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the North-South geopolitics of an African Renaissance

The term African Renaissance is more than a catch-phrase about economic upliftment on a poor continent. It stands for a grand geostrategy: a new spatial design for Africa that challenges the existing geopolitical order including old models of state sovereignty, state boundaries, national identity, and, most particularly Northern hegemony. It also challenges the theory that globalization will lead to cultural homogenisation, global government, and global civil society (Mlinar 1992, Hannerz 1990, Lipschutz 1992). It might suggest new kinds of divisions and conflicts between regional blocs or even whole 'civilisations' (Huntington 1996, Marden 1997).

Discourse on an "African Renaissance" in its present context started with an April 1997 speech by Deputy-President Thabo Mbeki to the United States Corporate Council on Africa (Barber 1997). He opened his talk with the line, "The African Renaissance is upon us." Many news articles, analyses and editorials followed as other African leaders picked up the theme. In a July 1997 speech at Oxford President Nelson Mandela hailed this renaissance as "the creation of a new world order that involved the reconstruction of countries through regional economic associations capable of successfully competing in the global economy" (Seale 1997). In an address to a special ministerial session of the Organisation of African Unity in September, OAU Chairman Robert Mugabe referred to it as "a rebirth and renewal that is reshaping not only African societies but also African relations with the rest of the world" (Africa News Online 1997).

Numerous speeches, papers, editorials, articles, and commentaries stressed African renewal through a new political economy of regional integration and cross-border initiatives that would become the "building blocks of an African Economic Union" (Seale 1997). This raises the question of what is 'new' about an African Renaissance as these spatial plans have been part of agreements and movements that are decades old. The social construction of pan-Africanism dates to the period of independence. The idea of achieving African Unity through regional organisations like the Southern African Development Community or SADC (pronounced 'Sadik' and used as a proper noun) dates to the Lagos Plan of Action that was adopted by the Organisation of African Unity in April 1980.

What is new is not African unification based on the starting blocks of African regionalism but the location, strategy and tactics for that achievement. Firstly, the African Renaissance is being launched from SADC where twelve out of fourteen member states have democratically elected governments (Swaziland and the Democratic Republic of Congo are the exceptions). Secondly, it is being based on market-led approaches and not the old order of state-controlled economic development. The very term 'African Renaissance' has proved a useful marketing tool in both organising an increased share of global trade while stimulating Africans to seek greater control over the continent's human and material wealth. The once debatable wisdom of a Pan-African agenda is now taken for granted owing to the widely perceived need to create economies of scale to compete in a rapidly globalizing and capitalist world.

Claiming a greater share of global power and wealth for Africa is geopolitics in its most classic sense. Nearly all the elements of an African Renaissance raise issues of territoriality and shared space. The three most important spatial corollaries for Southern Africa include: (1) creating a regional trading bloc with enough economic clout to compete in a globalizing economy dominated by 'Northern' interests; (2) overcoming the colonial inheritance of poorly designed boundaries by enhancing cross-boundary cooperation and infrastructure such as transport corridors and spatial development initiatives; and (3) expanded participation in South-South political and economic alliances to counter Northern hegemony in spatial planning processes.

The intention of this paper is to examine the probable impact of this geostrategic discourse on the political spaces of Southern Africa. A geopolitical analysis can help to: (1) clarify the spatial objectives sought by powerful geopolitical actors, both North and South; (2) identify probable areas of conflict and accommodation between them; and thereby (3) assess the relative power of Africans to define and construct the spaces required for an 'African Renaissance' in the face of a globalization process dominated by Northern states. That format will lead this paper toward proposing some conflict prevention strategies that might harmonise the efforts of competing actors.

1 North and South Perspectives regarding the African Renaissance

The basic model of global uneven development remains both a practical and popular explanatory tool for understanding the regional impacts of globalization processes (Slater 1997). Figure One points to disparities in political and economic power that help produce these geopolitical divisions on a massive scale. The eight richest and most powerful countries in the world, the G8, are located in the Northern Sphere. Located here are about 25% of the world's population but more than 75% of all global trade. The poorest eight countries are concentrated in the Southern Sphere where debt, poverty, and hunger concentrate. There you find the members of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) who base their political and economic strategies on the accepted wisdom that the older industrialised nations dominate the global state system. Individual African countries like South Africa have also modelled their foreign policies on these assumptions (African National Congress 1998; Parliament of the Republic of South Africa 1995).

The North-South division is the most potent area of contestation in the shaping of the African space economy. There is no doubt that any African Renaissance will be a product of both Northern and Southern role-players. The very term 'renaissance' was generated in centres of Northern power. The starting block for re-modelling Africa's political spaces is a political map drawn largely in Europe. Most projects of Africa's regional organisations are funded by the North. In Southern Africa ninety percent of the project money for Southern African development comes from Northern countries and only 10% from member states!

