Africa's Continental Divide: The Birth of a New Geopolitical Era of Prospects and Challenges
Arindam Goswami
Abstract

The African continent has been regarded as a unified landmass for centuries, sheltering diverse cultures, resources, and languages. However, recent geological studies have revealed the birth of a rare and extraordinary phenomenon occurring in the continent that is set to shape the course of African history. According to Geophysical Research Letters, a peer-reviewed research journal, the continent could potentially split into two separate regions due to the formation of the East African Rift. Found in the deserts of Ethiopia in 2005, this 35-mile-long crack marked the beginning of the creation of a new sea. However, such a situation also brings forward the geopolitical dilemma pertaining to the continent with challenges to its borders, as well as allocation of the resources. This article aims to provide the potential geopolitical evolution with implications on security, regional integration and its impact on the global balance of power.

Introduction

The Earth is a dynamic and ever-changing planet, which is being constantly shaped by geological phenomena that ultimately affect our lives and social occurrences. One such phenomenon that has piqued the world’s attention is the splitting of Africa into two new continents, with the formation of a new ocean highly expected in the process with the potential for the evolution of the geopolitical scenario encompassing it. The African continent has been regarded as a unified landmass for centuries, sheltering diverse cultures, resources, and languages. However, recent geological studies have revealed the birth of the rare and extraordinary phenomenon, occurring in the continent that is set to shape the course of African history. This remarkable phenomenon, known as East African Rift System, occurs along a vast fault line stretching from Ethiopia to Tanzania. The geological forces at work in this process are immense, as the African plate is gradually pulling apart from the Arabian plate, creating a rift zone that is widening at an average rate of one inch per year (Cloete 2023). Over millions of years, this process will result in the separation of the African continent into two distinct parts, with the creation of a new ocean between them.

With vast and multifaceted implications, the significant geopolitical, economic and environmental impacts could reshape the world which includes the creation of new nations being potential along with borders, the development of new trade routes and the possibility for increased competition over resources, the splitting of Africa has the capacity to significantly alter the continent's political and economic landscape and beyond. Simultaneously, the emergence of a new ocean could have profound strategic and environmental impacts, reshaping the geopolitical landscape. It will further present new challenges and opportunities, with the formation of new chokepoints and sea lanes, changes in ocean currents and temperature, and the potential for new marine ecosystems to emerge.

This article will explore the possible geopolitical, economic and environmental implications of the splitting of Africa into two new continents and the creation of a new ocean. It will further examine the prospects and challenges pertaining to this process, from the impact on existing trade routes and the balance of power in the region as well as supplemental anticipation presented by this geological marvel.

Redefining African Borders

The splitting of Africa into two new continents will bring the prospect of redefining the borders. As the continental rifting process continues, new land masses will develop, and current borders and territories will need to be renegotiated. This could lead to potential challenges in the political systems as new nations emerge, as the East African Rift System will only affect parts of nations such as Kenya (First Post 2023). One of the biggest challenges that the existing nations will have to address is the need to redefine their borders. With new nations emerging, it is evident to see the possibility of having their own political system which brings the potential to create new borders and the allocation of resources which would be of high priority.

Moreover, the process of redrawing African borders could have significant implications for the existing regional organisations and agreements such as the African Union as well as the East African Community (EAC). These organisations may need to modify their structures and policies to accommodate new nations as they emerge, which might result in alterations to the balance of power and regional politics. Furthermore, the emergence of new nations would bring the prospects for significant implications, particularly for the minority groups who could feel alien living in these new nations or residing outside of newly established borders.

Creation of new maritime borders could be another potential impact due to the approaching geological change. The creation of a new ocean could simultaneously have significant strategic and environmental implications, changing the geopolitical landscape and creating new possibilities and challenges for countries in the area and beyond. New chokepoints and sea routes might drastically change global trade patterns and provide coastal governments new geopolitical options. In addition to creating new fishing grounds, mineral riches, and energy resources, the new ocean may also encourage regional competitiveness and cooperation. However, the complication of these negotiation processes could create further challenges. On the other hand, these new maritime borders could also give birth to new opportunities for cooperation between the African nations such as jointly utilising offshore oil and gas reserves for mutual benefits.

