Between 24 and 25 October, Senegal’s capital once again played host to the high-profile Dakar International Forum on Peace and Security in Africa.
The major event, organised by Paris-headquartered Avisa Partners, an international group involved in a variety of sectors including competitive intelligence, cybersecurity, and international affairs—brought together 2,000 participants, including several heads of state, to discuss security issues as well as establish contacts in an informal setting.
Last year, the event’s seventh edition made global headlines when South African President Ramaphosa used his speech in Dakar to make an impassioned plea to end the Covid-19 travel bans which had left South Africa and other African nations isolated.
This October’s eighth edition of the Dakar Forum, coming in a year marred by international instability, offered two days of speeches, conferences, debates, and workshops opportunely devoted to the theme of Africa in the face of exogenous shocks: challenges of stability and sovereignty.
Among the 2,000 guests crowding the corridors of Dakar’s CICAD conference centre were several world leaders, particularly from Lusophone Africa, which was in the spotlight this year. Former leaders from Chad and Niger, and hundreds of ministers, military experts, political analysts also made the trip to what became for two days the epicentre of security issues in Africa.
Meanwhile, coverage by both traditional media, including journalists from some 40 countries, as well as new media influencers brought the Forum “outside the walls” of CICAD and placed it, in the words of Quentin Ruffat, a partner at Avisa Partners, right in “the heart of global geostrategic issues”.
The annual event was organised by Avisa Partners alongside the Senegalese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in close collaboration with the Centre des Hautes Etudes de Défense et de Sécurité of Senegal and several private partners, such as the military equipment manufacturer Arquus and the construction group Vicat.
Bertrand Slaski, the director of Avisa Partners’ Strategic Intelligence activities, praised all stakeholders for their months-long work to ensure the Forum’s success, emphasizing that thanks to these efforts, the event "continues to modernise and has become part of the international agenda".
Africa front and centre
Traditionally focused on counter-terrorism and security in the Sahel and Sahara regions, the Dakar Forum has recently broadened its purview. The expanded focus reflects the multifaceted dimension of today’s security challenges, which range from political instability in Africa, war in Eastern Europe to tensions in East Asia. As Senegalese President Macky Sall put it while giving this edition’s introductory speech: "the expansion of terrorism, internal and intra-state conflicts, the resurgence of coups d'état, foreign political and military interference, and the combined effects of climate change, the Covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine: it is clear that the picture is not a bright one".
The Senegalese president further pleaded for a reform of multilateralism, maintaining that Africa can no longer afford to rely solely on the shoulders of foreign countries for its security, and renewed calls on his counterparts to prioritise making the African Standby Force operational.
Indeed, African-led solutions were a focus of this year’s Forum. “Africa no longer intends to be a subject or an object of discussion but an actor in international relations”, Slaski emphasized, a point underlined by the rich discussions around giving Africa a seat—and a veto—on the United Nations Security Council.
The Dakar Forum, noted Romain Grandjean, partner at Avisa Partners, “places Africa at the centre of the agenda”, serving as “a major forum for reflection and dialogue on the search for concrete solutions led by the continent's states with the help of its international partners to meet security challenges". Such challenges include cybercrime, which last year affected 64% of African companies. Franck Kié, a cybersecurity expert in attendance at the Forum, endorsed Macky Sall’s claims that cybercrime ranks among the "most serious threats to peace, security and stability of our countries" and warned that Africa may become the "digital battlefield of foreign powers".
Open, broad-based discussions
The Dakar Forum’s unique model, which favours an informal format which generates greater trust between participants without sacrificing gravitas, offered participants an invaluable opportunity to discuss such pressing issues. Former Guinean PM Kabiné Komara, present at this year’s edition, emphasized that the Forum represents a "place for frank and rich exchanges”, enhanced by the wide variety of researchers, think tanks, universities, civil society actors and other stakeholders associated with the Forum.
Representatives from organiser Avisa Partners concurred with the importance of opening the forum to as many interlocutors as possible, with Slaski emphasizing that “we must trust civil society and young people. Nothing can happen without them,” and promising to give them an even more important role in future editions of the Dakar Forum.