Africa in International Politics: External Involvement on the Continent

Africa in International Politics: External Involvement on the Continent

Africa in International Politics: External Involvement on the Continent

Africa in International Politics: External Involvement on the Continent


Locating Africa on the global stage, this book examines and compares external involvement in the continent, exploring the foreign policies of major states and international organizations towards Africa. The contributors work within a political economy framework in order to study how these powers have attempted to stimulate democracy, peace and prosperity in the context of neo-liberal hegemony and ask whom these attempts have benefited and failed.


Ian Taylor and Paul Williams

Writing on the cusp of the new millennium, Jean-François Bayart correctly noted that, 'More than ever, the discourse on Africa's marginality is a nonsense' (2000:267). Understood from the perspective of the longue durée, there has been a continual flow of both ideas and goods between Africa, Europe, Asia, and later the Americas. Africa has never existed apart from world politics but has been unavoidably entangled in the ebb and flow of events and changing configurations of power. This recognition highlights the sterility of attempts to define a rigid relationship between Africa and a somehow separate international system. In practice, Africa cannot enjoy 'a relationship' with world politics because 'Africa is in no sense extraneous to the world'; the two are organically intertwined (Bayart 2000:234). To start any enquiry from the assumption of Africa's marginality from world politics thus misses the point; the continent has in fact been dialectically linked, both shaping and being shaped by international processes and structures.

Arguably the reason that the majority of commentaries talk confidently of Africa's economic marginalization and its political decay is a product of the inadequacies of dominant tools of social scientific analysis that renders 'much of what happens in Africa invisible to outsiders' (Bayart 2000:229). In particular, many analyses of Africa's place in world politics suffer from an inability to conceptualize processes, events and structures that fall within the realm of what is usually considered private, illegal or - worse - mundane and apolitical. Rectifying these inadequacies would require, according to Bayart, paying close attention not only to what transpires within government structures, but also at 'the trading-post, the business-place, the plantation, the mine, the school, the hospital, and the Christian mission-station' (2000:246). Obviously, a single volume cannot hope to be comprehensive in its coverage but it should remain sensitive to the multiple dimensions and sites of Africa's interaction with the world.

Africa's current predicament does not lack scholarly interest, but the bulk of contemporary studies on Africa have focused upon how the continent is in 'crisis', or succumbing to war, militarism, famine, poverty, natural catastrophes, corruption, disease, criminality, environmental degradation and

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