A Multi-Polar World would be a Catalyst for Africa’s Development Ambitions

By Moshi Israel

The distribution of global economic and political power among more than two States is vital to Africa’s development ambitions. The balance of power among several centers of power would curtail the destructive tendencies of hegemonism, unilateralism and great power conflicts. Going back to the cold war era between the USSR and the US, the African continent was a victim of great power politics. This manifested itself through proxy wars, coups and assassinations orchestrated by the two competing blocs of USSR and the United States.

For many years, Africa was only ‘independent’ in theory but practically a brand-new form of colonialism had taken shape. Different African countries were run by governments that shaped their policies in line with the two competing hegemonies of the time. Sanctions, regime change, and war plagued the continent, and it all served the interests of foreign powers with the approval of hand-picked corrupt African leaders.

The bipolar world, dominated by the Soviet Union and the United States and its associated political games left the continent in shambles. First, it was colonialism that exploited the continent and then the cold war came in to finish off an already weak continent. It is important to note that the Soviet Union largely supported Pan-African movements and personalities such as Anti-apartheid movements and Nelson Mandela.

With the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989 and the subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, a new era was ushered into the world. African countries had a new challenge on their hands. The events of 1991, ushered in a new Unipolar world, where the United States remained the sole Hegemon on the global stage. As the world sighed in relief at the end of the cold war and potential nuclear annihilation, the dangers of having an unchecked global power grew exponentially. The United States and allies got entangled in interventionist wars in former Yugoslavia (1995-96), Afghanistan (2001-2021), Iraq (2003-2011), Somalia (2007-present), Libya (2011) and Syria (2014).

The African continent has since kowtowed to the dictates of a rules-based order established by a power that has no competitor. Currently there are nine African countries under US sanctions, which means 1 in 5 African countries. this is in addition to dealing with a system that imposes unfair trade rules on the continent, loans from the World Bank and IMF with unfair structural adjustment requirements. The United Nations on the other hand has also suffered from the dictates of its biggest funder (USA) and cannot curtail the unilateral tendencies of the US and other powers. The UN is supposed to be an organization where African countries should have equal power to other sovereign states.

It would be unfair to claim that the Unipolar reign of the USA has been all bad for Africa. There are instances of good partnership through foreign Aid, and collaboration in the fight against terrorism. Additionally, the United States has also been a great partner when it comes to public health and the fight against deadly pandemics and disease outbreaks such as Ebola, Malaria and HIV/AIDS. However, this relationship has been largely lopsided in the favor of the USA and is also largely overpowered by regime change politics, unfair trade policies and the Master-Servant political engagement from American politicians.

However, the rise of China, itself a country that has suffered similar experiences like the African countries, shines a new light on the horizon. Currently, many countries such as Brazil, India, Japan, Indonesia, China, Russia, and the EU are global economic powers. China and other BRICS member states are pushing for multi-polar world based on Mutual respect and win-win partnerships.

A multi-polar world means the end of Hegemonism, great power conflicts and Unilateralism. African countries should meet this opportunity by taking action to get rid of rampant corruption, ethnicism, illiteracy, civil war through power struggles and religious fanaticism. This can be achieved through building powerful and resilient institutions, good governance, technological innovation, sustainable development, increasing intra-African trade, industrialization, increasing the manufacturing base, investing in smart education systems, and modernizing infrastructure, among others.

A multi-polar world provides room for uninterrupted development, free from unilateral interventions from a powerful nation and free from the insecurity caused by great power competition. As a victim of both these systems, Africa has the right to welcome a multi-polar world based on real equality. The hope for such a world from the entire global south is not merely a naïve outlook or skewed understanding of global politics but a desperate and hopeful longing for a fair, just, and secure global system.

Moshi Israel is a senior Research Fellow with Sino-Uganda Research Centre.




Unilateralism is a Knife to the Throat of Global Order

By Moshi Israel

The international system, best represented by the body of the United Nations and enforced by its Charter is testament to how unity builds strong relationships. The international community runs on relationships among states and a relationship is by default based on mutual respect and cooperation. Therefore, any overtly individualistic and unilateral decisions by one partner only serve to antagonize the relationship because such random actions betray trust. It is obvious that not all countries are economically or socially on the same footing, but the UN charter emphasizes the equality of all sovereign states under international law.

