Kornprobst, Markus.
Kornprobst, Markus. "African agency and global orders: the demanding case of nuclear arms control." Third World Quarterly 41.5 (2020): 898-915.
Publication year: 2020

African Agency and Global Orders: The Demanding Case of Nuclear Arms Control

By Markus Kornprobst

Vienna School of International Studies



How much agency do African actors have to shape global orders? This study puts the global nuclear order under scrutiny to answer this question. This amounts to a demanding case. Arms control is something that global great powers take very seriously, and there is no weapons category that they take more seriously than nuclear weapons. My findings provide a nuanced picture. Although often outflanked and frustrated by nuclear weapons states, the nuclear order would look different without African actors exerting their agency. They successfully shaped background and foreground institutions constituting the global nuclear order by building advocacies for new institutions upon already existing ones, reaching out to state and non-state actors outside of Africa, and channelling communication through African states with authority in global fora. This study makes three contributions: First, it underlines the key finding of recent literature on African agency that African actors are more to be reckoned with than often assumed. Second, it provides novel evidence about the diplomatic mechanisms through which they come to make a difference. Third, it adds to our grasp of the constitution of global orders as well as the processes through which they come to be made, re-made and unmade more generally.



  • Africa
  • agency
  • diplomacy
  • nuclear
  • order


Acknowledgments. I would like to thank Katia Coleman, Annette Seegers and Tom Tieku for their excellent feedback on an earlier version of this article. Martin Senn remains a great source of inspiration for thinking about orders. I am also indebted to the participants of my diplomatic training seminars in Accra, Djerba, Gaborone, Luanda, Kampala, Maputo, Maseru, Nairobi, Pretoria and Windhoek (2016-2019) who sharpened my understanding of African diplomacy.




Last draft before final version and publication in Third World Quarterly 2020

Full bibliographical details: Kornprobst, Markus. „African agency and global orders: the demanding case of nuclear arms control.“ Third World Quarterly 41.5 (2020): 898-915.