When Nelson Mandela was sworn in as president on 10 May 1994, much of the international community expected the post-apartheid South Africa to play a dominant role on the continent: promoting conflict resolution, economic development, and acting as a standard-bearer for democracy and human rights. Yet throughout the presidencies of Mandela, Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma, South Africa has failed to deliver. With new powers now emerging on the continent, South Africa finds itself in economic and military decline, struggling with an onerous domestic agenda. It must now adapt to this new reality in a transitional era likely to shape Africa’s prospects for decades to come.

Why has South Africa failed to translate its economic, military and diplomatic weight into tangible influence on the ground? Is it equipped to play the role of a continental leader?

Africa’s Lost Leader: South Africa’s Continental Role Since Apartheid is a new Adelphi book written by James Hamill, which challenges South Africa’s perceived status as the dominant power in Africa. His timely study explores the country’s complex and difficult relationship with the rest of the continent in the post-apartheid era, and traces the evolution and trajectory of South African policy in Africa.

James Hamill is a lecturer in the School of History, Politics and International Relations at the University of Leicester, United Kingdom. His research interests cover post-1990 South African politics, South African foreign relations in the post-apartheid era, Zimbabwe, the Southern African Development Community, and democracy in Africa. He has contributed articles on these themes to Diplomacy & Statecraft, International Relations, Politikon: The South African Journal of Political Studies, The Round Table, and The World Today. He is also a regular contributor to World Politics Review and The Conversation on contemporary South African politics.

He was joined by panellist Prof. Jack Spence OBE FKC, Professor of Diplomacy at the Department of War Studies, King’s College London.

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This event took place in the Lee Kuan Yew Conference Room at Arundel House, 6 Temple Place, London WC2R 2PG.


Nicholas Redman Dr Nicholas Redman is Director of Editorial at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, overseeing the Institute’s large and highly regarded publications output. He is Editor of the Adelphi book series and Strategic Survey: The Annual Assessment of Geopolitics, and he directs the continued development of the Armed Conflict Database.

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Event details

Thursday 25 January, 12.30-1.30pm GMT
Arundel House, London
James Hamill, Lecturer, School of History, Politics and International Relations, University of Leicester
Prof. Jack Spence OBE FKC, Professor of Diplomacy at the Department of War Studies, King’s College London
Dr Nicholas Redman, Director of Editorial; Editor, Strategic Survey and Adelphi Books, IISS

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Explore the chapters and download a table of contents.