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The impact of foreign relations between Sub-Saharan Africa and the Arab Golf states on African migrants in the region


  • Kohnert, Dirk


As early as 1991, Ali Mazrui argued that the Red Sea was not suitable for separating Africa from Arabia. The two regions were inextricably intertwined through languages, religions (particularly Islam) and identities in both the Sahara and the Red Sea in a historical fusion of Arabism and African identity. Their separation was closely linked to a broader trend in which the white world closed ranks and created a system of global apartheid. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates increasingly viewed the Horn of Africa as their ‘Western security flank’. They were united in their desire to prevent the growing influence of Turkey, Iran and Qatar in this part of the world. These Gulf rivalries formed the basis for growing economic cooperation with SSA as well as military support and security alliances, particularly in the Horn of Africa. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which together have become the largest Gulf investors in Africa, compete with each other, particularly with Qatar, which has established embassies in most SSA countries. In addition, state and non-state actors from the Middle East and North Africa were closely involved in the destabilization of the Sahel in the 2010s by providing military, intelligence and ideological support to SSA states and terrorist groups. On the other hand, the Gulf States became increasingly dependent on migrant labour and the steady increase in migration from SSA to these countries, reinforced by the massive influx from African migrant-sending countries given the restrictions on African migration to Europe. As early as the seventh century AD, Arabia had relied heavily on the slave trade and the supply of labour from SSA, founded on the philosophy that it was legitimate to enslave black people because they were no better than animals. During this time, Black Africa became the largest slave depot in the Islamic world. To this day, there are significant African migrant and diaspora communities in the Middle East. Their presence has at times helped to perpetuate long-standing derogatory views and attitudes towards Africa and its peoples. These attitudes, based on an Arab-centric social hierarchy and expressing contempt for African cultures, remain prevalent today and shape social relationships between employers and African migrants in the emirates of the Arabian Peninsula.

Suggested Citation

  • Kohnert, Dirk, 2023. "The impact of foreign relations between Sub-Saharan Africa and the Arab Golf states on African migrants in the region," MPRA Paper 119234, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:119234

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Kohnert, Dirk, 2022. "The impact of Russian presence in Africa," MPRA Paper 112554, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Brendon J. Cannon & Federico Donelli, 2020. "Asymmetric alliances and high polarity: evaluating regional security complexes in the Middle East and Horn of Africa," Third World Quarterly, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 41(3), pages 505-524, March.
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    4. Steinberg, Guido, 2020. "Regional power United Arab Emirates: Abu Dhabi is no longer Saudi Arabia's junior partner," SWP Research Papers 10/2020, Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (SWP), German Institute for International and Security Affairs.
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    More about this item


    GCC; Middle East; Arabian Peninsula; Arab states of the Persian Gulf; Sub-Saharan Africa; Red Sea; Horn of Africa; Yemen; Arab Spring; Sahel; Islamic terrorism; Arab slave trade; Arab nationalism; Islam; Culture of Africa; migrant workers; human trafficking; forced labor; Ethiopia; Somalia; Ghana; Turkey; Iran; Afro-Arabs; Saudi Arabia; United Arab Emirates; Qatar; Oman; African Studies;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • D62 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Externalities
    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • D74 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Conflict; Conflict Resolution; Alliances; Revolutions
    • E26 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Informal Economy; Underground Economy
    • F35 - International Economics - - International Finance - - - Foreign Aid
    • F51 - International Economics - - International Relations, National Security, and International Political Economy - - - International Conflicts; Negotiations; Sanctions
    • F52 - International Economics - - International Relations, National Security, and International Political Economy - - - National Security; Economic Nationalism
    • F53 - International Economics - - International Relations, National Security, and International Political Economy - - - International Agreements and Observance; International Organizations
    • F54 - International Economics - - International Relations, National Security, and International Political Economy - - - Colonialism; Imperialism; Postcolonialism
    • F55 - International Economics - - International Relations, National Security, and International Political Economy - - - International Institutional Arrangements
    • H12 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government - - - Crisis Management
    • H56 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - National Security and War
    • N45 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation - - - Asia including Middle East
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification

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