Africa in 2013: A Critical Year for African Leaders
African leaders and decision makers in 2013 will face tough choices as the gale of global economic crisis continues to blow unperturbed and as Western democracies begin a probable generational change in development assistance. North America and Europe leaders are now managing weak, fragile economic revival amidst concerns about robust funding for domestic social protection mechanisms. As long as concerns about domestic social protection mechanisms linger in Western democracies, support for development assistance in emerging economies will remain tenuous. In addition, emerging economic giants such as China, India and Brazil are now showing signs of slow down. As noted recently in this medium by the president of the Africa Development Bank, Donald Kaberuka, Africa managed to escape the economic tsunami of 2008 due to deft policy moves. However, continued global anemic growth suggests that emerging economies, including those in Africa will have to dig deeper to successfully navigate ongoing economic turbulence.
I briefly discuss critical issues that await African leaders in 2013.
First, the need to increase short and long term funding and logistics support for development in Africa. Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, the chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC) recently disclosed that up to 97% of AUC programs depend on external support. The head of NEPAD, Dr. Ibrahim Mayaki also disclosed that 80% of programs depend on external support. These two startling but not unexpected disclosures about extraordinary dependence on external support for Africa’s development should be the primary focus of African leaders in 2013. The African Union Commission and NEPAD are unlikely to meet continental development expectations while heavily dependent on vagaries of external program support.
Second, boosting trade within Africa is extremely important. With less than 10% of intra-country trade in the continent, Africa is yet to take advantage of age-old trading links within the continent. In particular, and as I have stated previously in this medium, African leaders can without further delay ease travel restrictions that make it nearly impossible for Africans, including business men and women, to travel within the continent. In addition, African leaders in 2013 can provide the enabling environment for the successful takeoff of continent-wide air passenger and cargo networks. Various national, Africa private sector and international airlines are already working on continental hubs that will benefit from African leaders intervention and support.
Third, the need to strengthen both POLICY COORDINATION and JOINT PROGRAM IMPLEMENTATION efforts among major continental institutions. The AUC, the Africa Development Bank (ADB) and the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) are already engaged at the highest levels of policy contacts. However, the critical issue of tight program coordination and joint management of extremely important continental initiatives remain, unrealized. For example, the implementation of the African Union plan for increased access to generic medicines in the continent will require deft political skills of the AUC, the globally recognized funding and logistics capacity of ADB and the widely acknowledge policy development skill set resident in UNECA. A closer working relationship between AUC, ADB and UNECA will be the strongest indicator of an irreversible trend toward the regional integration of Africa economies.
Fourth, the need for unequivocal commitment to population-based democracy. Two elections will test the commitment of African leaders to democracy in 2013. The 2013 elections in Kenya and Zimbabwe will require an uncompromising commitment from African leaders regarding the sanctity of the ballot box and the inherent right of ordinary African men and women to freely choose their leaders.
Fifth, the need to make progress on Africa-led deterrent force against conflicts and violence. The delicate situation in Somalia, Mali, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Central Africa Republic and Guinea Bissau could benefit from a stand-by force. Peace and stability will continue to be the foundation of sustainable development in Africa.
Finally, the need to address the growing, unsustainable disaffection of African youth. In a continent with significant youth bulge, disaffected African youth represent a Pandora box. With only few exceptions, African countries face formidable changes of disgruntled, unemployed university graduates, unskilled young adults and large segments of young people estranged from mainstream economic and political processes. Disaffected youth may currently represent the most fundamental challenge to Africa’s development. Getting young people to work in the short term through direct labor programs in road construction and other infrastructure development projects is crucial. For the longer term, taking deliberate steps to create enabling policy environment and training opportunities for gainful self-employment is important. Creating opportunities for African youth to reengage in mainstream economic and political activities as well known in the ‘60s. 70s and 80s will be priceless.
African leaders have the opportunity in 2013 to address specific, unavoidable issues that can slow down continental development efforts. The pressure to act for African leaders is against the background of a sustained, unanchored wind of economic and political change sweeping through both industrialized and emerging nations and regions. Each region of the world must adapt and take specific unique steps to protect its people and preserve precious gains made in the last few decades. Africa is no exception.
By Dr. Chinua Akukwe
The author is former Chair of the Technical Board of the Africa Center for Health and Human Security, George Washington University, Washington. He is also the Chair of the Africa Working Group of the National Academy of Public Administration, Washington, DC. This article is the sole responsibility of the writer. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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