By Sifelani Tsiko
Africa last week celebrated the 54th anniversary of the founding of the continental body — the African Union — at a time when it is building up the momentum to press for industrialisation to rapidly transform its desire to turn its vast economic potential into reality.
There is no doubt that the continent’s thrust to unleash its economic potential through the implementation of strong industrial policies will, at least, despite the huge challenges that exist, help provide Africa with the tools for value addition and commodity-based industrialisation.
With bold leadership and state support, consistence monitoring and evaluation, inclusivity and prioritisation of major sectors, it is possible that Africa can be firmly put on the tough and winding road to structural transformation. The era of begging bowls is ending and Africa increasingly needs to finance its development programmes to ensure sustainability of projects and more important for its own survival.
The continent has posted enviable economic growth rates over the past few years despite a slow-down in its 2016 economic growth rate which stood at 2,2 percent down from 3,2 percent in 2015 owing largely to low commodity prices, weak global recovery and adverse weather conditions that badly affected the continent’s agricultural sector. Despite, the slowing growth, Africa still remains a major global destination for investment. The latest African Economic Outlook report shows that the continent’s foreign direct investment stood at US$56,5 billion in 2016 and is projected to hit US$57 billion in 2017.
For the continent, the priority is keeping up this momentum and meeting the challenges that lie ahead. Africa Day provides an opportunity to celebrate that African solidarity, African identity and a common humanity and destiny which is shared by the continent’s more than one billion people.
After nearly five-and-half decades of the existence of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), now African Union (AU), it is a time for reflection for this continent that is so strategically important to world economics.
Despite all the harsh criticism, Africa is in a considerably better shape than popular perceptions may suggest.
Brutal wars and famine have declined, though not to the scale Africans may want to see. It is a fact that people still struggle to make ends meet, just as they do in Europe, the US, Brazil, China and India. They don’t always have enough to eat, they may lack education, they may not have the best of infrastructure, they despair about corruption, lack of jobs, poor service and social injustices and some even want to emigrate.
In the process, the dominant Western media continue to capture these problems to paint a different picture about the continent. Powerful countries too continue to subdue and hurl everything they can find at this collective African spirit that seeks to bind, integrate and ensure Africans have control of their destiny and resources. Despite this assault, the African spirit still lives on, unbowed by the divisive and dominant policies of powerful countries, which aim to exploit chiefly Africa’s economic resources.
In the terms — AFRICA DAY, Zimpapers Syndication unearths some of the major highlights of events and processes driving change on this continent, home to more than one billion people.
A – for Africa
The origin of Africa’s name is an area of major contestation by etymologists. One school of thought suggests that ‘Afri’ was the name of a people, maybe the Berbers of North Africa, given by the Romans while others say the addition of the Latin word aprica, meaning “sunny,” or the Greek word aphrike, meaning “without cold ultimately led to the use of the term Africa. Some historians or egyptologists say the name Africa is of African origins from the Egyptian word “Afru-ika” or ‘Motherland.” Other scholars suggests that the name Africa came into Western use through the Romans, who used the name Africa terra — “land of the Afri” referring to the northern part of the continent, as the province of Africa with its capital Carthage, in modern-day Tunisia. The Roman suffix “-ca” denotes “country or land.” There are so many theories around the origins of the name and most historians say the actual etymology of Africa is uncertain. No one knows the exact origins but it has come to be acceptable on the continent and globally.
F – Founding fathers
Founding fathers who gathered together on May 25 1963 in Addis Ababa to establish the Organisation of Africa Unity (OAU), which is now known as the African Union, had to come up with a united, independent and strong Africa. They dedicated their lives and worked tirelessly to liberate Africa from the shackles of colonialism. The OAU was established, first and foremost, with the express objective of working towards the greater unity of the African continent while at the same time ensuring that the remaining colonies on the African continent are assisted to achieve their freedom and independence. The memory of the founding fathers should not got to waste. The legacy of the likes of Dr Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Modibo Keita of Mali, Gamal Abdul Nasser of Egypt, Sekou Touré of Guinea, Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, Ahmed Ben Bella of Algeria, Emperor Haile Selasse of Ethiopia, William Tubman of Liberia, Aboubakar Tafawa Balewa and Nnamdi Azikiwe of Nigeria, Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya and many others who were part of the major driving forces for a common and shared vision for Africa must live on and never be downplayed. Their vision inspired the Pan-African Movement and also influenced the transformation of the continental body in the years that followed. These founding fathers must continue to be part of our collective memory as the continent continues to celebrate their work and soldier on in achieving their dreams.
