|Dr. T.A Elias-Fatile|
Senior Counselor, Permanent Mission of Nigeria to the UN
|Africa Solutions to African Problems: Education, Health, Culture, Economy, Culture, Peace & Security||02/ 12/ 2014|
Africa occupies a strategic position in the world stage for many reasons. The continent is endowed with rich human and natural resources; and the continent is endowed with rich cultures.
I believe that Africa is central to global prosperity. It became clearer towards the close of the 20th century and at the wake of the 21st century that the African continent was already experiencing a different form of ‘Scramble for Africa’ by countries from other parts of the world – although there is no ‘partitioning’ as witnessed in the 1880s. Countries from the East, West and other parts of the world have continued to strive to maintain consistent relations with Africa and African countries. The importance of the African continent, the recognition of its strategic role and its place in global affairs are amply demonstrated by the very fact that seventy non-African states, regional entities and other organizations are accredited to the African Union (AU) headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Howbeit, there are problems, which I usually prefer to call ‘challenges’ in Africa. We must acknowledge that there are challenges of corruption, poor infrastructure, weak governance and others in some African countries. There are pockets of conflicts on the continent. All African countries are not growing at the same pace. These and other challenges are often cited as barriers to foreign investment and effective regional integration in Africa. Undoubtedly, there is no country or region of the world that is insulated from problems or challenges.
The application of the Principles of ‘African Renaissance’ in addressing African problems
The principles of ‘Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance’ have continuously guided efforts aimed at addressing African problems by Africans themselves. After the independence of many African countries, the principle of ‘African Renaissance’ encouraged philosophical and political movements meant to end and replace the corruption, conflicts, poverty and other societal ills in Africa with a more just and equitable order, developmental programs and agenda. It encouraged Africans to take pride in their own heritage, to preserve African cultures and traditions and it called for African unity to be able to jointly address the problems plaguing the continent.
The first hurdle towards addressing Africa’s problem was how to attain unity among African states. The principles of ‘Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance’ provided a guiding light towards that direction. Consequently, the establishment of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) was underpinned by the concept of ‘African Renaissance.’ As the end of the 20th century drew closer, the concept of Pan-African Renaissance resonated and it was popularized by some African leaders who were referred to as the “new generation of African leaders.” They believed that it was time to fully accomplish the objectives of African Renaissance and they practically demonstrated their desire for Africa’s revival through the creation of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and the African Union (AU), which effectively replaced the OAU in 2002. These were the last efforts made by African states under the auspices of OAU in their quest for unity, political and socio-economic development in Africa.
The Establishment of the African Union
The desire and efforts to unite countries in a diverse continent like Africa were, definitely, bound to be confronted with some challenges. In spite of the debilitating challenges, the African Union was established amidst the excitement of an African renaissance with a renewed expectation that was reliant on the ideology of Pan-Africanism. The establishment of the AU was inspired by the realization that collective African intervention was required to address the common problems of the continent. Considering the limitations of the defunct OAU in addressing African problems, the eventual establishment of the African Union can be rightly described as the beginning of efforts to sincerely address African problems. Uniting African countries was important towards galvanizing and addressing African problems in a more coherent manner.
Against this background, in my opinion, the ability of African countries to overcome the challenges to attain unity in the continent and the eventual transformation of OAU into AU was a landmark achievement. This demonstrated the sincerity and commitment of Africa countries to the aspiration of addressing and finding solutions to African problems by themselves. AU was established to address the myriads of problems plaguing the continent, which included poor governance, insecurity, and political instability. Beyond these, the objectives of AU were deliberately and properly articulated not only to improve on some of the relevant objectives of the OAU, but also to address a number of germane issues, which OAU could not address.
The African Union was expected to address Africa’s socio-economic and political problems, which were compounded by the negative aspects of globalization. It was envisaged (as indicated as part of the vision of AU) that the organization will look forward to having “An integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in global arena.” A very important principle governing the AU is enshrined in Article 4 (h) of the Constitutive Act of the organization on the ‘collective security and early-warning arrangement to facilitate timely and efficient responses to conflict and crisis situations in Africa.’ It grants ‘the right of the Union to intervene in a Member State pursuant to a decision of the Assembly in respect of grave circumstances, namely: war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity.’ This is unlike the OAU’s principle of non-intervention.
