[DEHAI] Leading Africa

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From: wolda002@umn.edu
Date: Fri Apr 24 2009 - 20:56:22 EDT

Leading Africa

Stephanie Hanson, News Editor

Updated: April 22, 2009

    * Introduction
    * The Anchor States Turn Inward
    * Subregional, Not Continental, Players
    * The Need for Regional Economic Cooperation
    * Bilateral or Regional: Options for the United States


South Africa, Nigeria, and Kenya are considered sub-Saharan Africa's anchor
states. Each country is the financial and infrastructure hub of its
subregion, and each has played a robust role in regional peace and
security. The United States has supported these states with the expectation
that each would foster stability among its neighbors. Yet with all three
embroiled in pressing domestic issues, questions about the utility of this
strategy abound. Some experts say the anchor states will continue to play
an active role in pan-African issues. Others see a worrying leadership
vacuum. While states like Ghana and Tanzania show promise, such mid-sized
countries have a hard time projecting influence beyond their immediate
neighborhood. Experts agree the current situation bodes poorly for regional
security issues and long-term economic growth but are sharply divided on
what kind of policy the United States should pursue on the continent.
The Anchor States Turn Inward

South Africa, Nigeria, and Kenya function as hubs in their subregions due
to size of population, transportation and communications infrastructure,
and financial markets. South African power plants provide much of southern
Africa with electricity. Central African states draw their fuel from
Kenya's ports. Lagos, Nigeria's sprawling commercial capital, is a
burgeoning financial center. By virtue of their strong leaders, South
Africa and Nigeria also have been instrumental in promoting continent-wide
diplomatic initiatives. Former South African President Thabo Mbeki pushed
for the establishment of NEPAD, the New Partnership for Africa's
Development, an initiative that aims to partner with developed countries on
eradicating poverty and integrating Africa into the global economy. Former
Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo played an active role in peacekeeping
on the continent, as well as the establishment of the African Union. Kenya
has aided regional peace efforts, but primarily in neighboring states such
as Sudan and Somalia.

All three countries are now preoccupied with internal concerns. South
Africa's Mbeki left office in 2008, and the succession battle within his
African National Congress provoked the creation of a new political party,
COPE, and intense domestic turmoil. Nigerian President Umaru Yar'Adua is
seriously ill, and analysts say that as a result, the government has
virtually come to a standstill. Meanwhile, armed groups in the Niger Delta
continue to launch attacks against oil pipelines. "South Africa and Nigeria
need time for internal reflection because previous presidents were very
ambitious internationally," says Alex Vines, head of the Africa program at
Chatham House, a British-based think tank. Kenya, which most experts say is
the least powerful of the three hubs, is struggling to regain its footing
following its disputed presidential elections in December 2007. Its
power-sharing government is widely seen as weak and ineffective.

“The African Union can’t substitute for good leadership within the
African Union.” – CFR’s Princeton Lyman

Some experts are concerned about the leadership void this leaves on the
continent. "It's a dilemma," says CFR Adjunct Senior Fellow Princeton N.
Lyman, "We are going into a period where we don't have a continent-wide
heavyweight." The political crisis in Kenya--which the head of the African
Union, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, and a group of elders led by
former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan all attempted to mediate before a
power-sharing government was formed--starkly illustrated this problem.
African affairs scholar Raymond W. Copson, who teaches at George Washington
University, points to the conflict in Darfur and the failure to implement
the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in South Sudan as other cases of failed

The African Union led peacekeeping operations in both Darfur and Somalia,
but experts do not expect it to play a robust role in maintaining
continental security going forward. It is a relatively young institution,
as this Backgrounder explains, and its existing commitments have
overstretched its administrative and financial capacities. Also, like any
regional group, it is only as strong as its member states. "The African
Union can't substitute for good leadership within the African Union," says
Lyman. While there is some optimism about the body's long-term potential,
right now it still has trouble getting members to pay their dues, says
Subregional, Not Continental, Players

So where are the new leaders in Africa? Mid-sized countries like Ghana and
Tanzania hold promise, but their clout pales in comparison to the anchor
states. "Leadership follows in a pecking order," says Robert I. Rotberg of
Harvard University, "Nigeria and South Africa are the biggest and
wealthiest countries around." Experts agree that no matter how skilled the
leader of a small country is, he or she will not be able to play the same
role as one of the regional hubs. These small countries can't deploy large
peacekeeping contingents and have limited financial resources. As a result,
they can play a positive role within their subregions, but it is unlikely
they will emerge as continental leaders. They can also wield symbolic
influence, by pushing for a stronger African Union or serving as role
models in dealing with the West, says Lyman.

Experts count Ghana, Tanzania, and Uganda among the ranks of a second tier
of African leaders. Ghana is considered one of the best-governed countries
in Africa and just finished a one-year term as head of the African Union.
According to the World Bank, it is on track to exceed the Millennium
Development Goal of halving poverty by 2015. Tanzania ranks fourteenth out
of nearly fifty countries on the Ibrahim Index of African Governance, and
experts speak favorably of its president, Jakaya Kikwete. Ugandan President
Museveni has adopted a forward-thinking HIV/AIDS policy, has supported
peace activities in Sudan, and is the only country to send troops for the
African Union peacekeeping operation in Somalia. However, he still faces
the problem in his own country of brokering peace with the Lord's
Resistance Army in the north.

