Africa in the Context of BRICS and Geopolitical Turbulence



After the terrorist attacks on the WTC in New York, the US began to implement a new foreign policy vision and strategy for global order. Its elements synchronized with the doctrine of ‘Full Spectrum Dominance’ that was detailed in the 1996 Defense Department policy directive “Joint Vision 2010”[1]. In accordance with this concept, US armed forces should be "persuasive in peace, decisive in war, pre-eminent in any form of conflict"[2]. The militarization of the Africa continent is to be conducted hand-in-hand with the exploitation of African resources by Western corporate interests. The terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre on September 11th 2001 opened US eyes to the strategic advantage of  creating a relatively ‘safer’ West and West-Central African, in particular Nigeria, whose sources of high quality crude oil are rapidly transportable across the Atlantic Ocean to refineries in populous cities on the North American eastern industrial seaboard[3]. For example, 92.3 % of African imports to U.S in 2008 consisted of oil[4]. The ‘War on Terror’ has also provided US-NATO command with justification for securitising the ‘dangerous’ West African Muslim states.

In 2006 the US began military exercises on land and sea in different African countries. Since 2008, AFRICOM, the US military Command Center responsible  for Africa, has been officially operational. In 2010 the Pentagon began active military cooperation with several governments in the region (Senegal, Cape Verde, Ghana, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of São Tomé e Príncipe, Mali, and Niger) and has established a military presence in the southern and northern states of Nigeria where the oil fields are located.

The argument that AFRICOM is primarily designed to provide humanitarian support has largely disappeared. Yet the United States still struggles to persuade the African people of the benefits of AFRICOM. To most observers, Africa has never been the intended beneficiary of AFRICOM. Based on the historical record, including direct comments from National Security Advisor James Jones, co-founder of AFRICOM, the goal of the new command is to protect U.S. access to oil and to protect U.S. corporate interests in Africa. Many African countries certainly have serious security concerns. But the behaviour of the states and the national militaries in question, combined with international economic interests, are often the catalysts for that insecurity. The question is whether the United States supports the forces of democracy and rule of law in Africa or whether, by treating dissent with military force rather than traditional law enforcement techniques, the United States has undermined democratic movements and encouraged extremism and the growth of anti-Americanism[5]. Another strategic goal of AFRICOM is to counter and roll-back Chinese economic expansion in the region[6].      

The other reason that African policy is a US priority for the next decade is geopolitical and strategic order. In the midst of the current economic-financial crisis, Washington should, as a major global player, direct its efforts in maintaining its positions in global zones, penalty to pay, in the best outcome, a rapid reorganization in regional power, or in the worst, a disastrous collapse, difficult to overcome in the short term. Instead, in line with the traditional geopolitical expansion that has always marked its relations with other parts of the planet, Washington chose Africa with its ample space to manoeuvre, from which to relaunch its military weight on the global plane in order to contest the Asian powers for world supremacy[7]

Another tool of US penetration into Africa is economic-financial structures and programs (seen in the case of sanctions against Sudan and the interference of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank in the relationship between the Democratic Republic of Congo and China) with such initiatives like the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) and the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).  Communication strategy should also be seen as a vector for US interest promotion in Africa, such as Obama’s speeches, already considered “historic”, in Cairo and Accra[8].

Attempts to establish control over Africa runs under the guise of new generation partnership and dialogue as well[9]. Africa underdevelopment is also a strategic concern for US geopolitical designs. U.S. military strategist Thomas Barnett has spoke about the ‘non-integrated gap’ of Africa and Middle Asia that must be integrated into the functional global core[10].

The Council of Foreign Relations (CFR), as an influential instrument of U.S. foreign policy also provides the US government with recommendations for dealing with African states. In Contingency Planning Memorandum No.11 "Crisis in the Congo" issued in May 2011 CFR advocated Washington to take several bilateral and multilateral steps to reduce the risk of violent instability, including: to improve Regional Engagement, use its influence through the office of the World Bank's American executive director, ensure a UN Presence, increase support for basic military training , etc.[11].

The US’s military presence in Africa also facilitates control over the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, particularly in light of the emergence of new phenomena and threats such as piracy, the spreading of information technologies that can to be used for destabilization, water crises, and demographic crises.

The potential threat of conflicts rooted in ethnicity, religion, and tribal politics is a serious challenge for Africa. For example, in Nigeria with a population of 150 million, there are about 250 different ethnic groups, the population is divided between Christians and Muslims, and there are several active rebel groups. Out-of-the-box Western principles of parliamentary democracy based on class divisions do not function in societies divided in terms of identity on these lines[12]. A more complex and tailored approach taking into account regional history, culture, and identity divisions is needed. African critics claim that Europe and the US do not understand the nature and needs of social mobilization in Africa, where economic concerns coexist with ethnic and other divides.

But the economic crisis also demonstrates the contradictions and instability of the neoliberal global economic system, because of which, on the one hand African countries are threatened by transnational capital and re-colonialism, and on the other hand alternatives open to the issues of multilateral cooperation and self governance[13].

An important strategic initiative is the bloc of BRICS countries that have the possibility to turn African policy into a new paradigm. Geopolitically, Russia, India, Brasil and China are Land Powers (Not excluding of course, the necessity to have strategic sea lines of communication for transportation of goods, energy and natural resources).

