The Geopolitical Rivalry of Foreign Powers in the Horn of Africa: Exploring the Dynamics, Risks, and Opportunities with a Special Focus on Ethiopia

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Addis Abeba Universty


The Horn of Africa has been a geopolitical contestation, battleground, and cheeseboard for antagonistic foreign powers since historic times. The rivalry has now reached its peak, making the region the most militarized and security zone in the world. The study's general objective is to explore this geopolitical rivalry of foreign powers in the HOA, with a particular focus on Ethiopia. The research used an exploratory research design and qualitative approach. In order to gather primary data, the researcher conducted in-depth interviews with purposively selected key informants. Secondary data were thoroughly reviewed and used to complement and substantiate the primary data. Thematic analysis was used to analyze the collected data. Aside from empirical literature, three theories were used to frame the entire research: classical geopolitical theory, realism or neorealism, and regional security complex theory. The study's findings indicate that the HOA is experiencing new and tough geopolitical rivalry driven by geo-strategic, geo-economic, geo-security, vigilant containment, and resource competition. The region is experiencing new geopolitical rivalry between three groups: the West, the East, and the Middle East (Middle brokers) framed by realism and classical geopolitical theories. There is complex geopolitical rivalry formation of military bases, and training posts, as well as geo-economic rivalry in the commercial ports, investment, trade, and loan. China is influential in economic rivalry, and the West has tried various strategies to counter its influence. Since the 2011 Arab Spring, the Middle Eastern powers also played a significant role in the HOA geopolitical rivalry. Internal discontent among Middle Eastern groups is exported to the HOA, exacerbating the regional situation. The geopolitical rivalry brings both risks and opportunities to Ethiopia and RSCT has clearly applied and risks and opportunities are easily spilled to the region. The rivalry posed a peace and security risk, exacerbating internal instability and adversarial powers may exploit the internal situation as an advantage to destabilize Ethiopia. The militarization of the littoral states and the regional arms race posed a threat to the safe utilization of ports and could block the importation of arms. It also heightened the GERD tension and could obstruct the construction process. If Ethiopia manages the regional dynamics properly, the rivalry has many opportunities such as economic, regional stability, and Ethiopia could be a diplomatic champion of the non-aligned groups. Recommendations for the betterment of the region and Ethiopia are also clearly stated in the study. The paper stated that the issue is ongoing and needs further research and theoretical assessment.



Containment, Geopolitics, GERD, HOA, Middle East, Non-Aligned