Africa is a security environment fraught with many dangers, but one too that presents great opportunities for addressing the most pressing global—and not just African—challenges. With more than its share of fragile, unstable states, impoverished societies, and endemic conflict, the continent was once seen almost exclusively as an incubator of instability and insecurity; a venue for addressing rising challenges and an exporter of global security threats. But this is no longer the case. Africa, like everywhere else in the world, is becoming increasingly integrated into a globalized security system, whereby Africans are just as vulnerable to threats emanating from outside the continent as they are from home-grown ones. Thus, Africa—and what happens there—matters more than ever. Simply ignoring it and hoping for the best through a policy of containment and isolation is not a viable option in today’s globalized and interdependent world.
More often viewed as a developmental or a humanitarian challenge rather than a security challenge, addressing the vast array of African public health problems has increasingly come to be seen as a critical human security priority. While many have criticized the securitization of health issues, the cross-cutting linkages to other political, social, and economic issues are real and so too are their implications for security. In addition, most health challenges in Africa were previously seen as localized problems threatening only the well-being of specific populations, but in today’s globalized world they can have profound negative implications far beyond the original source of the problem. While some international public health threats, such as disease pandemics, are nothing new the ability of new disease epidemics to transcend international borders and continents at a speed and breadth is heretofore unknown in human history.
A basic feature of the universal human condition is the need to find commonality with others and form larger associations at the individual, group, and community level. This is at the heart of the concept of identity. A variety of factors ranging from physical attributes, language, and culture to societal norms and structures work to promote a self-awareness and self-consciousness of sameness with a larger collective. Probably nowhere else in the world is group identity—be it ethnic, racial, religious, sectarian or communal—so closely associated with persistent, and even genocidal, violence than in Africa. This makes identity conflict a primary threat to peace and security on the continent.
While candidly acknowledging that African governments, institutions, and societies need to take more responsibility and ought to do more to address their security challenges, they just cannot do it alone. Given the increasingly complex and interdependent nature of the African security environment the continent simply lacks the resources and capacity to tackle current and future problems. Thus, the active involvement and constructive participation of the wider global community is essential. This chapter calls for international involvement that is intelligently focused, prudently implemented, and done in partnership with Africans. Involvement that requires listening to African concerns and geared toward addressing African needs and not any external agenda. This will require an across the board overhaul of international programs, tools, and strategic vision. It also means a vastly reduced role for militaries and short-term fixes and a greater emphasis on finding the ways and means that empower people and societies through political, social and economic development.
Resource conflict and environmental degradation are in reality two-sides of the same security challenge coin. Both address the issue of natural resource abundance and scarcity and how societies deal with these challenges and their implications, but from vastly different perspectives. While the first addresses access and control over existing natural resources in terms of resource competition, the second addresses the environmental impact of declining or the misuse of resources. Regardless of the perspective, however, both present a serious threat to African peace and stability through their ability to generate and sustain violent conflict, fuel corruption or undermine governance. Moreover, some of these types of conflicts are the most difficult to resolve given the life or death nature of the stakes involved for individuals and entire communities.
Since September 2001, the struggle against international terrorism and extremism across the globe has become a defining security paradigm of the 21st century. Africa is now an inescapable and increasingly critical part of this new security equation. This presents an enormous political and socio-economic challenge for many African countries and organizations that are already over burden trying to cope with longstanding and other newly arising security threats. Terrorism and extremism, however, are certainly not new to Africa, but what has changed in the post-September 11th world for Africa is the apparent melding of domestic and international terrorism and extremism. Accordingly, much of the success or failure to counter these threats will be as much affected by the actions and policies of external forces than on the capabilities (or lack thereof) of African governments and institutions.
This foundational chapter explores the evolution and meaning of “security” in the African context. It explores how the meaning has changed from the colonial period through the immediate post-independence period to today. It introduces the reader to the concept of “human security” and explains why it is particularly relevant and useful in understanding and assessing 21st century African security challenges. It questions traditional, state-centric notions of security and shows how the traditional top-down approach to African security is inadequate in addressing modern-day security challenges.
The carrying on of trade, both legal and illegal, between communities has been a fundamental feature of global economic relationships and an essential component of economic and social development. Modern-day trafficking is more than simply a reflection of an age old problem of illegal trade, because of the power of globalization. With Africa’s continuing integration into the global economy, the continent has becoming ever more vulnerable to the dark side of globalization that drives international trafficking. The challenge that the illicit trade in drugs and small arms brings to the continent is one far beyond the immediate impact of rising transnational criminal activity, but one that has broader implications for cross-cutting linkages to African security, stability and the future of African governance.
This chapter provides the reader with background material and a basic understanding of Africa’s uniqueness. It looks at the highly diverse and unique set of security challenges--from traditional to non-traditional—facing the continent and provides an overview of the nature of the threat to the continent and its people. It also sets the stage for an in-depth examination of the key threats to African security (and by extension to the global community) and identifies some emerging trends that present both opportunities and challenges for improving security in the decades ahead.
This chapter examines the discursive realm. Discourses are not taken as truths; they convey elements of how power and resistance operate. The chapter examines public and private statements by statebuilders (both national and international) as well as from a wide range of popular sectors (peasant cooperatives, NGOs, journalists, university professors, and street and market sellers). The chapter first examines statebuilding discourses developed as a claim to authority. The chapter then concentrates on mockery, denigration, slandering and subversion of meaning articulated by popular classes. They constitute discursive practices of resistance that deny the claims to legitimate authority and deference.