The Dynamics and Contemporary Determinants in Middle East-Africa Relations

Cite this article: Ashafa, A. M. and Adamu, M. (2022). “The Dynamics and Contemporary Determinants in Middle East-Africa Relations”.  Sokoto Journal of History Vol. 11. Pp. 229-240.


A.M Ashafa and Muhammed Adamu

Dept of History, Kaduna State University


This paper sought to deepen understanding of the historical, economic, political, strategic and ideological engagements that shapes the new trend in the renewed Middle East-Africa relations, as well as what the future portends for this relation in order to guide discourse in ways that shapes your discussion and resolves as strategic policy makers, operators and monitors. It is structured in five parts. Political, economic and security interests driving contemporary Middle East-Africa relations.

Keywords: Dynamics, Determinants, Middle East, Africa, Relations

DOI: 10.36349/sokotojh.2022.v11i01.010


There is a significant leap in Middle East-Africa relations
in the last two decades,
which is deepening and intensifying. Already, there
had been mutually rewarding engagements between the two regions for centuries through economic, political and
socio-political nexus so that it manifestly impacted
on the architecture, language, art, and religious practices of some African
communities over time. Both regions
were to suffer from both imperial and colonial subjugation, which affected this flourishing engagement leading to its decline between
the 19th and 20th centuries. In the decolonization process and particularly
in the post-colonial period, there were renewed efforts to restore relations between the two regions.
The creation of the state of Israel at the detriment of the aspirations and human dignity of the
Arabs, the struggle to liberate Palestine by the Arab nations, using different international
organisations and to mobilise support through Pan-Arab and Islamic organisations such as the Arab League,
Palestinian Liberation Organisation, Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) among other cultural
and religious for a further brough the two regions closer. The Cold War and the discovery of oil in
most countries of the Middle East provided the path for significant transformation of many countries in the Middle East,
especially the Gulf Cooperation Council
(GCC) member states who witnessed unparalleled economic and industrial growth.
Since the early 2000s, several Middle
East States including the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar, Turkey and Iran) have increased
their presence on the continent. This was in the form of forging new relations and strengthening existing ones. While
this renewed relation has been fostered by a range of economic, political, and security investments as well as increasing diplomatic engagements, it holds
the potential to spur economic
development, improve diplomatic relations, and
enhance security.

Thus, any
discussion on contemporary Middle East-Africa relations must recognize the
enormous geostrategic place of Africa
in the geostrategic calculations of the Middle East region. This is because,
the Middle East for several
decades, has been a scene for political
and strategic contestation in most of the epochs in human
history where balancing acts amidst continuous power and influence converge. By the nature of its structural
characteristics, the Middle East manifests a
highly dynamic and amorphous regional
system in which power relations
are fluid and due to lack of a clear regional hegemon, order has
been in short supply. The region has witnessed several combustible scenes both in the internal struggle among the
countries, and as proxies during the Cold War
in the attempt towards shifting distribution for power that pitched
conservative Sunni against revolutionary
Shi‘ite regimes (Gause III, 2014, Calculli and Matteo, 2016). This is not to
talk of the rupture following the Arab Spring
in 2011 whose narratives and perceptions have added to the

Abdullahi Musa Ashafa is a Professor of Military and Diplomatic History
in the Department of History,
Kaduna State University, Kaduna

Mohammed Adamu is a PhD student in the Department of History, Kaduna State University, working on the Economic Determinants in Nigeria‘s Foreign Relations. combustible developments taking extra-regional dimension across the Red Sea, especially as

it affects Africa (Gerges,

This deepening
and intensifying relation between the Middle East and Africa is being driven by renewed economic, geo-political,
ideological, security, trade and investment needs of the engaging nations. On one hand is the Middle Eastern
states‘ pursuit of ideological spheres of influence and sibling rivalry, all of which bear mixed fortunes for both regions.
This is evidenced in the manipulation
of geo-historical realities such as the ‗Arab Spring,‘ and the geo-political
competition enshrouding Red Sea
region to suit interests of different global actors, which is seriously
hindering effective and beneficial engagements between Africa and the Middle East.

