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Vol 46 No 1

Published 7th January 2005

Pan-Africanism meets market economics

Incessant diplomatic shuffling and economic muscle will make South Africa the continent's capital this year

South Africa's omnipresence in the continent's diplomatic and economic initiatives in 2005 will be paralleled by the African National Congress's dominance of national politics. This year President Thabo Mbeki will be involved in critical negotiations in conflicts in Côte d'Ivoire, Sudan, Burundi, Congo-Kinshasa and Rwanda, and Comoros. That is apart from his mediating role in Zimbabwe and Swaziland. Mbeki will face growing criticism that his staggering diplomatic air miles (the substantive negotiations are rarely delegated to Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma or officials) and his New Partnership for Africa's Development are little more than political cover for South Africa's commercial ambitions. That view was reinforced during Mbeki's 31 December visit to Sudan when he omitted to make any reference to Khartoum's mass murder in Darfur (AC Vol 45 No 24) and left clutching a batch of oil concessions. Similar realpolitik would seem to govern warming relations with President Teodoro Obiang's oil-rich dictatorship in Equatorial Guinea. It is also difficult to square with South Africa's sponsorship of NePAD's peer review process, under which African states judge each other's standard of governance.

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