Self-reliance is Africa’s way to renaissance
TALK TO US With so many natural resources, why is a rise to economic power still so elusive for most of Africa?
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When we think “self-reliance” we remember the Tanzanian “Ujamaa” ideology led by Julius Nyerere, whose objective was to build a nation on “African Socialist” principles that was not dependent on foreign aid.
Self-reliance should not be confused with “de-linking” - a concept aired by dependency theorists, particularly Samir Amin, as a solution to the dependent integration of Africa into a world system dominated by the developed North.
It gained prominence in the 1970s, culminating in the Lagos Plan of Action of 1980 – a development programme of the OAU to create an African Economic Community and eventually a political union. The Lagos Plan was refined further in the 1991 Abuja Treaty – establishing the African Economic Community - which was more elaborate in detailing the stages to be followed towards that goal.
Both the Lagos Plan and Abuja Treaty were founded on “collective self-reliance” and “self-sustaining” development philosophy, instead of dependency. “Collective” emphasis was due to a Pan-African drive for all countries to work together; not to be isolated in a comfort zone of sovereignty.
The Lagos Plan opened its preamble with a declaration: “Africa is unable to point to any significant growth rate or satisfactory index of general wellbeing, in the past 20 years. Faced with this situation and determined to undertake measures for the basic restructuring of the economic base of our continent, we resolved to adopt a far-reaching regional approach based primarily on collective self-reliance.”
A decade later, the Abuja Treaty was as determined in setting out objectives, inter alia, to: “promote economic, social and cultural development and the integration of African economies, in order to increase economic selfreliance and promote self-sustained development” – and “establish on a continental scale, a framework for the development, mobilisation and utilisation of Africa’s human and material resources, to achieve self-reliant development.”
The emphasis was on reducing dependency on foreign aid; and in the case of the Lagos Plan and the Abuja Treaty, on building “Regional Economic Communities” (RECs), which are now in existence in all the five regions of the AU.
Here, we have succeeded. All RECs are fully operational, except in North Africa. But this success has led to their proliferation, to the extent that the challenge today is to rationalise them, and ensure they are not stand-alone bodies, each working in isolation – but that they are well harmonised and coordinated with the broad AU agenda.
Foreign aid is still an issue, as is Africa’s external partner relations. The aim has been to try to manage these relations so that Africa controls and owns its processes and outcomes.
Such efforts have focused on three aspects. First, try to reduce AU dependency on foreign funding through a target of covering 100% of the AU’s operational budget from own African financial sources – 75% for programmes and 25% for peace and security. A high-level representative on financing the union has since been appointed: Donald Kaberuka.
Secondly, the AU has been trying to reorganise its internal business – especially the structure of its summits – to focus more on strategic issues and limit the influence of the overwhelming presence of external partners at AU meetings.
The third focus has been reforming the AU itself to enable the body to carry out its mandate more effectively. Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame was given that task. He presented a proposals package at the January 2017 Summit, which are now being implemented. It includes reforms aimed at reconfiguring the partnerships that Africa has with a number of countries all over the world; to increase Africa’s leverage.
Peace and security were less of an issue in the 1980s Lagos Plan-era than today. Disproportionate dependence of Africa on external security partners is worrying; it’s not just limited to funding. The continent now recognises it must take the lead in solving its problems, including rapid response to crisis situations – to discourage foreign military intervention in Africa, which in some cases resulted in regime change.
The African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crises is the interim mechanism we have created for this purpose, before our African Standby Force is operational.
Maloka is CEO of the African Peer Review Mechanism