The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is currently suffering from its biggest political crisis in decades, as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Egypt continue to uphold their diplomatic and trade embargo of Qatar.

Although apparently confined to the Middle Eastern Gulf, as the crisis escalates other regions are gradually becoming involved, and there are fears that both sides will further increase the pressure on their allies and neighbours to pick sides.

Since 5th June 2017, eight African countries have publicly sided with the Saudi-led quartet, with several having officially downgraded their diplomatic ties with Qatar. Chad, Niger and Senegal have all recalled their ambassadors from Doha. While Mauritania and the Comoros have both completely severed diplomatic ties with the oil-rich Gulf country. Djibouti has merely downgraded its level of diplomatic representation in Qatar, and Eritrea and Somaliland have merely announced their support for Saudi in the dispute.

Interestingly, the motivations driving the decision of whether or not to ally with Saudi Arabia appear unique to each country. Notably, because Gulf money can be found all over Africa – and most countries remain unwilling to risk future donations by taking sides.

Impact Points

  • The ongoing Gulf dispute has uncovered some surprising alliances between the Middle East and Africa – highlighting the increasing cooperation between the rapidly growing economies of the sub-Saharan Africa region and the wealthy and well-connected economies of the Gulf.
  • Although Saudi Arabia and the UAE have attempted to use their immense wealth to effectively buy African support, the older religious, cultural and economic ties appear to have been more effective in garnering support from the continent.