Africa's global connections

This research theme involves several projects.

Obama hotel, © Dick Foeken (ASC Leiden)The world has an increasingly multipolar character today as a result of the emergence of global powers such as China, India, Brazil, Turkey and the Gulf States. What will this multipolarity mean for Africa? How will Africa fare when faced with possible struggles over its raw materials and resources (such as land, water, biomass and mineral resources) and escalating bids for hegemony by different global players? What will this mean for new streams of finance and knowledge production and exchange and the reorientation of Africa’s networks? Does the new historical set-up offer African countries and social groups room for negotiation and manoeuvre, and possibly lead to greater growth and stronger institutions?

These questions are especially acute given Africa’s potential to take advantage of the demographic dividend. Today, many Africans are young, healthier and better educated than in the past and are poised to enter the work force.

This theme combines an interest in Africa’s changing economic and political linkages to the world with one in evolving social, political, economic and cultural networks that link Africa and Africans to other parts of the globe, including African diasporas. By taking an African vantage point and highlighting the agency of African groups vis-à-vis external actors, this field of enquiry challenges victimizing views of the continent. It shows how African strategies towards these actors are having a significant effect in helping to shape today’s world. This is not least because African actors’ choices for orientating themselves to new poles and partners are eroding western hegemony in political, economic and cultural domains.

The focus of the research ranges from studies at the local level (e.g. new entrepreneurial partnerships, humanitarian and educational encounters, and changing cultural orientations) to the national level (e.g. bilateral economic and diplomatic agreements) and the international level (e.g. changing alliances in international forums such as the UN). Since the African diaspora is an increasingly important actor in forging and reinforcing new global linkages and relationships, it will receive particular attention.

telephone cabin (Mali?). © Lotte Pelckmans (ASC Leiden)This research aims to contribute to an understanding of the building processes and the effects of the multipolar world that is shaping new economic and political topographies in Africa and beyond. The research will focus on: (i) new and changing connections facilitated by technological and institutional innovations; (ii) Africa’s position in the global division of labour, world trade and investment patterns, including the shadowy side of international fraud and organized crime; (iii) the political consequences of new partnerships and alliances; and (iv) the cultural economy of Africa’s linkages to the rest of the world, especially in religion and education.

This research theme involves the following projects: