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In discussing the foreign policies of Africa and the developing countries, it is not possible to discuss the foreign policies of each individual African country or developing country, rather we see their foreign policies articulated in various multilateral bodies and their activities like the Non-aligned Movement, Economic Community of West African States, Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and the African Union. In this unit, our interest is to examine the bearings of this conceptualization of foreign policy collectively with a few country examples.


At the end of this unit, you should be able to:

  1.  Discuss the ramifications of foreign policy; 
  2.  Discuss foreign policy in the context of multilateralism; 
  3. Discuss the developing world in relation to military expenditures; 
  4. Discuss foreign policy of African countries in relation to ideology. 


3.1 Background to the Foreign Policies

During the first Afro-Asian conference in Bandung, in April 1955, the Chinese Premier Chou En-Lai had attended, and had a chance of meeting the Egyptian leader Gamel Abdel Nasser. Soon after, we saw that Egypt politically recognized Communist China and established firm trade and cultural relations. This development was one of the major achievements of the Bandung conference.

One major outcome of this conference was the establishment of an
“Afro-Asian Solidarity Committee” which held its first conference in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, from December 1957, to January 1958. And the second conference was followed in Conakry, Guinea, in 1960. It may be recalled that in the 1960s, the wind of change which blew across the continent of Africa also brought with it independence to many African states. As these African States became independent, they continued to maintain relations with the Asian countries.

Non-alignment has always been the greatest linkage since then, between Africa and the countries of the so-called Third World. India, more than any other Asian country, has had a long contact and involvement on the African continent. It could be remembered that at the beginning of the last century, Mahatma Gandhi founded the Natal Indian to bring about social change and justice in South Africa from 1906-1914. When India  achieved independence in 1947, Mr. Nehru, the Prime Minister, led the struggle in the United Nations for the decolonization of Africa. This
historic-cultural linkage has therefore shown the relationship between Africa and Asia even before the Bandung conference (1958). In 1960, before the independence in East and Central Africa, there were about one million Indians living as semi-permanent residents in Africa.
Most of them were living in the Natal province of South Africa since 1860s because of the labour demand. There are other linkages today between Africa and the countries of the world apart from the highest

one-nonalignment. For example, the Commonwealth of Nations provides a linkage between Africa and Asia on the hand, and the West Indies on the other. The OPEC is another major linkage of Africa and West Indies World countries, as well as the Commonwealth of Nations.

3.2 Third World Nations or Developing Countries

Many people define this concept of the “Third World” variously. Some see it as the developing nations of the world, the non-whites, uncommitted peoples, who are tied neither to the Communist caste nor the capitalists next, but who are essentially a third, neutral force. Recently, the peoples of this world do not like to see themselves as neutral but as nonaligned. Frantz Fanon saw the Third World as “the Wrenched of the earth” committed to socialism. Whatever definition one uses to describe this world, one thing at least is very certain about it. It is one of the most dynamic forces in history-oppressed peoples (outside of Europe) who are still struggling by

various means to break away their relationship of dependence on the imperialist world. Their struggle has taken the form of mass demonstrations, strikes, passive resistance, and in some instances, armed protracted warfare. They have been trying to choose the form of social development, which will give them happiness, peace and security. But they still cannot succeed, as there are many imperialist forces that are working against their attempt to be free.  At any rate, one cannot deny this world of the “third force”, its historical place in world history in the sense that more than 100 states comprise it. Over two-thirds the world population also live in it. These third world countries vary enormously. Their third world differences can be seen in their history, cultural development, the pre-history of their political independence and their present place in the existing international division of labour. There are enormous differences in their economies and potential, their socio-economic structure, the character of their power and many other important different features. The most important difference is the choice of their paths of development.

China tried to lead the Third World in the wake of her rise with the former Soviet Union. But many Afro-Asian countries especially suspect that China, which is now possessing nuclear capability, has proved to be another superpower with tendencies to determine and control her spheres of influence in an attempt to compete with the former Soviet Union and the United States. This is the main reason why China cannot be allowed to lead the Third World. In addition to this reason, it is not a member of the Nonaligned Movement. China also has a permanent seat in the Security Council of the United Nations.

In his speech to the special General Assembly session in 1974, the Chinese spokesman, Deputy Premier Teng Esaio-peng, labeled the two superpowers (the former Soviet Union and the United States) as the First World, competing for hegemonic exploitation of the whole planet. Then he put West Europe and Japan in the second World, and finally place China in the third World.

World military expenditures are now in the region of $300 billion a year. Which is nearly $55 million every hour of every day, and they continue to rise. The military alliances and the superpowers in particular, are the great military spenders of our time. The Third World countries are being involved in this mad and senseless project. In the developing areas where there are many military regimes, the military expenditure are growing very rapidly.  This arms race is surely depriving mankind of enormous financial and human resources. What is even being transferred from rich and poor

countries in the form of financial resources only amounts to about one- thirtieth of world military expenditures. The money being wasted on these military expenditures are 163 times more than the sum spent on peace and development through the United Nations system. Almost half the world’s scientists and engineers (about 500,000 of them) devote their skills to military research and
development, at a cost between $20 and $25 billion every year. This huge amount of money can be used to feed the hungry who number hundreds of millions in and around the world. The money can be used also to provide improved living conditions and give shelter to hundreds of millions who needed them all over the world. Several hundreds of millions, especially children in the Third World
countries, need health facilities very desperately, but they never can get them. As a result they die daily. In short, the picture of human suffering in the Third World is devastating. The whole slogan of the United Nations of peace and peaceful coexistence has no practical meaning so
long as $35 million is being wasted every hour of day in the arms race. It will be very sane for those concerned with this mad development of massive arms to remember the fact that the poor can no longer sit back and watch their destruction without doing anything to destroy the existing structure. This, we fear, can bring the life of the world to an abrupt ending. The continent of Africa definitely shares a very serious concern with the rest of the third world countries about the economic and social
consequences of the arms race. This is why the Africa group in the United Nations always team up with the rest of the peace-loving members of the world body in supporting all the resolutions to the arms race.