China, India and Brazil are building relationships that take place within the framework of interaction between post-colonial countries[14], and therefore, these States inspire a higher degree of confidence and trust in Africa, than does the EU and the US with their colonial legacies The most successful foreign policy has been demonstrated by China, through the mechanisms of soft power for economic, industrial and cultural penetration.

 One possible alternative trend also is the possibility of the strengthening of the East African Community – a regional economic group with a population of more than 126 million people, whose members include Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda. South Sudan with its huge oil reserves also has the potential to join this group[15]

Italian geopolitician Tiberio Graziani notes that,

Africa, in order to safeguard its own resources and stay out of disputes between the US, China, and probably Russia and India – disputes that could be resolved on its own territory – needs to get organised, at least regionally, along three principal lines that pivots with the Mediterranean basin, the Indian Ocean, and the Atlantic Ocean.

The activation of economic and strategic cooperation policies, at least regarding security, between the countries of North Africa and of Europe, on the one hand and similarly with India (to that aim note the Delhi Declaration, drawn up in the course of Summit 2008 India-Africa), on the other, besides making the African regions more interconnected, sets up the basis for a potential future unification of the continent along regional poles and entered in the broadest Euro-Afro-Asian context. Likewise, the Atlantic line, that is the pursuit of strategic south-south cooperation  between Africa and Indo-Latin America, would foster, in this case, the cohesion of western African nations and would contribute to the unification of the continent.  In particular, the development of the Atlantic line would reinforce the weight of Africa relative to Asia, and to China in the first place[16].

But this plan is based on the old geopolitical scenario of the political game. We have proposed to look at this situation from another point of view. Besides the established concept for global order of unipolarity and multilateralism, there exists the alternative concept of multipolarity (or pluripolarity).

In the unipolar world model, the BRICS countries are thought of separately, as intermediates zones between the core and the periphery of the world or between the centre of globalization and the non-integrated gap. With this approach, the elite of these countries must integrate into the global elite and the masses be consumed in a global melting pot with other lower social strata, including through migration flows and in so doing, lose their cultural and civilizational identity.

But in terms of the multipolar world view, the BRICS can be conceived fundamentally differently. If these countries can develop a common strategy, form a consolidated approach to major global challenges, and develop a joint political bloc, there will come into being a powerful international institution capable of birthing the multipolar world, with enormous technical, diplomatic, demographic and military resources[17].

This project should change the structure of the BRICS to that of a powerful global organization that will be able to dictate their demands to other participants (three countries of BRICS have armed with own nuclear weapons).

  So, with the economic and intellectual potential of the BRICS countries and the experience of intercultural and interethnic relations of complementarity, the only true geopolitical strategy for the African continent and in relation to it will be multipolarity.

[1] Joint Vision 2010. Pentagon. Washington, DC. 1996. [Электронный ресурс] URL: (дата обращения 01.09.2010).

[2] Ibid. P. 2.

[3] Ifeka C. AFRICOM, the kleptocratic state and under-class militancy. 2010-07-22, Issue 491. [Электронный ресурс] URL: (дата обращения 12.03.2011).

[4] U.S. - African Trade Profile. Dept. of Commerce of  the U.S. [Электронный ресурс] (дата обращения 15.12.2010).

[5] Africa Action and FPIF Staff. Africa Policy Outlook 2010. January 22, 2010. [Электронный ресурс] URL: (дата обращения 04.03.2011).

[6] Энгдаль У. АФРИКОМ, Китай и война за ресурсы Конго. 06.12.2008. [Электронный ресурс] URL: (дата обращения 15.12.2010).

[7] Graziani T. L’Africa nel sistema multipolare. 27 novembre, 2009. [Электронный ресурс] URL: (дата обращения 15.05.2011).

[8] Ibidem.

[9] Molefe M. Oxford opens a New Chapter on Pan-Africanism. 2011.03.16. [Электронный ресурс] URL: (дата обращения 15.12.2010).

[10] Barnett T. The Pentagon's New Map. Putnam Publishing Group, 2004.

[11] Marks, Joshua. Crisis in Congo. Contingency Planning Memorandum No. 11. N.Y.: C.F.R. May 2011. [Электронный ресурс] URL: (дата обращения 15.05.2011).

[12] Amin S. Eurocentrism. Modernity, Religion and Democracy: A Critique of Eurocentrism and Culturalism. Fahamu books, 2010.

[13] Dani Wadada Nabudere. The Crash of International Finance-Capital and its Implications for the Third World. Fahamu books, 2009.

[14] Emma Mawdsley, Gerard McCann (ed.). India in Africa: Changing Geographies of Power. Pambazuka Press, 2011.

[15] Marco Picardi and Hamish Stewart. Building Africa: Where's The United States? May 27, 2010. [Электронный ресурс] URL: (дата обращения 15.12.2010).

[16] Graziani T. L’Africa nel sistema multipolare. 27 novembre, 2009. [Электронный ресурс] URL: (дата обращения 15.05.2011).

[17] Дугин А.Г. Геополитика. – М: Академический проект, 2011. С. 511.