As we shall
come to see, the involvement of Middle East players in the Africa, especially
the Horn of Africa (HOA) has become the reflection of the regional
geo-political competition and a representation of the geo-strategic maritime, political, economic
and religio-ideological rivalry
among the several medium powers in the Middle East engaged in Africa and
the Red Sea. While the Middle East
states‘ rivalry and tensed competition may increase the geo-strategic
importance of the Africa, especially
the HOA region, it also seems to risk fueling conflicts or exacerbate new
tensions among HOA stakeholders

Further to the
above, the paper sought to deepen participants‘ understanding of the historical, economic, political, strategic and ideological engagements that
shapes the new trend in the renewed Middle
East-Africa relations, as well as what the future portends for this relation in
order to guide discourse in ways that
shapes your discussion and resolves as strategic policy makers, operators and monitors.
It is structured in five parts. Political, economic and security
interests driving contemporary Middle East-Africa

Clarifying Conceptual Ambiguity on Middle East and Africa

Both Africa
and Middle East were Eurocentric construct designated to describe some
geographic areas of the world that
are historically joined at the hip by the Red Sea, shared identity, ancient relationship, and colonial experience,
which Ali Mazrui was to refer to as triple heritage. While we all know that Africa is a continent, whose
name was originally derived from Arab‘s reference to this geographic area as ‗Ifriqiyya‘, the western world later came to Anglicize it to read
‗Africa‘. The term Middle East on the other hand was coined in British reference
to some geographic regions of its
areas of imperialism. Historically, there was certain binarism in relation to
the geographical belonging debate
(partly belonging to two or more regions or some parts of a country belonging
to a different region). For this,
there is very little geographical ‗east‘ in the Middle East especially that the area under reference is made of the
most northern parts of Africa and South-West of Asia. The question
thus remains: to which east is the middle in the Middle East or how middle is the east in the
Middle East and how eastern is the east in the Middle East, which is
geographically part of West Asia?

At the time
the British dominated the Indian trade, it was also ferociously pursuing its
interest to contain Russia‘s access
to both British India and Central Asia, and preserve its predominance in the control of the Persian Gulf for its Navy, British imperial staff in the Indian Office coined the term

‗Middle East‘.
This was a convenient political
construct to distinguish the geographical area it called the Near East, made up of the old
Ottoman Empire and the Balkans, from another of its categorization known as the Far East (Asian
countries along the Pacific Ocean).
The Middle East therefore came
to refer to region between the Near and Far East, which is also East of the
Near East and to the West of the Far
East. What brough this about was not unconnected to the strategic importance of this area to British
imperialism, which by 1902 Alfred Thayer Mahan, a USA naval officer and historian, used the term in an
article to describe the land between Arabia and India (Kahana and. Suwaed, 2015). The term subsequently became a
common currency after the World War I
when the Ottoman Empire and other geo-strategic events were to emerge to shape
other developments in the world,
which the US Government popularized the use of term with its official use in
1957 using its Eisenhower Doctrine over the Suez Crisis (Davidson, 1960).

The Middle
East is strategically located astride the juncture of Africa and Eurasia, as
well as the Indian Ocean and the
Mediterranean Sea. The Middle East is the birth place and spiritual center of major and minor religions so that
throughout its history, it has remained at the center of major world affairs: strategically, politically,
spiritually, economically and culturally. Generally associated with earliest
civilization, the Middle
East region was said to be where agriculture was first discovered and famously described
as the cradle of civilization. It
witnessed the major political
transitions in the world from the stone age to the present: the Neo-Assyrian Empire,
Achaemenid Empire, Macedonian Empire, the Cold war between the Persian Empire
represented by Sassanid State and the Roman Empire, represented by the
Byzantine Empire. The region served as the intellectual and economic
center of the Roman Empire and played an exceptionally important role due to its periphery
on the Sassanid Empire. The major and far-reaching political changes in the
region were the existence of Islamic
Caliphates since the Middle Ages that began in the 7th century and
was principally responsible for
uniting the region to give it an indisputable Islamic and Arab identity we still see today.

Though the
Middle East was to come under the political influence of non-Arabs, it has
remained predominantly Islamic
and Arab in character, even with the replacement of the Ottoman
Empire after its collapse in
1918 as an ally to the defeated Central Powers in the World War I, which brought in Britain and France as the new
overlords in the Middle East. This formed the background in the creation in 1948 of the state of Israel as the baby of
the Western world and a window for the active
interest to guarantee their presence and pursue strategic interests in the
region especially with the discovery
of oil that gave the region further strategic and economic importance. During
the Cold War, the Middle East
became a center for ideological contestation amongst the polarized major powers, all competing to influence
regional allies at a time that oil was becoming increasingly vital to the economy of the Western world. For
this reason, throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, the Middle East has experienced both periods of relative peace and
tolerance and periods of conflict and intolerance
between antagonized Islamic sects: the Sunni and Shiites supported by
antagonized Western powers.

