Africa leaders charting the way
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.