Outside its negative economic and social consequences, the arms race was also felt by the experts “to exacerbate international tension. The stock piling of weapons and the continuing development of more sophisticated new arms could only generate more suspicion and greater tension than existed at the start of the arms build-up.” There are today, biological, chemical, nuclear and atomic weapons of human destruction. Africa and the rest of the third world countries more especially are becoming much more threatened because this tend to provoking hostile reactions on their part. And it will continue to do so, so long as the development prevails. The threat of terrorism are epitomized in the
September 11, 2001, US bombings has not helped matter. The UN General-Secretary warned in his foreword to the report of the experts:

“The perils which military expenditures brought in their wake have become so acute to provide man with the means of his own ultimate destruction. Security cannot, therefore, be achieved by further accumulation of destructive power”. In all these international developments, Africa’s main concern is the same third world countries. That is, the whole question of choosing which road of social development to take. The capitalist, which has enslaved the colonized, and still neo-colonizing them, or the socialist that has allowed the former Soviet union and a number of other socialist countries in the world to achieve fantastic techno-economic development in the shortest time possible. However, to choose one of the paths is still the major confusion confronting the Third World. The countries of this world incidentally, (Africa is right inside), are not clear about their position of social development – whether it is transfer or acquisition of technology or the development of traditional technology. As the role of the Third World countries in international economies and polities grows, the ideological struggle over the course along which these countries will develop becomes more intensified. The peoples of the Third World were being bamboozled that their backwardness was “the product of internal, hard-to define cause, demographic, geographic, historico-cultural, and so on.

There-in lies the basic methodology being used by some western scholars of the capitalist world so that they can keep the destiny of the struggling peoples of this neglected world forever into their control. Their methodology is a deductive descriptive type. They try to define the indefinable and give all kinds of explanations that are quite abstract, and which have no connection with the objective conditions whatsoever. In this trend, however, they convert many of the Third World fallen comrades.

In recent years, when the capitalist system began to be shaken by the contradictions it has created (social crises of all sort), there have been numerous studies (by Gunnar Myrdal, Raul Prebisoh, John Gibson, and others) of the path of development and sources for modernization in the Third World, Neo-Malthusian and Neo-Keynesian theorists of the “Club of Rome” and the “MIT” have all attempted to demonstrate that the Third World is doomed to failure in its search for economic independence per se.
Their destructive-description methodology essentially negates the study of a key techno-economic law underlying the growth of production and the overall development of the Third World. They “believe that all the evils of capitalism are due to the fluctuations of effective demand and believe that these can be overcome through appropriate regulation of the economy by the state”.

This is their type of argument, which they have been putting into the Third World. And from all indications, this thesis is accepted in most quarters of the developing World. This is the main reason why there is confusion in the Third World because the peoples understand the dangers of imperialism, but they decided to destroy it by changing to scientific socialism. They cover up with such doctrines as indigenisation, privatization, deregulation, etc. If they turn the other side
of the coin, they will find that the social laws of development discovered by Karl Marx may be the cure to their problems. Marx observed many years ago that:

If however, society as a subject matter of scientific endeavour is a complex of relations qualitatively
distinctive on its own level and not simply an amalgam of individuals who compose it, or of atomic matter to which all existence may be wisdom in methodology to presume
that social relations are governed by objective laws which are not reducible to psychological and physical laws and which beyond the reach of introspection, however discerning it may be.
The Third World countries should not be deceived by the new economic theories, which are said to be based on quantitative analysis. Among the leading British theories in this regard are the economists of the Cambridge School (Piero Straffa, Joan Robinson and Nicholas Kaldor).
Kurihara has attacked their position when he said that the argument of growth theory by Joan Robinson was not logical. He said “She is interested in explaining the fundamental nature of economic growth according to the capitalist rules of the game. Most of these Keynesian and neo-Keynesian theorists are clearly related to the renowned theory of the “external push” which considers private and state monopoly investment as the only way to overcome difficulties.
In any case, Marxist researchers have taken their point of departure to be the close connection of the internal processes of socio-economic development in the Third World countries with the entire course of international development. Therefore, the fundamental point of departure of the socio-economic nature and prospects of development in the Third World countries should be a truly scientific study of their socio-economic structure. The cause of their techno-economic backwardness vis-à-vis their state of underdevelopment is the capitalist mode of production. And that way

forward for their development is only the elimination of capitalism itself. If they do not struggle to change their mode of production from private to public ownership, they will continue to remain in this ‘third force’. They should face the exact nature of material reality that exists in the world economy. Failure to do so will never end their economic dependence of the imperialist powers.

Self Assessment Exercise

What do you understand by the Third World? Discuss this in relation to development.


Foreign policies of Africa and of the developing countries can only be understood in relation to the positions articulated in multilateral bodies representing their interests. To this extent, the group of developing countries of which there are many groups and the African Union (AU), have collectively tried to implement their foreign policies in a coordinated manner. However, oftentimes, the issues at stake determine the extent an individual country is willing to concede to a multilateral stance or position.


We have discussed foreign policies in relation to multilateralism. We also discussed the third world and the ideological underpinnings of capitalism and socialism in relation to the growth of the third world. However, it is important to note that in the present times, it is more psychologically satisfying to use the term ‘developing countries’ as this implies that there is optimism that such countries will be able to move to higher levels of development.


i) What is Foreign Policy? How can foreign policies of African countries be projected?
ii) How relevant is ideology in the foreign policies of African countries?


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