|African Union Volunteers at the 4th Batch training. This|
AU-YV training was one of many activities that took place
at the sidelines of the 50 years celebration of the AU.
From 22nd to 26th May 2013, the African Union celebrated 50 years of its establishment and in retrospect, 50 years of African Unity. A series of activities took place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia...the birthplace of the continental organization. One of these activities was an African Youth Forum, which was convened to gather ideas to build a vision for Africa for the next 50 years. Young people from diverse backgrounds and professions were invited to the gatherings.
This post is engages ideas from Boikanyo Modungwa (Botswana), who took part in a session on Pan-Africanism; Opportunities and Challenges for Integration.
The golden jubilee celebrations under the theme of Pan-Africanism and the African Renaissance are to honor an organization that was set up to promote unity and solidarity among African countries, to act as a collective voice in the fight against colonialism as well as build economic growth.
Since the decolonization of Africa, the quest for economic liberation began with an attempt to achieve closer economic integration as well as economic cooperation. However, this process has been slow both at the regional and continental level.
Despite the vast resources on the continent, approximately 70% of the world’s poorest countries are in Africa and almost half the population in Africa lives in extreme poverty. Many countries have been grappling with the vicious cycle of poverty, social-political conflict and under-employment. Furthermore, Africa suffers from poor infrastructure.
The main issue is that states still have a tendency of clinging to their sovereignty at the expense of achieving the prosperity that integration can provide.
This tendency is rooted both in the love of power that plagues many African leaders but also the fear of opening one’s own country to the ills experienced by other countries. This fear is also rooted in the unfounded inferiority status of Africa, Africans and Africaness. The way that we as Africans perceive each other affects the manner in which we relate with each other and thus, the willingness to work with each other. We must therefore seek psychological liberation as well.
Here are key areas which affect integration:
First – Peace and Security. The prevalence of conflict and political instability has far reaching consequences on the African state, the region and the continent, creating an environment of perpetual insecurity.
Conflict has exacerbated poverty across the continent and has made it difficult to accelerate sustainable economic growth and also destroys physical infrastructure as well as human capital. They have diminished the capacity of the continent to focus on integration and development.
The second major issue is the Lack of Good Governance. Bad governance has resulted in the inefficient use of resources that should be used to promote growth and development. The inability to perform core functions has led to the failures of key economic reforms.
On the social level, the continent is plagued and burdened by disease and these include HIV/AIDS, TB, Malaria and other diseases.
In the economic sphere, Africa remains marginalized in the world market. Furthermore, intra-Africa trade is unsatisfactory. This poor economic performance can be explained by the continued reliance on primary production, poor infrastructure, institutional and financial weakness and poor trade polices between African states. Another key economic issue is debt. Many countries spend their scarce resources servicing debt instead of allocating them to growth and social sectors.
These are the issues that must be dealt with at the national and regional level in order to allow for continental integration.
The main opportunity of integration is behind the idea of the lack of self-sufficiency. Very few African countries can claim to be self-sufficient. Combined planning and productive capacities of African states will allow for the proper allocation and utilization of our resources for the full development of Africa.
For instance, upon completion, the DRC’s Grand Inga Dam has the potential to supply enough power that is affordable to 500 million Africans. 60% of the world’s unused agricultural land is in Africa, which means that Africa can feed itself and contribute to world food security.
A united and therefore more powerful Africa can be a dynamic force in the global arena.
Lastly, let us reflect on a short story from Botswana. At independence, Botswana was one of the world’s poorest countries. Upon request for her independence, the British said Botswana’s leaders were ‘either very foolish or very brave’. Botswana is now one of the continent’s strongest economies. No matter how foolish the goal towards African integration and unity may seem, we must commit to it, knowing the value which can come from it. We are on the right path, and so long as we are committed to achieving these goals, we will eventually make progress.
She is from Botswana and currently pursuing her Masters in International Relations candidate at the University of Cape Town.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect official policy or position of Connect African Development.