Spotlight on Africa: Mapping Geopolitical Trends for Quarter One 2020

As the year moves past the first quarter, a close observation of multi-dimensional developments across political, economic, social and geopolitical spheres will provide crucial insights into emerging and established trends that will impact Africa in the medium-term to long-term horizons. Some of the trends, such as the growing threat of jihadist violence in the Sahel have developed over a number of years, and have evolved counter to shifts and shortcomings in policy responses. Moreover, amidst reports of increased attacks by Islamist insurgents in the northern province of Mozambique, there is an interregional aspect to the extremist contagion pointing to greater risk of spread over wider geographical space, with crucial policy implications at regional and continental level. On the contrary, other trends such as the COVID-19 pandemic, has taken centre stage as the black swan of 2020, causing massive disruptions on a global scale and exerting maximum pressure on governments’ crisis management systems and capabilities in handling a multi-faceted crisis that extends beyond public health emergencies, encumbered with political, social and economic consequences. As chair of the African Union in 2020, South Africa will need to keep abreast of the key trends and dynamics across the continent, and be adept at aligning strategic policy responses to priorities and anticipated challenges. Particularly, foreign policy stakeholders will need to embrace granular risk analysis and scenario planning as a way of reinforcing a more coherent and integrated orientation at the core of an Afrocentric foreign policy agenda.