31 January 2014

Africa: Not the Africa We Want

Photo: Thijs Bouwknegt/RNW
International Criminal Court in the Hague

opinion

PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe and colleagues from across the continent are in Ethiopia for the African summit where this year there is a nascent buzz phrase "Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want".

The Zimbabwe Independent Editorial

This is Africa's newest project expected to drive the continent forward over the next 50 years.

Work on Agenda 2063 was initiated by the heads of the African Development Bank and the African Union Commission during their meeting in January last year to deliberate on Africa's development in the next 50 years.

It is an attempt to ensure Africa's future is driven by policies and programmes created mainly by African institutions. It sets out to establish a credible platform on which Africa can build its future development and is a rallying call for "an Africa that is prosperous and at peace with itself".

While our leaders have not said much about this initiative at home since its launch during the AU Golden Jubilee last year, Mugabe this week weighed into the African Renaissance discourse, telling a ministerial meeting that Africa should take charge of its resources. He said this was not taking place because the continent lacked "bold leaders".

Media reports say he questioned the African leaders' "political consciousness" which he has always believed the current crop of Zimbabwean leaders have in abundance, hence detractors regard them as crazy people. More revealing in the President's take on this African Renaissance is the idea that the state should not be a spectator in the development game, but an actor because the people do not have capacity.

This line of thought is not new at all coming from Mugabe, and is definitely not the panacea to achieving the "Africa We Want". African governments including Ethiopia -- host country of the AU seat -- are still fascinated by the politics of control. Despite most African countries appearing to openly embrace democratic values, they still have in their governance chests repressive edicts which are from time to time unleashed on the citizenry to silence dissent.

The new roadmap for African development is one that is hewn from the dictatorial maze still enveloping the continent. Africa needs to be liberated from its own leaders who believe that totalitarianism is bold leadership. Agenda 2063 cannot be achieved by employing the same old definition of bold leaders: strong uncompromising autocrats who have amassed wealth for themselves while their backyards reek of poverty, disease and acute deprivation.

When states fail in Africa, the easiest excuse is to situate the blame on Western forces siphoning wealth from the continent. But what is also very apparent today is the paucity of accountability in African countries which have established a measure of controls on the natural resources.

A case in point is Zimbabwe's exploitation of diamond reserves. Which Western power siphoned billions of dollars realised from Chiadzwa diamonds and what does our government have to show for controlling this resource? Which schools, hospitals, bridges and roads have been financed from the billions? Where is the money?

This is the sort of state control that Agenda 263 should remove completely. It's not the Africa we want.

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