As African states’ international relations continue to evolve, decision-makers globally are confronted with the challenge of how to pursue opportunities in an inclusive and sustainable way and bridge gaps between state and non-state actors. Rapid change in Africa in 2014 has been marked by a mixture of successes and crises that highlight how significant yet how fragile many economic and democratic gains remain.

During 2014, through research and outreach in 30 countries, more than 140 events, nine reports, and over 90 other publications, the Africa Programme has provided analysis and a platform for debate to inform international actors involved in policy-focused activity in Africa for improved outcomes. 

Prominent speakers hosted this year included President Kikwete of Tanzania and then presidential candidate of FRELIMO, now president of Mozambique, Filipe Nyusi. President Mahama of Ghana also returned to Chatham House as did Rwanda’s President Kagame. We also hosted the prime ministers of Cameroon and Lesotho, foreign ministers of Gabon and the Seychelles, and opposition leaders of Sudan, Zimbabwe and Ghana.

Africa and the Changing Balance of International Power

The 4th EU-Africa Summit was held in Brussels in April, followed by the first US-African Leaders Summit in August. A series of Africa Programme roundtable meetings examined US, French and UK engagements with African countries and a Chatham House report assessed prospects for Zimbabwe’s international re-engagement. In his first Africa tour since taking office, Premier Li visited Ethiopia, Nigeria, Kenya and Angola while a series of Africa Programme events analysed China’s priorities in Africa and the impact of China-Africa cooperation on Africa’s development. As Africa’s choice of international partners continues to grow, a report assessed South Korea’s engagement in sub-Saharan Africa. Elsewhere, the Africa Programme examined evolving political systems, changes to legislation and how traditional and new partners engage.

Nigeria’s Rise to International Prominence

Nigeria became Africa’s largest economy in 2014, but a further rise in its international prominence was the result of the worsening Boko Haram insurgency and the Chibok abductions in April. Yet Nigeria grapples with challenges that extend even beyond this, and Africa Programme research and events assessed political leadership and influence in northern Nigeria and the coming February 2015 elections, drawing on lessons from the 2011 process. Senior Special Assistant on Public Affairs to the President, Dr Doyin Okupe, also discussed the government’s economic and security priorities.

Angola’s Growing Influence

Angola was elected in October 2014 to become a non-permanent member on the UN Security Council for 2015-16 and in January took up the presidency of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region. Secretary of State for Cooperation, Dr Maria Ângela Bragança, assessed Angola’s economic priorities and global influence at an Africa Programme roundtable. Minister of Mining and Geology, HE Manuel Francisco Queiroz, discussed Angola’s mining policy, while the Chairman of Angola’s Sovereign Wealth Fund, José Filomeno de Sousa dos Santos, spoke at an Africa Programme conference examining the purpose and management of sovereign wealth funds in Africa. Developments in France-Angola, China-Angola and UK-Angola relations were also tracked.

Interlocking Developments in the Horn of Africa

During 2014, the civil war in South Sudan escalated and one year on from the outbreak of conflict an Africa Programme research paper examines lessons from the descent into violence. Meanwhile, intense debate on the future of Sudan continued, which was the focus of several events. A paper launched in Nairobi and London explored the stalemate in relations between Eritrea and Ethiopia, and areas where external engagement might usefully move the two countries towards restoring functional relations. As Somalia seeks to progress implementation of its Vision 2016 agenda, a series of events and analyses assessed post-transitional developments.

East Africa’s Resources and Population Change

Kenya and Tanzania are undergoing rapid transformation as new resource finds, constitutional change, security threats and demographic shifts reorder dynamics between states and societies.  Africa Programme research in Kenya and Tanzania focused on the capacity of governments, communities and businesses to accommodate new oil and gas finds, and to respond to the needs of growing young populations. Events at Chatham House, including an address by the president of Tanzania, HE Jakaya Kiwete, and a panel discussion with the Kenyan Civil Society Platform on Oil and Gas highlighted the priorities of decision-makers in the region.

Understanding Economic Growth in Africa

Despite the multiple complex challenges that sub-Saharan Africa has faced this year including the Ebola crisis, instability and conflict, and dropping commodity prices, its economy is anticipated to grow by 5.5% in 2014. At Chatham House, a delegation of South African ministers discussed the government’s key economic policy priorities. Other events assessed constraints on growth due to Nigeria’s power deficit, the importance of promoting women’s financial inclusion and impacts of domestic beneficiation in Africa. At the launch of the UN Economic Commission on Africa 2014 report the need for governments to re-focus their development strategies on industrialization was examined.

African Peace and Security

This year, continued civil war in South Sudan, sectarian violence in the Central African Republic, fighting against rebel groups in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Islamist militancy in Mali, Nigeria and Somalia drew international attention to conflicts as major constraints to progress and development. Discussions with UN Undersecretary General for Peacekeeping Hervé Ladsous and the African Union Commissioner for Peace and Security Ambassador Smaïl Chergui focused on the scale of resources and coordination required for effective responses to conflict and preventing future instability. The SRSG and head of the UN in the DRC, Martin Kobler, and the US special envoy for the Great Lakes and the DRC spoke at Chatham House on regional and international efforts for restoring peace in the DRC. A report analysed the impacts of the illegal wildlife trade on political stability and security in Africa.

Elections and Democratization

With general elections held in Guinea-Bissau, Namibia, South Africa, Malawi, Mozambique, Botswana, and Mauritius, and presidential or legislative elections held elsewhere in 2014, Africa Programme research examined trends in the processes and implications for democratization and stability. Protests in Burkina Faso that brought President Compaoré’s 27-year rule to an end demonstrated the limits of public tolerance for leaders seeking to change constitutional term limits, while developments in Côte d’Ivoire highlighted the difficulties of political reconciliation. Africa Programme research also considered the growing prominence of decentralization in Africa and implications for state delivery.

The Role of Parliaments

As well as developing research on the role of parliaments in Africa, the Africa Programme continues to support the All Party Parliamentary Groups (APPG) on Nigeria and on Angola. The APPG on Nigeria held parliamentary meetings on the Boko Haram threat and Chibok abductions, diaspora support for the Nigerian police and Nigeria’s business environment for British SMEs. A report on Nigeria’s entrepreneurial potential was published earlier this year. The APPG on Angola hosted the former UK prime minister’s special envoy to Angola, Lord Marland, as the APPG examines the UK government’s designation of Angola as one of five High Level Prosperity Partnership countries.

The Africa Programme is grateful to its funders for their support in 2014.