How Africa can achieve Agenda 2063

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HSRC chief re­search spe­cial­ist Dr Em­manuel Owusu-Sekyere has ad­vice for AU mem­ber coun­tries

As Africa rises, and be­gins to forge a more pos­i­tive out­look of its fu­ture, the con­ti­nent's schol­ars, busi­ness­peo­ple, com­mu­nity lead­ers and pol­i­cy­mak­ers have called for a re­for­mu­la­tion of its fu­ture – big ideas for the 21st cen­tury.

In 2013 the mem­bers of the African Union (AU) launched Agenda 2063, a vi­sion and ac­tion plan for the Africa we want to see in the cen­te­nary year of the Or­gan­i­sa­tion of African Unity.The OAU, the pre­cur­sor to the AU, was es­tab­lished in 1963.

Agenda 2063 is Pan-African and peo­ple-cen­tred. It in­cor­po­rates lessons and ex­pe­ri­ences from the past to drive Africa's devel­op­ment and trans­for­ma­tion for the next 50 years. Its ul­ti­mate goal is to se­cure unity, pros­per­ity and peace for all cit­i­zens of Africa.

But some ask whether Africa can re­alise its Agenda 2063 ob­jec­tives if it does not ad­dress key chal­lenges fac­ing the con­ti­nent right now.

Eco­nomic trans­for­ma­tion

Dr Em­manuel Owusu-Sekyere, chief re­search spe­cial­ist at the Africa In­sti­tute of South Africa (AISA), be­lieves that for Africa to reach its goals, the con­ti­nent must take united, prac­ti­cal steps to change the sta­tus quo in in­te­gra­tion, devel­op­ment and lead­er­ship. AISA is a pro­gramme of the Hu­man Science Re­search Coun­cil (HSRC).

“Ac­tion, hard work and gen­uine­ness are needed from all Africans. Laws must be changed to ad­dress spe­cific chal­lenges,” Owusu-Sekyere says.

“Gov­ern­ments must take the lead to en­sure that eco­nomic trans­for­ma­tion takes place with speed.”

Africans must take a “hands-on-deck ap­proach” to over­come poverty, high unem­ploy­ment and poor devel­op­ment, Owusu-Sekyere says. Africa is not cre­at­ing jobs be­cause economies pro­duce and ex­port pri­mary com­modi­ties, value that leaves its shores af­ter a too-short pro­duc­tion phase.

“The few coun­tries that are en­dowed with nat­u­ral re­sources ex­port the raw min­eral re­sources,” he says.

“The growth we are gen­er­at­ing is job­less growth. We say Africa is ris­ing – due to in­ter­na­tional com­mod­ity mar­kets – but it is not the in-house or self-made pro­duc­tion ca­pac­ity of the con­ti­nent.”

Africa must unite

The con­ti­nent must there­fore go be­yond the po­lit­i­cal com­mit­ments and cap­i­talise in­tra-African trade.

Dr Em­manuel Owusu-Sekyere, chief re­search spe­cial­ist at the HSRC's Africa In­sti­tute of South Africa, ad­vises lead­ers to look to their own coun­tries to achieve the con­ti­nent-wide goals of the African Union's Agenda 2063.

Trade in­te­gra­tion has long been a strate­gic ob­jec­tive for Africa. But de­spite some re­gional com­mu­ni­ties' suc­cess in elim­i­nat­ing tar­iffs, the African mar­ket re­mains frag­mented. Poor in­fra­struc­ture, co­pi­ous paper­work, bur­den­some reg­u­la­tion, cor­rup­tion and poor ac­cess to trade fi­nanc­ing are just a few of the im­ped­i­ments that in­hibit the move­ment of goods, ser­vices, peo­ple and cap­i­tal across borders.

“The em­pha­sis should be on trad­ing with each other to make the con­ti­nent self-suf­fi­cient,” Owusu-Sekyere says. “But the re­al­ity is we are still more in­ter­ested in trad­ing with China, Amer­ica and the EU.” He says a dol­lar is still a dol­lar, whether it comes from the US or Africa.

