Which way Africa?


As the continent marks this year’s Africa Day, the continent continues to grapple with conflicts and related security issues at the expense of economic emancipation.

After realising political independence in most African countries by the late 1970s, the continent began preparing for another battle ‑ economic independence but the journey has been riddled with numerous drawbacks, chief among them the constant conflicts that are always breaking in different parts of the continent. The conflicts have tended to dominate summits of the African Union, which succeeded the Organisation of African Unity, at the expense of equally pressing issues such as food security and economic empowerment of the majority of the people on the continent.

After delivering freedom, African heads of state and government who met in Nigeria in July 1980 came up with the Lagos Plan of Action, which was developed as the continent’s blueprint through which Africa could, based on the principle of collective self-reliance, achieve rapid economic and social development. Through this blueprint, Africa has continued efforts to overcome the persistent problems of underdevelopment.

“With the achievement of political independence, it became imperative that a new institutional framework be put in place. The OAU was thus formally transformed into the African Union in July 2002, giving a fresh impetus to Africa’s development agenda. …development in Africa has shifted from a focus on political independence to economic emancipation, now driven by the African Union,” sardc.net reported in an analysis on the continent’s development blue prints.   

But the pace of the transformation is probably not moving at the desired pace.

Currently, the instability in Somalia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Libya, the activities of terrorist groups in Nigeria and Kenya, the conflicts in South Sudan and the Central African Republic, among others, always find their way onto the agenda of the African Union summits where they sometimes dominate discussions while economic issues are pushed to the back. However, the continent has not dropped its head but continues to explore ways of taking its development to the next level.

Of late, the continent has come up with Agenda 2063, which is both a vision and action plan calling for action to all segments of African society to work together to build a prosperous and united Africa based on shared values and a common destiny.

“In their 50th Anniversary Solemn Declaration, the Heads of State and Government of the African Union (AU), while acknowledging past successes and challenges, rededicated themselves to the continent’s accelerated development and technological progress. They laid down vision and eight ideals to serve as pillars for the continent in the foreseeable future, which Agenda 2063 will translate into concrete objectives, milestones, goals, targets and actions/measures. Agenda 2063 strives to enable Africa remain focused and committed to the ideals envisaged in the context of a rapidly changing world,” the African Union says in a statement explaining Agenda 2063.

Agenda 2063 comes at a time when Africa is being touted as the new emerging economic frontier.

But one question that the continent should really pause and seek answers to is – Is Africa really rising?

Reports of Africa being the new emerging economic frontier are being bandied around with statistics and figures used to buttress this school of thought. It is all good for the continent to have the tag of one of the world’s emerging economic frontiers but have Africans really sought to prove to disprove this notion.

A number of countries have been cited as the rising economic stars on the continent with economists and political commentators stampeding to sing praises of the prospects of the so-called rising economies.

“The basis for such recent optimistic characterisations of Africa are the alleged annual growth rates of over 5 percent in the past decade and that the African continent has nine of the world’s fastest growing economies,” says Ama Biney of Pambazuka News.

The nine countries, in which some of the fastest growing economies in the world are found – are Ghana, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Burkina Faso and Niger.

Nigeria’s economy was recently reported to have surpassed the South African economy to become the biggest on the continent.

“However, in a continent of 54 nations, how far behind are the remaining 45 countries when only nine are considered to be ‘rising’? Surely it is only a tiny wealthy African middle class who are benefitting from this rise? More importantly, Africans need to question the model of development that these ‘rising’ economies are committed to, for it seems as Fanon forewarned, the Western neo-liberal capitalist model of development is what is being praised and imitated,” Biney argues. Right now Nigeria, the continent’s biggest economy, is grappling with the rebel group Boko Haram, which recently kidnapped more than 200 school girls and has been holding them captive since last month.

How then does Nigeria justify its economic power when it cannot provide security for its own citizens? At least economic power should match advancement in security but it has had to take the intervention of the Western world which has joined in to help to search for the girls. It is given that even the mightiest of economies are sometimes caught napping by terrorist insurgencies but at least once the problem is detected it is dealt with promptly.

In the Boko Haram case, the Nigerian authorities took long to react, raising security concerns in the continent’s biggest economy. 

The intervention of the United States and its western allies in Nigeria has opened up an avenue for the developed world to pursue their imperialist agendas under the guise of helping in a security situation.

With the US increasing its military presence on the continent, Africa continues to dither on coming up with a standby force to handle conflicts in Africa. So much for Africa as it celebrates the 51st anniversary of the African Union.

May 2014
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