So, while
Africa, rather than Sub-Saharan Africa is less problematic, Middle East, from
its Western coinage and reference has
remain problematic, so that some insist that it should be replaced with a more appropriate, less Eurocentric
perspective, such as Western Asia, which itself is problematic if Egypt, an
African country should be part

A Cursory Historical Excursion in the Middle
East-Africa Relations

before the present era, there had been engaging relationship between Africa and
the Middle  East.  For
 Africa  is  divided
 Africa and  Sub-Saharan
 Africa‖. This is so because,
in some ways, and since early times, the desert served more like a bridge that connected
different parts of Africa than as a wall, which separated them. If we say North
Africa today is part of the Middle
East, it is convenient therefore to say that relationship between this part of Africa and the Middle East has begun
for centuries before now. On one hand, Northern Africa was one of the first parts of the world to convert to
Christianity, with Alexandria, in Egypt being an important center of scholarship long before its conquest by the Arabs
in the 7th century. On the other, in Sub-Saharan Africa, Ethiopian
Kings had converted to Christianity in the fourth century of the Christian era. Sub-Saharan Africa
therefore had a rewarding trading and political relationship with North Africa, and through it with
other parts of Europe and Asia and even the Americas long before Christopher Columbus was claimed to
have discovered it (Sertima, 1976). Africans were known to have traded with the outside world through North Africa
in gold, ivory and other products and
were able to travel far and wide through the Indian Ocean so
that large groups of Black Africans
from Ethiopia had settled in India and Arab land either as slaves
or as merchants.

There were also political
engagements between Black Africa and the Middle East area. The powerful Kingdom of Aksum in Ethiopia, had exist to establish close connections
with Yemen in the Arabian Peninsula, across the Red Sea. Yemen, at the time
was said to have been dominated by Jewish
culture, which was to spread to Ethiopia and for which reason Ethiopians insist
that the Queen of Sheba married to
King Solomon came from here. Note that prior to Christianity and Islam, much of the Arabian Peninsula was Jewish
with example of a strong Jewish community in Yemen who in turn, traded with people on the other side of the Red Sea
and this is how Jewish culture came to
spread to Africa. Beyond the Arabian Peninsula, the Aksumites were also trading
across the Indian Ocean too. Located
at the intersection of these shipping lanes Aksum became a major player in the trade, which connected India and
the Roman Empire. In fact, its location and trading relations was so
strong and impactful that the Aksumite king converted to Christianity in 325 AD.

As it is well
known, by the 7th Century, North Africa fell to Arab conquest from
where Islam was to take its firm root in Africa. What were to determine
and shape Middle East-Africa relations
today are traceable
to this single development. Islam,
Arabic and many socio-economic and political nexus between the Middle East and Africa
were to be traced to this history. For example, with the Arab conquest of Egypt in 640 through the westward movement that
brought the whole of North Africa to
Arab rule, the Arabs came into contact with the indigenous Barber and the
Saharan Tuareg tribes most of who
were nomads. While the Tuaregs simply moved away from the path of the invaders
further into the Desert, the Berbers who lived along
the Mediterranean coast gradually came to be assimilated into the new elite
Arabs, most of who till today insist being Barbers than Arabs and with the slightest opportunity, would prefer to assert
their independent identity and country.

The Tuaregs
who escaped Arab domination were to take charge of the caravans that traded
with Timbuktu in the Kingdom of Mali
and beyond. Today, with between 25 and 30 million Barber speaking people who with the Tuaregs are mostly Muslims,
are demanding for political rights.
Some Berbers want independence for their homeland,
which they regard as occupied,
and mismanaged, by Arabs in
the north and by black Africans in the south. The political instability of countries such as Algeria and Libya have
provided great opportunities to realize these aims. The overthrow of Gaddafi in Libya in the fall of 2011, for example,
provide an alibi for some Tuaregs to escape
with their weapons to Mali where they began a guerrilla war against the
government. The guerilla-led MNLA was
to declare independence for a country they called ―Azawad,‖ with Gao and Timbuktu as its main cities. Thereby giving oxygen to the conflict and terrorists in the Sahel region, which permeates
to large parts of West Africa to ignite further
instability. The recapture
of Timbuktu by the Malian
government, supported by international troops might have either silence or postponed
the dream of an independent
Azawad as an independent country.

