Africa: Beyond the binary embrace

Africa: Beyond the binary embrace
Kieran Baker

Africa finds itself increasingly caught in a geopolitical tug-of-war. The West, with its historic ties and emphasis on democratic governance, vies for influence with China and Russia, who offer a more transactional approach.This creates a precarious situation for African leaders: embrace one and risk alienating the others or attempt a delicate balancing act.

The answer lies not in choosing sides, but in cultivating a brand of pragmatic multilateralism. African governments can forge partnerships based on mutual benefit, leveraging their abundant resources and strategic location.

While China remains Africa's largest trading partner, over-reliance poses risks. By negotiating more free-trade agreements with the West and emerging economies like India and Brazil, African nations can secure better deals for their exports and diversify their import sources.

Infrastructure development remains a critical need across Africa. Here, competition between China and Western powers presents an opportunity. African governments can play these interests off one another, securing the best financing terms and technological expertise for projects that align with national development plans.

The issue of security is more complex. While Western powers can offer training and counter-terrorism expertise, their past interventions leave a bitter taste. Russia's recent actions in Africa raise concerns about its own geopolitical ambitions.

Countries in the Sahel have become a prime example of the complexities of navigating this security environment. Faced with ongoing jihadist insurgencies, some Sahelian governments, like Mali, Burkina Faso,and Niger, have grown frustrated with the West's perceived slow pace and strict conditions on aid. This has led them to eject French and US forces and welcome Russian involvement. Moscow has deployed private military contractors and offered quick solutions, raising concerns about human rights abuses and its own long-term goals in the region. This competition between the West and Russia for influence in the Sahel highlights the need for African nations to carefully consider the motives and conditions attached to external partnerships.

The key to navigating this complex landscape is robust governance. By demonstrably tackling corruption and improving transparency, African governments can attract investment from all quarters. This will not only strengthen their economies but also bolster their bargaining power in international relations.

Africa stands at a crossroads. By prioritizing national interests, fostering regional cooperation, and embracing transparency, it can chart a course that benefits its citizens and avoid becoming a pawn in a global power struggle. This is the path of pragmatic multilateralism - a win for Africa, and a model for a multipolar world

*Kieran Baker is an Emmy award winning journalist who has started up various networks including Al Jazeera English, Bloomberg TV Africa and TRT World. 

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