“South Africa and Nigeria need time for internal reflection because
previous presidents were very ambitious internationally.” – Alex Vines,
Chatham House

Experts say that Ethiopia could play a more significant role on the
continent, but much of its military might is focused on maintaining its own
security in relation to Somalia and Eritrea. It also must contend with a
burgeoning insurgency in its eastern Ogaden region. There is a cadre of
small but economically successful countries like Botswana and Malawi that
could serve as role models, but experts say the larger countries do not
view them as leaders, per se, and thus will not seek political advice from

If one thinks about leadership in a less direct way, however, these smaller
countries may ultimately influence positive developments on the continent.
Christopher Fomunyoh, senior associate for Africa at the National
Democratic Institute, a U.S.-based nonprofit group that promotes good
governance, suggests that Namibia's independence in 1989 precipitated the
end of apartheid in South Africa, and a 1991 national conference held in
Benin to end one-party rule prompted similar actions across West and
Central Africa.
The Need for Regional Economic Cooperation

The dearth of continental leadership has implications not just for regional
peace and conflict resolution, but for long-term economic growth. Because
so many African countries are small and landlocked, they rely on their
coastal neighbors for market access. Without regional cooperation, these
countries will never be able to create markets large enough to be
competitive with the rest of the world. While most subregions have economic
groups, these bodies have yet to prove themselves. The Economic Community
of West African States, ECOWAS, shows signs of cohesion, and the South
African Development Community, SADC, has plans to develop a common market
in southern Africa, but its reputation has been marred by its mediation
failure in Zimbabwe. The East African Community was making encouraging
progress, experts say, but Kenya's political troubles will delay further
regional integration efforts.

World Bank economist Harry Broadman says for business on the continent to
become internationally competitive, regional solutions are needed for
infrastructure and regulation. African businesses in different countries,
he observes, are perfectly happy to seek advice from one another. "They
will be one another's best clients," he says. But they need regional
infrastructure to develop successfully. Such projects require political
collaboration, however, and Africa's political leaders are not as willing
to work together. Broadman compares this situation, where economic and
political interests are "bifurcated," to the one that arose in the Balkans
post-conflict. For instance, in southern Africa, Botswana and Zambia want
to be as economically successful as South Africa. Although businesses among
these countries collaborate, resentment of the political power of the South
African government prevents public policy changes that would further
economic integration.

African countries could also benefit from consulting one another on China's
activities in their countries, suggests Chatham House's Vines, but this has
yet to happen. In Angola, for example, China is building a railroad, but
the Angolan government has no idea what kind of goods--if any--it will
transport because it has not consulted with neighboring countries.

“There is no alternative but to keep on supporting the hubs and hoping
for the best.” – Raymond Copson
Bilateral or Regional: Options for the United States

The ambivalence African governments seem to feel toward regional
cooperation is reflected in recommendations for U.S. policy toward the
continent. Experts disagree sharply on the best course for the United
States to pursue in Africa. Some, like Vines and Lyman, believe that
focusing on the regional economic communities and the African Union is the
best course of action. Strengthening the capacity of these institutions to
implement their stated operating principles, which experts say are quite
good, will strengthen regional cooperation and help spur economic
development. Others, like Harvard's Rotberg, view these groups as
ineffective and instead advocate a bilateral approach. He suggests that the
United States support the countries on the Ibrahim Index that are ranked
just below the top ten to help them reduce corruption and strengthen good
governance. For countries like Liberia, which ranks low on the index
because it has recently emerged from conflict but has a strong, visionary
leader, he thinks that one or two years of assistance would be useful, but
the aid should have a clear time frame.

The United States already has a program, the Millennium Challenge Account,
to award aid to countries that meet good governance measures. Many
sub-Saharan countries have signed compacts or threshold agreements, which
provide limited assistance to countries that do not yet qualify for
compacts. Experts praise the program, but "unfortunately, Congress is not
very happy with the Millennium Challenge Account," says Lyman. Rotberg says
the concept is good, but the execution has been "appalling." The fate of
this program under the Obama administration is unclear.

Another school of thought argues that the United States should invest its
resources in supporting the anchor states, given their inevitable status as
continental leaders. "There is no alternative but to keep on supporting the
hubs and hoping for the best," says Copson. Several experts suggest the
United States should put more effort into assisting Nigeria with the
security situation in the Niger Delta. One vehicle for such support might
be the newly formed U.S. military command for Africa, Africom.

Whether the United States adopts bilateral or regional policies, experts
caution against holding different countries to different standards. "There
should be basic values on which the United States takes a consistent
position," says Fomunyoh. When the United States did not object to Uganda's
Museveni changing the constitution in 2005 and failed to criticize the
flawed Nigerian elections in April 2007, this sent a signal to other
African leaders that they too could abuse their leadership
responsibilities. Kenya's political crisis, he suggests, was a direct
outgrowth of that belief.


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