However, the trend in Middle East-Africa contemporary relations were solidified since the decolonization process. The interest of
the Middle East countries and the Arab world in general at the time in Africa was to elicit
solidarity largely in the mobilization for anti-Israeli occupation of Arab land. This sentiment was easy to be
elicited in the light of the historical contacts between Africa and the Middle East, with Islam and shared experiences in
colonial domination, exploitation and
humiliation as the major bond. Middle Africa also share misery of colonial and
post-colonial poverty and economic
underdevelopment, so that it forced the Arab and African states to focus attention to national development and new
international alliance. Both the Middle East and Africa were to look at each other for solidarity, support and
partnership since the regions were suffering the same fate in the hands of the Western powers. The Arab-Israeli
conflicts, the meddlesome of the Western
powers Middle East affairs that turned them into proxies in view of the Cold
Way and the discovery of oil were to transform
the Middle East whose development gradually supersedes Africa‘s played major factors for close
cooperation as well as the cooperative processes between the Middle
East region and Africa. Further
to this, in 1977, Afro-Middle East countries and by extension Arab countries held their first
summit in Cairo to set out the principles and framework of collective and individual actions
necessary for the consolidation of relations. However, while this reopened the way for more discussion and
the modality for this relation, there were no serious engagements afterwards. Despite
the repeated attempts
at fostering long lasting South-South cooperation between the countries of the Third World, such as the African and Middle East countries,
there has been no serious commitment on the parts of the countries of the
regions to ensure a disengagement from the established North and South partnerships, which of course
has been lopsided in favour of the North and the bane of
the South-South cooperation.

international and regional transformations at the end of the twentieth century,
this collective mobilization for
united action had faded away. However, in the last two decades, Arab regional powers, especially Gulf monarchies are
making a strong comeback to the continent. From investing in various economic sectors to brokering
peace rival countries particularly in the Horn of Africa, Middle East countries are heavily
investing in seizing the economic opportunities in the rising continent and bringing some level of
stability in crisis ridden areas in Africa, which the next part now looks at.

Contemporary Determinants in Middle East-Africa Relations

We have noted
already that the Middle East and peoples have long been involved in mutual
trading relations with Africa long
before the Arab conquest and conversion to Islam. The result has been a huge community in the Horn of Africa,
whose history and culture are hardly separable from the interaction with the Middle East over time. These interactions
have increasingly become associated with
religion, politics, economy and security today. The emerging security concern
and engagement was to form a
rebalancing dynamic across the wider Middle East Regional Security Complex (MERSC) in its involvement with the Horn
of Africa Regional Security Complex (HOARSC), in clear pursuit of alliances and influence, fits in better with
the acquisition of power in line with the realist‘s
theory of power (Buzan and Wæver, 2003). That
is why we have noted already that regional relations
in the Middle East today are articulated around two poles with opposing
strategic interest objectives, which are an alliance of neighbouring Arab countries represented on one hand
by Saudi Arabia, Egypt and UAE and on the other by
Turkey, Qatar and Iran.

This region in Africa attracts economic
and military investment and interest from emerging economies due to its location bordering
the Guld of Aden and the Strait of Bab el-mendeb as one of the most important commercial routes of
the world. In fact, most of the commercial activities between the markets of Asia, Middle East and Europe take this
route so that many countries want to strengthen
their presence in this region. The Horn of Africa is thus a major gateway to
African market and resources, as well as for
strategic calculations.

For this
reason, the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his then Sudanese
counterpart Umar al-Bashir had in a
bilateral meeting in December 2017, announced a deal to restore Suakin, a ruined Ottoman port town on Sudan‘s Red Sea coast, which also
gave Turkey the right to build a naval dock to maintain
civilian and military
vessels. This made some regional
powers uncomfortable with
this audacious consolidation of strong Turkish presence in that part of Africa that was to generate securitization process in and around the Red Sea (Moubayed, 2017). In response, the flag of United Arab
Emirate in April, 2018 was seen fluttering on the isolated Arabian Sea Island of Socotra, making it a
strategic outpost for the conduct of ongoing UAE military operations in Yemen as well as in the
control of the Bab el-Mandeb Strait and the entrance, from the south,
to the Red Sea. What is being said here is that these were two unrelated
events of a complicated
game of chess between rival ideological and political blocs in the Middle East
that now stretches into Africa likely facilitating geopolitical tensions and regional
rivalries that risk militarizing
the region and impacting human security to deserve concern and analysis in
conflicting regionalisms (Kabandula
and Shaw, 2018). This is especially true when David Brewster (2018) noted that
new middle powers are not creating a
multipolar and complex Indian Ocean:

A race is underway
between Saudi Arabia,
the UAE, and Turkey to build naval
and military bases right across the Horn of Africa. This threatens to
change the naval balance
in the north-west Indian Ocean. But it may also presage the beginning
of a new strategic order in this complex and multipolar region where a host of
major and middle power jostle for
influence and position (Brewster, 2018).

