will be who constitutes ‘Africa’ at the various summits with external powers.

The Kagame report recommends that ‘external parties should be invited to [AU] Summits on an exceptional basis and for a specific purpose, and that [p]artnership summits convened by external parties should be reviewed with a view to providing for an effective framework for African Union partnerships.’ It thus recommends that instead of all countries, Africa could be represented by:

  • Chairperson of the African Union
  • Previous Chairperson of the Union
  • Incoming Chairperson of the Union
  • Chairperson of the African Union Commission
  • Chairperson of the Regional Economic Communities (RECs)

This would no doubt have an effect on the myriad partnership summits by individual G20 members and the shape and form that an institutionalised engagement between Africa and the G20 could possibly take. South Africa, like all other members of the G20 would thus be responsible for pursuing its national interests in the G20, which have a continental and global dynamic, whereas the official African representation would express the consolidated views from the continent. This would however need to form part of a broader G20 engagement with certain regions of the world, and not just be an Africa specific outreach. Indeed, the G20 already has EU representation through the EU Commission, and this would have to be seen in a similar light. While G20 decisions have an effect on much of the world’s population, there is no strong representation of least developed countries (LDCs) or regional bodies, and such an Africa outreach would have to be seen in the broader light of involving the rest of the world in G20 processes. It would thus be important to incorporate regional perspectives on the effects of G20 policies, especially on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and in terms of aligning it to Agenda 2063, the Africa-driven strategic framework for the socio-economic transformation of the continent over the next 50 years.

Financing Africa’s pan-African institutions

Also important to ensuring that African interests are taken on board is the ability of African stakeholders to finance their own regional cooperation, development agenda, and institutions such as the AU, which remains disproportionately financed by external donors, many of whom are members of the G20. The challenge is not to diversify its funders but to self-finance its institutions. Indeed the numbers tell a story that needs urgent addressing. According to the Kagame Report, ‘In 2014, the African Union’s budget was US$308 million, more than half of which was funded by donors. In 2015, it rose by 30 percent to US$393 million, 63 percent of which was funded by donors. In 2016, donors contributed 60 per cent of the US$417 million budget. In 2017, member states [were] expected to contribute 26 percent of the proposed US$439 million budget, while donors [were] expected to contribute the remaining 74 per cent.’

It further states that ‘The AU’s programmes are 97 per cent funded by donors. By December 2016, only 25 out of 54 member states had paid their assessment for the financial year 2016 in full. Fourteen member states paid more than half their contribution and 15 have not made any payment. This level of dependence on external partner funds raises a fundamental question: How can member states own the African Union if they do not set its agenda?’

An inability to fund its own institutions means that even if Africa’s engagement with external powers were to be institutionalised in a more coordinated manner, it would still not be on equal terms, as many of the G20 countries would in effect be dictating the agenda. The Kagame Report thus raises integral issues for Africa’s place in the world, namely domestic resource mobilization and representation. In the short to medium term, African countries will have to pay serious attention to the domestic mobilization of resources, which will also include addressing matters such as illicit financial flows.

Enhancing African agency in globalisation

The matter of self-financing the continent’s institutions is thus important to ensuring greater representation and the exercise of greater agency in Africa’s global partnerships in general, and with the G20 in particular.

Africa is clearly not a monolithic actor, consisting of over 1 billion people with approximately 2000 languages and cultures, and a geographic space large enough to fit the United States, Western Europe, India, China, and Japan. It will thus be important for the vast array of state and non-state actors interacting with their interlocutors in the G20 countries to construct individual and sometimes collective strategies that engage with their counterparts in the global community.

If Africa is to move from being shaped by globalisation to shaping its evolution, then it must seriously address the matter of funding so that it advances its agency and provides greater representation for its people on the global stage. However, previous reform efforts must also be studied closely to understand why they were never fully implemented. While groups such as the T20, comprising think tanks from the G20 countries and the BRICS Academic Forum, which comprises think tanks and academic institutions from the BRICS countries, play important roles in fostering mutual understanding, they are not yet central to the ideas shaping the official summits. The challenge for think tanks is thus to use the platforms opening up to think tanks to build solid research communities amongst G20 and BRICS countries and institutions. Indeed think tanks must make use of the track two diplomacy and realise that global politics is no longer the domain of government-to-government relations alone.


Dr Philani Mthembu is the Executive Director at the Institute for Global Dialogue (IGD), associated with the University of South Africa (UNISA) and a co-founder of the Berlin Forum on Global Politics, a non-profit organisation dedicated to the promotion of academic, expert, and public understanding of global politics.


This article was first published by the German Development Institute 02 May 2018





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