Predicting the future is impossible. If anyone tells you that they know exactly how America’s devolving relationship with the Kim regime in North Korea will or won’t unfold in 2018, you would be well within your rights to call them a fool. Same goes for Russia’s approach to its neighbors or China’s economy. Don’t let the local tarot card reading ‘psychic’ fool you, nobody knows precisely what the future holds. Not even Kim Jong-Un, Xi Jinping, Vladimir Putin, or Donald Trump do.
With that said, we do know with a fair measure of certainty what issues, international relationships, and threats foreign and abroad will reside on each region’s to-do list as the new year emerges from its nascence. As part of an international accounting, ‘The World in 2018’ will roll out the most pressing items on each region’s plate.
Part 3: Africa
Africa is a continent that belies generalization. Perhaps no continent’s individual parts vary more greatly than African nations, with a wide array of cultures, ethnic makeups, and views toward the outside world. Likewise, the outside world treats the gamut of African nations with a mix of avoidance, disdain, and complete and utter cooperation, depending on what they have to offer resource-wise. This narrative is unlikely to change in the coming year, as it has been the case for centuries, though methods of ‘investment’ have become less overtly imperial as the world has developed a more stringent moral code.
2018 will bring more of the same, to be sure, but let’s talk more specifically about what ‘the same’ is likely to look like.
The Sahel: Jihadi Hotbed
The Sahel, the desert-like swath of land which spans the entirety of northern Africa, poses the greatest threat to American and European interests. Algeria, Libya, Morocco, and parts of northern Somalia serve as home to many radical Islamist groups who commit acts of terror domestically and abroad. So, European and American forces have maintained a limited presence in the Sahel region, with the goal of tamping down any formation of a significant, ISIS-like movement.
However, in the case of Europe, extremists from the Sahel pose an even greater threat. That will happen when you begin inviting refugees from a region known as a terrorist hotbed. Many European nations found out in 2017 just how much of a clash they would experience as the result of mass migration of unvetted immigrants from this region. It wasn’t pretty. While there are indications that European leaders will begin to scale back their migrant quotas, even offering some migrants stipends to return to their native countries, it’s clear why America has expended military resources to keep the powder-keg of a region from igniting. They will continue to monitor Islamist factions in the region in 2018.
Keep an Eye On the Horn of Africa
You’ve likely heard the Horn of Africa referred to, especially if you followed the once-hot Somali pirate narrative. The tip of Africa is an unavoidable entity for many international traders, and it comes with much inherent value. The nations that comprise the Horn – Somalia, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Eritrea – have become the subjects of increased foreign influence, and competition for footholds in the region will only intensify in 2018.
The Horn borders the Mandeb Strait, which links the Gulf of Aden to the Red Sea, which, in turn, leads directly to the Suez Canal. This makes it prime location for those looking to transport goods from one market to another. As always seems to be the case, it is a natural resource which has once again become the apple of foreign investors’ eyes. Those transporting goods in route from Europe to eastern markets, as well as oil passing through the Red Sea stand to save immensely from acquiring real estate on the Horn. Already, Iran, India, and Turkey have begun to dedicate more military resources in the region, as have larger powers such as China, Russia, and the United States.
Africa Remains Largely Inconsequential to the World Order, with an Exception
The world tends to write off the continent of Africa, at least until some unspeakable atrocity is circulated around Twitter for a couple days, never to be heard about again. Simply, unless there is a resource to be mined, the world has little time for Africa, and you can’t blame them from a strategic standpoint. By and large, the continent has little impact on the global balance of power.
The closest thing to an exception to this rule has been South Africa. Unfortunately, the nation that has the look and potential to be a world power has been persistently held back by division, primarily racial. Those racial divisions have contributed to the political divisions which currently retard South Africa’s progress. This is unlikely to change, as their 2019 election cycle already shows signs of being an all-out brawl. This will likely have a chilling effect on foreign investment that South Africa could desperately use, as it is a country which has fallen from its once-vaunted position as the crown jewel of the continent.