The complete intertwining of North and South in the construction of Africa's political and economic spaces means that the spatial aspects of the African Renaissance must be understood in terms of the points of convergence and divergence between Northern and Southern visions. By first analysing those broad objectives we can take a better view of probable areas of conflict and accommodation, leading to some tentative predictions regarding spatial outcomes.

1.1 The African Renaissance as a Northern Geo-Strategy

Since the time of the European renaissance there has been a huge demand by those in the North to control the profits, real or potential, from Africa's geological wealth, energy wealth, land wealth, bio-diversity, human labour, and marine resources. In the colonial era the North's chosen geostrategy was territorial occupation and annexation based on the highly organised and technically proficient use of force (McNeill 1982; Boahen 1987). In the post-independence era, the North exerted its domination through financial institutions, multinational companies, and technological superiority. The Cold War years generated some interventions in Africa for strategic reasons but the Post-Cold War years have returned us to a Northern motive in Africa that is not particularly new: profit.

Today wealthy Northern countries have saturated markets that require expansion both in terms of foreign sales, investment opportunities, and access to cheap raw materials. Naturally, traders, companies and corporations seek out those parts of the globe that offer the highest returns and neglect areas offering a low return. Africa sits far on the parameter of the world economy, attracting less than five percent of global trade. This condition is unlikely to change very soon. A May 1998 Merrill Lynch Gallup Survey (Galli) found that: only 3% of US fund managers favoured Southern Africa as an emerging market; the Japanese do not favour the area at all (0%); and only the British fund managers expressed reasonable interest (16%). South Africa's own fund managers prefer investing nearly 2:1 in Europe over Southern Africa (26% Vs 42%).

Africa's peripheral position in the world economy presents a major challenge to Northern governments who are taking a longer geopolitical view than banks, corporations, speculators, and short-term investors. Governments have an interest in building the infrastructure and political relations that keep economies going. Even though investor confidence in Africa is low, it is common knowledge that Africa is a continent of vast potential wealth. This keeps wealthy northern powers such as the G8 members involved in African diplomacy nudging government leaders toward political and economic agreements that open up and secure markets for northern business.

A survey conducted by a World Bank affiliate pointed to the top obstacles to foreign investment in Africa. The study, based on 4,000 entrepreneurs in 69 countries reported that high inflation, crime, corruption, inadequate supply of infrastructure, high taxes, political instability, and stringent regulations on investment, currency, and labour practices prevented both higher trade flows and investment (International Finance Corporation 1998) . The results, specified by five African regions, showed that the biggest obstacles to investment in Southern Africa were inflation, corruption, stringent labour and tax regulations, high taxes, crime, and theft.


These surveys and numerous other studies (e.g., Spira 1998) reveal the analysis upon which Northern policy toward Africa is based. Basically, higher levels of investment are blocked by the structure of African governments themselves. They are cut off from private capital markets and real competition because: red tape and protectionism raise investor risk levels; excessive public spending fuels inflation; and corruption both undermines the delivery of infrastructure and creates instability. It is this Northern portrait of mismanaged and corrupt economies that shapes the North's geopolitical strategies in Africa. It is premised on the idea that Africa's failure to benefit from the world economy owes to its own interference with the marketplace.

The North uses its control of powerful financial organisations and capital to operate two main levers to pry African governments out of the marketplace and open the way for unfettered international trade. Firstly, it can use the gentle persuasion of development finance. There are many examples of this including the US Government's African Growth and Opportunity Act which rewards African states that liberalise, privatise, and democratise. 'Opportunities' include business partnerships, debt relief, loan guarantees, and access to US markets. The persuasive influence of Northern capital is also revealed in the structure of the African Development Bank. It is 40% owned and managed by Northern capital with decisions being taken by a 66.6% majority (Dludlu 1998).

Secondly, Northern control of capital can be coercive. This does not exclude the use of raw force such as the financial assistance that the French state oil company ELF provided Angolan troops in the 1997 overthrow of the Congo's Lissouba regime (Misser 1998). More commonly, its control is exercised through the North's international banking institutions, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. These Bretton Woods twins can force indebted states to cut spending and hence the size of government. For instance, Zimbabwe was coerced into cutting its spending levels by a punitive freezing of IMF aid from 1994 until its compliance in 1998 (Hartnack 1998). On a wider scale, some 32 African countries seeking debt relief must comply for six years with more than 100 conditions of fiscally prudent management before qualifying.

IMF managed countries are restructured toward Northern ideals: industry is privatised, public spending cut, and markets are opened to foreign investors. These 'structural adjustment programmes' can bring the books to balance and result in higher economic growth rates. One example is Uganda which has followed the IMF-led structural adjustment programme to realise growth rates between seven and eight percent a year. While these programmes are appealing in terms of gross national product, they typically raise unemployment levels, reduce medical care, eliminate food subsidies and incur other social costs that can lead to civil unrest (e.g., Kenya, Zambia). Clearly the G8 members believe these programmes work to their own benefit as they are now seeking an amendment to the IMF constitution stating that financial liberalisation is the organisation's central purpose.

A far stronger vehicle for liberalising the African space economy is yet to come. The constitution for a rules-based global economy is being worked out by the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) which represents the world's 29 wealthiest countries. Upon completion this will give the World Trade Organisation (WTO) the power to compel all 132 member countries to completely liberalise the flow of trade, investment, labour and finance capital. A significant global power shift is occurring in which the private sector and especially multinationals are strongly influencing policy. This means opening up all Southern economies to Northern investors on equal terms. Laws regulating the entry, behaviour and operations of foreign companies will be eliminated and there will be strong punitive measures for non-compliance. To Southern complaints that this is tantamount to re-colonisation, the North replies that it is the best way for developing countries to attract much needed foreign investment.

Popular culture in the North also exerts an influence on the African Renaissance through commercial marketing, the entertainment industry, and its internationally subscribed news media. In the North's popular press, economic liberalisation is usually equated with democratic liberation. There are zealous media descriptions reminiscent of the 19th century missionary discourse aimed at civilizing Africa except now the mission is to bring Africa into line with Northern economies and globalization processes. Africa is being 'freed' from the socialist tyranny of the past and entering a new era much like that already experienced in the more advanced North. The tenor of popular Northern discourse on the African Renaissance is well illustrated in this Time Magazine description (McGeary and Michaels 1998):

What's new is that the enduring example of Nelson Mandela has heartened all Africans with a fresh vision of leadership, how men of their own kind can be admired, respected, even emulated. For so long the victim of historical circumstance, Africa is finally a beneficiary. The end of the cold war freed countries from 30-odd years of disastrous involvement in the superpowers' proxy conflicts. Old ideologies crumbled taking with them the failed socialist methods of Marx and opening the way to capitalist reforms. The demise of apartheid gave the continent a huge psychological--and economic and political--boost. A generation of African leaders who grew up to despise the exploitation of postcolonial dictators and kleptocrats has begun to supplant them .

Altogether, Northern views on the African Renaissance, whether expressed by investors, institutions of international finance, the G8, the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), or even popular culture are relatively uniform. Africa has structured its own unequal relations. However unfair the past might have been, outdated African ideologies and economic mismanagement in a globally competitive world have driven out investment and opportunity. The Northern vision of a new Africa refers to a new leadership capable of embracing a neoliberal ideology that will open borders to a relatively unregulated global economy in which Northern and Southern traders compete on equal terms.

Interestingly, Northern-based discourse on an African Renaissance usually focuses on Africa's 'evolution' toward modernisation. This camouflages a vital factor influencing their interpretation: the enormous profits that Northern companies could derive from economic liberalisation. In 1997, the IMF put $500 million into African economies while taking out $1.1 billion in repayments excluding interest (De Sarkar 1998). This profit of $600 million is a tiny fraction of what liberalising African economies means for the North. Open African borders could reap billions of dollars in dividends for the North: consultancy fees on privatisation, interest fees on loans, payments for Northern technology, better access to cheap raw resources, new sources of energy, unfettered investment opportunities and the profits that accrue from unequal currencies, economies and terms of trade.

Geopolitically the shape of this 'Northern Renaissance' can be reduced to two basic spatial formations: (1) increased levels of regional organisation; and (2) borders open to trade between North and South along laissez-faire lines. Regional organisation offers many advantages for the North: it helps open borders, lowers the costs of transacting business, eliminates tariffs, pools local resources to provide needed infrastructure and provides for speedier negotiations and agreements (one multi-lateral agreement Vs negotiating many bi-lateral agreements). Opening borders to a relatively unregulated trading environment increases the profits for competitive Northern companies that hold a winning hand in terms of information management, capital, and know-how.

1.2 The African Renaissance as a Southern African Geostrategy

Within Africa, the discourse of an African Renaissance suggests very different motives and objectives than in the North. African governments are seeking to overcome a peripheral if not subservient position in the global pecking order. There are widespread perceptions that centuries of Northern hegemony forced Africa into unequal relations of trade: providing cheap labour and raw resources for the industrializing North where power, capital and information came to concentrate. This began with slavery, proceeded through stages of colonialism to reach this late stage where most African economies are controlled if not managed by Northern run and staffed institutions like the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organisation.