Few Instances of how some Regional and Sub-regional Issues were addressed in Africa
There is no gainsaying the fact that there is a nexus between security and development. A more secure Africa will be a more prosperous Africa. Consistent with this, a more united Africa would have the potential of attaining greater security and pursue the path of prosperity collectively for African populations.
Home-grown solutions, when backed by political will, are always the best ways to address problems and resolve conflicts. African forefathers had countless mechanisms that were employed to resolve disputes and address their problems. In-line with this pedigree, African leaders, through the AU (and its Member States) have no shortage of ideas on how to resolve the continent’s challenges.
The African Union and sub-regional organizations in Africa, which are closer to the African people, are most strategically placed to lead in the overall efforts geared at addressing African challenges. Consistent with this, African states and African statesmen, have sought ways to end crises and have been playing significant roles in brokering peace agreements on the continent. While Africa should always be prepared to lead in addressing its own problems, in an increasingly interdependent world, the United Nations and African partners should naturally be expected to support Africa’s initiatives in this regard. For instance, they would be expected to assist in building the required capacities to address African challenges and assist in other appreciable ways. The United Nations and sincere African partners should, therefore, be commended for their noteworthy assistance in different ways to the continent.
One of the examples of how Africa has addressed her own problems at the sub-regional level, was the Nigerian-led Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group (ECOMOG), which was established in 1990. West African countries should be commended for establishing this multilateral armed forces that successfully intervened in the civil war in Liberia. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) also deployed ECOMOG forces to control conflicts in other West African countries like Sierra Leone and in Guinea-Bissau.
In the promotion of regional financial systems, the Togo-based Ecobank Group, which was initially supported by the ECOWAS fund, was one of the first institutions that paid attention to the need for cross-border expansion into other parts of Africa. The Group provided financial services in 33 African countries with assets that was valued at $19bn. There were other regional efforts, which included those of financial institutions like Nigeria’s United Bank for Africa (UBA). In East Africa, Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) Group investments were ranked among the leading five investors in Africa.
According to Ernst & Young’s Africa Attractiveness Survey, Nigerian and South African FDI flows to some African countries were at some point quite over $1bn each. The focus on value-added processing prior to domestic or international sale; the development of service-oriented businesses for the emergent consumer class; and extension into neighboring countries are clear suggestion of positive movement towards a more sustainable growth.
At the continental level, AU Member States had deployed troops for peace operations in Africa – in Burundi, Somalia, Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Sudan and South Sudan, in Mali, and more recently in the Central African Republic (CAR). For instance, African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) that was established in 2007 could also be described as a success story. AMISOM was composed of Ugandan, Kenyan and Burundian troops with financial assistance from the European Union and the United States. Over two decades, Somalia was entangled in clan-based warfare and in the activities of Islamist militants. AMISON achieved its objectives by securing and stabilizing Somalia, enabling humanitarian activities in the country and protecting government institutions. The mandate of AMISON was extended to 2014 by the UN Security Council.
One of the strategies instituted by the African Union is the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), which was launched in 2003. As an African self-monitoring mechanism, the APRM is a mutually agreed instrument that is voluntarily acceded to by AU Member States. It is a bold, unique and innovative approach designed and implemented by Africans for Africa.
Another positive development was the creation of African Risk Capacity (ARC). According to its vision, “The African Risk Capacity (ARC) was established as a Specialized Agency of the African Union by a Conference of Plenipotentiaries to help AU Member States improve their capacities to better plan, prepare and respond to extreme weather events and natural disasters. It aims to assist its Member States to protect the food security of their vulnerable populations.”
The ARC is an innovation that seeks to establish new markets and value network for capital contributors that are interested in protecting investments in Africa’s agricultural sector. ARC seeks to contribute toward building resilience among vulnerable populations, at promoting fiscal stability and to increase productivity and economic diversification.
In most recent times, the African continent has witnessed its first decline in poverty rate since the 1970s, from 58 percent in 1999 to 47.5 percent in 2008. There has been an improvement in macroeconomic policies across sub-Saharan Africa and this has inspired confidence in the investors and in the consumers. Africans are turning inward and they are investing at home. Many African countries have been recording impressive growth rates, which would eventually assist the continent from its economic doldrums. The World Bank’s annual “Country Policy and Institutional Assessment” as at 2013, indicates that the overall macroeconomic performance in the region could be equated with those of the developing countries outside Africa. The narratives on trade are becoming different as there are instances of departures from Africa’s historical trade patterns, which were hitherto inclined solely towards the export of raw materials.
