The rise of these emerging powers and new issues in foreign policy have given rise to new forms of international pressures and stresses and potentially, the decomposition of established powers of the North with the creation and proliferation of new forms of diplomacy. These new forms of global diplomacy include the creation of the G20, the G77 and importantly, the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa). These have in part been facilitated by the global financial crisis which started in 2007, in the process depressing the North economically. Concomitantly, these economic challenges facing the countries of the North have potentially displaced Africa’s developmental challenges from the agenda of multilateral institutions and formal international organisations. Even if emerging markets, including Africa, had witnessed a sustained period of economic growth, many African countries are not expected to meet the basic developmental objectives embodied in the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. In light of the changing geopolitical context, how can Africa best negotiate the fast-changing political environment? Two overarching perspectives deserve to be fleshed-out in African capitals.
First, in order to address the major challenges facing Africa, the need for enhanced intra-Africa issue-based foreign policy coordination and cooperation has never been greater. The African Union (AU), an essential pivot in this process,is less likely to achieve the mandate of economic and social development in the absence of well-calibrated foreign policy symmetries and defined priorities across Africa and its sub-regions. Therefore, the need for a coherent African policy systems today more crucial than everbefore a means to give Africa a voice in international affairs. Such a process is only possible when the foreign policies of leading African states and crucially those of small states,are strengthened. If foreign policy has been constant in terms of the key priority (state survival and well-being), the practice of has been transformed through the multiplication of new actors, including business and civil society. These new actors have as a consequence,imposed the twin necessities of change and adaptation in the conduct of the foreign policies of African states. How Africa responds and deals with these could determine the continent’s ability to engage meaningfully in international affairs.
Secondly, Africa is negotiating its entry into international affairs at a time when there is widespread acceptance of global norms such as human rights and democracy. Therefore, Africa’s insertion in globalisation and international relations is only possible when normative coherence and complementaries the various foreign policies and instruments are interfaced around clearly defined strategic objectives. The nexus between democratic norms and development has been accepted widely as the sine qua non condition for a virtuous African future. The key challenge for Africa is how to initiate a process intertwines the ambitious normative commitments of the African Union with the foreign policies of African countries. Such a process would ordinarily imply the diffusion of norms, including human rights and democracy,through institutional learning and contagion within continental and regional processes. At a basic level, this process should be pursued as a necessary end by stable democratic states with respect for democracy and human rights. A loose alliance of democratic states with South Africa at the centre can take leadership in the pursuit of these ends. South Africa,by virtue of its domestic political capital and continental leadership role,can pursue such an agenda through an informal coalition of big and small states. These could be states that play an essential role in their regions as carriers of norms on specific issues. Botswana and Malawi in Southern Africa have adopted the right normative political role in matters of human rights and democracy, which in some instances have gone against the interests of key African states. Such examples should be nurtured and replicated across Africa as a means to promote democratic governance.
To conclude, Africa’s contribution and integration into global processes as an effective player cannot take root without sound foreign policy coordination and cooperation among states on global norms and the issues that mattermost to the continent. An African policy system could become a reality when African states agree on the necessity of integrating the normative commitments of the African Union as crucial pillars in their foreign policy identities.
Alfredo Tjiurimo Hengari is Head of the South African Foreign Policy and African Drivers Programme at the South African Institute of International Affairs, based at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.