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South Africa in Africa: bound to lead?

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South Africa's role in Africa since its democratic transition has been mired in controversy and characterised by differing interpretations. While it has wrestled ambivalently about constructing an African identity in the Mandela years, President Mbeki has firmly located South Africa's interests in Africa. The normative foundations of its Africa engagement with regard to providing public goods and leadership in peace diplomacy, resolving conflicts, and helping to develop the continent's institutions collides with the more instrumental aspects relating to investment, its commercial interests and the material sources of its hegemony. These dynamics have been profoundly shaped and determined by South Africa's domestic transitional order and its own development imperatives, as well as international role expectations. This article examines these issues and concludes that South Africa's future relations with Africa will depend on how it addresses the multiple ambiguities and contradictions of its engagement and pursues a hegemony that is more firmly grounded in meeting the continent's development and growth challenges.

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