Challenge for Africa is action
From the 1960s through to the 1970s, 1980s right up to 1994 when South African achieved its independence, the focus was on political freedom and the struggle for emancipation from colonial domination.
Even as small pockets of the continent remained under colonial subjugation, leaders of African countries which were the early achievers of political freedom were already calling for the shift to economic independence and transformation of the continent to become a united political and economic entity.
These principles propagated by the founding fathers of the African continent ring even more on May 25 each year when the continent marks the birth of the African Union, formerly called the Organisation of African Unity. The quest for socio-economic transformation to make Africa an integrated and united continent appears to be lost in some bureaucratic corridors or in documents/blueprints in some offices begging the question: is Africa really progressing?
Africa has come up with numerous blue-prints from the Lagos Plan of Action in the 1980s, the New Partnership for Development in 2000 and now Agenda 2063, which was adopted in 2013. And May 25 is one among many opportunities or platforms when the continent makes an introspection of its progress. The brilliant blueprints have been crafted but what lacks most of the times is implementation. This is not to say the continent is at a standstill, some progress has been achieved over the decades but perhaps not at the desired pace. A critical look at the regional economic communities shows that there is some movement.
However, multiplicity of membership is sometimes derailing advancement. This is because some countries belong to more than one regional economic community. For example, a number countries belong to two of these: the East African Community, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa and the Southern African Development Community. Some of the regional blocs are moving towards being free trade zones and creating key linkages.
“Some critics, however, say the multiplication of overlapping institutions within the AU framework is hampering some of the existing structures and adding unnecessary costs to the unification project,” writes Liesl Louw-Vaudran of the Institute of Security Studies.
Political scientist and retired Ugandan diplomat Harold Acemah argues that Agenda 2063 is a comprehensive and ambitious blueprint for Africa but the challenge it faces include lack of resources for its implementation and lack of commitment on the part of African leaders “who have a knack to agree in public to matters they do not actually believe in or fully support”.
Citing the stillborn Trans-African Highway, a project which the African Group at the United Nations in collaboration with the OAU and the Economic Commission for Africa championed during the 1970s, Acemah has some doubts over Agenda 2063.
“The ambitious Mombasa to Lagos highway via Uganda, DRC and many other African countries was stillborn and never took off despite all the hype and a pledging conference which was held to raise funds for the project.
The Trans-African Highway vanished into thin air like the once famous ‘10 point programme’ which has been replaced by a ‘No change programme’. How tragic! Much as I welcome the AU’s Agenda 2063, I am sceptical about its implementation,” Acemah writes. This is the challenge our continent has to confront.