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Lecture on geopolitical dynamics in the Horn of Africa calls for greater active engagement by regional powers

Dr. Mesfin’s presentation analyzed the interests of the global powers and the regional powers in the Horn of Africa amid a world in transition.


16 July 2018

On 28 June 2018, IPSS organized a lecture on the “Geopolitical Dynamics in the Horn of Africa” presented by Dr. Mesfin Gebremichael, Assistant Professor at IPSS. Dr. Mesfin’s presentation focused on the relationships and interactions of regional and global powers in the Horn of Africa geographical setting. He traced these relationships through history, from the Second World War and the collapse of the Soviet Union to liberalization and the free market to the emergency of globalization.


The lecture addressed the Horn of Africa (HoA) states (Djibouti, Ethiopia, Somalia-Somaliland and Sudan), the nature of power under “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” politics and the “patron-client relationships” of state power with weak governance, all of which have challenged the region’s integration strategy.


The region has a large number of refugees and internally displaced people and suffers from environmental degradation (the Nile), terrorism (Somalia’s Al Shabaab), and maritime and energy insecurity (Gulf of Aden Bab el-Mandeb trade route).


International power interests in the Horn of Africa:

The lecture touched on the varied external interests in trade, aid and development from international powers such as China, USA, the European Union, India, Russia and Japan as well as regional powers like Saudi Arabia, UAE, Turkey, Iran and Egypt.


Possible impacts

  • The increasing level of terrorist threats and piracy in the Bab el-mandeb as well as border-related problems introduce new maritime and energy insecurity to all stakeholders.
  • The instability of Yemen, Somalia and South Sudan may negatively impact the region due to displacement, migration inflows and the spread of extremism and terrorism.
  • The U.S. anti-terrorism policy will continue as one area of collaboration due to the common interests in the trade routes of the Red Sea.
  • The Horn of Africa will continue to be a main destination for foreign direct investment (FDI) due to the need for natural resources, the presence of competing markets and other economic factors at home.
  • Geopolitical dynamics will continue creating better economic benefits to the countries in the Horn.
  • The geopolitical dynamics have provided good opportunities to Eritrea to emerge from isolation by collaborating with the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC) in the campaign against Iran-supported rebels.
  • Djibouti has significantly exploited the geopolitical dynamics to get more economic opportunity through infrastructural investments and leasing land to different powers.
  • The Berbera corridor development has proved beneficial for Somaliland due to UAE’s interest in marine development in the region.
  • The recent positive developments in the Ethio-Eritrea conflict can lead to better regional stability and greater flows of FDI to the sub-region.


Way forward

  1. Address democratization and governance issues in domestic affairs.
  2. Advocate active engagement to reduce hostilities in the sub-region.
  3. Actively and strategically work for regional integration.
  4. Bridge the West and the East for economic development of the region.
  5. Focus on intercultural relationships.


To view photos from the lecture, click here.