Africa lead­ers chart­ing the way

The Sunday Mail (Zimbabwe) - - OPINION & ANALYSIS -

LAST week on these pages, I be­gan a con­ver­sa­tion on the African dream, ask­ing if African lead­ers have a plan to trans­form the con­ti­nent’s for­tunes in light of as­ser­tions by world lead­ers and think-tanks that Africa is the new bat­tle­ground for ide­o­log­i­cal, eco­nomic, se­cu­rity and po­lit­i­cal agen­das.

Nat­u­rally, the at­ten­tion shifted to African lead­ers on the world’s big­gest stage – the 73rd ses­sion of the United Na­tions Gen­eral As­sem­bly (UNGA), where 35 African Heads of State and Gov­ern­ment, or their rep­re­sen­ta­tives, con­trib­uted to the Gen­eral De­bate. And un­sur­pris­ingly, African lead­ers ral­lied around the idea of the African Dream, which is steeped in the tra­di­tion of re­fus­ing to be heav­ily de­pen­dent on other coun­tries.

It is also shaped by the need to chart a unique path and se­cure a solid in­her­i­tance for pos­ter­ity. Pres­i­dent Em­mer­son Mnan­gagwa con­trib­uted to the Gen­eral De­bate, em­pha­sis­ing the need to put “all hands on the deck”, in clear ref­er­ence to the need to co­op­er­ate to achieve the UN de­vel­op­men­tal goals.

He could as well have been speak­ing to his African brothers and sis­ters, or, bet­ter still, to Zim­bab­weans in view of the jour­ney that lies ahead. Among some of the key in­ter­ven­tions made by the Pres­i­dent at the UNGA in­clude the need to democra­tise the UN, per­ma­nent rep­re­sen­ta­tion of Africa in the Se­cu­rity Coun­cil and re­form of the Bret­ton Woods in­sti­tu­tions (IMF and the World Bank).

Other debu­tants were South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa; Ethiopia’s Abiy Ahmed, who was rep­re­sented by Min­is­ter for For­eign Af­fairs Mr Workineh Ge­beyehu Negewo; Liberia’s George Weah and Sierra Leone’s Julius Maada Bio.

Sadc chair­per­son and Namib­ian Pres­i­dent Hage Gein­gob; Zam­bian Pres­i­dent Edgar Lungu and the Pres­i­dent of Malawi, Prof Peter Mutharika, among many other African lead­ers, added their voices in push­ing for the re­form of UN or­gans.

From their tone and mes­sage, it was clear that African lead­ers know ex­actly who they are, what they have and where they want to be. African lead­ers spoke with one voice, call­ing for the re­form of the UN, par­tic­u­larly the Se­cu­rity Coun­cil.

With six of the top 10 fastest grow­ing economies in the world be­ing in Africa, the mes­sage could not have been de­liv­ered more em­phat­i­cally and clearly. As if read­ing from the same man­u­script as Pres­i­dent Mnan­gagwa and oth­ers, AU chair­per­son Pres­i­dent Paul Kagame - whose coun­try, Rwanda, is among some of the pace­set­ters in Africa in terms of re­form and eco­nomic growth, hav­ing av­er­aged an eco­nomic growth rate of 8,6 per­cent per year for over a decade dur­ing the re­con­struc­tion phase - also called on the world to re­spect Africa.

“Peace and se­cu­rity are the foun­da­tion of eco­nomic and so­cial well-be­ing. It is im­por­tant for the AU’s diplo­matic rep­re­sen­ta­tion here at the UN to be ac­corded the sta­tus and weight as other re­gional bod­ies. A few get to de­fine the norms by which oth­ers shall be judged. But stan­dards that do not ap­ply to ev­ery­one equally are not uni­ver­sal. Ad­dress­ing this im­bal­ance in the very foun­da­tion of our sys­tem is what will give shape to a re­vival of mul­ti­lat­eral co­op­er­a­tion and re­new the le­git­i­macy of our in­ter­na­tional in­sti­tu­tions that are so cru­cial to our planet’s fu­ture,” said Pres­i­dent Kagame.

In an ap­par­ent dig at Amer­i­can Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s iso­la­tion­ist pol­icy, Pres­i­dent Kagame said, “The trend on our con­ti­nent is to­ward closer and more pro­duc­tive co­op­er­a­tion both through the African Union and our re­gional eco­nomic com­mu­ni­ties. The ev­i­dent de­cline of old cer­tain­ties and au­thor­i­ties is not about to bring turbulence to Africa as would have been the case in the pre­vi­ous era.

“On the con­trary, the ef­fect has been to fo­cus Africa’s at­ten­tion on the ur­gent need to get our house in order and fun­da­men­tally change how we do busi­ness. That is why the AU in­sti­tuted a ma­jor fi­nan­cial and in­sti­tu­tional re­form more than three years ago.”

Pres­i­dent Kagame spoke of the pos­i­tive strides Africa has made to en­sure that no one would think that the awak­en­ing gi­ant is over­stat­ing its im­por­tance.

“We are al­ready see­ing prac­ti­cal re­sults. New fi­nan­cial dis­ci­pline has pro­duced an AU bud­get that is 12 per­cent lower than last year. The share of fund­ing supplied by mem­ber states has also in­creased sub­stan­tially.