The United States being the sole hegemon after the collapse of the Soviet Union has become the very embodiment of unilateralism in a world best served by a multipolar order. Most of the US’ unilateral actions stem from a short-term strategic desire for self-preservation as the only hegemon on the global stage, a status increasingly being challenged by countries like China. Unfortunately, the relentless desire by the US to be ‘the man’ has placed the entire global system in a choke hold with the United States holding a knife to its throat. The international system is trapped under a hostage situation and the US is not willing to relinquish her grip because that would result in surrendering a huge amount of leverage that leaves her weak and exposed. In other words, the US is also held hostage by its own ambitions which threatens global security and international law.

Realistically, every superpower has had the tendency to act unilaterally to achieve its own interests. From the Roman empire up to the British empire and now the United States. What is unique about the US is the fact that there is an international system in place that is a direct consequence of countries going rogue and acting solely on their interests regardless of how the pursuit thereof affects all others who must share the world with them. The current international system based on the equality and sovereignty of states exists as a lesson learned about the past and as an attempt to never again repeat the evils of the two World Wars. The United States has used its economic and military might to pursue its interests and punish perceived enemies. From the unilateral intervention in Iraq, against protests from the UN to Unilateral sanctions on Iran, Libya, Syria and unsanctioned regime changes in Africa and Latin America. There seems to be no end to the pursuit of American interests.

Charles W. Maynes, a lifelong American Diplomat identified four major reasons why there is concern towards American Unilateralism. First is its lack of restraint. This is mainly because of the military and economic reach of the United States. The US rarely consults its allies or takes into account their interests when going on a unilateral rampage. A good example is the recent position Europe was placed in due to the US’ grudge with Russia in Ukraine. Nothing that is happening in Ukraine benefits any European nation, but the US has gone all in, making sure Russia is defeated in Ukraine no matter the cost to the continent.

Second reason Maynes identifies as a source of concern for US unilateralism is its growing sweep. When the US acts against a country, everyone else is expected to fall in line. And the number of countries targeted have been increasing over the years. The sweeping sanctions over Iran, Cuba, Syria don’t end with them but also punish those that would collaborate with sanctioned regimes. Today the US and allies have placed sanctions on Russia that have thrown global markets in turmoil. Additionally, Donald Trump’s personal trade war with China left collateral damage around the globe.

Another source of concern for US unilateralism is its intrusive character. Maynes employs the example of Jimmy Carter, who after being elected president set a doctrine that no states should consider their human rights record an internal matter. This would be fine if it did not have the potential of being used as pretext to start meddling in other state’s internal affairs. Case in point is Libya, where on pretext of the Responsibility to Protect norm, the United States and NATO overthrew the Ghaddafi Regime. The consequences of this intervention are still being felt across Libya.

The final cause of concern regarding US unilateralism is it’s a historical thrust. This has to do with the US’ indifference to history or historical context. As the US aims to achieve its interests no matter the cost, it spits on history in the long run. The US forgets or does not care that the current multipolar world exists as evidence that Unilateralism does not work. Eventually, someone will stand up. Germany and Japan as allies of the US should serve as examples of the consequences of pursuing one’s interests at the expense of everyone else’s.

It is not a coincidence that China, Russia, Iran are only getting closer because they see the United States as a common threat. Slowly, African nations are looking to the east and away from the west because they are tired of being bullied. How long before the allies in Europe decide that the US has gone too far?  Will the United States keep listening to its most extreme policy pundits and bureaucrats such as former National Security Advisor to President Lyndon B. Johnson, Zbigniew Brzezinski? who in his book on geostrategy encouraged an imperialistic geostrategy whose purpose is “to prevent collusion and maintain security dependence among the vassals, to keep tributaries pliant and protected, and to keep the barbarians from coming together.” Or will the US change course and adapt a more cooperative foreign policy based on mutual respect and win-win partnership?  As things stand, Washington is dancing to Brzezinski’s tune and the world wants to change the music.

The Writer is a Research Fellow at DWC



Development Watch Centre

Kampala - Uganda


Plot 212, RTG Plaza,3rd Floor, Office Number C7 - Hoima Road, Rubaga


+256 703 380252


© DWC - All rights reserved - Cookies Policy - Privacy Policy