The establishment of new maritime borders may have wider geopolitical implications in addition to potential shifts in resource management. In this regard, the emergence of other additional EEZs would allow African nations greater influence over their marine resources, thereby boosting their position in the region's politics and economy. At the same time, since external actors like China, India, and the United States have been increasing their presence in the area, the establishment of new maritime borders could have an impact on their strategic objectives. In order to get access to important resources or key locations, these nations may seek to enhance their relations with African states. Ultimately, resource management, geopolitical relations, and the strategic interests of external actors may all be significantly impacted by the establishment of new maritime borders as a result of the geographic division of Africa. It will be crucial for African countries to collaborate in order to effectively handle shared resources and enhance regional peace and development as negotiations over new maritime borders would come into progress.

Resource Competition in a Changing Landscape

Another significant outcome due to this geological phenomenon would be the increased competition for resources - creating new challenges for nations, particularly in the new ocean that will form between the two continents. New landmasses might open up fresh opportunities for resource development and exploration, while also posing emerging challenges for countries that depend on shared resources. Water is one of the most important assets that might be impacted by the division of Africa. New land masses might form rivers and lakes, which would change how much water is available and how it is used throughout the continent. It may be necessary for nations to create new water-sharing arrangements, which might be difficult and politically contested, possibly leading to further challenges.

There could be massive oil and gas deposits in the new ocean that will arise as a result of the splitting of Africa. Coastal nations could contend with one another for the right to explore and harvest these resources, including Somalia, Kenya, and Tanzania. If oil and gas deposits are found in contentious regions, in particular, this might result in tensions and territorial escalation. Significant oil and gas deposits are anticipated to be present in the new ocean that would arise as a result of the division of Africa into two new continents. According to calculation in the East African area, which includes coastal nations like Kenya, Somalia, and Tanzania, contains prospective reserves of 27 billion barrels of oil and 441 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of natural gas (USGS 2012). Due to this potential, the area is among the most important in the world for future hydrocarbon exploration and production. Coastal states may compete with each other to explore and extract these resources. There are already signs of growing competition, with few countries in East Africa granting licenses for oil and gas exploration in their territorial waters. However, some of these areas are also subject to territorial disputes, such as the dispute between Somalia and Kenya over maritime borders in the Indian Ocean (Dahir 2021). Such disputes could complicate oil and gas exploration in the area and potentially lead to further tensions with the emergence of new nations.

With the creation of a new ocean, there is the potential for new mineral deposits to be discovered in the seabed. The geological processes that lead to the formation of new ocean basins often result in the deposition of minerals and ores, such as manganese nodules, iron, and nickel sulphides, and rare earth elements. Additionally, the splitting of Africa could create new opportunities for mineral exploration and development in the newly formed continents. For example, the East African Rift, which is the region where the splitting of Africa is occurring, is already known to have significant geothermal resources, which could be further developed to produce clean energy.

The region's economy may be significantly impacted by the prospect of new mineral discoveries and the utilisation of current resources. To prevent environmental deterioration and societal unrest, these resources must be utilised in a responsible and sustainable way. It is worth noting that the development of mineral resources in Africa has historically been accompanied by social and environmental challenges, including displacement of communities, human rights abuses, and environmental degradation (Mabikke 2012). Therefore, it is crucial that any new developments in the region are conducted with a strong emphasis on social and environmental responsibility. Overall, the splitting of Africa into two new continents will lead to increased competition for resources, creating new challenges and opportunities for African nations. It will require careful management and collaboration to ensure that the process is equitable and that the outcomes are beneficial for all stakeholders.

Impact on Existing Trade Routes

The splitting of Africa resulting in the creation of two new continents and a new ocean could have significant impacts on the existing trade routes in the region. As a major hub for international trade and commerce, any disruption to its transport networks in the continent could have ripple effects throughout the global economy. One of the most significant impacts of the split which is of high potential would be the formation of a new maritime trade route which would further lead to the creation of new chokepoints. For example, the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden could become more strategically important as they may be used as an alternative route to the new ocean.