Help­ing busi­ness thrive

Gov­ern­ments, he says, must lead in re­duc­ing the cost of trade by elim­i­nat­ing red tape in cross-bor­der trans­ac­tions, re­duc­ing cor­rup­tion and digi­tis­ing cur­rently man­ual pro­cesses.

If trade in­te­gra­tion is done right, Africa's small busi­nesses should thrive. In­creased com­pet­i­tive­ness and economies of scale could weed out cor­po­rates that are less pro­duc­tive in the African mar­ket­place.

Trade in­te­gra­tion could also es­tab­lish and strengthen prod­uct value chains, and speed up the trans­fer of tech­nol­ogy and knowl­edge via spill-over ef­fects. It could also in­cen­tivise in­fra­struc­ture devel­op­ment, and at­tract more for­eign di­rect in­vest­ment.

Ac­cord­ing to Owusu-Sekyere, the new Free Trade area that African lead­ers are push­ing for this year would be a step in the right di­rec­tion. It would con­sol­i­date the move­ment of goods and peo­ple across Africa and force the con­ti­nent to eval­u­ate value chains like those in the EU and Asia, re­gions where in­tra-trade pacts mean growth for all.

Owusu-Sekyere says the SADC re­gion, for ex­am­ple, could de­velop its man­u­fac­tur­ing chain by draw­ing syn­er­gies from the in­dus­trial ca­pac­ity and raw ma­te­ri­als of each mem­ber state.

This would stop coun­tries from ex­port­ing pri­mary goods, stop them from hav­ing to buy fin­ished prod­ucts they could have man­u­fac­tured them­selves. It would in­crease the in­dus­trial base and cre­ate many more jobs, es­pe­cially for the youth.

The youth div­i­dend

About 200 mil­lion Africans are aged be­tween 15 and 24, mak­ing it the con­ti­nent with the world's largest youth pop­u­la­tion. But most of these young peo­ple are un­em­ployed. This, Owusu-Sekyere says, is a tick­ing time bomb that must be de­fused.

“If our youth had work we would have a huge con­sumer mar­ket which would, in turn, gen­er­ate eco­nomic growth. But in the ab­sence of jobs the youth div­i­dend will end up be­ing an ex­plo­sive source of in­sta­bil­ity on the con­ti­nent.” Ur­gent in­ter­ven­tion is needed.

“We need to trans­form our economies into job-cre­at­ing economies to ben­e­fit the youth.”

Na­tional plan­ning

A key strat­egy in achiev­ing Agenda 2063 would be to break it down – and other global devel­op­ment plans such as the Sus­tain­able Devel­op­ment Goals – into work­able na­tional devel­op­ment plans that could be im­ple­mented on the ground, to change the so­cioe­co­nomic con­di­tions of the or­di­nary per­son on the African street.

These plans, Owusu-Sekyere ad­vises, should have shorter im­ple­men­ta­tion pe­ri­ods, such as three to five years, which would make them eas­ier to mon­i­tor.

“They need to be done in such a way that who­ever comes into of­fice must know that they are not party devel­op­ment goals but rather na­tional devel­op­ment goals, which must con­tinue,” he says.

Owusu-Sekyere ex­plains that over the years, changes in gov­ern­ments has meant a con­stant change of plans, a waste of re­sources al­ready spent. There also is a need for gov­ern­ments and the in­tel­li­gentsia to co­or­di­nate a skills revo­lu­tion in the con­ti­nent.

“We need for­ward-think­ing pres­i­dents,” he says. “We need to stop play­ing lip ser­vice to the chal­lenges of our peo­ple, which have been known for decades, and start ac­tu­ally tak­ing ac­tion. We need lead­ers with strong po­lit­i­cal will who have the needs of the peo­ple at heart.”

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