On Monday last, Mauritius hosted at Balaclava the first meeting of the African Economic Platform (AEP). The AEP is an emanation of the African Union (AU) meeting held in Rwanda in July last year.
In the course of this latter meeting, leaders of the AU adopted a plan of action worked out in 2013 about the major social, political and economic objectives the African continent, grouped under the AU, should pursue over the next 50 years, hence the African Union’s Agenda 2063. This is important because, even if global conditions change over time, a comprehensive vision of where one wants to be in 50 years’ time constitutes a Guide of To-do Things, which can be adjusted to what is achievable.
At the time of Independence, Mauritius wisely decided that it will form part of the African contingent in international forums. This was not only because part of the African Diaspora is an integral part of Mauritius or because of our geographical proximity to the Continent. It was also because we shared the same fate of under-development with numerous newly liberated African countries. So, we could seek solutions together, being at the same level of subjugation at the planetary level as the rest of the African countries. We wanted to share a common journey of progress.
Just like Mauritius has a diversity of cultures, the African Continent has a diversity of 52 countries operating at different levels of development. These countries do not operate as a federal unit.
The AU acts as a federating force but it doesn’t have powers to make uniform rules for countries to comply with in view of social, political and economic objectives to be achieved as a united bloc. It has a persuasive presence at the helm with a pan-African vision to which countries adhere with varying degrees of compliance. Moreover, several African leaders, once in power, do not appreciate encroachment upon their free enjoyment of power, often perpetuating their reign at the top and not necessarily for the country’s uplift.
So, it is by creating consensus that the AU can hope to make breakthroughs in the Continent’s further development on a par with other blocs such as Europe, America and Asia which are far ahead in terms of internal integration. Compared with 60 to 70% intra-regional trade in other continents, Africa struggles to raise intra-African trade beyond 11% of total African trade. Colonial trade patterns still dominate Africa, making it highly vulnerable to outside markets’ power concentrations.
Has a distinguishing international African identity emerged more than six decades since decolonization of the Continent began? If it has, it is not assertive internationally as much as the American, European or Chinese international identity. There are occasions, such as during recent indiscriminate shootings of black Africans in the US, which caused the slogan ‘Black lives matter’ to emerge, when one feels sorely the utter disrespect with which the African is held by some other peoples. We have to climb up the ladder of social esteem internationally.
In the material world of today, leaders are often taken in into the trap of self-importance. That is the reason why good governance has exited several countries in Africa and, with this, economic ruin has come in. The economic potential of the Continent is thus not realised. And one of the avenues for getting the deserved international good standing of Africa is through the economic door.
One has to demonstrate the superiority of ideas for the Continent’s future uplift. Putting them into practice for improving daily lives of populations long battered by corruption, poverty and violence is a further step towards Africa’s material well-being. The demonstration effect of success from initiatives taken can become a powerful tool for lifting Africa to a much higher stage of development.
If the AEP managed to formulate a few well-coordinated strategies and get some of them implemented as demonstration that African countries can overcome their handicaps, this will spread out faster to the rest of the Continent than one can imagine. Commitment is necessary, not the endless talks that have been held for so long without producing the proof that tangible inclusive progress is within reach.
Investment will be forthcoming in African countries if they abide by internationally accepted codes of good conduct that inspire those who have the capital to trust individual countries. Certain investments would need to be prioritized to open up the path for others to consolidate prior success achieved.
Credible macroeconomic, business and financial frameworks will create the perception in the eyes of potential investors that countries endorsing them will abide by commitments given. It is this that will elicit international political visibility of the countries willing to make a break from a not-so-glorious economic past. Countries in Europe, for example, might be looking for partners to work with, if only to project a concrete global image of willingness to work beyond their own success. Africa may become the centre of attraction for this kind of model of a much more inclusive global growth than what it has been so far.
Were economic success to become inclusive, another happy situation might emerge. There will be fewer people who will join the ranks of disrupters of social order from the Continent. For, if the chaos that we’ve seen spreading to different parts of Africa were to be extended, not only will Africa stand still. It will also become a vulnerable breeding ground for continuing chaos. That will be a recipe for the type of senseless auto-destruction we’ve seen in recent years in the Middle East. Surely not a prospect to invite home for an already battered Continent. The time has come to breathe a new life into the Continent.