Publication: Strategic Survey 2013: The Annual Review of World Affairs
07 September 2013
According to the IMF, some of the fastest-growing economies in the world in 2013 will be in sub-Saharan Africa. At the same time, many Western analysts describe ‘an arc of instability’ spreading across the Sahel region of West Africa. The juxtaposition of these two judgements encapsulates the continent’s current contradictions. While there are varying degrees of hope in two of the most conflict-ridden countries – Somalia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) – al-Qaeda-linked militants have found new homes in northern Mali and Nigeria. In the year the African Union (previously called the Organisation of African Unity) turned 50, there was some cause for optimism. Fears of electoral violence in Kenya proved unfounded, and the two Sudans seemed to have resolved their oil dispute. However, the credibility of the African Union itself was damaged by its inability to deal with the recent crisis in Mali, while coups continued in West Africa. The continent’s largest and most industrialised economy, South Africa, was haunted by a reminder of its violent apartheid-era past with the deaths of 34 miners in a bitter industrial dispute. Even in some of the most buoyant economies, such as Mozambique, not everyone was sharing in the boom. The mantra of ‘African solutions for African problems’ still seemed a long way from being realised in the security arena.