Sarah Skidmore, a member of our Emerging Fellows program inspects the intra-continental cooperation in Africa through the lens of security in her fourth blog post. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.
Foundational to intra-continental cooperation lies the abilities of leaders. Now is the time for African leaders to create a structure that perpetuates cooperation with paradigm shifting impact. The African Union (AU) is an African institution with the ability to increase security guarantees. In 2002 the AU, consisting of 55 member states, formed in an evolutionary nature from the Organization of African Unity (OAU). Where the OAU focused on ridding Africa of decolonization and apartheid, the AU’s focus is on cooperation and African driven growth.
In 2013, the organization launched a 50-year plan called Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want, noting a critical aspiration to be ‘a peaceful and secure Africa.’ Flagship projects in the plan include a high-speed train network, a commodities strategy, African continental free trade, free movement of people, silencing of guns, e-network, virtual university, cybersecurity, and an African museum authority to preserve cultural heritage. The AU’s work is critical in achieving intra-continental cooperation and associated security guarantees. But, how much of this work is achievable within the next three decades? What is a realistic expectation of progress to be made by 2050?
Security benefits accompany intra-continental cooperation. Security benefits may appear at several different levels within African society by 2050, including both people and businesses. With greater cooperation the day-in-the-life of an African may include burden-less travel in-between major African cities (think of vacation opportunities or family growth), readily available goods manufactured from other African regions in local stores, and the regular ability to consume and cook with foods and spices grown in other African regions. African businesses experience possible benefits of higher buying power in a cooperative market environment, an increased customer base due to a broader market, and opportunities to scale business operations throughout areas in Africa.
Intra-continental cooperation emphasizes peacebuilding efforts and conflict prevention strategies.
Consider the potential conflicts that cooperation may reframe by 2050 to include religious confrontation, tribal disputes, ethnic conflicts, and refugee displacement. Though Africa is a central contributor within the non-integrated gap, the Sahel is a primary source of African conflict. The Sahel, a belt spanning across the northern region of Africa, is known for its instability and violence. How might intra-continental cooperation defuse the Sahel’s reputation for violence come 2050? Will peacebuilding and conflict prevention strategies overturn the present corruption and kleptocracy that exists by 2050? Will the AU hold to their Agenda 2063 plan and create an unwavering African structure?
The desire for peace, security and stability is certainly not new. Yet, over the decades, leaders have not been able to achieve cooperation among the Africa nations. Why is this? Why has peace and security not existed? As a matter of comparison, why does the AU not hold the same level of cooperation as the European Union (EU)? Why are African nations not already cooperating with each other? When thinking towards 2050, modern leaders must ask themselves what will be different? What is be different today, tomorrow, and over the next three decades so that a peaceful and secure Africa, as the AU suggests, exists in 2050?
Cooperation reshapes the types of conflicts and security concerns that arise in 2050. With peacebuilding and conflict prevention strategies a default way of thinking within society, resources are relieved and available to combat other potential threats. Ultimately, intra-continental cooperation opens doors. Might these doors lead to non-European neo-colonialism? What about local entrepreneurship? The security guarantees that accompany intra-cooperation created through African structures drastically impact the continent’s ability to unlock the potential of Africa by 2050.
Martin Duys, a member of our Emerging Fellows program initiates publishing a series of blog posts aimed at identifying the impacts of inequality on the world order by 2050. This is his first post in our EF blog inspecting inequality through the lens of security. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.
In 2013 Barack Obama described inequality as the “defining challenge of our time”. In 2014 Thomas Pikkety’s academic tome, “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” was translated into English and became a bestseller. In the same year Oxfam published a report claiming that the net worth of the world’s eighty-five richest people was equivalent to that of the poorest fifty percent of the global population. In 2015, in response, the World Economic Forum declared inequality, alongside climate change, as the challenge for its annual meeting in Davos. Inequality is clearly an issue on the global agenda, but is it one that could potentially lead to instability, conflict, or perhaps even war?
Income inequality is generally expressed by using an index of some kind to describe the manner in which income is distributed across a population. The Gini coefficient is the best-known example but can be difficult to understand. Comparing the share of total income earned by the top segment of a population (the top one percent, or the top ten percent) with that of the bottom fifty percent is more intuitively understandable.
Global income inequality has been steadily increasing for the past two hundred years. Only in the past thirty-five years with the rapid economic growth of countries in the Near and Far East has the trend begun to reverse. Between-country inequality has been decreasing recently, but where people are born is still the single largest factor determining their economic prospects, far more than any individual effort on their part. In-country inequality has been on the rise in most countries since the nineteen-eighties, especially in those countries that have followed a strategy of lower taxes and smaller government in order to encourage economic growth.
The trend reversal in levels of between-country inequality could be a source of increased security concern in the medium to long term. As the economies of countries such as India and China continue to grow their share of the global economy, the balance of power between nations will continue to visibly shift. Will it be possible for China to overtake the United States as the dominant world economy without their falling into what Graham Allison describes as the Thucydides Trap? An almost inevitable war between a previously dominant power and the new one.
One of the obvious consequences of between-country inequality is economic migration from poorer to wealthier countries. The effects of uncontrolled migration on the internal political climates of the destination countries have been only too obvious resulting in increased levels of nationalism and xenophobia. Whether in Germany, the United States, the United Kingdom, or South Africa the response to the presence of newcomers by locals is in many ways consistent and comparable.
There is evidence that high levels of in-country inequality may dampen economic growth prospects, but a clear symptom of in-country inequality is the rapid growth of the private security industry. It is estimated that more than fifty percent of the world’s population lives in countries where there are more people employed by the private security industry than by the national police service.
Some argue that that, although the share of the economic pie accruing to the upper echelons has been increasing, this doesn’t reflect the dramatic improvement in the lives of the lowest echelons brought about by the parallel decrease in levels of absolute poverty. The increase in stability and security that results from a general reduction in absolute poverty far outweighs any potential destabilisation caused by rising inequality.
Some level of inequality can also be seen as a motivating factor that encourages individuals to strive towards achieving the economic rewards that could result from further education, or career advancement.
The issue of inequality is very much on the agenda globally. There are some recent examples of security related issues where inequality has been a contributing factor. The Occupy movement after the 2008 global financial crisis had its roots in issues of inequality, as did the protests in Chile in 2019. The role that inequality plays in contributing to future issues of security will depend largely on whether levels of inequality continue to increase, or whether there is genuine movement from discussion to action on the issue.