Kampala Geopolitics Conference

Destructive Allies, Supportive Enemies? Revealing political influence of the Red Sea Arena

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In recent decades, the Red Sea dividing Africa and the Middle East seems to have shrunk: Gulf states with deep pockets and big appetites are now asserting themselves in the Horn of Africa. While such transitions offer opportunities for development and integration, they also open up risks, especially for the fragile African states on the western shores of the Red Sea. With Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE playing their cards, the Horn of Africa increasingly resembles the colonial power game in which the African states approach their opponents from a position of relative weakness. As Middle East countries seek to expand their influence in the Horn of Africa, they are exporting rivalries to a region that has plenty of its own. In any case, the Red Sea is an emerging arena for competition. At its center is the Bab el Mandeb strait, a narrow shipping corridor through which hundreds of billions of dollars in oil and other exports pass between Europe, Asia, and the Gulf. Will the Red Sea Arena exert influence that reshuffles African priorities?

Meet the Panelists