This is
especially when a likely scenario is imagined that Saudi Arabia could nurse the
feeling that the Iranians could
comfortably use the new Turkish base at Suakin
in Sudan to send more arms and equipment
to the Houthis in Yemen, while Turkey could also use its newfound military
presence to send more troops to
Qatar, or even meddle further in the affairs of Egypt (Roberts, 2017). If these thoughts were what hypothetically spurred
the MERSC states‘ involvement in the Horn of Africa, then we need to ask some pertinent
questions: (dovetailing around the strategic) Could these security engagements be informed
actually by the primary security interests of the MERSC states? Do they possess the limited resources
under global economic recession beyond the maintenance of a sustained forward presence
thus inhibiting any prospective, long-term and
sustained deployment?

We have noted
already that the emerging interactions of the MERSC states in the HOARSC states have increasingly become associated with
politics and security. While the presence of Saudi Arabia and Egypt have been involved quite
substantially in Africa‘s relations since the 1960s and in the era of decolonization, only a decade or so ago
Turkey, the UAE and Qatar became interested, unlike Iran, which has been since the revolution. Generally speaking,
the entry of small to medium rising powers in the region has certainly
made an impression and has already had an influence
on major political
changes such as the 2018 peace accord between Eritrea and Ethiopia to beg the
question if the ‗Cold
War‘ is really over in Africa
and the Middle East in Africa is not complicated?

Looking at the
various countries specifically, Saudi Arabia, which had established initial
contacts with African states under King Faisal
in the wake of the 1967 Arab–Israeli War, was meant
to isolate Israel,
was to establish the first coherent policy toward Africa,
which was, however,
abandoned soon after his death. Riyadh was content to secure its vital
interests in Africa of its immediate
neighbourhood – that is, the (Greater) Horn of Africa, and especially Somalia,
where it backed the US in containing
the USSR during the Cold War and, later, attempted to bring about agreements among warring factions in the
first decade of this century. Though Saudi Arabia was known to have paid much attention to expanding Wahhabi
proselytization as well as direct support of
Islamist groups abroad were major foreign policy tools, though Africa was not
the main target, it was seriously
affected by Riyadh‘s
uncommon investment in the building
of educational infrastructure in West Africa for example,
as well as in the training of African scholars in the Kingdom, to the extent that the Saudi factor in most Africa
countries affected by it could be said to be
among many factors Abdoulaye Sounaye (2017) partly attributed for the surge of
local jihadism. The Saudi Kingdom was
to rediscover its strategic interest in Africa and a review of its foreign policy after the 2011 Arab Spring in
reaction to Iranian encroachment on the continent, especially the increasing proselytization of local
Iranian cultural centers that spurred Saudi political responses (Raymond
and Watling, 2015).

Saudi‘s new
focus on Africa only became visible in 2015 with the coming to power of
Muhammad bin Salman, both as the crown prince and de facto leader of the Kingdom,
as well as the beginning
of the war in Yemen. The Saudi-led military campaign against the Houthis
in Yemen, whom the kingdom considers
as Iranian proxies, altered in the eyes of both Riyadh and Abu Dhabi the geostrategic importance of the Horn of
Africa, which the two countries found a common ground to work against Yemen
using the African shore of the Red Sea. By this, Saudi was able to upturn Iran‘s relations with Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Djibouti, and
Somalia, making it now more difficult for Iranian vessels to navigate the Red Sea.

consideration of Africa for intrinsic value owing to its vital resources are
certainly not limited to economic gains. Riyadh also relies heavily,
for instance, on Sudanese, Somali
and Eritrean forces in its
military campaign in Yemen. It is also negotiating the deployment of Ugandan soldiers with Kampala and are supposed to
back the Saudi position in diplomatic conflicts making them partner states backing the Saudi position not only in diplomatic
conflicts but in its claim to leadership
in the Muslim world. It is therefore obvious that Riyadh‘s hegemonic ambitions
in the Middle East are the main
driver of its current foreign policy toward Africa, for it is mainly bent on containing its regional competitors and on
using the continent‘s resources to further its claim to leadership in the Middle East. But Riyadh‘s latest moves have
provoked strategic reactions from Ankara
and Tehran. As a consequence, Africa is increasingly becoming a theatre of
Middle Eastern conflicts.

