Africa in the Changing Global Order: Does African Agency Matter in Global Politics?

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UNU Institute on Comparative Regional Integration Studies
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The multipolarization of the international system and the rise of nations from the global South opened new avenues for Africa and increased its role in global politics. Power dynamics in a multipolar world put forward the concept of agency in the international relations discourse, yet, bounded in the African context. This paper analyses Africa’s position in contemporary geopolitical and economic affairs, focusing on African agency and its role played in multilateral negotiations.  It demonstrates an emergence of African agency in the multilateral fora in the domains of peace, security, climate change, and in shaping the global normative framework. The paper examines the questions on how African agency interacts, cooperates and competes with superpowers in the multipolar global system from an intergovernmental and individual state level. It delves into the cases of the African Union and South Africa, as two main continental actors on exercising agency regionally and globally. In the examined cases, the agency is evaluated as the ability to act in order to change the outcomes or rules. The paper concludes that African agency is an incontrovertible fact and its significance is increasing gradually. It has begun to assert its voice at different levels, from individual states to intergovernmental organizations but the structural organization of the relevant institutions is crucial to the process of exercising agency.