South Africa: Still an Ambivalent (Sub)Regional Leader?

  • Karen Smith


This chapter applies role theory to explore South Africa’s continued standing as a regional leader, differentiating between the Southern African Development Community (SADC) subregion and the broader African continent. The country’s success in exercising different leadership strategies (multilateral, distributional, consensual, ideational, and representational) is assessed, and the major challenges—domestic constraints and a lack of legitimacy—to its continued leadership are discussed. It is contended that while South Africa seems to be more committed to and assertive in exercising leadership in the SADC subregion, its influence at the continental level is waning. At the same time, South Africa has not yet been supplanted as the regional leader in either sphere, although other African states reluctantly acquiesce to its status.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Karen Smith
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute for History, Leiden UniversityLeidenNetherlands

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