World Politics & Affairs

ANS 2019: Trade, Mobility, and Security in the African Union

In recent times, there have been significant political and economic efforts by the African Union to transform the lives of and guarantee a good future for the more than one billion people living in the African continent.

The desire to allow free mobility beyond what is largely perceived by African leaders as “colonial-imposed borders” has led to the introduction of an African Passport which, when in full operation, could allow Africans to travel across the continent without much restriction. There’s also a move to link Africa’s markets, through the Free Trade Area agreement as part of the first ten year implementation plan of the 50-year integrated social and economic development framework: agenda 2063. This is geared towards increasing trade between African countries and to grow Africa’s economic bargaining power.

While speaking at the maiden Africa Now Summit held on the shores of Lake Victoria in Kampala, African leaders underscored the need to pull their 54 nations together to trade among themselves and to compete as a unified unit internationally.

“If China cannot prosper alone with a population of 1.3 billion people; if India cannot prosper alone with a population of 1.3 billion people, how can a single African country prosper with a population of only 40 million people?” Uganda’s President, Yoweri Museveni said on Wednesday.

Uganda’s President, Yoweri Museveni, via Watchdog Uganda

Some of the key issues that stood out at the summit whose theme was “Towards a Secure, Integrated and Growing Africa”, were the projected consequences of pursuing one of the three ideals of Nationalism, Pan-Africanism and Internationalism. Analysts couldn’t help but wonder whether the national sovereignty of individual African countries and efforts to strengthen regional blocs such as COMESA, SADC and EAC would not make Africans lose sight of the bigger dream of a unified African nation. Nevertheless, a greater clarity emerged about the urgency to redefine and redirect the course of Africa’s destiny.

“We need our own ideology. We need to rewrite history. There is a mission to be completed. We are lagging behind because we are not fully free,” Samia Nkrumah, the daughter of Africa’s renowned revolutionary leader Kwame Nkrumah remarked. She noted the importance of industrializing Africa and adding value to the abundant raw materials if the continent is to boost its economic competitiveness.

“We need our own ideology. We need to rewrite history. There is a mission to be completed. We are lagging behind because we are not fully free.”

Samia Nkrumah

The two-day Summit, held on 12th and 13th March 2019, was also attended by Somalia’s President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo, a representative of Egypt’s President, Kenya’s Deputy President William Samoei Ruto, Minister Tanzania’s Vice President Samia Hassan Suluhu and key business leaders, including the CEO, MTN Group Robert Shuter, African Development Bank’s Vice President and Chief Economist Celestin Monga,  Tony O. Elumelu of the Tony Elumelu Foundation, Econet Wireless’s Strive Masiyiwa among others.

Africa accounts for a miserable 3% of global Foreign Direct Investment and its imports, by far, override her exports. Africa’s food imports alone are at a whopping $35 billion and are projected to rise to about $110 billion by 2025 and her exports are largely raw materials, which has continued to stifle the growth of one of the continents most endowed with natural resources. Africa has over 40% of the world’s petroleum deposits, but one wonders how her development curve is ever heading downwards.

ANS ad, 2019

The Summit observed that in fast tracking Africa’s transformation, the growing amount of illicit financial flows which amount to over $50 billion in trade, must be dealt with decisively. Another suggestion was that import taxes and export incentives be introduced in the whole of Africa, in order to discourage excessive importation, especially of goods which can be produced in Africa and encourage exportation of locally produced commodities to promote the growth of domestic industries.

Some opinions were in favor of establishing strong, collective financial institutions and instruments to reduce the heavy reliance on external aid and slow down the deepening rate of Africa’s debt burden, which is largely attributed to acquiring expensive loans from less graceful, external sources. But other panelists seemed to focus on the strategic security of Africa in order to safeguard the continent’s interests amidst turbulent geopolitical waters, as the so-called super powers wrestle for global leadership. This, to the latter, threatens the existence of the weaker nations.

We shall wait to see whether these ideas will be implemented. If at all they are, we will be optimistic that Africa will break the chains of bureaucracy and survive the claws of corrupt leaders, which are some of the major challenges weighing down on her progress.

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