Inequality can derail Africa’s growth

 

The African continent celebrates the 51stanniversary of the African Union, formerly the Organisation of African Unity.

African Freedom Day was founded during the first Conference of Independent African States, which attracted African leaders and political activists from various African countries, in Ghana on April 15, 1958. Government representatives from eight independent African states attended the conference, which was the first Pan-African conference in the continent. 

The purpose of the day was to annually mark the liberation movement’s progress and to symbolise the determination of the people of Africa to free themselves from foreign domination and exploitation.

Between 1958 and 1963 the nation/class struggle grew bigger in Africa and around the world. During this period, 17 countries in Africa won their independence and 1960 was proclaimed the Year of Africa. On May 25, 1963, thirty-one African leaders convened a summit meeting to found the Organisation of African Unity (OAU). They renamed Africa Freedom Day as “African Liberation Day” and changed its date to May 25. The founding date of the OAU is also referred to as “Africa Day”.

African Liberation Day has helped to raise political awareness in African communities across the world. It has also been a source of information about the struggles for liberation and development. Since 1963 the continent has gone through political and economic development phases but Africa is still a long way to reach its desired levels. 

Africa should push ahead with the goal of achieving economic independence after delivering political freedom. The struggle should now move to the economic front and the people on the continent need really economic empowerment to facilitate their participation in the mainstream economy on the continent and benefit from the exploitation of the massive natural resources found in their localities.

Some countries have made huge steps towards economic empowerment. Zimbabwe is one such country where the government has successfully distributed farming land to hundreds of thousands of the previously marginalised majority Zimbabweans. 

A new economy is emerging in Zimbabwe in which newly resettled farmers are taking a foothold while the small to medium enterprises, sometimes referred to as the informal sector, now employs more people than the formal sector. 

The revolutionary agrarian reforms were not without their birth pains but Zimbabweans persevered and today are proud owners of their land.

Every revolution needs sacrifices and just as the continent paid the huge price for the political liberation of its people, it should also be prepared to endure such difficulties and deliver the much sought after economic emancipation. To deliver its people to the Promised Land, Africa must take charge of its affairs. Presently the continent is dogged by numerous conflicts which take their toll on the African people and the continent’s resources.

South African President Jacob Zuma has expressed concern over the activities of armed rebels and other terrorist groups in Africa. President has called on the African Union to do more to bring stability to the continent. “The South African government reiterates its condemnation of all forms and manner of terrorism. South Africa believes that terrorism, in any form and from whichever quarter, cannot be condoned,” he said.

In this regard, Zuma said the AU's Standby Force needed capacity, and South Africa was looking forward to the next African Union Peace and Security.  

For a continent so rich in natural resources, African countries should be growing their economies through the exports of minerals, oil and gas but this is proving to be a pipe dream. Inequalities continue to balloon on the continent as Africans watch while their resources benefit people from other continents and the rich and well-connected in their own countries. 

Inequality, if not addressed, will endanger Africa’s progress. “Inequality in Africa is rising to dangerous levels and unless checked will undermine the usefulness of economic growth on the continent,” worldwide development agency Oxfam warned recently.

May 2014
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