African coun­tries also need to fur­ther stake their claim at in­ter­na­tional fora such as the up­com­ing African Union-Euro­pean Union High Level Fo­rum in Vi­enna, Aus­tria, and the Tokyo In­ter­na­tional Con­fer­ence on African De­vel­op­ment in 2019, among oth­ers.

Con­tri­bu­tions to the fund which helps pay for AU peace sup­port op­er­a­tions are at its high­est level since es­tab­lish­ment in 1993.

“And ear­lier this year, the his­toric African Con­ti­nen­tal Free Trade Area was signed, which was the cul­mi­na­tion of decades of ef­fort and once in place Africa’s place in the global eco­nomic and trade architecture will be re­de­fined. Economies of scale and higher level of in­tra-African trade will help our con­ti­nent at­tain the sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment goals by 2030. We will also see new pos­si­bil­i­ties for pub­lic pri­vate part­ner­ship with Africa’s grow­ing pri­vate sec­tor,” said Pres­i­dent Kagame, whose coun­try is pro­ject­ing a 7,2 per­cent growth in 2018.

En­cour­ag­ingly, Pres­i­dent Kagame in­di­cated that Zim­babwe needs in­ter­na­tional as­sis­tance to re­alise its full po­ten­tial.

“In Zim­babwe as well, the next stages on the coun­try’s path of progress war­rant steady en­cour­age­ment from the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity. . .This year also pro­vided ex­am­ples of re­gional se­cu­rity af­fairs and key po­lit­i­cal tran­si­tions be­ing han­dled in a peace­ful and for­ward-look­ing man­ner. More ef­fec­tive con­sul­ta­tion and lead­er­ship is re­duc­ing the need for ex­ter­nal me­di­a­tion and this is how it should be. The mo­men­tous de­vel­op­ments in the Horn of Africa - Ethiopia, Eritrea, Dji­bouti and even So­ma­lia, are the most re­mark­able. The re­gion’s lead­ers de­serve our full sup­port as they set aside decades of mis­trust and work to­wards a com­pre­hen­sive set­tle­ment. It is im­por­tant for the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil to col­lab­o­rate closely with the AU to ac­com­pany this process of nor­mal­i­sa­tion,” said Pres­i­dent Kagame.

He also spoke of the trou­ble­some hotspots in Africa, in a re­fresh­ing new cul­ture of ac­count­abil­ity and can­did­ness that has for long held Africa back.

“How­ever, the other sit­u­a­tions in Africa, no­tably the Cen­tral African Repub­lic, Libya and South Su­dan where se­ri­ous prob­lems re­main un­re­solved de­spite so much po­ten­tial. Africa and the world should come to­gether and do what needs to be done to har­monise over­lap­ping ini­tia­tives and en­sure that agree­ments are re­spected. In no other re­gion is the sense of transna­tional sol­i­dar­ity and unity so deeply felt as in Africa. The idea that our re­spec­tive na­tional iden­ti­ties stand in con­tra­dic­tion to pan-African­ism is un­heard of in our con­text. And yet de­spite this unique civic en­dow­ment, Africa has too of­ten stood out for di­vi­sion and dys­func­tion in prac­tice.

“This left Africa un­able to ar­tic­u­late and ad­vance our com­mon in­ter­ests and we ceded re­spon­si­bil­ity for our fu­ture to oth­ers, not by force but by de­fault. But times are chang­ing rapidly and so the man­age­ment of Africa’s po­si­tion must also change,” he said.

With such bold lead­er­ship, prac­ti­cal ex­am­ples of African coun­tries mak­ing strides to­wards at­tain­ing the African Dream, it is no sur­prise that the con­ti­nent, Zim­babwe in­cluded, is also be­com­ing bolder about the prospects of re­al­is­ing pros­per­ous economies. And this is pre­cisely what Pres­i­dent Mnan­gagwa told the world.

He said: “Em­bold­ened by the dreams, hopes and as­pi­ra­tions of our peo­ple and in tan­dem with the UN Agenda 2030 and African Union Agenda 2063, we out­lined our vi­sion to be­come a mid­dle in­come econ­omy with a per capita in­come of about US$3 500. This will bring about in­creased in­vest­ment, de­cent jobs, broad-based em­pow­er­ment and a so­ci­ety free from poverty and cor­rup­tion by 2030.”

The chal­lenge now is to trans­form the vi­sion into re­al­ity. African coun­tries also need to fur­ther stake their claim at in­ter­na­tional fora such as the up­com­ing African Union-Euro­pean Union High Level Fo­rum in Vi­enna, Aus­tria, and the Tokyo In­ter­na­tional Con­fer­ence on African De­vel­op­ment in 2019, among oth­ers.

The 73rd UNGA, which started on Sep­tem­ber 18 and con­cludes to­mor­row in New York, USA, is run­ning un­der the theme “Mak­ing the United Na­tions rel­e­vant to all peo­ple: Global lead­er­ship and shared re­spon­si­bil­i­ties for peace­ful, eq­ui­table and sus­tain­able so­ci­eties.”

Two em­i­nent African sons - Nel­son Man­dela and Koffi An­nan (the 7th UN sec­re­tary-gen­eral) - were posthu­mously hon­oured at the in­ter­na­tional gather­ing.

Pres­i­dent Kagame

Pres­i­dent Ramaphosa

Mtan­dazo Dube

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