Unlike the leaders of the Cold War past, the new leadership fully acknowledges the geopolitical realities of Northern hegemony under the Pax Americana. This is not a rejection of past leadership--as the popular northern view suggests-- but the realpolitik of a new era in the long-term African struggle to liberate itself from a history of Northern oppression of which late neocolonialism is an accepted part. Many Africans still believe that the North has a moral obligation to help rectify the disastrous effects of slavery, colonisation, neocolonialism, and Superpower rivalry on the continent.

An example of this distinction between Southern and Northern views is the campaign by Southern African leaders to have their debts cancelled by the G8 countries so that this region can fully enter the global economy (for many states it exceeds 20% of GNP). The Heads of State for SADC argued that Africa's high debt ($122 billion) is an historic legacy of colonial relations that is stalling the necessary economic and democratic reforms (Dow Jones 1998, Fine 1998). "Write off our debts and then see our ability to reform," argued Zambian leader Frank Chiluba (Fine 1998). The Group of Eight rejected this bid and referred the leaders to the IMF's Highly Indebted Poor Country initiative (HIPC) with its numerous conditionalities for debt relief. Namibian President Sam Nujoma responded, "The G8 are defending their own interests. Namibia is not prepared to forget the legacy of colonialism...what is demanded of the international community is genuine investment" (Natal Witness 1998).

Few African leaders, 'new' or 'old', appear to accept the neoclassical ideology that economic liberalisation is inherently beneficial. Numerous foreign investments in Africa have not been seen as "genuine" or beneficial. Africans have seen the repressive measures that have accompanied some foreign investment such as the extrajudicial executions of Ogoni nation leaders to maintain quiet about the lucrative relationship between Nigerian state elites and Shell Oil. Many believe that Northern-owned industries in Africa offer little local employment and yet repatriate the profits made on African soil. Capital surges in and out of their economies from Northern speculators have prompted the collapse of currencies, fuelled inflation, and wiped out jobs.

For many Africans, the Global Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and the new World Trade Organisation threaten to fix North-South relations in a form of "collective colonization" (Abdul-Raheem 1997). Many fear that if rich Northern countries continue to set the rules for globalization, there will be few if any mechanisms for African countries to control economic activities on the continent. This will escalate the transfer of wealth out of Africa, increase debt, deepen poverty, create unemployment and further erode African cultures. Even United Nations Development Programme figures show that Africa stands to lose up to R6 billion a year from trade liberalisation (Machipisa 1998).

Indicative of this North-South schism, only two African leaders attended the fiftieth May 1998 anniversary party of GATT in Geneva. Nearly all African leaders deliberately boycotted the event to send the message that this was a party for rich Northern states. President Nelson Mandela carried the message from Africa to the Northern ministers and heads of state in attendance: "Fifty years ago, when the founders of GATT evoked the link between trade, growth, and a better life, few could have foreseen such poverty, homelessness, and unemployment as the world now knows" (Mercury 1998).

Altogether, today's leaders in Southern African accept that globalization is not a choice. In an information age of global connectivity, a retreat would only leave them outstripped by more dynamic regions. Thus it owes more to realpolitik than an embracement of neoliberal philosophy that Africans play by the rules of a Northern directed power game while working on strategies to keep Africa in African hands.

2. Points of Conflict and Accommodation

Interestingly, the ambiguous term an 'African Renaissance' offers something to Northern paymasters while building strength within Africa. Despite two diametrically opposed objectives (claiming more of Africa for Africans vs claiming more of Africa for the North), there are some common points of geostrategy. For instance, repaying debt, developing infrastructure to attract investment, privatising industry, fiscal rectitude, and pooling resources through strong regional economies could prepare Africans to engage meaningfully in global trade.

This convergence of strategies does not mean that the objectives of African leaders or their rendition of an African Renaissance are the same as their Northern counterparts. For instance, regionalisation serves African interests by building the economies of scale to resist Northern hegemony while it is establishing a global power base of South-South alliances. Only from such a broader base of global power, can Africans hope to restructure the space economy of Africa in ways that serve Africans. This includes finding a way to influence the rules of global trade (i.e., taxes on buying and selling foreign exchange, regulation of finance, and debt cancellation).

Examined below are the three main spatial dimensions of the African Renaissance from an African perspective. These include (1) strengthening regional levels of authority; (2) cross-border spatial development initiatives; and (3) South-South co-operation. The prospects of success or failure for each will be assessed in terms of the opportunities and constraints generated by the conflict between Northern and Southern role-players in the Southern African region.

