Africa has mostly been a taker rather than a maker of the rules in the international system. The hyper globalization of the last quarter century has highlighted the inherent excesses of a weakly regulated global system.

The current institutions and norms reflect the views of the most powerful, who can steer outcomes to their own political and economic advantage. While developed countries often talk about the need for reform, those same countries are unwilling to cede the rules that have secured their beneficial position.

Africa’s voice in multilateral forums is still marginal, a problem compounded by the fact that the continent’s fifty-plus countries do not all share the same interests, making a common voice difficult to achieve or subject to the lowest common denominator.

The urgency to rewire globalization is occurring at a time of heightened geopolitical rivalries. Rewriting the rules that have underpinned globalization invariably becomes caught up in the competing positions of not only the two major powers—the United States and China—but also actors such as the European Union (EU). Reform manifests itself in norm competition and new sites of contestation. Africa must navigate this environment as it pushes for its own concerns to be heard and reflected in global norm shaping.

Attempts over the last two decades to regulate some of the worst excesses of globalization have paid scant attention to the needs and constraints of developing countries.

For Africa, a rewired globalization is one that has a beneficial developmental impact. Africans have a role to play in this rewiring. Africa has the world’s youngest population and by 2050 will have a population of 2.5 billion—a quarter of the global total. These demographic trends will have significant political, economic, and social impacts not only on the continent but also on the world.

Over the last decade, Africa has sought to build up more agency in participating in and influencing global norms and regulations. It has tried to do so by developing a collective continental voice on various issues. However, African states, given their economic and political diversity, do not have a single overarching view of what is required to reengineer globalization. To the extent that continental structures exist to provide coordination or technical capacity, African states may articulate common positions on global platforms. Yet, Africa’s limited economic heft means that the continent is often sidelined in critical global debates.

More effective agency to take advantage of Africa’s participation in various forums requires boosting technical and policy capacity in individual African states. This is essential if globalization is to incorporate changes that will address some of Africa’s developmental deficits. Influencing globalization reform will require African states to use a mix of strategies: pushing for reform within existing institutions while identifying autonomous paths of action where possible. In addition, Africa will need to cultivate cross-regional coalitions where appropriate.

Revamping globalization will also necessitate a new set of principles. The ethics of globalism have to be attuned to fairness, greater equity, and transparency. Indiscriminate consumption will have to be reduced and replaced by a circular economy. Enormous wealth accumulated by the top 1 percent will have to be tamed. A more equitable distribution of income that addresses globalization’s losers must be on the agenda. Multinational corporations’ accumulation and policy capture will have to be reined in.

An inability to rewire globalization may mean a world that becomes much more fragmented, less able to manage transnational challenges, and more polarized. It will also be a world where an inability to deal effectively with the scourges of inequality, poverty, and climate change will impact the well-being of the privileged, who have lacked the boldness to recognize that the status quo will not hold forever.

Group of African States in the U.N.

  1. Algeria *
  2. Angola *
  3. Benin
  4. Botswana *
  5. Burkina Faso *
  6. Burundi *
  7. Cabo Verde
  8. Cameroon
  9. Central African Republic *
  10. Chad *
  11. Comoros*
  12. Congo *
  13. Côte d’Ivoire
  14. Democratic Republic of the Congo *
  15. Djibouti
  16. Egypt
  17. Equatorial Guinea
  18. Eritrea *
  19. Eswatini
  20. Ethiopia *
  21. Gabon
  22. Gambia
  23. Ghana
  24. Guinea *
  25. Guinea-Bissau*
  26. Kenya
  27. Lesotho
  28. Liberia
  29. Libya *
  30. Madagascar *
  31. Malawi
  32. Mali *
  33. Mauritania
  34. Mauritius
  35. Morocco
  36. Mozambique *
  37. Namibia
  38. Niger *
  39. Nigeria *
  40. Rwanda
  41. Sao Tome and Principe
  42. Senegal *
  43. Seychelles
  44. Sierra Leone
  45. Somalia
  46. South Africa *
  47. South Sudan *
  48. Sudan *
  49. Togo
  50. Tunisia
  51. Uganda *
  52. United Republic of Tanzania
  53. Zambia
  54. Zimbabwe *

*Russian camp (directly or though mercenaries)

In the UN vote condemning Russia for the invasion of Ukraine, 17 African countries abstained, 8 did not vote, and Eritrea voted directly against. The conflict in Ukraine and even France's withdrawal from the Sahel has motivated many African countries to look to Russia for more external support, pushing Western influence away from many African countries.


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