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Post-cold war international relations and foreign policies in Africa: New issues and new challenges

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This paper argues that international relations in Africa have changed especially in content since the abatement of the Cold War. These changes have been accelerated by the pressures unleashed by the international environment, including the reality of Africa’s marginalisation and the forces of globalisation. These, along with domestic factors, including debt, internal conflicts, the impact of the ubiquitous structural adjustment programmes (SAPs), HIV/AIDS and human insecurity in general have combined to underscore foreign aid and economic assistance as key driving forces of the continent’s foreign policies and diplomacy towards the North. Yet, the new thrust of foreign policies, informed by the need for foreign aid, has not occurred without a price. Among other things it has elevated technocrats in central or reserve banks and finance ministries to positions of prominence vis-à-vis officials from foreign ministries and in the process introduced extra- African actors into the foreign policy making process of the continent. This in turn has undermined Africa’s increasingly tenuous economic sovereignty. But above all, it has led to the strengthening of ties with the North and international creditors in particular at the cost of intra-African relations. The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and the African Union (AU) recently inaugurated, promise to open a new chapter in Africa’s international relations. It is argued, however, that against a background of a confluence of factors, these new continental projects will make only a minimal impact in terms of mitigating the consequences of the aid-driven foreign policies and thus altering the donor-oriented postures of African states.


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