2.1 Strengthening regional levels of authority

Regionalisation is the lynchpin of the African Renaissance since it helps negate the spatial impact of the Berlin Conference. Many African leaders like former Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere see the central problem of the colonial legacy as spatial: "arbitarily drawn borders resulting in little states that make little sense and which if left on their own cannot develop at all" (O'Grady 1997). Figure Two illustrates that half of the 14 SADC countries are landlocked while exclaves, enclaves, prorupt territories, and other boundary irregularities impact on Southern African development. Theoretically, the creation of regional trading communities pools political and economic resources eliminating the need for potentially destabilising boundary changes.

Can regional integration provide the basis for an African Renaissance? With a co-ordinated plan for sharing resources across boundaries, Southern Africa has the energy, resources, and work-force to become an economic giant. Figure Three illustrates the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the dates the fourteen member states were admitted. With the admission of Namibia, South Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Seychelles, and Mauritius in the 1990s, SADC has doubled its territory to put into place one of the wealthiest organisations in the world in terms of resources. This includes the world's richest fisheries, vast hydroelectric potential, huge timber reserves, and strategically-situated ports mid-way between East and West. The mineral wealth is legendary: 99% of the world's chrome reserves, 85% of its platinum, 70% of its tantalite, and 68% of its cobalt not to mention at least 50% of the world's vanadium, diamonds, and gold (Ramano 1998).

The fourteen member states are also a potentially large market comprising nearly 200 million people. The bigger market could attract larger capital flows and build a co-operative basis for industrial development. A strategic spin-off of industrialisation would be less dependency on the 'First World' and the construction of the middle class vital to sustaining democracy (Mbaku 1997).



The biggest obstacle SADC has faced is the slow pace of economic integration and development. This relates to both Southern and Northern factors. Firstly, regionalisation has been impeded by the colonially-induced trap of exchanging raw materials for First World manufactures (Mbaku 1997). Until South Africa's admission in 1994, this left most member states too much in debt and too hungry for foreign currencies to kick-start regional economies. Breaking out of the trap requires negotiating development aid, debt relief, and genuine investment from the same Northern countries that have derived long-term benefits from exploiting Africa's resources, especially cheap raw materials. Furthermore, the proxy wars of the Cold War accompanied by Apartheid-era occupations, wars, and bombings left a very weak Southern African Development Community at the time of South Africa's first democratic elections.

When South Africa joined SADC, analysts both North and South agreed that this country had the infrastructure and political leadership to become the engine of regional economic development. However, the Southern African Development Coordination Conference's (SADCC) 1980 beginnings as 'Front-Line States' against apartheid created an organisational culture where political agendas overshadow economic ones. Most decisions are arrived at through long and difficult negotiations. For instance, many political sensitivities have surrounded South Africa's role since it can derive as much as 60 times the trade benefit as some of its smaller partners. In consequence, any kind of independent sovereignty for the organisation that might lead to South African hegemony was avoided. The result is an organisation run by heads of state lacking any independent system to co-ordinate their activities. Decisions negotiated between SADC leaders often turn into long and time-costly political wrangles such as the six-month-long spat between Presidents Nelson Mandela and Robert Mugabe over who should head the component on conflict resolution (the so-called Organ for Politics, Defence and Security)!

Rather than being opposed to the successful regional integration of SADC, the North is impatient with its slow pace. In July 1998, the United States made further progress a conditionality of its 'general system of preferences' in trade: only those countries that have signed the SADC free trade protocol qualify (Barber, 1998). More generally, there is a near global consensus on quickening the speed of African regionalisation to include the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, the World Bank, the African Development Bank, the European Union, and the Organisation of African Unity.

The convergence of interests on regionalisation is marred by distinctions between Northern and Southern geostrategies. Firstly, the top priority for the World Bank in Southern Africa is to facilitate a big role for private sector decision-making (Simon 1997). This disappoints African states seeking to direct the economic upliftment of the poor. Secondly, SADC wants to achieve a common tariff to external markets until a globally competitive level of regional integration has been achieved (Gibb 1997). The North pushes for more immediate liberalisation. Since SADC seeks external funding for regional projects, it is likely to compromise its policies and plans to whatever degree is sufficient for attracting Northern investors.

Given the relative convergence of Northern and Southern interests in constructing a regionally-based space economy, it is in this arena that Southern African states have fallen short of completing the tasks set for themselves. Certainly some of this failure is related to the hardships of the colonial past, but the bulk of the problem is negotiating conflict within SADC. Eight protocols have been drafted since 1994 covering issues of crime, mining, education, energy, shared water, 'transport and communication', liberalisation of trade, and 'immunities and privileges'. As of June 1998, only the last had been ratified and only Botswana had ratified them all. Only three members (Mauritius, Tanzania and Botswana) had ratified the most far-reaching of these: liberalisation of trade. The 'Maseru Protocol' was drafted in August 1996 with the intention of dismantling all tariffs within six months.

