2015: Opportunities and Challenges for Africa and the African Union

By Desire Assogbavi

On the threshold of this New Year 2015 and on the eve of the Summit of policy and decision-making bodies of the African Union, I would like to share my analysis on the opportunities and challenges facing Africa for the next 12 months.

2014 is gone! Despite some progress in terms of growth it was an eye-opening year of a contradictory reality between the slogan of an Africa whose economies recorded the highest growth rates in the world and a strip of deep failings at many levels and which our continent has to look at seriously in 2015.

Economic growth was real and will continue in 2015 or at least will stabilize but its effects are still not distributed and have not benefited ordinary people. On the contrary, inequality has increased and the youth employment problem is not resolved. States, supported by experts from the African Union, the Economic Commission for Africa and the African Develop Bank should look for urgent and immediate solutions to the problem of inequality in Africa.

Ebola has brought to light the structural deficits of the affected countries but also and especially the fragility and the delusion of “African solidarity” … Ebola has already claimed 7,500 daughters and Sons of the continent in a very short time . The African Union was not prepared to respond to a major crisis such as Ebola and is still financially dependent on partners with 72 % of its expenses  paid from outside. The latest initiative of the African Union to mobilize funds in Africa is positive and should serve as an example to reproduce but the war against Ebola remains largely carried out and funded by external partners. My fear now is that all attentions being turned to Ebola, other diseases that kill 100 times more than Ebola will be forgotten for a time.

Ebola is a serious wake-up all for all African countries and institutions for a real re-prioritization of health. It is time to achieve the free universal health coverage in our countries. The African Union’s Abuja Declaration on health must now be put into action. We need healthy citizens to manage the development we are working for.

The growing attaks easily conducted by Islamists/terrorists show the deficit in leadership in our continent.   Nigeria,  the first African Power in several areas cowardly fled before the bandits …. Kenya is not doing better job to protect its citizens.

The conflicts in South Sudan and Libya have not found solution … we are not even close … There are no concrete signs of hope in the Central Africa Republic and very little progress has been registered in Mali. Africa must focus on the conflicts in 2015 while preventing others, especially those related to political governance to burst. Of course a big part of the continent enjoys peace and better governance over the last few years. We must preserve this.

In 2014, 3,000 of our citizens perished in the Mediterranean Sea … They were fleeing their own continent because life is too hard … Nothing concrete is being done from our side  to solve this problem.

The African Union has had hard time in front of the multiple conflicts mentioned above and our continent has more foreign intervention his the last few years than 20 years before. Apart from the United Nations operations, more than 20,000 foreign soldiers are currently in Africa for various reasons. There has been some progress in Somalia but it remains to be consolidated. The African Union forces have played a key role but US drones have helped tremendously.

The cleaning up of the AU Commission to ensure greater efficiency in its operation has not taken place, or at least is not felt as promised by its Chairperson Dr. Dlamini-Zuma. I think the civic space of citizens has been enlarged and available, far more than in the member states. Discussions on the vision for the next 50 years called Agenda 2063 are still on going. The agenda shall be adopted in late January with a focus on the priorities of the next 10 years.

The issue of exploitation of mineral resources is becoming more crucial. It is compounded by illicit financial flows amounting 60 Billion Dollars a year, leaving Africa illegally and fraudulently. This money could be used to finance development, reduce inequality and pay the debts…. Africa must move quickly in a harmonized process to control the exploitation of its resources. Our resources continue to be sold for cheap … and contracts are fanciful. The International Law Commission of the AU needs to address the issue of contracts. The Conference of Heads of State must take a firm stand for the Implementation of the “African Mining Vision”

Democratic Governance, the subject of higher risk for the Year 2015!

At least 15 crucial elections will be held in the following countries: Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Central Africa Republic, Comoros, Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Guinea, Nigeria, DRC, Togo, Sudan, South Sudan, Tanzania, Chad, Zambia. The question of limitation of presidential terms will spice up some of these elections … and the risk is serious to see young populations, who can no more wait, to shout and express their anger. The African Union must tighten its belt in anticipation of such eventualities.

Climate Change Negotiations

Africa suffers the most of impacts of climate change. Effects include spreading of deserts, unpredictability of the seasons,   flooding, drought, diseases etc… Some African countries are even forced to divert funds from education and health project to face climate change mitigation issues.

African Governments must prepare a strong common position for the upcoming treaty and put their political weight in the system, start pushing for their position ahead of the Paris Diplomatic Conference in December 2015.

Since we lost Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, the then Champion of climate change issues for Africa, the momentum went down and this is a serious concern. CSOs must mobilize to support African leaders on this. The Tanzanian President  Jakaya Kikwete is now the Coordinator of the Committee of African Heads of State and Government on Climate Change. 2015 must be a Year for Action on climate change.

Integration: There are good and visible signs in some regions. West Africa is well  advanced but the East is catching up. This must be encouraged and duplicated in other regions. Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, joined by South Sudan and recently by Ethiopia have embarked together in numerous economic/commercial integration projects. I don’t think  a speedy political continental integration is feasible overnight but rather a well managed economic integration that produces concrete results in favour of the citizens. The Africa Free Trade Area project must be fuelled. All these will lead automatically to a wider and comprehensive continental integration with time.

Civil society must be increasingly mobilized. The civic space is being diminished in many countries. We need to stop this trend. The African Union should help to do so. There should be a strong position of the AU on the matter. The AU Commission and some progressive states must take the initiative.

After several years of lethargy and failures, ECOSSOC, the Economic, Social and Cultural Council of the African Union has just woken up with the election of its second General Assembly: Good news !  We need to work with them, support them to ensure that the views of civil society, the affected populations, the youth, are heard in the decision making process of the African Union organs. Its composition will improve with time.

Follow me on Twitter @assodesire for more analysis. I wish you a Happy and Blessed Year 2015 !

Disclaimer: My analysis and opinions are personal and do not necessarily represent the views of the organization for which I work


4 thoughts on “2015: Opportunities and Challenges for Africa and the African Union

  1. Very interesting points raised Desire! Thank you for sharing your analysis. On the points that you mentioned regarding the CSOs space, it is becoming a trend that countries are following in coming up with restrictive laws, that is putting CSOs in a difficult position. For example , we can mention the recent case of de-registration of more than 500 CSOs in Kenya.
    Moreover, the restriction on freedom of expression, especially freedom of media in Africa is another case that is hindering the democratization process.

  2. Interesting! What bout women’s empowerment? With the AU’s annual theme being “Year of Women’s Empowerment and Development towards Africa’s Agenda 2063”, I’m surprised it’s not in your list of opportunities (and challenges actually!). Can you explain?

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