Accepted Paper:

Positioning Africa within Global Governance: From Soft Humanitarian Case to A Strong Strategic Player  


Victor Ojakorotu (Monash University)
Sabelo J. Ndlovu-Gatsheni (University of Bareuth)

Paper long abstract:

For far too long, Africa has occupied a subaltern position within global governance that has seen the continent reduced to a soft humanitarian case rather than a strong strategic player in global politics. The African people have passed through various phases of negative representation including the sixteenth century characterisation as ‘people without writing,’ to the eighteenth and nineteenth century ‘people without history,’ to the twentieth century characterisation of ‘people without development’ and more recently, to the twenty-first century of ‘people without democracy.’ It is against this background, that Africa must fight against negative representation and secure a more dignified position within global politics. This is a challenge for Africa in the 21st Century.

The challenges are multi-layered into ideological, strategical, technological, cultural, and epistemological levels. At the centre of all these levels is the reality of modernity/coloniality matrix that decentred and continues to breed crisis discourses and discourses of impossibilities in Africa. Is Africa a problem to be solved or a voice to be heard? For how long will Africa and Africans remain closed in an ossified shell of victimhood discourse? Our paper seeks to map out strategies that can be used by Africans to position their continent as a strategic player within global politics. Our argument is that the chains of coloniality are no longer on African feet as it was during slavery; they are now on their minds.

What this implies is that the African struggle for a dignified position within global politics and governance must now take an epistemological form involving subverting a rejection of Western negative representation, effective utilisation of indigenous knowledge systems, and learning to leverage African strategic endowments. What we are arguing for is a change of discourse on Africa from the one of a subject of pity and humanitarian case to one of confidence, creativity, and dignity. What does this mean in terms of practicality? Firstly, it means that Africa must diagnose its key problems it is facing instead of listening to outsiders with other agendas. Secondly, it means that the African continent must set its own development agenda without mimicking the North. Thirdly, it means that Africans themselves come up with solutions to African problems. It also means that Africans should reconstruct governance systems that are suitable for the continent. Finally, it means making Africans people the centre of development initiatives rather than objects of development. This entails tapping knowledge and wisdom from Africans on the way forward for the continent. Our paper, therefore, start with identification and definition of key problems affecting Africa today. It proceeds to map out some of the strategies that can be used to extricate Africa from these problems including use of indigenous knowledge. Finally, we build a case for a strategic role and place of Africa in global politics and governance through a discussion of the feasibility of a United States of Africa.

Panel B5
The Commonwealth, America and the EU: international relations in Africa