Spotlight: Providing clarity on African positions amidst geopolitical complexity

At the Munich Security Conference, ISS guided Africa’s partners on the continent’s diverse interests in an increasingly fractured world.

By convening African voices at the Munich Security Conference (MSC) in February 2023, the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) ensured that Africa’s peace, security and development interests were recognised globally.

The MSC is a leading forum for discussion of international security policy. It is attended by heads of state, senior defence staff, non-governmental organisations, the private sector and strategists from intergovernmental organisations like the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Interpol and the United Nations. Established in 1963 for trans-Atlantic conversations, Africans and African issues have had an increasing presence at the MSC, with ISS playing a significant role. ­

‘The ISS is the thought leader on human security and foreign policy on the continent,’ says MSC Vice-Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Dr Benedikt Franke. ‘No other African think tank comes close to their formidable expertise, credibility and pan-African network.’

ISS Executive Director Fonteh Akum and Head of Special Projects Ottilia Anna Maunganidze were key speakers and organisers in Munich. They provided insights on enhancing responses to African crises from the Sahel to the Horn of Africa, including more alignment on conflict prevention between the UN Security Council and the African Union Peace and Security Council.

‘As the world’s leading platform for the debate of foreign and security policy, we have long sought to include African voices and perspectives in our activities wherever possible,’ says Franke.

‘We have always returned to ISS as a partner of first resort, not just because of their expert network, but also because of the high quality of their analyses and interpretations. They challenge us, they guide us, and they help us take the temperature on important issues across the continent. We could not wish for a better partner to help us understand the geopolitics of the African continent and avoid Western-centric approaches.’

ISS challenges us, guides us and helps us take the temperature on important issues across Africa

The conflict in Ukraine was a focus for the 2023 MSC. ISS helped to explain its impact on Africa and the rationale for a neutral stance adopted by some African states.

‘In a changing geopolitical world, African states are calibrating their economic, security and development aims with a diversity of old and new global relationships,’ Akum says. ‘A non-aligned stance on Ukraine has strained relationships with some development partners, so we provide context around how Africa chooses to meet its long-term needs.’

Africa’s international relations headlined the opening townhall in Munich, moderated by Maunganidze, a 2017 MSC Young Leader. The session focused on adjusting north-south cooperation, with speakers including Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo, European Council President Charles Michel, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund Kristalina Georgieva, and Bill Gates, Co-Chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

‘Africans are committed to shaping multilateral processes and outcomes,’ says Maunganidze. ‘The continent is no longer just a topic of discussion. Africans are recognised as experts on peace and conflict, and negotiators and mediators in global affairs.’

At the MSC, Maunganidze also facilitated events for the Tana Forum on Africa’s place in a multipolar world, and for German development agency GIZ on the human security issues around natural resources and how mineral extraction can support development rather than conflict. She also moderated discussions on climate risk and resilience for Weathering Risk.

Akum launched a policy brief he co-authored with Denis M Tull from Megatrends Afrika on African autonomy and opportunities in the international order. He also co-hosted a discussion on geostrategic competition in Africa with the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, contributed to a session about Russian influence in Africa, and spoke at a UN Development Programme roundtable on mitigating the impact of military coups.

For more information, contact:

Ottilia Anna Maunganidze, ISS: [email protected]

Image: © MSC

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