Iran on the
other hand was forced to intensify relations with African states following the
sanctions imposed on the regime since
the Islamic Revolution and its conflict over nuclear programme with the US. Before then, Iran under Sha
Pahlavi sought to use its Africa policy mainly to contain communism by supporting the economies of moderate‖ states such as Ethiopia, Senegal, Somalia, Sudan, and Zaire. The emergence of Islamic Republic in Iran altered the country‘s approach to thesestates. When
Iran was eventually isolated even with the Middle East after the revolution,
Africa was an option to break the
isolation politically and economically. This is especially in countries with either significant Shiite minorities or
those with undoubtful Sunni majorities. According to Eric Lob (2016), Tehran‘s involvement in Africa
has fluctuated in scope and intensity over time, depending on the international pressure on Tehran as
well as the foreign  policy orientations of its leadership. In fact, it was stronger under President
Ahmadinejad when its nuclear programmed further pitched it against the Western and Middle East
powers, which forced Tehran to seek for international partners in Africa with focus on the then five non-permanent members of the UN Security
Council then (Côte
d‗Ivoire, Lesotho, Mauretania, Namibia, and South Africa), African
states with notable
uranium deposits, such as Malawi, Niger, Sierra Leone, Togo, and Uganda and such rogue states‖ as
Sudan or Eritrea, mostly because of their geostrategic location. Under
President Rouhani who upon his
election in 2017 at a time of clear Gulf diplomatic row, Iran‘s, Foreign
Minister Javad Zarif, had announced
in addition to safeguarding its cultural, economic, and political interests, Tehran was determined to establish
stability and security in Africa (IRNA 2017). While high-level Iranian officials visiting African states,
including Rouhani himself, has increased notably ever since, the de facto termination of the nuclear
deal by the Trump administration and Tehran‘s need to reinforce its economic ties with African states further spurred
Iran‘s interest in Africa, especially the Horn of Africa now
becoming more of an ―Arabian

For Turkey,
its Africa‘s policy began only about two decades initiated by the coalition
government under Prime Minister
Bülent Ecevit (1999–2002). It only gained momentum with the rise to power of the Justice
and Development Party under President
Recep Tayyib Erdoğan,
who in 2005 launched Turkey‘s official Opening
to Africa policy
(Demirci and
2018, Federico, 2018). What
followed was not only that the number of Turkish embassies in Africa has risen
from 12 in 2009 to 43 in 2022,
Turkey‘s bilateral trade with African countries according to Sofia Karadima (2022) reached a volume of USD 24 billion
in 2022, marking a five-fold increase since 2003, whereas Turkish investors
are focusing on projects that create employment and enabling the development
and strengthening Africa. In fact, Turkish Direct Foreign Investment in Africa
rose from $3bn in 2003 to $26bn in 2021 (Karadima, 2022).
Wilder Alejandro Sanchez
and Scott Morgan (2022) have reported Erdogan as saying: ...through
our African partnership policy, we will continue to contribute sincerely to
the peace and stability and economic and social development of the continent‖. This was at a time Ankara continued
to see Africa as a place to expand its geopolitical presence,
gain allies, and increase trade and investment. On the whole, while Turkish

―Opening to
Africa‖ policy aimed to push the Turkish economy, also served to strengthen
political relations with new allies
following Turkey‘s falling-out with the EU as well as the escalation of Middle Eastern power struggles.

While there is
clearly an interest of prospective economic gains in Middle East-Africa policy,
the continent‘s potential
as a source of international allies on the other is a major driving force determining
pushing for such rediscovered relevance of Africa, especially the Horn of
Africa. A clear indication to this is
in their competition for influence in the Horn of Africa and the increasing militarisation of the Red Sea. Besides the
permanent UN Security Council powers, which have already established military bases in the region or are planning
to do so, the reverberation of this Middle
East to become key actors in the region was to such an extent that the African
Union in January 2018 had to table
for discussion the spilling over of Middle Eastern conflicts to its shores. All these dynamics are heavily driven by
the struggle for hegemony in the Middle East. What is being argued here is that Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey, as the dominant
regional powers in the Middle East,
are at the center of the Middle Eastern hegemonic conflict and the Middle
Eastern states‘ activities in Africa,
their turn to Africa exemplifies how on one hand their foreign policies have
become more assertive on the international stage, especially regarding
South–South relations, and on the
other, their current strategic approaches to the continent, and their politics
of alliance- building therein,
closely follow the logics prescribed by the conflict
dynamics in their
home region.

