New Era (Windhoek)

8 February 2013

Africa: 20th Ordinary Session of the AU Assembly

opinion

African Heads of State and Government or their accredited representatives gathered in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for a two-day meeting, at the 20th African Union summit held under the theme "Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance".

According to the African Press Organization (APO) information posted on Monday 28 January, 2013, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC), while addressing the 20th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union on 27 January 2013 at the headquarters of the African Union in Addis Ababa, said: "Today we look to the future calmly, confidently and courageously."

Referring to the theme of the Summit and the 50th anniversary celebration of the Organisation of African Union (OAU) created on 25 May 1963, the AUC Chairperson explained that the spirit of Pan-Africanism and the ideals of the African Renaissance have delivered and will propel its citizens towards an integrated, people-centred, prosperous Africa at peace with itself. She added that it is this spirit and ideals that inspired the adoption of the Lagos Plan of Action in 1980, the Abuja Treaty in 1990 and NEPAD in 2001.

According to Dr. Dlamini-Zuma, "the African dream is not only achievable but it can be done in a shorter time." To secure decent livelihoods and the free movement of people, goods and services, Dr Dlamini-Zuma said, "We must accelerate integration and connectivity." She expressed satisfaction with the progress on the implementation of the priority infrastructure projects of PIDA in the areas of transport, energy and ICT.

The Chairperson of the AUC further underscored the need for the Union to enhance youth and women's development alongside education.

"The Pan African University and the general expansion of our higher education sector will equip our young people with critical abilities to drive innovation, sciences, entrepreneurship, research, social development and industrialization," she underlined. The question is: can the African dream truly be achieved in a shorter time as Dr Dlamini-Zuma claimed?

To answer that question, let us look at the facts. According to the World Bank's 2013 Global Economic Prospects report, developing economies are still the main driver of the global growth, although their output has slowed down. "The GDP growth in Sub-Saharan Africa remained robust at 4.6 percent in 2012, notwithstanding the slowdown in the global economy. Indeed, excluding the region's largest and most globally integrated economy - South Africa - the GDP growth in the region was at a strong 5.8 percent in 2012, with a third of the countries in the region growing by at least 6 percent," said the report released on January 16, 2013.

Since 2000, investment in Africa has increased steadily from 15.9 percent of the GDP to over 22 percent in 2012. The trend is expected to continue as an increasing number of the region's economies are able to tap into the international capital markets to help address binding infrastructural constraints. Overall, Africa is projected to grow at its pre-crisis average rate of 5 percent over the 2013-2015 period (4.9 percent in 2013, gradually strengthening to 5.2 percent in 2015), according to the Global Economic Prospects report.

Today, African countries are in the process of integration through different regional economic blocs. We have the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) in Southern and Central Africa, respectively. In West Africa, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) brings together 15 countries with a common market and a common currency, which are critical in boosting cross border trade. In East Africa, the East African Community (EAC) gathers five states with a combined GDP of 74.5 billion U.S. dollars and a total population of over 130 million people.

Cross regional economic blocs are also flourishing: for instance, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern African states have brought together 19 countries with a combined population of over 400 million people.

Through these regional economic blocs, African states have been able to promote intra-regional trade and cross border projects like transport and energy infrastructure to boost trade.

The political landscape in Africa is changing as well. The number of conflicts on the continent has reduced and in places where there are still conflicts, warring parties are willing to sit at the negotiating table to talk about peace.

For instance in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the Congolese government is negotiating with the M23 rebels to end fighting that has displaced hundreds of thousands of Congolese. In the Central African Republic (CAR), the government is negotiating with the Saleka rebels to end fighting.

Sudan and South Sudan are also at the negotiating table to ease tensions between them.

Increasingly African states are carrying out joint military operations to end civil conflicts.

For instance, the African Union Mission in Somalia has brought together peacekeepers from eight African countries to help to address the decades of fighting in the Eastern African country. In the Great Lakes Region, Uganda, South Sudan, the DRC and CAR forces are jointly fighting to eliminate rebels of the Lord's Resistance Army, a Ugandan rebel group that has wreaked havoc in the region and apart from 2 900 troops from France, today there are close to 2 700 troops from African countries operating in Mali.

Africa is clearly on its way to take charge of its future.

However, we need to start financing our own projects instead of relying on foreign aid. We need to create a common force to defend the territorial integrity and the air space of the continent against the invading forces of the imperialists masquerading as saviors while they are only interested in our natural resources. But how can Africa retrieve her image, which lies scattered and windswept on the battlegrounds of Europeans and American concrete jungles if up to 90% of the AU budget comes from these countries?

How can we make the year 2013 the year of "Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance" while those who harbour conspicuous malice for the true heroes of Pan-Africanism are today skulking in the hallowed corridors of power, inebriated with their own warped sense of self-importance and influencing policy trends that would have far-reaching implications for the continent and its people?

If someone despises President Mugabe and our liberation struggle stalwarts, he cannot be called a Pan-Africanist.

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