R – is for Resources
Africa has a large quantity of natural resources including oil, diamonds, gold, platinum, iron, cobalt, uranium, copper, bauxite, silver, petroleum and a whole range of plant genetic resources. Much of its natural resources are undiscovered and have not been harnessed. Africa is the prime target of most industrial nations who want to exploit its resources.
Despite the abundance of natural resources, the bulk of resources exploited from Africa is causing most of the value and money from the natural resources to go to the West rather than the Africans.
Africa could be losing more than US$15 billion from its biodiversity as medicines, cosmetics, agricultural products and indigenous knowledge surrounding these are being patented illegally by multinational companies without there being evidence of benefits accruing to local communities in countries of origin.
The scourge of illicit financial flows (IFF) from the continent is milking the continent dry. Proceeds from Africa’s resources that could easily turn the continent into one of the most developed and industrialised continents in the world are being squirreled away in billions depriving the majority of the poor of vital infrastructure, uninterrupted power supplies, jobs and a peaceful and stable socio-economic environment. Economists estimate that Africa is losing up to US$70 billion a year through illicit financial flows — the illegal movement of money out of Africa countries, mostly by transnational corporations.
The Global Financial Integrity calls IFFs “the ugliest chapter in international affairs since slavery,” and says as a percentage of GDP, IFFs in Africa are the highest in the world, with multinational corporations a lead contributor, undermining the effect of foreign direct investment and aid. For Africa’s struggling masses, the questions are: “What are we as Africans doing to help stop IFFs, to stop transnational corporations from cheating African nations out of revenue due to them? What is the role of multilateral finance bodies in all this?”
It is estimated that Africa has lost more than US$1.8 trillion to IFF between 1970 and 2008 through tax evasion, mispricing of goods and services by multi-national companies. If nothing is done to halt IFFs, Africa’s resources that are intended to develop the continent will be used to improve the quality of life for people in industrialised countries.
I – for Inter-Africa trade
African countries are losing out on billions of dollars in potential trade earnings every year because of high trade barriers with neighbouring countries‚ and that it was easier for Africa to trade with the rest of the world than with itself. Africa has a great potential to increase intra-continental trade and create more economic opportunities.
Sub-regional and regional economic groupings are no doubt a great step towards a realisation of the African dream for intra-continental trade and the creation of the African Economic Community.
Over-reliance on Western markets still remains high and Africa is the loser in this scenario in which rich powerful nations peg the prices for their commodities.
Intra-Africa trade has the potential to transform the continent and this has been shared by all African leaders and technocrats at various African trade and investment Indabas. According to the Africa Economic Outlook Report 2016, intra-regional trade accounted for only 16 percent of Africa’s total trade in 2014, mainly driven by manufactured goods which accounted for 60 percent of total regional trade. The report, notes that the commercial potential of the continent has not yet reached its peak, calls for increased trading within the continent saying intra-African trade would greatly boost growth and development. Economic experts all agree that intra-regional trade is key to boosting economies and in the fight to attain all Sustainable Development Goals. Despite the challenges, regional economic groupings in Africa, are making steady efforts to build inter -Africa trade.
C is for Common vision
Greater regional coordination and a common vision are required for the development of a vibrant Africa in all its key production and processing sectors. Africa needs a strong resolve to reverse the trends of poor performance in all key sectors including accountability, transparency and governance of its projects. Experts all agree that promoting successful innovative partnership platforms, investments in public-private partnerships, smallholder farmer initiatives and the agro-processing sector is key. The adoption by African leaders in 2015 of Agenda 2063 as the continent’s new long-term vision for the next 50 years was a great step, a milestone in the history of Africa. What now remains is the task of fast-tracking the implementation and monitoring of major continental development programmes and frameworks, including Agenda 2063 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for the benefit of the continent’s people.
