Power and influence in Africa: Algeria, Egypt, Ethiopia, Nigeria and South Africa

Algeria, Egypt, Ethiopia, Nigeria and South Africa hold most of Africa's power potential: whether the continent will keep rising depends on their trajectories.

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This paper explores the changing power capabilities of Algeria, Egypt, Ethiopia, Nigeria, and South Africa (the ‘Big Five’) over the next 25 years. Of these countries, Ethiopia and Nigeria are forecast to increase their power capabilities, whereas Algeria, Egypt and South Africa are expected to stagnate or decline.

Of the Big Five, two currently punch above their weight – one that is rising, Ethiopia, and another whose growth is stagnant, South Africa. If Nigeria were able to take the necessary steps that would see far-reaching changes to the governance issues and social challenges that currently beset the country, it could become Africa’s lone superpower.

About the authors

Jakkie Cilliers is the executive director and co-founder of the Institute for Security Studies. He is an extraordinary professor in the Centre of Human Rights and the Department of Political Sciences, Faculty of Humanities at the University of Pretoria.

Julia Schünemann is a senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies, where she leads the African Futures Project. Her research interests relate to statebuilding, fragility, conflict prevention, early warning and African futures.

Jonathan D Moyer is a research assistant professor at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies and Associate Director of the Frederick S. Pardee Center for International Futures at the University of Denver.

Media coverage of this paper:

Mail & Guardian

International Relations and Security Network

Daily Trust

NTU-SBF Centre for African Studies


Development partners
This paper has been made possible with support from the Hanns Seidel Foundation. The ISS is also grateful for support from the following members of the ISS Partnership Forum: the governments of Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the United States of America.
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