To achieve The Africa We Want, we must have The Africans We Want. We must have them in critical numbers to reach the tipping point for social-economic transformation.
Africa matters in the world. It’s a geographical, demographic and natural resource giant. Its size is 30 million square kilometres with 60 per cent of the world’s arable land.
Its population is 1.3 billion, with a median age of 19.4. The EU Raw Materials Initiative shows how indispensable Africa is to global security and growth. It is a growth pole of the global order, as a frontier for trade and investment, with a 10 per cent return on investment.
Charles Robertson and his troupe of economists in their book The Fastest Billion argue that Africa has taken off on a trajectory to reach a combined GDP of US $29 trillion by the year 2050.
Africa, however, is famous for its challenges, particularly as the last stranglehold of poverty in the world. With over 422 million people living below the global poverty line, Africa is home to about 70 per cent of the world’s poor. What to do then?
Though vast, Africa can be rallied to good causes and successfully execute them. Epic victories over the centuries have proved this.
Decolonization was accomplished in 1990 with the independence of Namibia and the release of Nelson Mandela, and democratic elections in South Africa 1994.
Whatever is bad or is not working about Africa can be changed, and quite quickly within a decade. For example, after the genocide in Rwanda in 1994, the country has been transformed beyond recognition.
We’ve responded to epidemics like Ebola together as Africa and ended wars and conflicts across the continent.
Greg Mills, in his book Why Africa is Poor, documents success stories across the continent, and points out bad leadership as the main problem, which can be fixed.
We’ve addressed our existential challenges through developing long-term visions, and mapping them out into long term programs, codified in Agreements and other instruments.
We’ve travelled the road from the OAU Charter in 1963 for decolonization, to the Abuja Treaty in 1991 for creating the African Economic Community, to the Constitutive Act of the African Union in 2000 for a stronger Africa in the world, and to Agenda 2063 in 2013 – the current 50-year blueprint for The Africa We Want, i.e., a free and prosperous Africa that beneficially participates in the global order; and now in 2019, the African Continental Free Trade Area to establish a Single African Market.
Together with the AfCFTA, we have adopted the Single African Air Transport Market and the Protocol for Free Movement in Africa. These need to be operationalized more fully.
We’ve adopted regional integration as the overarching strategy for our political and economic freedom; for social-economic transformation.
The regional economic communities (RECs) are the building blocs for continental integration. The best practices in the RECs get harvested and consolidated into continental integration programs.
These REC best practices include peace and security from ECOWAS, industrialization and infrastructure development from SADC, climate change from IGAD, trade facilitation and investment from COMESA, and deep integration from the EAC.
Other lessons include, addressing non-tariff barriers from the Tripartite, digital payment system from COMESA and SADC, compensation and adjustment facilities from COMESA and SADC, trade dispute systems from COMESA and the Tripartite, Digital FTA and digital integration from COMESA, rules of origin from the Tripartite, and templates for FTA negotiations from the Tripartite.
To do all this, it has taken individuals up to the task; individuals who have provided leadership operating in the public domain and in the private sector, as well as in the academia including thinkers and public opinion setters.
We need at least the 25 per cent required a critical mass of individuals to reach the tipping point for change; for The Africa We Want.
That is 14 presidents and 365 million Africans. But they need to be mobilized and organized, under an organizing logic; under a political-social philosophy of pan-Africanism and goodness in the world.
In my book with Prof Calestous Juma, entitled ‘Emergent Africa (2018)’ we set out a program for inspiring new generations of pan-Africanists to carry forward the work of transforming Africa.
Africa has a good number of political leaders, as well as a large number of bad leaders who make most of the headlines. And we have a large number of pan-Africanists who fight for the good of Africa in their professions and ways of life.
The social-political processes for change need to be mobilized for building the critical mass of The Africans We Want.
The moral of it is that Africa needs you! To deliver the Africa We Want, we must have The Africans We Want.
BY DR FRANCIS MANGENI, Director – Trade, Customs and Monetary Affairs at COMESA Secretariat