The Challenges of Diplomatic Practice in Africa

Journal Article


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Journal for Contemporary History

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University of the Free State


University of Cape Town

Diplomacy has been used in the conduct of foreign policies in Africa. However, a disconcerting trend in the practice of diplomacy in Africa is the often limited successes, and sometimes failures, of states and regional organisations in achieving foreign policy objectives. Remarkably, such failures are not only typical of diplomacy targeting external actors, but are equally visible in intra-African diplomacy. By and large the diplomatic skills of Africa are tested mostly during periods of con icts and threats to regional security. In most of these situations, diplomacy has proved to be ine ective in achieving desired outcomes. Consequently, most con icts remain unresolved, while threats to good governance persist. The failures of diplomacy are largely due to a con uence of factors, including the quality of diplomacy and mediators, the pervasiveness of con icts, Africa’s lack of international in uence, its dependence on external actors and consequent lack of assertiveness, as well as Africa’s lack of courage to stand up to errant leaders whose actions threaten good governance and regional security.