SADC's seemingly interminable political negotiations do not mean that there has been no progress. World Bank figures for 1996-1997 show that Southern Africa is one of the fastest growing regional economies in the world expanding at a rate of five to six percent a year (Seale 1998). The 1998 World Development indicators also show that between 1965 and 1996, the world's fastest growing economy was SADC member Botswana (Leshilo 1998). Of course, one must temper this with an understanding that the starting point is a tiny economic base. At this writing, SADC accounts for no more than 1% in global trade. Perhaps geopolitical advances provide a more realistic picture. SADC has: negotiated sensitivities surrounding South Africa; piloted its way through rapid geographic expansion; moved away from Marxist economic models; and made significant headway in establishing the Spatial Development Initiatives (examined in the next section). These are the geographic foundations for a regional community that could very well open the gateways to faster internal and global trade.

Altogether, Southern Africa's advancement toward an African Renaissance through regional organisation ultimately rests on the pace and structure of regional integration, an area over which members can exercise considerable control. Can SADC hurdle its political obstacles fast enough to catch-up with other regions and do so in a manner that empowers the poor? On one hand, the slow pace of change keeps foreign investors occupied elsewhere. On the other, large-scale poverty, unemployment, and high rates of illiteracy seethe with potential instability as exemplified by the 1997 coup attempt in Zambia. Security concerns should keep Southern leaders scrambling for ways to empower a directorate to fast-track regional plans and establish a parliament that can both legislate and adjudicate disputes. On this score, the Achilles heel of the African Renaissance is a basic unwillingness to sacrifice state sovereignty for the sake of the spatial integration process.

2.2.2 Spatial Development Initiatives

Figure Four illustrates the cross-border Spatial Development Initiatives (SDIs) that cut across Central and Southern African states. SDIs use roads or rail to link major nodes of potential investment such as ports, parks, tourist facilities, mining areas, or major industrial developments. The largest project of this kind upgrades the Maputo Harbour and links it to South Africa's industrial heartland. Compared to the port of Durban, this shortens the transport distance by 150 km. This both cuts costs for South African mining and industry while helping to rehabilitate Mozambique's infrastructure and industry, long shattered by civil war. A total of 184 different projects are involved on both sides of the border including an aluminum smelter, iron ore works, tourism projects, casinos, and agricultural developments.

These spatial developments are the clearest geographic indicator that a renaissance is underway. Firstly, these are cross-boundary projects managed by joint authority (e.g., the Maputo Corridor Company). This includes co-operation in speeding up customs and managing border posts. The result is more open Southern African borders, an outcome sought by both North and South.

Secondly, these corridors are largely financed by private capital. Bids, commissions, and concessions were used to attract investors to the Maputo Corridor based on the real market value of these projects. For instance, the cross-border toll road is privately financed by Trans-African concessions and will be operated for 45 years before reverting to government ownership. Owing to this strategy this project was awarded the highest rating ever in project finance worldwide for its ability to meet the debts incurred (Hlophe 1998). In some of these projects, locating public-private partnerships has been assisted by the World Bank, another clear indication of convergent North-South interests.

Finally, these corridors involve increased economic interaction between provinces and towns on both sides of the international border leading to integration in real geographic terms while overcoming the legacy of arbitrary colonial boundaries.

Of all the spatial issues, the development corridors are the strongest areas of mutual North/South interest. The World Bank estimates that approximately $170 billion are required to upgrade the transport infrastructure in Southern Africa (far more than the governments can afford). In this effort it has located private sector finance and supported these projects with preliminary studies (Mail and Guardian 1997). However, it has not dominated these projects. Much of the finance is from local investment banks, the Development Bank of Southern Africa, consortiums of corporate investors, and Black empowerment groups.

The major point of contestation in these schemes is not North vs South or even South Vs South. It is the poor and disadvantaged Vs the private investors; the small entrepreneurs Vs big business. It is too early to foretell the degree to which the poor will have their lives upgraded and empowered but fruit sellers, small businesses, taxis, tourist lodges, and small truckers have all complained about the effects of the corridor. The siting of the toll roads has sometimes separated local communities from their schools and shopping centres. Small haulers complain about the high costs of tolls. There was almost no participation by small business in the development and planning of the Maputo Corridor. In many cases, the only benefit that some affected communities can derive is to purchase shares in the project (Hammond 1998).


