Conflict and Fragility

Policy briefs

The UAE and China in the Horn of Africa

24 Jun 2021 - 17:23
Bron: The container terminal at the Port of Djibouti, Djibouti / Wikimedia Commons
Implications for EU engagement

‘A careful foot can step anywhere’

Over the last decade, the UAE and China have vastly expanded their economic, political and military footprint in the Horn of Africa, and their actions now have the potential to shape developments in the region. Room for cooperation between Abu Dhabi and Beijing exists on issues such as maritime security, regional stability, and economic development. Moreover, the two countries’ interaction could lead to improvements in the Horn’s underdeveloped infrastructure by triggering a race to investment. Yet, development and stability in the region might suffer if the strategic interests of external players take precedence over local ones, or if local elites (mis)use external support for narrow domestic political calculations. The EU and its member states have high stakes in the Horn’s stability. To optimise their engagement, European policymakers should be aware of the implications of the Emirati and Chinese presence, and they should strive to improve cooperation among the wide range of external players active in the Horn.

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