Christopher Farai Charamba Correspondent
Last year the African Union launched Agenda 2063 which, according to the AU, is; “A global strategy to optimise use of Africa’s resources for the benefit of all Africans.”
While 2063 might seem too distant in the future, it is important that the continent makes long-term plans but builds up to them through short-term achievements.
One can only speculate as to what the future of the continent will be.
However, there are some critical steps that African countries can take to propel themselves and their people to a better position. What is important is to look at what the continent has excelled at and build on those successes.
For large parts of modern history, the African narrative is one that has been dictated to Africans. The natural development of Africa was hindered by the arrival of the European explorers, which led to slave trade and later the Berlin Conference of 1884, an event that brought about colonisation.
Coming out of colonisation through the latter half of the 19th Century, Africa was met with numerous challenges, a direct consequence of colonial period. These challenges included uneducated and inexperienced administrators, dependence on former colonial masters, effects of Structural Adjustment Programmes and the numerous conflicts and wars sprouting in the newly independent states.
In the year 2000, the Economist labelled Africa “The Hopeless Continent”, a popular narrative which was advanced and continually portrayed in mainstream media. Poverty, disease and despair were taglines in headlines relating to Africa. Despite this melancholic view of the continent, positive changes were taking place in Africa in varied facets of life, economic, political, social and technological.
According to The Business Insider, 10 of the fastest growing economies in the world are in Africa. Throughout the 2000s, growth in Sub-Saharan Africa reached five percent even during the 2008 /2009 financial crisis.
Studies go on to show that if Sub-Saharan Africa were one country, it would already have “middle income” status with a per capita income of circa $1 500. This information is encouraging as with the regional bodies SADC, ECOWAS and the EAC, Africa is integrating and progressing towards economic and monetary unions with common systems and policies. In fact according to SADC, “The Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan implementation framework identified 2016 as the target for this milestone (monetary union), which follows the establishment of the Free Trade Area, the Customs Union and the creation of a Common Market. As the establishment of the second and third integration milestones have been delayed, Monetary Union may also be delayed.”
While progress in integrating might be slow, it is an important step in achieving the long-term goals of the continent. This increased integration is beneficial in negotiations with other states and entities.
A regional body like SADC would be in a better position to negotiate with China, the USA or the EU, for example than say Namibia which has a population of just of 2 million people would.
One important step for achieving the Agenda 2063, a critical short-term success is value addition and beneficiation of African resources as stressed by President Mugabe at last year’s SADC Summit in Harare. Africa continues to be attractive for investment. Should governments and regional bodies collaborate to direct investment towards accessing resources as well as developing industries which add value to goods to curtail the export of raw materials, then Africa could have a GDP higher than the USA and the EU combined.
The DRC alone has a potential GDP of $24 trillion. For this to be beneficial to the continent, Africa must trade with each other and loosen the hold the more developed world has on our resources and industries.
In looking towards beneficiation and value addition, it is important to look at the geographical landscape of the continent and individual countries. This is changing due partly to urbanisation and growing cities but development of rural areas. With the growing population, numerous people are migrating towards major cities in search of economic opportunity.
This puts strain on these areas and as a result governments are working towards developing other regions of their countries to spread the wealth and opportunity. Infrastructure development is key in maintaining this increasing urban population, which currently stands at 41 percent.
By growing and developing rural communities and smaller towns, African countries have the ability to create jobs, as well as establish the relevant infrastructure to grow tertiary industries on the continent. This can assist in guaranteeing value addition to African resources and commodities.
Despite there being growth on the continent, Africa still faces numerous challenges that it needs to address prior to the success of Agenda 2063. It is reported that since 1970, Africa has lost up to $1,8 trillion in illicit financial flows.
Should this trend continue, then by 2025 Africa will be in no better position that it is in today.
Corruption and illegal practices hinder development on the continent and only serve to benefit foreign governments and multinational corporations.
The main corridor to corruption has been the patron-client relationship that exists within states. Governments and government institutions can be held largely responsible due to a lack of ethics and principles. Governments all over Africa have been accused of and responsible for the misuse of public funds as well as aid.
Last year, Zimbabwe’s Auditor-General Mildred Chiri, on numerous occasions reported corrupt practices in Government departments, ministries and parastatals.
In February she put out an audit report that showed 22 ministries had poor corporate governance, abused fund accounts and flouted procurement procedures. In the same month The Herald reported that $16,5 million revolving fund for the production of licence plates had gone missing from the Central Vehicle Registry.
When BEAM was audited, it was noted that more than $2 million was left unused, affecting thousands of pupils due to mismanagement of funds. An audit of the District Development Fund revealed that $1,6 million in fuel was unaccounted for.
The Health Services Board (HSB) was caught up in a fuel and car hire scandal in July 2015 while in the same month Information, Communication and Technology and Courier Services Minister Supa Mandiwanzira fired the Potraz board over issues of graft.
And then there was the unconstitutional retention which could be costing Zimbabwe millions according to Auditor-General. She said audits showed that a number of Government ministries were retaining funds without remitting to the Consolidated Revenue Fund.
Corruption in Africa is also fuelled by a large informal sector. High unemployment in Africa has given birth to an informal sector that thrives on illegal and illicit practices.
Unstable countries prone to conflict and violence form a hub for the trade of arms, drugs and human trafficking. For Africa to combat all of this, it will take political will from our leaders as well as institutions which are honest and accountable.
While Africa is not one homogenous entity but in fact an extremely diverse continent in people, politics, culture, climate and environment, it is important for all African countries to take the necessary steps that would see the continent arriving at Agenda 2063. To this end regional bodies have a major task of creating a homogenous environment in their regions in terms of public policy and good governance.