Kweku Eshun’s thoughts …..The AfCFTA, Eco, and Year of return nexus:(1)    …Will Africa finally receive her fair share of rewards from globalization? 

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Dr Kweku Eshun

Today we live in a globalized world actively promoted by the World Trade Organization (WTO) and its appendages as the panacea for the growth and development conundrum of third world countries. Thanks to technological advances in transportation and communication, the sheer complexity, scope and scale of interaction and interconnectedness around the world is unprecedented (reference Professor Andrew Mcgrew’s contribution to ‘Globalization of World Politics’).

The world is now one big integrated village economy where national borders, time and space have limited effect on the interaction and control of the people. In spite of these developments and contrary to the assertions of the WTO, however, Africa remains marginalized and unable to move large portions of our continent’s population out of poverty, disease and hunger. Being integrated into the global economic, trading, finance and governance systems, as they exist today with lopsided arrangements and rules, has resulted in a weak and non-resilient Africa. Paradoxically even the United States of America (USA), the world’s leading economic and military power, is today complaining that it is being ‘cheated’ and denied fair rewards from globalised trade.

The USA has therefore ignored the dictates of World Trade Organization’s (WTO) governance regulations, conventions and practices and opted to aggressively renegotiate trade agreements. They have even ignored WTO conflict resolution mechanisms and have unilaterally imposed punitive tariffs on imported goods and services from major trading partners. The USA wants the playing field levelled and is taking steps to counter any activities by trading partners which, in its view, reduces its capacity to compete and win in the globalized market. Similarly, we have the story of BREXIT which details the frustrations of the United Kingdom as a member of the European Union which they cannot dominate economically.  In the same vein Ghana and Africa must also urgently implement our strategic response if we are to effectively reverse the unfair distribution of rewards from globalized trade or remain poor.

Despite the tough economic juggernaut confronting Africa, three recent individually significant events which have occasioned this article give me some hope that Africa’s situation is about to change. First is the establishment of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). Second is the decision by the member states of the UEMOA customs union (or rather they have been instructed) controlled by France, their colonial master, to adopt the Eco as a replacement for the CFA and finally the successfully executed homecoming event in Ghana i.e. ‘Year of return’ held to commemorate and celebrate our kinsfolk lost to the diaspora (the 6th region of Africa) for 400 years.

Individually, each of the three significant events have potentially serious and far reaching positive consequences for Africa’s future. But even more explosive and exciting is the integrated product or the interaction effect of these three socio-economic pillars should we recognize their exceptional potential for securing our emancipation and transformation of our economies and fortunes of our peoples when creatively combined. We need to fully understand and control the individual processes and mechanisms which generate and accelerate the positive contributions of each event in its own right. But an even more crucial requirement is the need for Africa to consciously master the art and science of smartly combining, merging and optimising the aggregate effects of these three events because they provide an initial platform for remodeling and renegotiating our position within the community of nations.

This article advocates for core strategy analysis at the continental level because we need to optimize Africa’s potential as a whole. Individual country and organizational level analysis are crucial but they must operate within the continental framework to be sustainable. Unlike the EU we must eschew opportunistic behavior at this stage and adopt a strong Africa for all policy. Other significant factors like changes in demographic composition of Africa’s population and use of a single language which impact communication and development should be added on to this economic model as and when we achieve significant traction in those directions.

Africa has been touted as the richest continent given its vast fertile and arable lands, rivers and lakes, wide range of mineral resources, wonderful weather pattern, forests, oil and gas etc but without doubt, the most strategic resource required for achieving our goal of building a viable, sustainable and resilient continental African economy is a well-organized army of visionary, smart, knowledgeable, experienced, committed and incorruptible strategists, planners and executors of plans. These important planners and executors are indispensable at both the strategic and operational levels. I know my disillusioned ‘street economy people’ are wondering which knowledgeable, smart, skillful and committed African thinkers / planners and executors I am talking about?

They are yet to see or experience any such person in Africa. In spite of their skepticism, it is my belief and hope that building on the logic and the shared vision of a strong and vibrant AfCFTA we can obtain vital human resources from the mother continent, the African diaspora, the global and international governance institutions and the genuine non-African sources of influence which support our agenda. Firstly, we can and should quickly establish a data base of leading elite, experienced and successful local African private business and public organizational practitioners, renowned African scholars and researchers as well as professional and institutional leaders and administrators from all spheres of endeavor, even including proven politicians (a very tough proposition indeed!!). Secondly, following the success of the ‘year of return’ and subsequent efforts to scale up its results through genuine efforts to establish interface structures, institutions and platforms for developing relationships which firmly couple and strongly bond our kinsfolk in the diaspora to the motherland, we will develop a veritable register of elite diaspora scholars, and practitioner experts in various fields of endeavour.

These will include science and technology, organizational research scholars, top business and public management practitioners as well as leading education, IT, manufacturing, design, finance, medicine, engineering and construction professionals for example. It is important to note that many of our diaspora kinsfolk, living and working in much more developed and advanced economies and under their heightened competitive environments have over the years acquired advanced knowledge, skills and superior understanding of the logic, structures, processes and relationships necessary for the transformation of economies. Some of our diaspora kinsfolk have been fully engaged in the design, planning, development, operation and evaluation of free trade areas like NAFTA and the EU for example.

They have superior understanding of the psyche of the competition ie the neo-colonialists and the imperialist nations and their planners. I cannot help but recognize the amazing and unique insightfulness of our visionary first president, Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah who, as part of his Pan-African agenda, recognized the immense talent pool and the transformative power of contributions by experienced diaspora intellectuals and practitioners and tried to harness this in the struggle for the emancipation of Africa. Just as President Kwame Nkrumah demonstrated, we should actively identify, invite, encourage and even lure our diaspora kinsfolk with the necessary expertise back to Africa. Where they are adamant and will not relocate to the mother continent, we should be flexible and even bend over backwards to ensure that they get involved strategically to help unravel our underdevelopment conundrum.

The combination of local expertise and elite or well exposed talent from the African diaspora will make our planning and execution teams formidable forces. I am aware it will not be plain or smooth sailing. There will be integration issues emanating from a clash of cultures, issues with remuneration, filial competition and even opportunistic behavior but these can be quickly resolved if we have the goodwill and focus constructive debates and conflict resolution on the larger shared agenda of Africa taking its rightful place among the global community.

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