Reflections on living and dying nations: Space and time in Africa geopolitcs

Reflections on living and dying nations: Space and time in Africa geopolitcs

International Journal of African Studies, Vol. 1, No. 1, March 2021, pp. 14-23.

Marcel Kitissou


This paper is a reflection on the influence of time and space on Africa in geopolitics. It proposes that, while history, in the long-run is perceived as linear, in the short-term it is granular. To make sense of events, one must connect the dots between cluster of times. The analysis builds on the May 1898 statement of the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Lord Salisbury, assessing the geopolitics of his time as made of living nations and dying nations. He characterized the living nations as having the tendency to encroach on the territory of the dying ones. The statement implies a combination of geography and a reference to biological processes with implication of space and the vicissitudes of time involved. The processes of living and dying take time and imply occupying a space. As the living states encroach on the territory of the dying, borders become, beyond their internationally recognized physical demarcations, breathing, and living entities with expanding (or shrinking) virtual borders. This concept is referred to as peri-corporal space in the paper. To test this hypothesis, the United States’ international influence and the global status China now enjoys are analyzed. Also, the de facto Franco-African state (Françafrique lost its legitimacy due to a combination of events in the 1990s), as a typical case, is used to illustrate when, why, and how the expansion of one nation’s virtual border reduces the margin of action of other states.

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