2.2.3 Strengthening South-South political and economic alliances

Figure Five shows SADC's emergent South-South alliances linking four continents and three oceans across the entire breadth of the Southern hemisphere. In addition to other African states, a rim of countries surrounding the Indian Ocean are forging trading ties, a South Atlantic Alliance is budding with the Mercosur States, and ties to the economic giants of the developing world like China, Malaysia, and India are building rapidly. All these areas are rich in strategic resources, offer complementarities in the production process, and represent large unrealised markets. Through trade, shared technology, and diplomatic agreements these Southern countries are also taking deliberate steps to escape the geopolitical pressures of Northern hegemony.

Could a Southern trade bloc succeed in its mission? Long-term geopolitics could be in its favour as it is a programme that the North can delay but not eliminate. Furthermore, while the North dominates industry and information on a global scale, the vast majority of natural resources including fisheries, minerals, forests, and energy are in the South. Just between South Africa and the Mercosur states lies the potential to monopolise 80% of the world's trade in hake. Argentina and Zimbabwe could tie up 30% of the beef market (Mills 1998). With large-enough markets in the South, the Southern African states could catapult to political and economic power through the strategic control of minerals. These alliances also include linkages with some of the world's top oil producers such as Saudi Arabia, Libya, Iran, and Angola.

Although both SADC and the Mercosur states have a strong interest in expanding trade and even established a commission to pursue this, tangible Southward shifts in capital will be very slow to effect. Both regions are emergent economies in global terms, still on the rebound from authoritarian regimes, and have restricted policy options because of debt to Northern banking institutions and unequal terms of trade. Presently Mercosur's trade with SADC countries is about one percent of its total volume (Mills 1998).

The 15 Indian Ocean Rim States (Figure Five) constitute another very youthful pillar of South-South trade but one with huge potential. The region includes some 1.5 billion people and is centred on the three industrialised countries of South Africa, India, and Australia. A major study was completed in May 1998 by Britain's Elsevier Reed group that endorses the strategy arguing that the economic outlook for South Africa is so positive that it could rapidly constitute 25% of its trade (Robertson 1998).

The alliances with China and India include formal signed agreements that tie SADC to two of the world's largest economies. Economics and demographics suggest that China, already the third most powerful economy, will overtake the US to become the world's biggest global trader soon after the turn of the millenium. India could also take second position before mid-century. China has already planned thirty new industrial development projects in South Africa (Sapa 1998).


The geopolitics of South-South alliances comes into sharpest relief with the renewed vigour that South Africa has put into the Non-Aligned Movement (113 Southern states are members). As the new president of the organisation, Nelson Mandela has engaged in some shuttle diplomacy to set the agenda. In September he will host the general meeting in Durban when the issue of confronting the G8 and the North on the issue of 'Global Apartheid' will be a key focus. Within South Africa, foreign policy is already driven by the discourse of an African Renaissance (ANC 1998) and its geostrategic component of South-South alliances:

[The] African Renaissance is being advanced as the main pillar of our international policy not only relating to Africa, but in all our international relations globally. The concept of an African Renaissance provides a powerful vision not only for the African continent but for the development of a just and equitable world order. It is for this very reason that an African Renaissance poses a threat to the strategy of globalising capitalism. In fact, globalisation contradicts the very agenda of the Renaissance ... [Since] it is inevitable that an African Renaissance and transformation of international relations will necessarily entail the transformation of neo-colonial relations, it is important to realise that the responses of major powers to such an initiative might not be positive.

The biggest and most hopeful opportunity for positioning Southern Africa as the engine of an African Renaissance is in the arena of South-South relations since it counter-balances Northern control of spatial development processes. Such alliances also pose the greatest dangers. Southern Africa's long-term strategic interests in creating South-South alliances are at odds with the North's own long-term geostrategy: to simultaneously increase North-South flows of trade and maintain a superior status in international commerce. There are many examples of such conflict: (1) Malawi's diplomatic contacts with Libya have met with US and British anger; (2) South Africa's strong relations with Cuba and rumoured secret arms sales with Cuba, Libya, Syria, and Iran have all led to diplomatic rows with the US; (3) South Africa has also upset the American defence industry by procuring arms contracts with Saudi Arabia; (4) the DRC has awarded major development contracts to China while both Europeans and Americans were scrambling for them. Too many spats could raise the geopolitical pressures for Northern role-players to return to the subversive use of force in African Affairs as France did in the 1997 handling of Congo-Brazzaville.

3. Probable Spatial Outcomes

Continued Northern control of trade could mean that the African renaissance will have a stronger impact ideologically and philosophically across continents where elites mix while the extent of extra-continental trade far outpaces the growth of intra-continental trade. Under the Pax Americana we are likely to see Africa pay homage to Northern powers while building the regional loyalties for a project of African empowerment that is trans-generational in scope. Given the tremendous potential force of South-South alliances, this system may gradually change and the entire focus of the global economy with it to a world focussed on China and India. However likely, this will be decades in the making.