A is for Aids and health related matters
After more than 30 years of battling the HIV and Aids, Africa has registered some success in slowing the rate of HIV/Aids infections to appreciable levels. The progress in tackling the pandemic on the continent has been evident particularly on prevention, treatment and care. According to the latest report by UNAIDS, Global Aids Update 2016, new HIV infections declined by 14 percent between 2010 and 2015 in Eastern and Southern Africa, the world’s most affected region, and by 8 percent in West and Central Africa. Despite economic constraints, sub-Saharan Africa set up the world’s biggest HIV treatment programmes, providing antiretroviral (ARV) treatment to more than 12 million people, compared with 11,000 in the year 2000. Health analysts say by 2015, for instance, about 10 million people living with HIV in East and Southern Africa and 1,8 million in West and Central Africa were on ARVs, according to the report. To achieve these results, the countries used several health approaches: affordable prices were negotiated for ARV medicines, service delivery systems were simplified and decentralized, and strong supply chains for ARV medicines and other HIV-related commodities were established. More and more countries are integrating prevention and treatment at the community level, meaning home-based caregivers are now becoming responsible for delivering treatments and managing patients. Addressing rising cases of non-communicable diseases such as cancer, diabetes and the constant threat of ebola all remain pressing in Africa. The recent outbreak of ebola in the DRC is threatening the entire southern Africa region and closer collaboration among states remains important.
D is for Delivery
Motivational speakers are well known for saying: “If you promised the moon, deliver it along with a handful of stars.” So many promises have been made in Africa in large and small blue-prints and yet delivery still remains elusive. Delivering on promises is what the majority of the poor are waiting for. If our leaders follow through on a commitment, small or large, they build trust. And if they go above and beyond they even make an even stronger impression. When everything is said and done, Agenda 2063 has to deliver in terms of improved quality of life for people on the continent.
A is for Aid
More aid is not the answer. Development aid is no substitute for sound economic policy choices. What Africa needs is trade and support to strengthen its industrialisation drive. After a decade of aid fatigue and dwindling development assistance, African countries are realising that domestic mobilisation of resources and financing their own development programmes is vital for sustainable development. Our accumulated knowledge of what works and what does not is now key in fighting issues of poverty and human hardships in Africa. The history of aid in Africa has been documented and shown to be inefficient and at times has proved more a hindrance to development than a help. A case in point is development aid to Africa that has amounted to more than US$1 trillion since 1950. The pumping of this aid has also apparently increased the dependency syndrome in the period. Corruption has also frittered the resources while conditions have made the donor – receiver relations more complex and problematic. Aid has failed to deliver higher economic growth for Africa and new innovative strategies such as industrialisation plans, private and public sector reform and domestic mobilisation of resources are more crucial than ever now. Promoting entrepreneurship could also spur development.
Y is for Youths in Africa
African governments need to pay more attention to Africa’s youths which needs more empowerment programmes and more job creation initiatives to help transform the continent and defuse a ticking ‘time bomb.’ With 200 million people aged between 15 and 24 (the youth bracket), Africa has the youngest population in the world. The current trend indicates that this figure will double by 2045, according to the 2012 African Economic Outlook report prepared by experts from the African Development Bank (AfDB) and other UN agencies. The story of Africa’s worrisome youth unemployment is shown by the dark side of drug abuse, crime, violence, sex and deaths by many attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea into Europe in search of jobs.
The youth account for 60 percent of all African unemployed, according to the World Bank. About 10 – 12 million young people join the labour market each year in Africa and to defuse the youth unemployment time bomb, African governments need to mobilize resources, including from the private sector for youth development. Countries need to implement youth empowerment action plans to both unemployment and under-employment. The African youths are crying for the creation of safe, decent and competitive employment opportunities for themselves.
“We must unite now or perish,” Kwame Nkrumah, said in 1963. –Zimpapers Syndication