Geopolitics in Africa is largely couched in the policymaking spirit of the South-South cooperative ideology. It is a poor continent despite the potentials for wealth that can change the balance of power on the globe. Africans interact transnationally over this shared sense of overcoming the poverty and misery that afflict their people, as well as standing up to the bullishness of Euro-American dominance.
The said dominance goes back centuries ago to slavery and colonization. All but two African countries were colonized and sub-Sahara bore the worst brunt of this. There is also the problem of racism on the global scale by which Africans continue to suffer from badly-taught reasons for racial and ethnic differences. Overall, Africans are willing to support each other, especially in opposition to non-continent-based nations. Thus support may be slow and even lack financial benefits but it is there.
Transnational relationships among certain pairs of African countries can be described as frenemies. These are relationships that are friendly although either side recognizes long-standing tensions and the bases for these. Three of these frenemies have been described here.
Ghana and Nigeria
This is most probably the most notable frenemy situation on the African continent. It is virtually impossible to go anywhere on the continent where it is not known that Ghanaians and Nigerians have a kind of relationship that is part love and part hate. The two are most often rated as the biggest West African economies, two English-speaking countries and that in itself brings a competitive edge.
This competitiveness shows itself in sports – soccer being the most popular sport in either country – where the eagerness to bag bragging rights can get both tensed among athletes and fans. There is also the famous jollof rice battles where Ghanaians and Nigerians compete over who makes the best tasting version of that dish. Music and international trade are not spared this competitiveness too.
There is an often unexplored historical cause for this relationship with a theory suggesting that Ghana, as the first sub-Saharan country to win independence, became a sort of model figure for Nigerians. But as Nigeria grew in population and wealth, the relationship moved from mentor-mentee to a clash of who is bigger and better at whatever.
Rwanda and Burundi
Rwanda and Burundi have a decent relationship that is often maintained over the fact they share borders and ethnic groups. There are groups that can be found in both countries, a consequence of colonial demarcations so that ethnic groups did not form nations. The Hutu ethnic group, for instance, is the largest ethnic group in Rwanda and Burundi, contributing up to 80% of the populations in either country.
Nationalism or better, national loyalty, divides these people, however. An attack on the jet carrying Rwanda’s President Juvénal Habyarimana and Burundi’s President Cyprien Ntaryamira among others on April 6, 1994, sparked the violence that is the Rwandan genocide which resulted in the mass killing of over 800,000 people, most of them from the minority Tutsi ethnic group. The massacre happened in less than four months.
Burundians were not part of the war although Hutu and Tutsi people in that country chose sides. But in terms of their national loyalty, Burundians often remind themselves that their president was killed as result of Rwandan local politics. This reminder has been known to cause a fraught relationship at times.
Morocco and Algeria
Morocco and Algeria have the kind of relationship that has not necessarily gotten bad or violent but that is marked with resignation to stop trying to make it better. This relationship started well because Morocco was the most explicitly supportive regional friend Algerians had during the Algerian War of Independence against France. Morocco provided ammunition, money and a base to Algerian rebel forces.
But when Morocco decided to make Western Sahara a part of its kingdom, things went sour. Algeria perceived this move as an imperialist tactic on the part of Morocco to force submission from other Maghrebian nations. Algeria chose to support the Polisario Front, the pro-independence military movement in Western Sahara, against Morocco. Algiers has been supportive of Polisario for more than 30 years.
Morocco has also been accused of funding instability in Algeria, during the latter’s civil war. Morocco denies all of these accusations and has been unwilling to let go of Western Sahara. Both countries maintain an embassy in the other’s capital and sometimes cooperate against fundamentalist Islamic terrorism.