Institutions and Competition

Diplomacy and hegemony in the “Horn of Africa”

November 17, 2014

In what is being branded as an effort to provide palliative assistance to reduce hunger and boost democracy building living standards Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank and Ban Ki Moon, secretary general of the United Nations, have launched a plan that expands the strategically significant “Horn of Africa” to encompass 18 percent of the total continent.


Their recent trip to Addis Ababa and Mogadishu to buzz up the project was reported with optimism by major western media and assets.


Another iffy “start up” from the UN and the World Bank


Like their $32 billion Ebola fund that continues undersubscribed, this plan abandons the historic guaranteed money aid approach in favor of the business-to-business “start up” model that operates on a pay-as-you-go basis.


One can argue that the “New Horn of Africa” strategy is in alignment with the economic and political shape shifting that has been proffered by U.S. Defense secretary Chuck Hagel and his notion of the world being in a state of constant warfare.


Whether it is hot war, the new cold war being fought in the news media and on social media, or the sanctions that take down everybody's living standards, the new set-up depends on the extent to which crisis facing organizations and nations can actually meet their commitments.


Sometimes the commitments, which can be diplomatic agreements and treaties, can be disrupted by the impact of money moves by private citizens, particularly in the Middle East.


Various sources say the pricetag on the “New Horn of Africa” runs between $8 and 12 billion- not including the $16 billion Horn of Africa oil pipeline that complements it (reported by the Financial Times).


Who is backing the New Horn of Africa, for now?


Here is a list of those who have agreed to participate in the project according to a recent World Bank media release.



The European Union has pledged around $3.7 billion until 2020 (for the next five years.) The African Development Bank has announced a pledge of $1.8 billion to last for the next three years, for countries of the Horn of Africa region. The Islamic Development Bank has committed up to $1 billion but only for Djibouti, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda. The World Bank is mobilizing $1.8 billion in cross-border regional funding Sounds like a rather nuanced approach. 


Will the “new Horn” mediate China's regional presence?


So far, peer-reviewed academics everywhere and major media have been wont to examine a paralell motive for the redesign of Africa. But China's growing regional role in economic development and in financing extractive industries, including energy, gives them one. SIPRI statistics of arms sales by Russia, and Ukraine, to Sub-Saharan Africa give them another.


China is cooperating on major infrastructure projects with Ethiopa and and is a major developer of the oil industry in the conflict-riddled new nation of South Sudan. Right now, Beijing gets around 5 percent of its oil from South Sudan. It already has some troops in country, ostensibly to protect its citizens working there. Now it is negotiating sending a battalion strength unit (700 troops) to to assist the United Nations peacekeeping operation.


The proposed $16 billion Horn of Africa oil pipeline would not be of primary importance to China since it's major oil relationship is with Angola in West Africa.


This pipleine project will be a magnet for extremist attacks, and will require protection, which means training local armed forces, contractors, and probably a major power military contingent.


Angola in West Africa is China's #2 oil supplier, pumping around 1.7 million barrels per day. Al Arabiya said that oil production in South Sudan had fallen by 29% earlier this year, namely due to infrastructure issues and conflict, making prospects for a pipeline even more probematic. The total oil production of Sudan and South Sudan are dwarfed by Angola's output. Bloomberg says Angola will be pumping 2 million barrels a day by the start of 2016.


The new improved Horn... from Aberdeen to Casablanca


Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti and Somalia have been regarded by the “major powers” for nearly half a century as the “Horn of Africa” because of their strategic significance to world energy security, linking oil routes from the Indian Ocean to the Red Sea and Suez Canal. Though not part of the geographic “horn” Kenya has been included becuase it has seacoast along the Indian Ocean, and because it has as become a conduit for cross border activities of extremists infiltrating into southern Somalia.


Size matters


Without Kenya, the size of the “Horn of Africa” represented roughly 6.5 percent of the continental land mass of Africa, which is 30.2 million square kilometers, depending on what open source information one chooses to resource.


The continent of Africa is larger than India, China and the lower 48 states of the United States combined, with an overall population of around 1.1 billion people.


By including Kenya and its 581,300 square kilometers, the size of the “Horn of Africa” expanded to comprise roughly 8 percent of the total land mass of the continent.


Now, thanks to the big land grab, the new “Horn of Africa” has doubled in size, comprisng roughly 18 percent of the continental land mass of Africa.


The new “Horn of Africa” now includes the Uganda, which has been part of what western diplomats call the ”Lake District,” South Sudan and Sudan, which has seacoast along the Red Sea, but Port Sudan is 2130 air kilometers from Mogadishu, the focal point of the traditional “horn.”


That is just 400 air kilometers less than the distance between Aberdeen, Scotland and Casablanca, Morocco. This considered, would you consider extending the North Sea oilfield region to include Casablanca?


In some ways, NATO and the United States have already done that. Some observers might venture to call that regional hegemony. The UN leitmotif, in contrast, has been reduction of hunger and poverty. Corruption issues have been largely swept under the carpet, as they have been historically.


Scattershot infographics damages credibility


The scattershot approach to defining the region works to the detriment of the project.


One can visit numerous websites operated by the UN, governments and NGOs and not get a definate, clear read, on what the Horn is based on the new proposal. Some sites say the Horn is still 4 nations, some like Somaliland News defines the “Horn of Africa” as a peninsula but say it has eight nations, and only mentions seven. The eigth nation is the "breakaway" known as Somaliland. 


Russian president Vladimir Putin recently raised the question of whether global leaders sufficiently think through long term geopolitical considerations of the made-for-media (and social media) decisions they take before they enact them.


Is the new “Horn of Africa” one of those situations?


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