If the world ever goes to a third World War, God forbid that it happens, Africa is likely to be center stage of involved fighting activity or at least most of it. As such, Africa is likely to take the highest cost in terms of lives and economic damage. I do not intend to be alarmist, and I will not be.
Firstly, as far as my layman’s eyes can see, I do not see a scarily imminent third world war situation, with high chances of maturing on mother earth in the short term.
Secondly, I do not want to insinuate that I can accurately predict a likely scenario of voluntary and deliberate deflecting of a potential third world war stage to African soil.
Thirdly, I know that a third world war would be less hardware-intensive in terms of traditional war ships and other equipment that churned up parts of the world in previous big wars. It would therefore be possible for warring sides to inflict damage on one another without necessarily requiring physical proximity of fighters, which would in a way make the need for a conventional physical battle field less.
However, since a war must involve intense administrative coordination and culminate in one side subduing or wearing out another, it must necessarily include considerable activity on land and that land must pay a price in lives, infrastructure destruction, hunger, mass deprivation and other harsh outcomes. This will not change regardless of how much hi-tech innovations apply to future wars.
I believe that the land to take the hit would be mainly on African soil if a third world war ever played out, and this is why.
The western world’s lessons from World War II are deep
In total, it is estimated that the Second World War could have claimed up to 55million civilian lives. To the USA alone, World War II cost an equivalent of $4trillion in today’s financial terms.
It is said that in the last of the four years that the war took, USA’s defense spending was about 40 percent of GDP. It is estimated that in the fall and winter of 1941 and 1942, Greece was struck by a severe famine with about 100,000 to 200,000 deaths due to the war. A combination of a food blockade and a harsh winter led to a severe hunger crisis in winter 1944 and 1945 in the Netherlands.
About 20,000 deaths there, mainly among elderly men, are attributed to this famine. France estimated the destruction of her physical plant to have been about three times the country’s annual revenues. In Great Britain about 30 percent of the homes were destroyed or damaged.
With the lessons learned from this kind of past devastation, the western world would work extremely hard not to give chance to another global conflict being resolved on their home ground. With the immense pressure to deflect war from their territory, the weakest territory on earth is highly likely to find itself hosting the conflict, unavoidably.
Everyone else has higher capacity to deflect war from their land, except Africa
Africa is the least influential jurisdiction on earth, in virtually all key global matters. Even the capacity to resist unfair treatment is extremely low for the continent.
In a situation of extensive global tension, the rest of the world could decide to ignore the interests of Africa. The rest of the world would not perceive any significant threat that Africa can enforce if the continent’s interests are violated in a global war situation.
If the war erupts about wealth and resources, it is most likely to be fought from source
The great power competition in Africa, mostly coming off between USA and China in recent times, is not an occupation of leisure. None of the powers engages in it as a hobby.
There are many interests that these powers have in Africa and they can be interpreted in equally many ways, but the continent’s resource potential is not so distant from some of those interpretations. If this power competition can manifest signs of severity in times of peace, it would most likely take a catastrophic form in times of heightened tension.
In a global war situation, the struggle for influence in Africa is likely to become one important factor and a key focus area for the powers. This may result in a situation where powers have to resolve the contest for this influence right on African land since no one influences a territory by only remote engagements with it.
While there are no obvious and imminent threats to Africa in the above aspects, there are very high inherent, related exposures to the continent.
Raymond is a Chartered Risk Analyst and risk management consultant