Globalization and the Use of Africa as a Pawn: The Role of Humility in International Relations

Through political discussion, there has been an implicit correlation between interconnectedness and globalization. Interconnectedness goes beyond mere economic or exploitative purposes and involves connecting humans on a deeper level, understanding different cultures, and looking beyond one’s perspective. While human rights are pungent in political debates about globalization, this association could promote a false understanding of interconnectedness. This is dangerous because there is potential for globalization to look like a benefactor in understanding different cultures and societies when this differs from how globalization is exercised. It is clear that globalization is a term primarily associated with competition, power, and economic expansion; it is also disconnected mainly from true interconnectedness. By striving towards genuine interconnectedness, we can promote a greater understanding of different perspectives and work towards a more inclusive and tolerant society.

With the establishment that globalization is driven by gaining political dominance, countries like the US, France, Russia, and China have all played a part in using Africa as a pawn in the post-colonial period. Although these countries have released statements expressing their commitment to approaching their influence in Africa with humility, their actions suggest otherwise. For example, France’s lingering presence in African politics and exploitation of resources in their previous colonies has caused a recent uproar in the age of social media, causing outrage against the government. Despite his country’s actions, French President Emmanuel Macron continues to release statements about reducing French influence and moving forward with humility. However, given their history of adverse involvement in Africa and their continued perpetuation of colonialism, this language appears to be more of a vague promise than a concrete commitment to change their policies and actions towards Africa. 

In another example, Russia has been pushing anti-Western propaganda to capitalize on the apprehension towards Western influence African people hold post-colonization, likely with intentions of competing with other global powers and in an attempt to gain more support during the war in Ukraine. 

In China’s partnership with Africa, they utilize infrastructure debt with competitive implications, such as space programs, roads, or the African Union headquarters. Foreign Minister Qin Gang refutes these implications and says they are trying to promote development. The US attempts to spread diplomacy without concern in failing to address the underlying economic and social challenges facing many African countries–their apparent anti-communist ideals continue to be a priority. Despite the uncanny historical resemblance of how the US decides to influence Africa, The White House writes on dismantling the engrained notions Americans may have about Africa. Society continues to allow world powers with a history of adverse involvement in Africa to perpetuate colonialism instead of moving away from it. Toleration of this behavior (both past and present) has resulted in talks about a “New Cold War” in politics today.

The emergence of Russia’s influence in Africa has sparked concerns for the United States, as it threatens their interests in the region. Still, their past actions and hypocrisy have made African countries skeptical of their intentions. With Russia’s influence and choices becoming more apparent in Africa amid waging war against Ukraine, the US recently revealed that Russian mercenaries were plotting to kill Chad’s president. Russia being able to take over West Africa and the Sahel area from France’s former power is not in the best interest of the United States. Like the Cold War, the top concern of the US is the emergence of an authoritarian regime in Africa. 

Can we blame Africans for being weary of trusting the US? The US is not only guilty of past injustices such as Cold War ignorance, colonization, and slavery, but also hypocrisy in promoting its version of democracy while ignoring these atrocities. The US presents itself as a democracy and always has, even in its unjust history and nature. However, the US government as an institution has shown no issue with exploiting its citizens in the past, and human rights are at the forefront of political discussion. At the same time, the US seems to be promoting its version of democracy whenever they see the chance in Africa with blissful ignorance of pressing issues in their governance structures and the injustices in their own country. If the importance of influence in Africa for the US was not based on avariciousness, they would begin to see Africa as a partner rather than something to be exploited. We must rethink our globalized world by taking human rights off the back burner. Globalization will be more alluring when nations with more economic authority become more authentic and express genuine concern for the well-being of the individuals, on top of the business aspect of international relations. 

Moving forward, politicians need to begin rethinking globalization, focusing on the inhabitants of the countries they want to promote partnerships. This false sense of interconnectedness, promoted for political gain without a focus on empathy towards other countries or caring for their people and rights, poses a significant threat to the future of human rights. Economically powerful countries utilizing globalization in a prideful and apathetic way do the opposite of fostering interconnectedness. Their attempt at propagating their intentions allows this false connectedness to live on. The sole focus on political competition, power, and economic gain presents the globalized world as “helpful” in connecting societies, which can be dangerously reminiscent of modern-day colonialism. Africa must be treated as a “partnership of purpose” and “not a relationship of charity”, not just talked about as one.