The Horn of Africa and its strategic importance

Bab-El-Mandab Strait (Shutterstock)

In this article, Ahmad Abdul-Rahman explains the geo-strategic importance of the Horn of Africa.

The Horn of Africa is of great importance because it is one of the world's main sea-lanes both regionally and internationally.

Sea-lanes are one of the most important elements of power because of their strategic and security role in maintaining the security of the international and regional system. These corridors can be the biggest support for conflict resolution and regional and international control.

The Horn of Africa is important in maintaining regional balance and stability because of its distinctive geographical location. Moreover, the Horn of Africa is important strategically, militarily, politically and economically because it overlooks the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean and is close to the Bab-el-Mandab Strait, which controls the Red Sea from the south. This region remains a coveted place for foreign powers to access the Red Sea and East Africa.

The strategic importance of the Horn of Africa

The Horn of Africa is the land located in the east of the African continent, west of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden and is bordered by the Indian Ocean to the south in the form of a horn extending into the Indian Gulf, hence the name.

It overlooks the Persian Gulf directly, the Gulf of Aden and the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait, and it is the only link to the Indian Ocean via the Mediterranean. It is also the only entrance to Africa from the east. The Horn of Africa includes four countries: Somalia, Djibouti, Eritrea and Ethiopia.

This region is also called the Somali Peninsula and it overlaps politically and economically, and in terms of security, with the Arab Gulf region and the Red Sea.

The strategic importance of the region is because it is a contact area with the oil-rich Arabian Gulf. Countries in this region control the global trade route, especially the oil trade coming from the Gulf States, destined for Europe and the US. It is also an important corridor for any military movements, coming from Europe or the US, in the direction of the Arabian Gulf.

The strategic importance of the Horn of Africa goes beyond the local and regional. It creates balance and stability for the countries of the region and the world.

It also overlooks the Indian Ocean on the one hand, and, on the other, controls the southern entrance to the Red Sea, where the Bab al-Mandeb Strait is located.

Political significance

Ethiopia is one of the hubs of the Horn of Africa and the rising power in it. It has the largest military force in the region but no sea outlets. Therefore, the Horn of Africa is a lifeline to Ethiopia. It deliberately seeks a military presence in Somalia to ensure a route to the sea despite there being no reason for its presence. Its political and strategic ambitions are hidden under the pretext of fighting terrorism, which is represented by the Somali youth movement.

The US is the world's largest global power and the Horn of Africa is in its sphere of influence. China also has an influence in Ethiopia. Consequently, the US could enter into a conflict with China to stop it expanding there.

China has been able to extend strong roots of communication in Ethiopia, Somalia and Djibouti. And Turkey, which is trying to restore part of its Ottoman heritage and prove its strength and relations, is present in Somalia, and has relations with Djibouti and Ethiopia.

Iran too seeks to have influence in this strategic region so that it can extend its hegemony from its base in Yemen. The Shiite Houthi militia took control of a large area of ​​Yemen with the help of Iran. Undoubtedly, Iran aspires to extend its influence to the Horn of Africa and thus control the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait, so that it can besiege and strangle the Arab Gulf states. Iran has also tried to extend its influence on Bab-el-Mandeb through the Houthis, but it failed. In the future, it could clash with Egypt and Sudan too.

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Wednesday, 04 August 2021