For three years in a row African heads of state and government declared 2017 as the Year for the Youth, 2018 for Anti-Corruption, and 2019 is for Migration. These triple challenges stand in the way of the continent’s Agenda 2063 vision.
Dr David Monyae, the Co-Director of the University Of Johannesburg (UJ) Confucius Institute (UJCI), penned an opinion piece entitled “AU big on plans, thin on implementation” published on Cape Times, 13 February 2019.
As Egyptian President Fattah el-Sisi commenced as chairperson of the AU, it is preoccupied with reform, financing, peace, security and the African continental free trade area. Our greatest concern, however, is that the AU is big on declarations and thin on implementation. It is critical for the AU to place a moratorium on the formulation of grand plans and policies. This is a golden opportunity for President Cyril Ramaphosa, who takes over as AU chairperson in 2020, to devise clear monitoring and evaluation benchmarks for the continent.
The UN World Population Prospects predicts that Africa will have 2.4 billion people – ahead of China and India – in 2050. African youth (0 to 24 years old), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation predicts, will increase by 50% by 2050.
Our leaders must spend a great deal of time creating conducive environments for African youth to thrive. The AU also needs to halt treacherous journeys by Africans to Europe. Our continent, it was reported in 2017, had lost 3 900 people trying to cross to Europe.
Another major source of Africa’s underdevelopment is illicit financial flows (IFFs). The Mbeki Report revealed in 2015 that Africa was losing $50 billion through IFFs.
South Africa has submitted its instrument of ratification on the African Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA). This should encourage Nigeria, Algeria, Egypt and Kenya to do the same. The lesson learnt from the US-China trade war is that protectionism is on the rise. If Washington and Beijing trade tensions are about trade imbalances, Africa ought to integrate faster to increase its bargaining power.
The 2.4 billion Africans in 2050 cannot continue to be the face of global poverty but rather a vibrant resource in tackling the continent’s triple challenges. The AU should strengthen bodies that aim to improve good governance, especially the African Peer Review Mechanism and invest substantially in research capacity of all its institutions in monitoring progress, or lack thereof.
For the CFTA to be successful, Africa must build more infrastructure. Intra-Africa trade stands at a paltry 12%. Africa ought to move with speed in industrialising the continent to absorb the youthful workforce in tandem with skills development especially in the field of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
To augment mineral resource beneficiation, Africa needs to utilise the individual states’ capacity to return revenue to the continent. With the successful prospecting of oil in South Africa, it does not make sense for Africa to continue importing oil when Angola, Nigeria, Algeria, Libya, Uganda and Egypt are massively endowed.
The AU also has to respond to rising nationalistic sentiments in the global political economy. This might entail a shift towards protectionism, which the CFTA might foster.
There are also rampant acts of terrorism, seen recently in Kenya’s capital Nairobi, and the expansion of foreign forces on the continent.
Africa also needs to be resolute in enforcing the Ezulwini consensus on the reform of the UN Security Council (UNSC). South Africa, Equatorial Guinea and Ivory Coast are holding non-permanent UNSC seats, and should co-ordinate via the AU in advancing African priorities in the world.
In this context President Ramaphosa should start thinking innovatively about how Africa’s most industrialised economy can advance its policy in resolving Africa’s triple challenges of unemployment among the youth, corruption and migration.
*The views expressed in the article is that of the author/s and does not necessarily reflect that of the University of Johannesburg