For over three decades, every Chinese foreign minister’s first overseas trip of the year has been to Africa. This year continued the tradition with China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, visiting Egypt, Tunisia, Togo and Côte d'Ivoire. Notably, every one of these countries is coastal. And yet, at a time of continued speculation over China’s next military installation in Africa, none of these countries has featured prominently as potential locations in previous analyses. We might, therefore, reasonably ask what China’s current considerations are around basing in Africa. Faced with an increasingly multipolar and assertive Africa at a time of domestic economic challenge, however, China’s long-term strategy remains unclear.
The countries of Coastal West Africa are currently facing significant challenges to peace and security as extremist violence spills over from the neighboring Sahel region. Attacks in 2022 in the northern parts of Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, and Togo illustrate the immediacy and gravity of the threat, and governments across the subregion are grappling with protecting fragile communities in the north, addressing porous borders that facilitate attacks from neighboring states, and building the capacity of security forces to address the threat.
The U.S. government has identified stability in Coastal West Africa as a foreign policy priority, engaging five countries in particular — Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, and Togo — through its Strategy to Prevent Conflict and Promote Stability, which was adopted in December 2021. The strategy reflects the U.S. government’s consideration of the five countries as strategic focal points in the fight against transnational terrorism and violent extremism emanating from the neighboring Sahel region.
The Global Fragility Act (GFA) is an ambitious law that makes preventing conflicts and promoting stability in countries prone to conflict a U.S. foreign policy priority. Following years of efforts that overemphasized military operations in response to extremist violence and insurgencies, the GFA requires a long-term investment to address the underlying drivers of conflict. The Biden administration has released a new strategy to implement the GFA with 10-year commitments of assistance to a group of fragile states. The GFA and the new strategy rely, in part, on recommendations made by the USIP-convened Task Force on Extremism in Fragile States.