Deal with poverty and security

JOHANNESBURG – The 25th African Union (AU) Summit in South Africa’s Johannesburg, should focus on finding ways of eradicating high levels of poverty in the continent and ensuring peace and security, an expert has said.

The summit, which kicked off on Sunday in Pretoria before moving to Johannesburg, is expected to end with the meeting of Africa’s heads of state and government on June 14 to 15.

Gideon Chitanga, a researcher with the Centre for Study of Democracy at the University of Johannesburg, told Xinhua in an interview that the summit is providing African leaders with a great opportunity to discuss solutions to poverty which he said has reached alarming levels in the continent. 

“There is a need for the African Union to start to seriously focus on issues of economic development because these are issues of livelihood that the people of Africa are concerned about,” Chitanga said.

He said that in West Africa, lack of employment and increasing poverty is forcing thousands of youths to risk their lives crossing the Mediterranean sea in a bid to find better life in Europe. And thousands have died in the process.

“Providing employment and giving quality education to the youth should be on the top of the agenda,” he said.

The issue of peace and security should also be given a lot of attention at the summit, he said, considering the active presence of Boko Haram extremists in West Africa and Somalia-based Al- Shabaab militants in East Africa.

“Terrorist groups plunder the countries’ resources in order to finance their activities,” he said, adding that the governments should find ways to stop that and use the resources to improve people’s lives.

In addition, persistent civil wars in Libya and South Sudan have provided headaches for the continent, Chitanga said, adding that the summit should deal with these security threats as a matter of urgency. 

“Issues of security also affect economic development. It is difficult to develop the continent without peace and stability. Investors are not willing to take up economic opportunities if there is no peace,” he said.

The expert also urged the AU to work hard for unity and regional integration so that it can negotiate as a continent as opposed to entering into business deals as individual countries as he believes working as individual countries has always disadvantaged the continent.

“Africa has not been able to fully utilize the economic opportunities provided by the emerging economies like China due to the countries’ failure to stand as one block,” he said. 

“Africa is able to realize full benefit if all the countries combine their forces and act as one continent. By so doing Africa will emerge as a strong economic block that commands respect from the international market,” he added.

While the continent is desperate to get funding to improve the living standards of its citizens, reports allege that it is losing over US$50 billion due to illicit financial outflows by multinational companies.

“Strong governance and control mechanisms should be put in place to stop illicit financial outflows by multinational companies and other criminally syndicates,” Chitanga said.

“Measures should also be taken to stamp out corruption since the continent is also losing billions to corrupt syndicates,” he added. – NAMPA / XINHUA

June 2015
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