Points of view

‘Broadening your horizons’ is more than a cliché that is typically associated with consulting firms such as ours.

It is very much a profound metaphor of the tectonic shifts that have taken place in international affairs, propelled mainly by the forces of globalisation.

These forces have opened and defined new and different horizons which in a fundamental sense make people, societies, countries and regions more interdependent. As such altered systemic and global power realities bind mankind together, as never before, into overlapping ‘communities of fate’.

The dialectic between globalisation and interdependence has created cross-border and global problems that require greater cooperation and joint problem-solving on the basis of new forms of global governance that are beyond the capacities of a single nation state. The passing of this ‘Westphalian moment’ is further characterised by persistent conflict as well as the centrifugal effects associated with growing global inequality, poverty, and insecurity.

Drawn into the vortex of an increasingly unstable world order have been the middle powers, most crucially the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) which represent an emerging constellation of power that has been shaped, among others, by their rise in the global economy, the rapid and sustained growth of their export markets and the dominant roles they have come to play in their respective regional neighbourhoods. Together they evince hope for a different multipolar order that is indicative of how horizons have shifted.

Thus, new international institutions and regimes have been established; the scope, range, and substance of global rules and norms have been considerably broadened; new approaches to global governance invite wider participation and pluralism; and almost two decades of UN summitry has produced compacts, conventions, and agreements that involve a greater number of countries and people in influencing the future of the global commons. All these developments have been consequential for a denser network of actors, institutions, transnational relations, exchanges and communication with their own logic of simultaneously integrating and fragmenting states and their societies. With expanding horizons, there is also greater mutual vulnerability with respect major crises in world order which are essentially humanitarian, environmental, and economic.

Africa as a continent has been particularly prone to the effects of these crises. Despite positive indices of growth impelled mainly by the global commodity boom, Africa continues to struggle with problems of social development, environmental degradation, and political stability as well as deficits in delivery and governance. These define the parameters of its structural vulnerability in the context of a changed global landscape. We thus have to confront a range of critical uncertainties which come with the dramatic changes in Africa’s location in the international hierarchy of power. It is precisely the extent to which our horizons have been broadened that will allow us to make sense of uncertainty, most importantly as this relates to the ambiguities of mercurial global system and the coexistence of virtuous and vicious cycles across the African continent.

by Dr Garth le Pere, Senior Partner