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African Foreign Policies

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IR1006 – Week 4 – African Foreign Policies

Trend in Africa from autocracies and military dictatorships to more democratic rule. Anocracy – hybrid regime between autocracy and democracy.

Now about 40% of sub Saharan Africa is democracies.

Political survival, Regime type, and Foreign Policy

  • Clapham – when he talks about state survival (in the postcolonial context) – he means the survival of rulers who rule on their own behalf/for supporters – in non-democratic regimes. They only care about few people – e.g. supporters – therefore – no coherent sense of national interest – policy is not in national interest. Key aim is simply to obtain resources to keep supporters happy and rivals at bay.
  • “Autocrats can be forgiven bad policy, but they are not likely to survive the elimination of patronage or the corrupt benefits of cronyism. For autocrats, what appears to be bad policy often is good politics.” (Bueno de Mesquita et al. 2003: 19)
  • Democratic regimes: public goods more important than private goods → important consequences for a ruler’s foreign policy calculus.

Traditional Realism and Africa (Clark 2001)

• Yes, modern realism and other IR schools of thought are inadequate for understanding Africa

• But: realism not exclusively rooted in Western history → “Traditional” realism includes not just Thucydides and Machiavelli, but also Sun Tzu and Kautilya

• “Regime security” as “a theoretical master key” to understanding African int. Relations  → “Regime” here really means the ruler, too

 • Direct security threats to the ruler:

1. Its own armed forces (coup d’état)

 2. Armed opposition groups (rebellion)

• Indirect security threats to the ruler:

1.  Neighboring states

2. Great powers – can fund rebel groups or military coup if they don’t approve of the regime.

Intra-Regional Relations: Wars between States

• Relatively rare; only four clear cases:

1) Ogaden War (Somalia vs. Ethiopia), 1977–8

2) Ugandan–Tanzanian War, 1978–9

 3) Toyota War (Chad vs. Libya), 1987

4) Eritrean–Ethiopian War, 1998–2000

• Occasional border disputes and clashes (e.g., Sudan – South Sudan)

• Why so few wars? “The fundamental problem facing state-builders in Africa […] has been to project authority over inhospitable territories that contain relatively low densities of people.” (Herbst 2000: 11)

 • Boundary maintenance: decision to retain colonial boundaries, formalized in 1963–4 Organization of African Unity (OAU) decisions. No African state to challenge borders – but some exceptions – when Somalia tried to invade Ethiopia.

• Also: stronger global norm (constructivist approach) against conquest & annexation since 1945 – something you no longer get away with internationally – therefore a disincentive to invade for African rulers.

Intra-Regional Relations: Interference in Civil Wars

 • Very frequent; most rebellions backed by at least one nearby ruler

 • All four inter-state wars also featured support to rebels

• Map, 1990–2010: 66% of mainland African states as sponsor and/or target

 • Survival-related motives:

1) Weaken domestic rebels

2) Keep domestic clients happy

 • Beyond survival at home

  1. Liberation ideology – South Africa and Rhodesia initially ruled by white minority – black majorities in other independent African states supported rebellions to remove white minorities
  2. Sub-regional influence and status

Intra-Regional Relations: Cooperation & Integration

• 1950s–60s: Kwame Nkrumah’s Pan-Africanist vision failed; OAU: intergovernmentalist approach prevailed

→ Continental cooperation rather than integration

→ Commitments to border sanctity and non-interference

 • Transformation into African Union (AU) in 2001–2

→ Good governance, political liberalism, democratization

→ Incorporation of “Responsibility to Protect” (R2P)

 → Peace and Security Council: sanctions for coups; peace operations

 • Regional Economic Communities: towards sub-regional integration

1) EAC: East African Community (→ Rwanda)

2) SADC: Southern African Development Community

 3) ECOWAS: Economic Community of West African States (→ Nigeria)

 → Numerous others, many of them relatively ineffective

(Gambia Example: ECOWAS as Force for Democracy – had a credible threat through threat of force but done so as a regional community)

Rhetoric of soft power public diplomacy in global contexts – check seeker

 Extra-Regional Relations: Bilateral

 • Cold War: U.S. and Soviet Union as both a resource and a threat

→ Framing of rivals as pro-US/Soviet to obtain military and financial aid

 → Primarily a resource: rarity of rebel victories up to 1989

• Post-9/11: “War on Terror” as a resource

• Former colonial powers: usually the most important source of military and economic assistance

→ Much more protection from, but also dependence on, France than Britain and others. In the case of France, v. Imp. – ‘France Afrique’ – provided much protection but made them v. Dependent on French business

• Rise of China, India, and others as “an opportunity to lessen previously privileged ties of dependence” (Schraeder 2013: 192)

→ Increased “African agency”

Extra-Regional Relations: Int’l Financial Institutions

• Continent-wide economic crisis since late 1970s

→ Need to turn to international financial institutions

• 1980s: economic conditionalities (Structural Adjustment Programs, SAPs)

 • 1990s: political conditionalities (“good governance”)

• Little bargaining power when accepting these policies, but some agency in implementation



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