Thus, the spatiality of an African Renaissance must be tempered by some hard African realities related to prospects for the rural poor. There is an acute urban/rural split within Africa that may be accentuated as whole regions will not benefit from globalization. Some 80% of the Southern African population reside in rural areas where on average the nearest telephone is 50 km away (Holman 1998). All of Africa has access to just 2% of the world's telephone lines, less than New York City or Tokyo (Finance Africa 1997). On the other hand, African cities conduct more telephone traffic per subscriber than the United States or Japan (Finance Africa 1997). This suggests that urban elites will plug into the global network of relations at a much faster rate than poor rural people. While African elites are connected to cyberspace in the cities, rural areas will remain far removed from such technology owing to far more immediate priorities: health, sanitation, water, and electrification.

Another factor that helps to confine the real renaissance to the urban centres are low education levels. Many rural residents cannot even read or write. This means that there is a woefully poor supply of adequately trained workers. Although this is being addressed well in some countries like Tanzania, the educational dimension of the renaissance is a trans-generational project. The pattern of an urban educated elite dominating the African space economy will continue for an appreciable time.

As globalization accentuates Africa's rural/urban divide, it will shape a geography of inequality both within the cities and between cities and their rural hinterland. City populations will swell with rural immigrants who cannot compete with the intensified agriculture resulting from globalized trade in agriculture. Since new employment at a decent wage will be in service and information industries requiring high levels of education, the dislocated rural immigrants are likely to become an alienated population ('underclass') dependent on charity or crime. Cities themselves will become increasingly fortified with a proliferation of security villages in the suburbs.

Finally, integrating many disadvantaged economies may not be sufficient to produce quality industrial goods at globally competitive prices. Coupled with poor education and a decline in the value of unskilled labour, African workers will gain very little from an open labour market. Many skilled workers will be attracted to jobs outside Southern Africa. This combination will not allow the majority of SADC states to move rapidly from dependence on raw material exports to highly skilled industrial products and certainly not enough to dominate global markets any time soon (Mbaku 1997). Fears of South African hegemony could be realised if it jettisons the discourse of an African Renaissance for another social construction that enables it to take fuller advantage of new South-South relations or even old North-South relations.

Changing this outlook on Southern Africa's space economy will require more than discourse. It would require a rapid restructuring of the geopolitical relations between North and South.

4. Conclusion: Strategies for Conflict Management

These are some final suggestions aimed at both conflict management and bettering the prospects for a spatial outcome that benefits Northern and Southern role-players equitably. If these recommendations were put into place the prognostication for realising this African renewal is more hopeful than present circumstances permit. The final sections below take a brief look at three kinds of measures: (1) what the North can do; (2) what the South can do; and (3) what North and South can do together.

4.1 What the North can do

In the interests of advancing global civilisation, the North must temper its ideology that trade liberalisation is tantamount to liberation and enriches all countries that take advantage of it. North-South polarisation is not in the North's long-term geopolitical interests and it should assist countries that are ill-prepared for the global economy. This should be done by including developing countries as equal partners in drafting regulations on international trade and finance. Such regulations should include designs to reduce the capital surges and speculative practices that have devalued African currencies, raised interest rates, and depressed emergent economies. In all events, the North should promote North-South dialogue based on respect, sensitivity, and an historic sense of moral responsibility.

4.2 What the South can do

Southern Africa must carefully gauge its exposure to foreign capital by prioritising its regional development in a manner that builds local markets, generates consumer demand, promotes small business, and in the process uplifts the poor. Addressing the enormous security risks associated with unemployed masses should never be second to regional development plans based on an influx of either big capital or foreign aid.

SADC leaders should promote a real regional parliament beyond the consultative forum emanating from the 1996 Windhoek protocol. This should be fast-tracked and become an independent, empowered body, capable of writing legislation and adjudicating disagreements. It would significantly reduce the perception of South Africa as a hegemonic power and therefore help restructure SADC into a truly integrated region rather than an economic club of states. Representation would also raise the participation of local communities in the planning of cross-border integration

4.3 Joint Measures

The United Nations should be restructured and democratised to bring both North and South into a transparent and inclusive process of global decision-making. Permanent membership in the security council should not be based on raw military power or the monetary contributions of a member. Democratisation would include either permanent African representation on the UN security council or a system where all members take a rotating seat. Veto-power by any single member or set of members should be eliminated as autocratic and hypocritical in a world that engages so frequently in the discourse of democratisation. Once accomplished, UN-designed bodies should then assume all responsibility for designing the rules of global trade rather than the G8, the OECD, transnationals and other vested interests. This would help ensure the peaceful redesign (or management) of boundaries in a manner that both overcomes the legacies of colonialism and builds real global partnerships.


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