Will the AU realise its Agenda 2063?

As Africa rises, and begins to forge a more positive outlook of its future, the continent’s scholars, business executives, community leaders, and policymakers have been calling for concerted efforts to rethink the future and come up with big ideas for the 21st century.

Recognising this, in 2013, African heads of state and government launched the African Union (AU) Agenda 2063 as part of the jubilee celebrations of the birth of the Organisation of African Unity. The OAU was established in May 1963 and as such the month has since been celebrated as Africa Month.

The Agenda 2063, vision and action plan is Pan-African people-centred and aims to incorporate lessons and experiences from the past to drive Africa's change, development, and transformation for the next 50 years.

The vision has a strategic rollout phases comprising of short, 10 years; medium, 10–25 years; and long-term 25–50 years aspirations which have an ultimate goal to secure three ideals – unity, prosperity, and peace – for all its citizens.

Put simply, the AU is of the view that Agenda 2063 will get Africa to do things differently by being people-centred, improve governance and implement performance outcomes focused which will have an impact on citizens.

But some have questioned on whether Africa can realise its Agenda 2063 objectives if it does not address some of the key challenges facing the continent. SAnews sat down with Dr Emmanuel Owusu-Sekyere, Chief Research Specialist at Africa Institute of South Africa (AISA) to review if Africans can indeed live in an "Africa We Want" based on the aspirations outlined in the Agenda 2063 document. AISA is a programme of the Human Science Research Council (HSRC).

Although, Agenda 2063 is good on paper and makes key proposals, Owusu-Sekyere is of the view that for Africa to see real tangible change outlined in the document, there is a need for Africa to be united and take practical steps to change the status quo in integration, development and leadership.

“Action, hard work and genuineness are needed from all Africans and laws must be changed to address specific challenges. Governments must take the lead to ensure that economic transformation takes place with speed,” advises Owusu-Sekyere.

Owusu-Sekyere is of the view that the continent has to adopt a “hands on deck approach” as the continent still struggles with poverty, high unemployment and poor development. He says the continent is not creating jobs because economies produce and export primary commodities which leave Africa with short production function.

“The few countries that are endowed with natural resources export the raw mineral resources.  So it means that the growth we are generating is called jobless growth. We say Africa is rising- due to international commodity markets- but it is not in-house or self-made production capacity of the continent.”

For Africa to address this, there is an urgent need to go beyond the political commitments and capitalise Intra-African trade.

Trade integration has long been a strategic objective for Africa yet, despite some success in eliminating tariffs within regional communities, the African market remains highly 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 throughout Africa.

“The emphasis should be on trading with each other to make the continent self-sufficient but the reality is we are still more interested in trading with China, America and EU,” Owusu-Sekyere says emphasising that there is no difference from a dollar from Nigeria or South Africa or the United States which buys the oil.

Governments, he says, must play a leading role in reducing the cost of trade through eliminating the red tape involved in cross-border trading, reducing corruption and digitising processes that are currently manual.

If trade integration can be done right, the continent’s small businesses would become more competitive by creating economies of large scale and weeding out corporates that are less productive in the African marketplace. Trade integration can also establish and strengthen product value chains and facilitate the transfer of technology and knowledge via spill-over effects. And it can incentivize and spur infrastructure development and attract foreign direct investment.

According to Owusu-Sekyere, the new Free Trade area, that the leaders are pushing for this year, is a step in the right direction, as it will consolidate the movements of goods and people in the continent and force the continent to evaluate value chain like the European Union and Asian countries whose intra-trade pacts mean growth for all in the regions.

Owusu-Sekyere gives an example that the SADC region can industrialise the manufacturing chain by drawing synergies from what each member state has or can offer and complement each other in order to grow together.

This would, in turn, stop countries from exporting primary goods which in turn they buy a finished product which they could have manufactured themselves and create more jobs especially for the youth.

About 200 million people are aged between 15 and 24 in Africa, making it the only continent which has the youngest population in the world. The current trend indicates that this figure will double by 2045, according to the African Economic Outlook report prepared by experts from the African Development Bank (AfDB), the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).

However, the majority of these youth are not working, an issue which Owusu-Sekyere describes as a ticking time bomb if not addressed urgently.

“If our youth can work- we would have a huge consumer market which could, in turn, generate economic growth. But in the absence of jobs – the youth dividends will end up being an explosive source of instability in the continent,” Owusu-Sekyere warns emphasising that urgent intervention is needed for this "Instagram generation" which wants things done in the "now."

“We need to transform our economies into job-creating economies so that those dividends could be beneficiary for the youth.”

Other challenges which need to be addressed for Agenda 2063 to be fulfilled is total financial -independence and sovereign - which was one of the key focus areas former AUC Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma was pushing during her tenure.

The issue of good governance, democracy, and respect for human rights, justice and the rule of law- especially from the sitting heads of state was an additional issue that needed attention.

“In the past, we have seen presidents in countries like Rwanda, Burundi, Congo and Gambia extending their term in office thereby undermine their own constitutions.

“So what we have is a leadership challenge in the continent. The average age of the African presidents is above 70. That is the generation that is not up to date with the fast pace of the developing world today- yet they serve countries with the majority of youth.”

Owusu-Seykera points out that Africa needs to start having presidents that reflect the age of the continent’s population and the pace that the world is moving.

Another issue that needs to be addressed is breaking down Agenda 2063 and other global development plans such as the Sustainable Development Goals into workable national development plans that will be re-implementable and bankable on the ground in order to change the socio-economic conditions for the ordinary man on the African streets. These, Owusu-Sekyere advises, must be broken down with shorter implementation plans such as three to five year which would be easier to monitor.

“They need to be done in such a way that whoever comes into office- must know that it’s not a party development goals but rather national development goals which must continue,” Owusu-Sekyere explains adding that over the years, the change in governments has meant constant change of plans which also translates to waste of resources already spend. There also is a need for coordination between governments and intelligentsia to coordinate skills revolution in the continent.

“We need some forward thinking presidents. We need to stop playing lip services 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 are heart,” added Owusu-Sekyere.-SAnews.gov.za