in: Oxford Research Encyclopedia of International Studies
Studies on African foreign policies, and the process involved with their formation, have received much less attention compared to other aspects of African studies. Most have been in-depth case studies illustrating how foreign policy decisions are centered on common concerns for the region, such as decolonization, nation building, economic and political autonomy, and Cold War competition. As such, most diplomacy is conducted with close neighbors, former colonial powers, or the super powers. Much is also conducted within intergovernmental organizations (IGOs). Interactions with multilateral institutions—the World Bank and IMF—also feature prominently. Most analyses indicate that foreign policy has been in the hands of a president, who has conducted it primarily as a means of consolidating or maintaining domestic rule. African foreign policies also tend to reflect the reality that most are small and weak states. A strand of empirical comparative foreign policy literature on Africa does exist, examining things such as UN voting or level of diplomatic activity. Finally, much literature on African foreign policies is embedded in African international relations and focuses on the choices of leaders within larger historic, material, ideological, and international contexts. Most scholars, but not all, eschew an analysis using a single paradigm: eclectic, historical approaches seem to be more common than either cross-national empirical studies or paradigmatically pristine approaches. With this in mind, African foreign policies must respond to, and evolve with, changing international and regional contexts, especially any with significant shifts in geopolitical power.