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African Diplomacy finding its place in a Dynamic and Changing World

By Stella Sigcau

9 March 2018

The Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) hosted a Conference of African Academies, Universities and Research Institutions on 28 February to 1 March 2018.

The primary objective of the Conference was to create a platform for a meaningful engagement amongst the African Diplomatic Academies, Universities and Research Institutions on African Diplomacy.

The conference focused on the following theme, “African Diplomacy: Identity, objectives, realities and futures in a dynamic and changing world”.

Members of the panel included Dr Hone (Diplo Foundation), Prof A Sall (African Future Institute) and Ambassador S Nabukwesi who presented on, “African State in the fourth Industrial Revolution”; Ambassador Rike (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ethiopia) and Prof Anthony van Nieuwkerk (University of Witwatersrand) who discussed African diplomacy in the changing world”; Dr GR Murunga (CODESRIA) and Dr YK Spies (University of Johannesburg) who shared on “ the state of the global economy: challenges and opportunities for African Sustainable development”; Prof C Hendricks (University of Johannesburg) and Dr Ambassador MP Genge (DIRCO) who articulated on “peace diplomacy on the continent”.

Diplomacy is not something new to Africa. It was apparently an important part of ancient African civilisations deeply rooted on traditional leadership institutions and their systems of governance.

However much of these systems were lost due to slavery and colonialism. The end of colonialisation brought new challenges and opportunities for African newly independent states as they were trying to position themselves in the global arena seeking to be active participants in international relations and central to this was the role of diplomacy.

The major question which needed to be addressed was whether Western diplomacy is the best practice for African states? With a unique combination of challenges of colonial legacies and forces of globalisation, Africa had to seek approaches that are specific to its needs but remain relevant within the existing international order. However many states opted to practice Western norms of diplomacy which were not designed to cater for the needs of African states.

It is on this premise that this conference sought to reflect on diplomacy as practiced by African states to date, to determine whether it is the best option for Africa. It sought to conceptualise African diplomacy to be characterised by an African identity and driven by a developmental agenda that addresses Africa’s current and future realities,  which will ensure that agenda 2063 is realised.

Further, in view of the fact that there has not been sufficient efforts in Africa to coordinate strategies for building capacity in diplomatic practice of African countries in order to enhance cooperation and effectiveness in the achievement of foreign policy objectives, the DIRCO felt a need to convene a conference to address this, a point of departure being to re-examine enduring traits in African diplomacy and determine how to build on them to suit current context, taking stock of the progress already made in repositioning Africa in the world and how to optimise on it further by strengthening diplomacy.

Africa is expected to catch up to the 4th industrial revolution in order to integrate into the dynamic knowledge economy and take advantage of the opportunities it provides.  There is therefore a need for greater connectedness in the continent as well as solidarity of African countries in the world stage and central to this is the role of diplomacy in addressing the fourth revolution.

The conference resolved that there was a need for a formal structure with a Secretariat to be formed and an MoA drafted to formalize a structure for collaboration of African Diplomatic Academies, Universities and Research Institutions with a Secretariat as well as an MoU prepared in this regard.

South Africa will host the conference for 2019 and 2020 and thereafter hosting will rotate amongst member countries.




February/March 2020











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