African Foreign Policy: A Question of Methodology

By McDougal, Serie,, III | Journal of Pan African Studies, March 15, 2009 | Go to article overview

African Foreign Policy: A Question of Methodology


McDougal, Serie,, III, Journal of Pan African Studies


Introduction

What role can methodology play in the political world as it provides people with the paradigms, theories and models that help them chart a course of action? Second, what methodology will guide Africa's foreign policy for the next century, and last, what guiding framework will guide African leaders' selection of a unified course of action? The answers to these questions are of critical consequence to the masses of people in Africa, and in its vast Diaspora. Hence, methodology influences the selection of objectives, the selection of allies, how national interests are prioritized, how economic and political conditions are interpreted and explained, and the course of action taken in light of the answers to those questions (two different countries may have very similar demographics, geography, and socio-economic conditions). However, depending on the methodology that guides leadership, they may identify different objectives, select different allies, prioritize their challenges differently, interpret their strengths and weaknesses differently, and take difference courses of action. In this essay I will describe the philosophical basis for a united African foreign policy methodology, and subsequently explain the significance of the formation of the African Command and the increasing trade relationship between Africa and China in light of the proposed methodology.

Africa has historically been forced, coerced and manipulated into adopting a foreign political methodology that has resulted in its underdevelopment, and general integration into the lower levels of the global economic and political network, despite its wealth of potential. Yet, Africa has also seen impressive post independence growth with some progressive leaders; but unfortunately their cohort also consists of a class of cleptocratic and opportunistic leaders who have been of far greater benefit to themselves and foreign private industry than to the masses of the people, to whom they owe their official commitment.

Correspondingly, the world's leading multillateral economic institutions have sponsored structural adjustment programs and development projects for years. However, to accept uncritically and adjust completely to the conditions and agenda of multilateral economic institutions such as the IMF, World Bank, World Trade Organization and Paris Club would be to participate in an development paradigm that has resulted in the growing gap between wealthy and poor nations, and the growing gap between the rich and poor. Similarly, it would be just as ill advised to accept uncritically the conditions and agenda of non western growing economies such as China and India. Thus, Africa cannot afford the absence of ideology, and the market can no longer be allowed to serve as the methodology guiding Africa's development, because it has led many African nations to positions in the lower levels of the global economy and the international trade supply chains report that Africa represents a mere 1.6% of world trade, therefore, economics cannot be allowed to trump culture in the shaping of development in Africa.

Diopian Methodology: Cultural Unity

In advancing a methodology to guide Africa's foreign policy, I involve a Diopian cultural renaissance, hence an Afrocentric paradigm of analysis (Mazama, 2003), an Ubuntu guided philosophy of engagement, and an Afrocentric agency directed toward victory. And in this context, the work of historian, physician and political scientist Cheikh Anta Diop who dedicated a segment of his scholarship to research based on the cultural unity of Africa which suggest that amid the tremendous and invaluable diversity of African people, there is also a set of cultural commonalities (Diop, 1989), is of assistance in advancing a cultural unity methodology to guide African foreign policy decisions. However, historically, one of the weaknesses that colonialists were able to successfully exploit was the fragmentation and lack of centralized political unity on the African continent (Karenga, 2002). …

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