25 May 2018

Africa - Not Yet Uhuru

Photo: SA Presidency
President Ramaphosa flanked by the flags of the African Union and South Africa.
opinion

On this day in 1963, the Organisation of African Unity (OUA) now known as the Africa Union (AU) was founded in Addis Ababa with a commitment to free the continent from colonial rule and to improve the living standards across member states.

Fifty-five years later, so much has changed on the continent politically, socially and economically. The continent has produced some of the brightest minds who have shaped the global development agenda like the late Nelson Mandela, the late Thomas Sankara, the late Winnie Mandela, Kofi Annan, Chinua Achebe, Graca Machel and Phumzile Ngcuka Mlambo just to mention a few.

Socially, the continent has hosted the famed soccer 2010 World Cup and produced some of the world's greatest sportspersons. Africa is also home to many A- list Hollywood actors and actresses. Infrastructure in the continent has developed in leaps and bounds with some African cities making it on the global top lists of vacation destinations.

However, missing in this somewhat exultant picture is the sad reality of the black majority population of this continent wallowing in poverty. Over half a century later since the formation of the OAU, our political independence is yet to deliver the economic freedom that our fallen heroes laid their lives for.

The majority of Africa is still not yet uhuru as life is a constant struggle trying to access the most basic services like education, clean water, electricity and transport services. This gloomy picture shows nothing more than a continent still in shackles economically.

The gap between the rich and the poor has peaked over the last year as reported by Oxfam in their yearly inequality report. According to the report, the rich continue to accumulate more wealth on the backs of the majority poor and leave them to scrounge for the little left overs.

"Economic rewards are increasingly concentrated at the top. While millions of ordinary workers remain on poverty wages, returns for shareholders and senior executives have gone through the roof. In South Africa, the top 10% of society receives half of all wage income, while the bottom 50% of the workforce receives just 12% of all wages", reads part of the Oxfam 2018 report.

Sadly it is women who have to bear the brunt of our unequal society. Research carried out by Gender Links in Southern Africa shows that women comprise the majority of the landless, underpaid and unemployed.

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) Africa report in 2016 placed inequality at the centre of the continent's challenges. The reported recommended investment in women's economic empowerment to address most of the continent's main challenges.

The 2017 SADC Gender Protocol Barometer identified gender inequality as the driving force behind rising poverty levels, food insecurity, and Gender-Based Violence (GBV). Hence the reason why economic justice becomes a prerequisite to achieving sustainable development for any society.

It is then not surprising that economic justice and women's economic empowerment are key tenets of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the AU Agenda 2063. Agenda 2063 builds on the vision of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of "leaving no one behind."

Adopted in January 2015 the AU Agenda 2063 provides a strategic roadmap for the socio-economic transformation of the continent. The framework that has been termed both a 'vision' and 'action plan' builds on, and seeks to hasten the enactment of, earlier and existing development frameworks for growth and development.

Agenda 2063 goals include the achievement of: a high standard of living, quality of life and well-being for all citizens; modern agriculture for increased productivity and production; well educated citizens and skills revolution underpinned by science, technology and innovation; transformed economies; engaged and empowered youth and children; and full gender equality in all spheres of life.

However, should the current trend of growing inequality continue unabated, Agenda 2063 and all its promises for a better future for all the citizens of this continent will remain nothing but a pipe dream.

Lucia Makamure is the Alliance and Partnerships Manager at Gender Links. This story is part of the GL News and Blogs.

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