More on News

Michelle Ndiaye: In global security landscape, Africa must balance dependency with self-reliance

Today’s security landscape requires us to acknowledge the fact that global security is increasingly regional, and states should be encouraged to build security interdependencies and share responsibility.


29 November 2017

On 21 November 2017, IPSS organized a lecture titled “The Global Security Environment: Dynamics & Challenges”, delivered by Michelle Ndiaye, Director of the Africa Peace and Security Programme (APSP) at IPSS and Head of the Tana Forum Secretariat.   

Ndiaye’s presentation addressed the following questions:

  • What is today’s global security environment and what are its defining characteristics?
  • Where does Africa stand?
  • How do citizens of the 21st century react, cope and live in this contemporary global security landscape?

New actors such as transnational drug networks, human traffickers and terrorist groups have emerged, defying borders and traditional understandings, and challenging the notion of the state in the 21st century. Citizens, in turn, have also defined a new form of democracy following the Arab Spring. Migration is questioning the notion of a borderless world in a time of globalization; the proliferation of terror networks in Europe, the Middle East and Africa have become new obstacles; and cyber security has become an important security pillar as witnessed by the WikiLeaks, Panama Papers and Paradise Papers revelations. 


Ndiaye outlined the characteristics of today’s global security at the macro level, offering a convergence of various manifestations of the globalization order and the side effects of a multi-polar world. These effects are coupled with the ever-evolving nature of security threats. Specifically, she addressed the four features of the current global security environment: i) multiplicity, ii) complexity, iii) unpredictability and iv) volatility.


Security dynamics in a new global security environment

Her lecture argued that a new global security environment, noted as beginning in 2008 with the global economic crisis, has replaced the previous era. A redefinition of the notion of security has taken place, indicating a citizen-based dimension of security. This new environment is characterized by high levels of competition, with emerging actors contesting for space in the quest for a new order; the blossoming of new radicalisms (religious, ethnic, political, ideological and economic); and the dissemination of the aforementioned four features into domestic and regional socio-political challenges.


Ndiaye also addressed the policy debate in the new global environment, contrasting the shared narrative and ideology of the post-Cold War era with the competition for power amongst emerging economic powers and regional hegemons in a multi-polar era. This multi-polarity gives rise to a disorderly world or a competitive world order. Ndiaye classified the security dynamics into three interchangeable and cyclical categories: emerging, persistent and permanent.


Where does Africa stand?

Africa position in the current era of international security relations is typified by its complexity. She noted that since the 1990s, there has been an increased interest of external actors in Africa, not only in the economic field but also significantly in the peace and security landscape. This increase in interest can be explained by factors such as:  

  • The evolution and interconnectedness of security threats (originating from Africa or involving Africa) in their nature;
  • The level of preparedness in dealing with these challenges;
  • Shared responsibility in the provision of continental and global security.

The unparalleled levels of complexity and interdependency in the definition of Africa’s international security relations is a complex relationship, and one that can be summarized by a visible back and forth between dependency/vulnerability (Africa in relation to external actors) and self-reliance (Africa’s desire for more ownership in dealing with its own security challenges).


Dependency vs. self-reliance in regional security

Ndiaye highlighted that the establishment of the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA), the African Union (AU) and Regional Economic Communities (RECs) play an increasingly active role in crisis management, including in peace operations as well as the consolidation of peace in Africa. However, the AU Security Architecture is still heavily dependent on external support. European Union (EU) member states provide tremendous financial support to the African Peace Facility (APF) of AU/RECs with a contribution of approximately €1 billion in the past year and more than €750 million in the coming year. The bulk of the funds (about 80-90%) are provided for AU/REC-led peace operations, and logistic capabilities are provided by the UN. The role of “new-comers” such as China, Turkey, Germany and Nordic countries should not be overlooked. Following these trends, the current reform process of the AU should focus on minimizing dependency and creating more self-reliance.


How do citizens of the 21st century react, cope and live in this contemporary global security landscape?

Following the lecture, audience members posed questions on the effectiveness and efficiency of different AU-RECs relationships, and how critical some of these actors are in the continent’s peace and security environment. Ndiaye noted that the principle of solidarity is indispensable in AU-RECs relationships. RECs are the building blocks of the AU and member states too are responsible for regional solidarity, and bringing to life the agenda of continental integration. Ndiaye further noted that ad-hoc arrangements could threaten APSA, although their swift responses can sometimes be crucial in preventing or de-escalating a conflict. She emphasized the need to analyze how APSA, one decade after its establishment, can be operationalized when ad-hoc arrangements are carried out.


In conclusion, Ndiaye stated that a common understanding of security threats and an adequate level of preparedness is critical to maintaining peace and stability. Today’s security landscape requires us to acknowledge the fact that global security is increasingly regional, and states should be encouraged to build security interdependencies and share responsibility.


Click here to view photos from the lecture