However, these trade routes may also transit vulnerabilities, which could impact global shipping and security such as the increased risk of piracy and other threats. International shipping has been seriously concerned about the potential of piracy in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden for a number of years. Due to the existence of armed pirate groups that have been known to hijack ships for ransom, the waterways off the coast of Somalia have been particularly hazardous. A new trade route between the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden may make these seas more vulnerable to piracy, especially if maritime traffic rises.

Existing land-based trade routes may be impacted by Africa's division as well. To account for the altered geography, several of the present major commerce channels, like the Northern Corridor, may need to be realigned. This may affect how much is invested in infrastructure, how trade occurs, and how communities and businesses that depend on these routes might be affected.

Moreover, the split may lead to the emergence of new economic powers and trade blocs, which could compete with existing regional groupings such as the African Union and the Southern African Development Community. For example, the creation of a new coastline and ocean could lead to the emergence of new port facilities and trade hubs, which could attract new investments and commercial activity. Overall, the impact of a new ocean will affect existing trade routes in a complicated and diverse way, with possible benefits as well as drawbacks that policymakers, businesses, and other stakeholders would need to carefully examine.

Changes in Power Dynamics

The splitting of Africa into two new continents represents a seismic shift in the geopolitical landscape of the continent, with significant implications for power dynamics and global influence. As the emergence of new landmasses and nations transforms the political and economic map of Africa, it is likely that power centres will shift, and new alliances and partnerships will form. The division of the continent will allow emerging players to establish themselves on the global stage, potentially challenging existing regional powers and disrupting traditional power dynamics. The realignment of alliances and the emergence of new economic centres may lead to a redistribution of wealth and influence, creating both opportunities and challenges for African nations.

The African continent splitting could potentially have a major impact on regional organisations like the African Union, which brings forward the dilemma of division of the African Union into two new regional organisations as the split takes place. With the current headquarters of AU situated in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, the continental drift could lay foundation for major changes pertaining to the organisation, necessitating adaptation and reform to take into consideration with the evolving circumstances of the continent. Furthermore, the allocation of a new African Union headquarters comes into place whether it would be situated in Northern Africa or a newly defined Sub-Saharan region.

However, the changes pertaining to the continental drift are beyond the region itself, with the increasing impact of West Asia, United States, China and India in the continent. The creation of a new ocean would increase the importance of the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea, increasing the opportunities for trade among the regions which would lead to the emergence of new chokepoints and ports. However, it also brings the prerequisite to tackle certain issues such as piracy which has interrupted maritime trade and driving up shipping prices as insurers raise their rates on ships and owners employ guards to safeguard personnel, driving up the cost of business as a whole. Although the Gulf of Guinea has surpassed the Gulf of Aden as a hotspot for piracy, continuous unrest in that area carries the risk of undoing those accomplishments (Columbo 2023). With piracy being one of the most crucial issues, it could lead to the establishment of strong collaborations to tackle the issue.

The priority of the U.S. after the continental drift would also be of very crucial importance as an external actor with its active role in combating piracy as well as making an effort to mediate issues. With its recent role in the peace agreement between Ethiopia and Tigray, marks their presence to be exceptional. On the other hand, Kenya is the most capable and reliable security partner for Washington in East Africa (Bellamy 2022). A successful strategy for the United States in Africa involves higher commerce and investment with democratic and enhancing partners like Kenya which would have significant implications in the aftermath of the continental shift and the changing geopolitical scenario.

Since the founding of the People's Republic of China (PRC) in October 1949, Beijing has had an African policy. China's strategy has evolved over the years since it was established. Africa has undergone significant changes, from Mao Zedong's ideological approach that concentrated on political concerns to Deng Xiaoping's economic cooperation (Bhatia 2021). With further engagement in the region through the Belt and Road Initiative, China has established a significant strategic position. As governments modify their foreign policy, China's military and security ties with African states are expected to expand, posing new challenges for long-standing security allies of African countries like the United States. According to Herbert, bilateral agreements established as part of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) have given China access to key places on the continent where it can defend a larger military presence. (Herbert 2021). This makes China’s position to be pivotal in the strategic and political implication of the continental rift. However, with growing concerns in various parts of Africa in regards to policies pertaining to BRI, contention of such position could be taken into consideration.

