It is only 4 years since Tony Blair declared the “Year of Africa” and the willingness to bring Africa back to the world economy. It was the culmination of a process that saw the African continent return to the top of the international agenda after years of relative neglect – a victim of the risk-aversion and general apathy of a Western world first basking in the post-Cold War ‘peace dividend’, then hit by the terrorist threat.
The scale of the economic, governance and security challenges in Africa has prompted Western governments and organizations to renew and bolster their commitments to the region, especially the EU.
This also reflected a shift in Western priorities, especially since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, with a greater focus on the nexus between security and development. In an era when security of supply has become a major issue, Africa’s abundance of natural resources has also re-engaged Western – and non-Western – commitments in the region. Africa’s importance as an alternative to the volatile Middle East as a source of energy and raw materials made productive worldwide cooperation between Europe, the US and Africa even more urgent, especially given the rise of China as a major player on the continent.
In addition the combination of internal and external factors has put Africa in recent years directly back on the international agenda: the security-development nexus, new international development commitments, increasing competition from countries such as China, and the growing focus on natural resources and energy security.
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