Tuesday, 26.03.2024

The Geopolitics of Mega-infrastructure Projects in the Horn of Africa

As part of the regular geopolitical breakfast meetings organized by Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Ethiopia and the Institute of Peace and Security Studies, participants from research and practice came together on 26 March 2024 to discuss the geopolitics of mega-infrastructure in the Horn of Africa.

Long seen as the ultimate solution to the continent's challenges, massive infrastructure projects are now being viewed more critically. The technical benefits seem to blind from the actual socio-political effects and implications of mega-infrastructure projects, which for instance include the reproduction of socio-eco hierarchies due to unequal access to the newly constructed infrastructure. Where to construct which type of infrastructure represents a political choice and can generate performance legitimacy for a certain political regime. This goes hand in hand with the critique of the undemocratic character of the planning and construction process of mega-projects, with alleged efforts such as community consultations seeming mostly performative.

As infrastructures can have such a far-reaching impact as on the sovereignty of states, both sub-national and national level actors need to be considered when it comes to different geopolitical interests and interdependencies within the Horn region. With regard to the foreign sources of financing, also at the center of the discussion, there seems to be more competition, with new players interested in the region’s infrastructure projects. Which player is driven by which geopolitical and economic motives was a highly debated question, with the example of China profiting economically from loan repayments and general dependence due to debt.

The debate provided fertile ground for innovative ideas and general recommendations, such as improving intercontinental or interregional cooperation and adapting to increasing urbanization.

FES and IPSS would like to express their gratitude to the participants and speakers for the enriching inputs and the fruitful debate on this multifaceted topic. The breakfast meeting series is a successful format providing a space for experts and stakeholders to discuss central geopolitical challenges in the Horn of Africa.



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