Consequences of Increasing
Middle East-Africa Relations

It is clear that of recent, there is a resurgence in Middle East-Africa
relations has a lot of mixed implications,
which could at best be summarized into positive and negative. On the positive
side, there is a greater indication
of renewed and better economic relations between the two regions. Economic Pan-Africanism between North
Africa and the Greater Middle East and between the latter and the Horn of Africa in particular,
yet with generalized implication is making Africa to benefit from the complimentary of the two regions
in the areas of maritime resources, strategic natural resources, shared aspirations, shared security challenges,
migrant labor, development cooperation, and humanitarian concerns, among others.

With renewed
relations, most of the Middle East are now major economic and political actors
in Africa, especially the Horn
region. The Horn states, have, for example, remain clients to the Gulf states (especially Saudi and UAE) for
funding and Official Development Assistance (aid) as such remittances have been a key factor for
maintaining their domestic political settlements as well as a major determinant of conflict in the
region. There is a linkage between these financial streams and prospects
for regional stability
in the Horn of Africa,
which are key to supporting political settlements,
providing the working capital required for further co-option, and to several
regimes maintaining a degree of macroeconomic stability.

Since the last
two decades, there has been an increased Foreign Direct Investment of Middle
East states in Africa, with UAE as the
leading partner across the entire continent, followed by Turkey. The Gulf states deals more with countries
in the Horn area than other parts. On the other hand, since the 2008 global financial crisis, saw
countries in the Middle East to redirecting their investment and economic interests towards regions less
affected by the economic collapse, such as Africa. The Gulf states
for example, saw in Africa‘s
fast-growing economies a good long-term
investment opportunity to
deepen economic and trade links, which has been enabling Gulf countries to
further diversify their economies and
to reduce reliance on oil revenues.

The scramble
for influence in Africa by the Middle East countries has provided the continent
with another window of importance as geopolitical determinant in shaping events and intra-sibling relations in the Middle East. Africa is now the new
determinant of how relationship is shaped in the Middle East, which if explored better, will set Africa in
another stage of relevance with immense benefit
derived from the relationship.

Already, there is a deeper concern
that the intensified involvement of some Middle Eastern
countries in Africa, if not carefully managed, may spark competition
that could destabilize parts of the continent.

v  It enhances South-South Cooperation: The increasing importance of Africa to the
Middle East is an opportunity to renew and expand relationship by exploiting and sharing complementarities as developing economies, which is now visibly increasing the recognition of the
relevance of the global south.

v  There is a boost in investment and economic of scale: Middle East interest in
Africa is being pushed for its
intrinsic value owing to its vital resources, which is not limited to economic gains only. Bilateral trade had increased significantly between
countries of the two regions.

ü  Turkeys official Opening to Africa policy increased the number of its embassies from
12 in 2009 to 43 in 2022.

ü  Turkey‘s bilateral
trade with Africa,
for example, had risen from $4billion in 2003 to a volume
of $24 billion in 2022.

ü  In fact, Turkish Direct Foreign Investment
in Africa rose from $3bn in 2003 to $26bn in 2021.

ü  UAE is becoming the largest Middle East investor in terms of projects
in Africa with over 200 different projects worth over $15bn.

v  It boosts regional peace and security in Africa: Increasing diplomatic actions in
Africa has provided some
breakthrough in regional peace and security dividends. Involvement in conflict

ü  Saudi Arabia and the UAE in
the Ethiopia-Eritrea peace accord

ü  Turkey‘s interest
in championing a re-start
of the Somalia-Somaliland discussions

ü  Qatar‘s involvement in the Djibouti
and Eritrea peace accord

ü  UAE‘s involvement in
Djibouti and Somalia reproachment etc were coming at a time of Western disengagement in African conflicts
(Is the ME replacing the West in solving African conflicts?)

