Marking Africa’s Notebook in 2023, Sea and Ports Nostalgia  


By Ambassador Abdul Mahmoud Abdul Haleem

George Weah, the renown Liberian striker remembers his historic goal with Paris Saint-Germain against Bayern Munich team goalkeeper, Kivoallain, within the European Clubs Championship, but he equally remembers with admiration his successful professional experience with such clubs as Monaco, Millan of Italy, Chelsea and Manchester City and Marseille and how he won the Golden Ball for the best footballer of the world. However, his address to the Liberian people in November as an elected president in 2017, was to declare the result of a competition game of different type: the result of the presidential elections which he lost for the opposition candidate Joseph Bowakai. He then said “this night our party has lost but Liberia has won.”. The elections in Liberian which is still coping with the legacy of the civil war, were some of the best positive events that African witnessed last year. Furthermore the continent has seen elections in Sierra lion, Madagascar, Nigeria, and Egypt, coinciding with daunting and tumultuous events topped by the tragic developments in the Sudan, the horrific catastrophes formed by a coalition of natural causes, climatic changes, and nature caused and man-made calamities: thousands of people lost their lives as a result of the flash floods in Libya and the earthquake in Morocco within a continent that has remained vulnerable for political high pressure currents that hit from outside, in the form of cold and hot war and alliances, coalitions and polarizations in the way that could be seen in the conflicting voting of African states on draft resolutions over the war in Ukraine, reflected on the board of the UN General Assembly Hall. Africa has not been spared from the consequences of the disturbing political situation around the world and the Chinese-US competitions and the development of the Arab-Israeli conflict, the Sea ports conflict and the maritime corridors in the Red Sea, the Gulf and the greed on riches and energy and mineral resources. The struggle on resources has taken an important turn, the minerals were once the cause for colonization and the occupation of many countries in the African continent, however, in our days, they have become some of the strongest causes of the outbreak of conflicts, and aggravation of domestic disputes, particularly when there are no national plans that organize the use of these natural and mineral resources. And if it has been noted within this context the increase of the interest of the regional allies of the western powers with the question of natural resources and mineral and the sharp competition amongst them, still the question of ports has become one of the issues that spur tension in the whole region where the nostalgia of Seas and ports and the increasing interest in them have spurred the Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiye Ahmed to announce a need for a direct presence as a sovereign right of his country to have such a presence and added that it was a matter of existence for Ethiopia that would not accept to remain a landlocked. He said his country has always been looking at the Red Sea and at the River Nile as source of its existence or demise.

This statement angered Eritrea and tension in the relations of the two countries rised. Not only that but this brought the entire Horn of Africa into new tension, as Somalia denounced the agreement made between Ethiopia and the Republic of Somaliland, according to which it was decided to grant Ethiopia a naval base and a port on those coastal lands in exchange for a promise of recognition and a share in the Ethiopian airelines. Somalia, which recalled its ambassador from Addis Ababa in protest for consultations, said that what was concluded was a hostile act that undermines the safety and territorial integrity of Somalia.


The President of the Republic of Somaliland, Musa Bihi Abdi, had signed with the Ethiopian Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, a memorandum of understanding for “partnership and cooperation” between the two sides at the conclusion of a visit he made to Ethiopia, whose interactions are expected to continue during the new year…. The agreement came prior to imminent resumption of dialogue between the government of Somalia and the Republic of Somaliland , an initiative spurred by Djiboutian President Ismail Omar Guelleh, who was said to be angered by this move.

Dubai Ports had signed an agreement with the Republic of Somaliland in 2016 worth $442 million to operate a regional commercial and logistics center in the port of Berbera. The two sides also signed another agreement in 2018 to develop a free economic zone project with a share for Dubai Ports amounting to 51 percent of the project… It is not unlikely that Ethiopia will soon demand, as in Last August, it gained membership in the BRICS group, following its summit meetings in South Africa, membership of the “Council of Arab and African States bordering the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden,” an organization that includes Sudan, Egypt, Djibouti, Eritrea, Somalia, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Yemen…

During the year 2023, Africa sought to overcome the effects of the Ukrainian war, the rampant inflation in food prices, and the reactions of Covid-19, to reach, on the other hand, the 2063 development agenda, but the results were not what the planners had envisioned, despite related strategies previously announced to enhance the achievement of these goals, such as the initiative of silencing the guns and launching the African Free Zone project. Growth has continued to decline over the past year, and according to World Bank reports, growth rates, especially in the countries of sub-Saharan Africa, are still weak as a result of the uncertainty surrounding the global economy, the declining performance of the continent’s largest economies, and high inflation rates. The sharp slowdown in investment growth World Bank reports have recommended that African governments, in the face of declining growth rates and high levels of debt, increase focus on achieving macroeconomic stability, mobilizing domestic revenues, reducing debt, and enhancing investments aimed at reducing poverty and famine…

The most important thing announced in 2023 was the decline of France’s influence on the African continent, especially after the overthrow in its Francophone sphere of several regimes last year and the previous two years, the most recent of which was Niger, followed by Gabon, leading to a political and military divorce in Mali, Guinea, and Burkina Faso, and a weakening of its influence in Chad. You may notice that this military overthrow of the aforementioned regimes was received by a broad internal response, and many considered it a “second wave of national liberation” after the first wave in which these countries gained their independence. Others called for the need of seizing this opportunity to create a national consensus that distances the country from subjugation and foreign interference.

The reasons for the decline of French influence in Africa were that it did not provide peace and did not achieve development. It also focused on security and military solutions and did not accompany other models that experience has proven to be effective, such as seeking to develop those regions. It lost the foundations of the French presence, which was originally based on guardianship, colonial superiority, economic exploitation, and a deep network of ties. Economic and also cultural, aiming to form the strength and cultural structure of individuals, their ability to withstand and provide answers to new generations of youth.

Although France will seek to restructure its remaining forces and will not go as far as announcing the withdrawal of its forces as announced by the United States in Afghanistan, France’s decision to close its embassy in Niger constitutes a milestone in the history, present, and future of the French presence in Africa…. Africa looks like a question mark on the world map…let us wait and see what the new year’s fate has in store for it.

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