A Roundup of Strategic Developments and Trends in Africa in 2019

The domestic, regional and global contexts across Africa have pointed to a number of developments and trends in the course of 2019 that have a bearing on the considerations and policy responses of policy makers in both the short-term and the long-term. The range of issues and developments illustrate a complex mix of gray swans and gray rhinos. Gray rhinos, which are highly probable, highly visible, high-impact developments, include demographic growth directly affecting social and economic policies; elevated debt vulnerabilities amid a sustained growth outlook, geopolitical trade tensions affecting volatility of commodity prices and exports’ value and increased occurrence of electoral-related violence linked to negative perceptions of electoral integrity. On the other hand, gray swans that can be anticipated to some degree, have a relatively high degree of uncertainty and high strategic impact can be seen in cases such as Egypt where the return of protests against Abdel Fatah el-Sisi’s regime point to either the possibility of a continued hold onto power or an unravelling of the political centre leading to civil war or a proxy struggle with spillover effects into the region. The securitization of the Sahel as seen in the engagement modes of regional and international responses may lead to further militarization of the region, intensification of conflict with the proliferation of insurgency groups and decoupling of security, development and economic factors of insecurity. The trend of securitization is also visible in the Horn of Africa where the growing presence of foreign military actors has resulted in increased militarization with implications for the regional politics and agency of actors in building a regional order and security mechanisms. Finally, the ascendancy of PMCs in the African peace and security landscape and the evolving battlespace as a result of use of high-tech tools of warfare such as drones point to complex theatres of war with a range of new actors and complex demands on both combatants and policymakers.