The relationship between India and Africa has its roots in history, from the colonial era's emotionally motivated desire for democracy to the post-colonial era's interpenetration of Indian culture, which gave rise to the present Indian diaspora. In the current world, there are many compelling reasons to think that the two may work together for mutual benefit, maintaining optimism as its top priority. The anti-colonial solidarity, goodwill among the diaspora, and a profound feeling of genuine "South-South" collaboration, firmly founded in the spirit of evolving together as equals, which unites both sides to this day, have long been a part of India and Africa's cultural, economic, and political interactions. From the days of shared colonial struggle, which introduced Gandhi into the picture, to a developing and complicated 21st-century collaboration under the framework of South-South Cooperation, the cooperation between Africa and India has come a long way. The spirit of co-development on an equal footing is the finest lens through which to view the bilateral relationship between India and Africa. With India's involvement, the long term is prioritised, growing Africa's production capacity, diversifying knowledge and skills, and making investments in small and medium-sized businesses.

The splitting of Africa into two continents and the formation of a new ocean could have significant implications for India, particularly in terms of economic and strategic interests. The geopolitical implications of the split could also impact India's strategic interests in the region. The formation of a new ocean could lead to the emergence of new maritime security challenges, which could impact India's security interests. One potential area of opportunity for India could be in the development of new trade routes and transportation infrastructure in the region. The splitting of Africa could create new opportunities for shipping and transportation, and India could leverage its expertise in these areas to help drive economic growth and development in the region.

In addition to these economic opportunities, the split of Africa could also have significant strategic implications for India. The new ocean could create new chokepoints and transit vulnerabilities, which could impact global shipping and security. Along with that, the changes pertaining to the split could also affect the Western Indian Ocean with significant implications. Overall, India's relationship with the continent will be significantly impacted by the division of Africa and the formation of a new ocean. While there are certainly risks and challenges associated with these changes, there are also significant opportunities for India to deepen its engagement and expand its influence in the region.

Environmental Impact

The splitting of Africa into two new continents will also have a profound environmental impact on the continent and the wider world. Communities, and numerous species of fauna and flora will be uprooted when the plates continue to separate in the future as a result of this event. Climate change will have an effect on these changes, which will lead to environmental deterioration. Increased populations and rapid urbanisation will strain natural resources, resulting in a shortage of food, energy, and water. The disposal of uncontrolled trash will likewise be a major challenge. In addition, habitat changes will cause the extinction of some species and the endangerment of others. Despite the fact that human relocation is nothing new, the intensity, frequency, and breadth of environmental catastrophes are all being increased by climate change (Kaur and Kumari 2023).

Conclusion

The East African Rift System's potential to divide Africa into two continents and create a new ocean would have profound geopolitical, economic, and environmental effects. There would be potential for new trade and investment with the formation of new shipping routes, ports, and marine ecosystems, but there would also be obstacles in terms of infrastructure investments, power dynamics, and security. Along with that, the potential significant geopolitical changes pertaining to the continental drift, does put the necessity to deeply emphasis upon the security intimation. However, although the dynamics of geopolitics does not determine the accurate significant alterations, it is to be noted that the current implications will have major effects and perhaps, act as a motivation for the required changes. Although abrupt events like the splitting faults might make continental rifting seem significant, the process itself is exceedingly slow and may even go unnoticed as it gradually divides Africa.

References

(The paper is the author’s individual scholastic articulation. The author certifies that the article/paper is original in content, unpublished and it has not been submitted for publication/web upload elsewhere, and that the facts and figures quoted are duly referenced, as needed, and are believed to be correct). (The paper does not necessarily represent the organisational stance... More >>


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