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Commodities and Great Power Competition in Africa

Chinese influence, tensions between Ethiopia and Egypt, and the dispute over Somaliland

Conflict is On the Rise

The Uppsala Conflict Data Program, which has been tracking wars globally since 1945, identified 2022 and 2023 as the most conflictual years in the world since the end of the Cold War. Back in January 2023, before many of the above conflicts erupted, United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed sounded the alarm, noting that peace “is now under grave threat” across the globe.

The seeming cascade of conflicts is especially acute in the continent of Africa, which is now host to:

  • the greatest concentration of terrorism globally;

  • decreasing levels of democratization and rising levels of authoritarianism;

  • and a growing number of intrastate and interstate conflicts, all set across the backdrop of growing competition for economic, political, military, and commercial influence in Africa by China, Russia, the US, and regional powers like the UAE and Turkey (to name a few). 

While Africa presents significant economic and trade opportunities in the future given its large and growing population, vast natural resources, and favorable geography between major regional trading blocks, significant geopolitical and security risks remain, especially in areas where access to valuable commodities, water, and electricity pose both opportunities and risks.

In this piece, we’re highlighting the most important projects and developments that global investors and geopolitical analysts should be aware of.

One Belt, One Road, and the West

Most attention to foreign investment in Africa tends to focus on China’s One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative. OBOR is a global macro-economic, trade, and infrastructure initiative started eleven years ago by the Chinese government, the purpose of which is twofold:

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