Africa’s journey to financial independence In a world where divisions and regionalism are on the rise, the African Union stands tall and resolute.
While threats of fragmentation and divergent interests loom, Africa remains united and unyielding.
There is no “Afri-exit” in sight, for the bonds of African unity remain unbroken. But let us delve deeper into the African Union as we celebrated Africa Day yesterday, and a more complex reality unveils itself.
The continent finds itself torn between the financial and political interests of both the traditional West and the East.
Though we may wear a facade of unity, unseen forces are at work, attempting to divide and conquer African nations, capitalizing on global finance and infrastructure.
The strategic relationships within our region and on the international stage hold immense promise for economic development.
We must overhaul our connection with the Southern African Development Community (SADC) nations, forging a trading bloc that nurtures growth and prosperity.
Taking inspiration from the model of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, we propose a thorough review of the SADC visa process, unleashing the potential it holds.
Africa is blessed with bountiful natural resources, yet its governments often falter in converting this wealth into benefits for their people and nations.
To compound matters, our ruling elites, ideologically and militarily, stumble incoherently, weakened and susceptible to corruption, bending to the whims of foreign powers.
Economically, the African Union’s landscape is dominated by foreign resource companies, carving out enclaves focused solely on exporting primary products.
These companies, detached from the pulse of domestic societies, offer little beyond the payment of royalties and taxes, leaving behind a trail of environmental devastation.
Meanwhile, African societies find themselves heavily reliant on imported manufactured goods.
In the grand tapestry of Africa’s challenges, one poignant thread weaves its way through the fabric: the extensive emigration of professionals and entrepreneurs who seek greener pastures in developed Western countries.
By 2050, Africa’s most valuable export will be its people – a relentless brain drain of our skilled workforce.
Let us not mince words here – the lofty aspirations of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) and its successor, the African Union (AU), have not materialised as we had hoped.
The blame lies squarely on the shoulders of our weak institutions, crippled by financial constraints and operational inefficiencies.
On the frontlines of peace and security, conflicts rage in the eastern corners of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia finds itself engulfed in strife, and Sudan too bears the scars of unrest.
And let us not forget the terror groups wreaking havoc in the Sahel, disrupting the fragile equilibrium of the region.
In the realm of democracy and national sovereignty, Africa has witnessed a disheartening surge of coups over the past decade.
Burkina Faso in 2015 and 2022, Chad in 2021, Guinea in 2021, Guinea Bissau in 2022, Mali in 2020 and 2021, Sudan in 2019 and 2022, and Zimbabwe in 2017 – these are not merely isolated incidents but unsettling cracks in the foundations of our governance.
The treatment of opposition leaders in many countries and the plight of the LGBTQ+ community across the continent have raised grave concerns about the state of human rights.
And when we turn our gaze towards the specter of poverty, the numbers tell a bleak tale.
The ranks of those living in absolute poverty have swelled from 284 million people in 1990 to a staggering 500 million today.
This is an undeniable truth that stares us in the face.
To say that Africa confronts tremendous challenges is an understatement of epic proportions.
And to compound matters, we find ourselves entangled in the web of conflict ravaging Europe, while inflation rates soar unabated.
In the face of these trials, the African Union must rise, but it can only do so with the wings of financial independence firmly spread.
Yet, my fellow Africans, we have not yet reached that promised land of financial autonomy.
The AU remains largely dependent on the European Union, with a staggering 54% of its funding flowing from the coffers of our European counterparts.
And let us not forget the growing influence of China, casting shadows of doubt upon our path.
China funds not only the AU secretariat but also the Pan-African Infrastructure Development Fund, the ICT Development Fund, and the Africa Peace and Security Fund.
In a twist of fate, it was the Chinese government that erected the gleaming African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa.
As we celebrate six decades of the pan-African endeavor, we must reckon with a hard truth: true self-determination and sovereignty lie in the hands of a financially independent AU.
It is imperative that our African states step forward and assume the responsibility of fully funding the AU institutions.
Only then can we break the chains that bind us and forge a path toward a future truly shaped by our own hands.
The African Union’s lack of financial muscle stems from its failure to embrace integration and foster intra-African trade.
Africa, my friends, has stumbled in its quest to harmonise and unite its domestic and continental protocols, hindering the seamless flow of trade within our borders.
But fear not, for the economic sustainability of Africa rests within our grasp.
We hold the power to nurture local manufacturing, promote domestic value addition, and amplify intra-African trade.
These aspirations are not lofty dreams floating in the distant horizon – they are within our reach, closer than ever before.
Enter the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), a colossal feat accomplished by the African Union.
This agreement has birthed the largest trading area on the face of this Earth, encompassing a staggering 1.2 billion people and boasting a GDP of $2.2 trillion. Can you fathom the magnitude of this achievement?
The AfCFTA is poised to seize 52% of African trade by the year 2025, breathing life into local manufacturing and agriculture.
The potential ripple effects? General welfare gains reaching a staggering $16 billion. Yes, my friends, the numbers speak for themselves – Africa is poised to reap the rewards of its own progress.
But wait, there’s more. Linked to the AfCFTA is the Tripartite Free Trade Area, uniting the forces of SADC, the East African Community, and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa.
This triumvirate encompasses 26 countries, embracing a population of 632 million people, with a trade value surpassing $1.2 trillion.
Can you comprehend the vastness of this alliance?
It accounts for a whopping 60% of African output.
These two remarkable initiatives, alongside a myriad of others, stand as testaments to the untapped potential that lies within Africa’s grasp. The proof is in the pudding.
Africa is brimming with promise, ready to unleash its full potential upon the world. Let us delve into the untapped potential that lies within Africa’s grasp.
Beyond the consolidation and harmonization of trade areas, Africa stands to reap the rewards of a momentous demographic dividend.
While the world’s population ages, Africa’s population is set to skyrocket from 1.2 billion to a staggering 2.5 billion by the year 2050.
Can you comprehend the sheer magnitude of this growth?
Sub-Saharan Africa is sprinting ahead with a population growth rate of 2.7% per year—more than twice as fast as South Asia (1.2%) and Latin America (0.9%). In simple terms, Africa is adding the population equivalent of France every two years.
Now, some may view this demographic trend with trepidation, but mark my words – a well-organised Africa has the power to unleash unparalleled productivity and economic output through its youthful generation.
Just look at the economic miracle of East Asia, where economists credit a third of their success to the “demographic dividend” – the magical ratio between working-age individuals and dependents.
Africa must guard against the interference of global external actors in our affairs, both at the continental level and within the domestic affairs of individual African nations.
Likewise, South Africa must remain vigilant against those who exploit the principle of sovereignty as a smokescreen to erode the very rights that we, as a continent, have collectively agreed upon. We must actively uphold the African Charter for Human and Peoples’ Rights.
We must actively uphold the African Charter for Democracy, Elections, and Governance.
And we must ensure that the Pan-African Parliament blossoms into a fully representative body, amplifying the voices of all Africans across the continent.
The time has come for Africa as a whole to rise to the occasion, unleashing our potential, protecting our sovereignty, and forging a future that empowers every African citizen.
Together, we shall pave the path to a united, prosperous, and resolute Africa.
*The writer of this article is Kevin Mofokeng, a Developmental Writer and digital PR strategist based in Gaborone, Botswana. The views expressed by Kevin Mofokeng are not necessarily those of The Bulrushes