In 2013, among the key decisions adopted by the Assembly of Heads of State and Government at the 50th Anniversary celebration of the African Union was the adoption of the Declaration of the OAU/AU 50th Anniversary. Other decisions were on the development of the African Union Commission Strategic Plan 2014-2017, the AU Agenda 2063, the implementation of the Global African Diaspora Legacy Projects and others. By the Declaration of the OAU/AU at 50, African leaders committed themselves to achieve the AU goals of an integrated and prosperous Africa, at peace with itself and with the world; an Africa whose development is driven by its own citizens (emphasis mine) and which is a significant player on the world stage.
On the overall analyses, it is my view that African countries and the AU are making considerable progress in finding solutions to African problems.
Although, as stated earlier, recent events monitored in 2013 were pointers to positive developments in Africa, it is necessary to frontally address some serious challenges on the continent. Some questions of concern are: ‘Why are nation building efforts leading to disintegration rather than integration in some African countries?’ ‘Why should 70% of issues on the agenda of the UN Security Council be on Africa?’ ‘Why should leadership succession through elections always generate problems in some African countries?’ ‘Why is it difficult to attain genuine reconciliation in some African states?’
To address the pockets of conflicts that remain on the continent, there is the need for a robust, balanced, consensual, open and inclusive dialogue among concerned and affected people. Africa should promote the rule of law, democratic principles and strengthen democratic institutions among Member States of the AU. It is necessary to address the factors that foster the root causes of conflicts in Africa, which can be regarded as the breeding grounds for conflicts on the continent. We should not address the symptoms but the causes. We should build from the roots and not from the top. Africa needs to continue to raise corps of mediators from among her own people. The environment should be made safe for the people to live in but not through military might.
African countries should continue to increase investments in high-quality education, health and other infrastructure that can enhance long-term growth potential. Towards experiencing the transformation of their economies in a sustainable way, African countries should galvanize their capacities to obtain, use and adapt existing environmentally sound technologies to local conditions.
As I begin to conclude, I want to note that I do not have any oversight that there are perspectives that present sharp contrary views to my optimistic standpoint on Africa as enunciated in this paper. Some arguments always focus solely on pockets of conflicts on the continent and the political instabilities in some African countries. The proponents of these contrary perspectives refuse (either deliberately or inadvertently) to consider the positive and cheering developments in the continent but rather prefer to argue solely from negative perspective. Sometimes the issues are exaggerated and over-generalized. I believe it is unfair to Africa and some African countries when discussions concerning Africa only emphasize the problems or challenges that are on the continent.
My stance is that while there are challenges that should be addressed, which are not insurmountable, the stories of Africa can no longer be narrated exclusively from unenthusiastic perspective. An illustration with a glass that is filled with water by half would suffice at this point. Such a glass of water can rightly be described as either half full of water or it is half empty. The story of AU at 50 and African countries in 2014 could be narrated from either of those two sides of the illustration. We can stress the prevalent positive development in Africa. The other way, instead of aligning with the pessimists to highlight the negative aspect, I will rather describe the other side of the divide as the need to pay more attention to and address the remnants of challenges facing the continent.
I will like to state concerning the developed parts of the world that, at one point in their histories, they had experienced their own period of challenges. I am convinced that as those countries successfully passed through their period of challenges, Africa will also emerge successfully at the end. I believe Africa and African countries are nearer to the promised land contrary to the arguments of pessimists that always discuss African issues from a gloomy perception.
In an article titled “Africa’s Economic Boom – Why the Pessimists and the Optimists Are Both Right,” Shantayanan Devarajan and Wolfgang Fengler agree with my view that Africa is ultimately closer to the mark adding that developments in the coming decades would confirm this. They posit that although Africa will continue to face daunting challenges on its path to prosperity, the success of its recent reforms coupled with the increased openness of its societies, fuelled in part by ICTs, will give Africa a good chance of enjoying sustained growth and poverty reduction in the decades to come.
Indeed, evidences abound in-view of recent developments that Africa would emerge successful at the end of the current phase in the history of the continent. I invite you all to be on my side so that we could jointly continue to express our faith in the ability of Africa to lead in efforts aimed at finding solutions to her problems. I also call on Africa’s partners to sincerely continue to assist and support the continent in this regard. We are closer to the end of the tunnel where the currently beaming light would shine brighter.