v  Balkanized Africa along ideological dichotomy: Middle East increasing relations and
intervention along Sunni-Shi‘te dichotomy has pitched citizens of many
African countries against each other. This goes to amplify some local dynamics
that affects peace and stability. In Nigeria, the Izala-Shi‘te
dichotomy for example is a product of the ideological balkanization, with
some breakaways to become

v  Africa is Emerging as a Theater for Middle East Sibling Rivalry: The disengagement of the West from Africa and the upsurge of
Middle East presence in Africa another theatre of geo-strategic and geo-pollical power play among the emerging
Middle East interests. Because the inter-state-clientelism relationship favours the
Middle East powers a senior partner,
Africa is emerging as a theater for Middle East hegemonic conflict or sibling
rivalry with adverse implications
in terms of peace and stability due to growing military assistance and security alliances in the Horn of

v  Africa is Becoming a Theatre of Terrorism with State Fragility: The upsurge of terrorist activities in Africa since 2010 by active
terrorist groups in Somalia, Nigeria, Mali, Burkina Faso, Mozambique and DRC seems to indicate the strength and
successes of Middle East state and
non-state actors in Africa. Al-Qaida in Islamic Maghrib (AQIM), Islamic State
in Greater Sahara (ISGS) Boko Harm,
Jamaat Misrat al-Islam Wal
Musulimeena (JNIM).

The Way Forward

Having seen
some of the mixed implications, we now create a scenario on the future of this relationship. Where future relations must
be based on equality, reciprocity and balance. As it is, the relationship only treats Africa as a mere client, a junior partner.

Collective Security Mechanism: This should focus on various
areas like countering terrorism and the establishment of a joint Middle East-Africa
Force to handle complex security
issues. For every defeat and decrease of extremists/terrorists in the Middle
East, there is a corresponding
increase of such activities in Africa that increases state fragility that require
joint security action.

Deliberate collaboration on maritime security: The Red Sea
route, which is worth more than USD
700 billion needs deliberate collective security mechanism as key to secure
this vital asset.

The relationship should focus on creating anti-piracy
This is a problem for
cargo ships plying the Red Sea route, as well as trafficking of arms and humans, which is too dangerous
for the stability of the two regions

Joint agriculture and food security mechanisms: More than 60
per cent of land in Africa is arable,
which calls for a cooperative framework for investment in Agriculture for food security and jobs can be initiated with Africa
providing the land, while the Middle East provides the capital
for agricultural development

African governments must train human capital: This is in
order to meet the specific labor market needs of Middle Eastern countries
and benefit from opportunities in positive reciprocal economic relations.

Future relation should be on economic partnership on
equal basis:
Relations in the future should shift towards mutual reciprocity, from security, resource
extraction and aid that are generally transactional, and unstructured. Emphasis
should be placed on strategic
commercial and production-based access to markets and opportunities for
shared peace, shared security, and shared prosperity.


speaking, Middle East-Africa relation is increasingly becoming deepened,
particularly since the last two
decades. The deepening and intensifying relations is being predicated on
renewed economic, geo-political,
ideological, trade-cum-investment and security needs, as well as being propelled by sibling rivalry among the
Middle East emerging powers. Much as these factors hold potential for mutual economic growth and development, the Middle
East-Africa relation appears skewed
in favour of the former, which to some extent determines the nature, pattern
and dimension of this relationship.
Especially in the especially in the Horn of Africa, the region has become a theater for Middle East geopolitics where
emerging Middle East powers contest for influence and power, conducted through political co-operation, high-level
visits, diplomatic expansion, strategic alliances
and humanitarian aid. In all these, there are mixed consequences observed. We
have observed the dimension in
regional peace and security dividends in areas of peaceful interventions such as the role in Somalia, Eritrea and
Ethiopia; emerging recognition of the increasing role of the global South with greater potentials of
being galvanized into a predominant politico-economic bloc; the boost in economic and investment portfolio, as well as Africa becoming
a theatre for geopolitical
and ideological power play. Yet, other consequences include the increasing
threats to regional security and stability, weakening of regional
institutions and multilateralism and the balkanization
of some parts of Africa based on the Sunni-Shia dichotomy. For this, we are
seeing Africa becoming a theatre of
terrorism with accompanying state fragility. Tensions in the Middle East is polarizing Africa, creating
additional fault lines in an already volatile and fragile countries in the continent. All these
notwithstanding, the scramble for influence in Africa by the Middle East countries
has provided the continent with another window of importance as a geopolitical determinant in shaping
events and intra-sibling relations in the Middle East, so that Africa is now the new determinant of how relationship
is shaped in the Middle East, which if explored better, will set Africa in another stage of relevance with immense benefit
derivable from the relationship. On the whole, these needs to be refashioned to make Middle East-Africa relations
robust, complementarity and
balanced, which we imagined should guide the future of relations between Africa
and the Middle East.


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