Page 11

BUSINESS & FINANCE

African Resources and Colliding Geopolitics Is Africa the object of a new Great Game among natural resource “expansionism” through new and foreign-owned “plantations”, or does the Continent offer opportunities for cooperation between global and local stakeholders? This paper presents three different views, ranging from the darkly geopolitical to the geopolitically benign; offering perspectives on this growing phenomenon on natural resource politics in Africa, writes Dr. E Daniel Kinnear. The terms “Great Game” or “Tournament of Shadows” in Russia were terms for the strategic rivalry and conflict between the British Empire and the Russian Empire for supremacy in Central Asia. The term “The Great Game” is usually attributed to Arthur Conolly (1807–1842), an intelligence officer of the British East India Company’s Sixth Bengal Light Cavalry.[1] It was introduced into mainstream consciousness by British novelist Rudyard Kipling in his novel Kim (1901). Friedbert Pflüger’s “A New Great Game: The EU, China and the era of energy imperialism” argues that Africa is potentially the site of a ‘new Great Game’ that will ultimately afflict all resourcerich regions of the international system. Jennifer Giroux’s “Africa’s Growing Strategic Relevance”, on the other hand, is more sceptical about the actual intensity of geopolitical competition within Africa. Yes, the West may have vested interests in safeguarding its natural resource supplies from competing demands, but there are other, non-resources-based issues that influence its policies towards the Continent. Finally, Saferworld’s report on “China’s growing role in African peace and security” casts a thoroughly pragmatic eye over China’s activities in Africa. In doing so, the Saferworld argue that Africa could be the site for increased cooperation between global and local stakeholders alike. Friedbert Pflüger argues that ‘a new Great Game’ is already in full swing in all resource-rich parts of the world and it features new and emerging players like Brazil, India and Canada – all of whom have joined the scramble for natural resources in the past two decades. However, Pflüger, like others, is particularly concerned about China’s increasing demand for energy. Given this necessity, Pflüger sees China’s recent expansion into Africa as a predictor of what is yet to come to any place in the world where natural resources are found, especially Central Asia. And indeed, there are reasonable grounds for his assumption. The IEA, for example, predicts that by 2035 China will consume nearly 70 per cent more energy than the United States. Pflüger also contends that China pursues its own interests in Africa without any regard for international agreements. Pflüger predicts that there will sooner or later be serious geopolitical collisions if these recent developments continue. If Pfügler’s geopolitical future for Africa is bleak, then Jennifer Giroux’s analysis of Africa’s growing strategic relevance is gray. Giroux argues that warnings of an upcoming Sino-American geopolitical confrontation in Africa seem premature. While she acknowledges that competition among external powers for Africa’s natural resources has indeed intensified, she also shows that Africa’s strategic relevance is not limited to just natural resources. The U.S., for example, remains concerned about the numerous weak states in Africa that do (and might) provide refuge for Islamist terrorist groups. (To begin addressing the problem, Washington set up the U.S. Africa Command in 2007.) But instead of interpreting this added concern

as a clear sign of expanding geopolitical conflict, Giroux argues that the results of a vigorous re-engagement by the U.S. and others in Africa remain to be seen. Like Pflüger, Giroux also confirms that there are several issues that have caused tensions between different internal and external actors in sub-Saharan Africa. China and the West, for example, employ different approaches to engagement with their African counterparts. As a result, Western initiatives that promote democracy and good governance in Africa are roundly criticized by Beijing. It argues that instead of adopting the patronizing methods of former colonial powers, it prefers to stick to its policy of non-interference abroad. China’s policy towards Sudan exemplifies this approach. The potential problem with the above criticisms is not that they are unjustified, but rather that they represent only one side of a complex story. Also, from a Chinese point of view, European criticisms are likely to be perceived as geopolitical rhetoric aimed at stopping China from legitimately doing business with Africa. Conclusion Despite apparent differences of opinion regarding the prospect of Africa becoming the theatre for a ‘new Great Game’, there is an acknowledgement, for example, that geopolitical competition on the African continent has increased. And underpinning this competition is the desire to obtain and safeguard access to Africa’s natural resources. The authors also appear to acknowledge that “geographical causation” is a major driver of foreign powers’ strategic calculations regarding Africa. China does not make a secret of the fact that it is interested in improving trade relations to meet its demand for natural resources. Likewise, most Western governments do not engage with Africa simply because they want to promote human rights and good governance. Instead, the West promotes these standards because they also share the same cluster of geopolitical interests in Africa as China. But will these various acknowledgements result in a “new Great Game” sweeping across the African continent? Despite the geopolitical frictions at play here, needs are not necessarily destiny. In the case of Africa, geopolitical analysis remains relevant not necessarily because of its predictive qualities, but because of its explanatory value. Geopolitics explains why the continent has been of growing strategic relevance in recent years, if not necessarily how this is happening. Acknowledgements: 1. International Relations and Security Network (ISN), 2011 2. Resource Wealth and Political Regimes in Africa, Macmillan Center African Studies, 2011. 3. The African Safari: Understanding the Sino-Indian Competition in Africa Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS), 2011. 4. China and Africa: A Mutually Opportunistic Partnership? Elcano Royal Institute of International and Strategic Studies, 2010. 5. China Returns to Africa: A Rising Power and a Continent Embrace Chris Alden, Daniel Large and Ricardo Soared de Oliveira (Eds), 2008. 6. Political Risk in Africa: Perceptions and Reality. Africa Strategy Group, 2011. This paper was previously published in the AfricaStrategtGroup’s (www.africastrategygroup.com) ExecutiveBrief series, Volume 4 Number 1 - Jan/Feb 2012. Source: Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) ViewsWire and Africa Strategy Group Research).

AUGUST 2012

SATSA / RETOSA Tourism Tattler Trade Journal

11

Profile for Tourism Tattler

Tourism Tattler August 2012  

The official tourism trade magazine on Africa. Essential reading for anyone involved in the tourism, travel or hospitality trade in or to Af...

Tourism Tattler August 2012  

The official tourism trade magazine on Africa. Essential reading for anyone involved in the tourism, travel or hospitality trade in or to Af...