… 10 years after launch of Agenda, where are we?
Ten years ago, on May 25, 2013, I was privileged to be sitting in the then new African Union Headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia as the discussion on the AU’s Agenda 2063 was finalised under the auspices of the then AUC Chair, Madam Nkosozana Dlamini Zumah, a South African.
The theme for the AU @50 celebrations was ‘Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance’. All 54 African presidents, visitors from the EU and Americas, and other VIPs were at the event. The security was tight, tensions were high and Madam Zuma was presiding in all her glory.
The African Union at 50 celebrations was a big deal for two reasons. The first being that May 2013 represented fifty years after the signing of the OAU Treaty, with the aim of political and socio-economic liberation. There was overwhelming consensus that whilse political liberation had been achieved, economic liberation was still seriously lacking.
The second reason was that for the first time, African nations put together a long-term, fifty-year vision of where Africa should be. Aptly named ‘The Africa We Want’, this strategic document spelt out the key aspirations for African leaders for the next fifty years, thus Agenda 2063!
For me, there was a third and more private reason. The first ever female Chairperson of the AUC, Madam Nkosozana Dlamin Zuma was at the helm of the strategic and political process that birthed and nurtured the idea for an Agenda 2963.
As a young African woman, I was excited beyond measure. There was no place else in history that I would like to be but where I was. In Addis Ababa, Ethiopia – the birthplace of the OAU and now its promulgator into the next fifty years. I was walking the hallways and corridors that Kwame Nkrumah, Haille Sellassie, Kenneth Kaunda and Muammar Ghaddafi had walked.
I was privileged to be undertaking a Mo Ibrahim African Leadership Fellowship with the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) as a Technical Advisor in the Office of the Executive Secretary and UN Under Secretary-General (USG), Dr. Carlos Lopes, and his Deputy – Dr. Abdalla Hamdok, who later became President of Sudan.
Ten years after the AU’s Agenda 2063 was ratified, what has changed on the African continent? How far have we come in achieving The Africa We Want in line with the key aspirations we set for ourselves?
The AU’s Agenda 2063 has seven (7) aspirations and 20 goals. It has five milestones, each set ten years apart to monitor progress toward the overall goal. So 2013 to 2023 is exactly the first major milestone.
Progress of identified flagship programmes
- The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is a flagship programme that must be celebrated extensively. The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) aims to accelerate intra-African trade as an engine of growth and sustainable development by doubling intra-African trade and strengthening Africa’s common voice and policy space in global trade negotiations. To date, 54 out of the 55 AU member-states have signed the AfCFTA agreement, 42 member-states have ratified it, and 39 have deposited their instruments of ratification, demonstrating a high level of political commitment to achieving market integration in Africa. The only country yet to sign is Eritrea.
A lot of positives have been negotiated across all countries in terms of trade liberalisation and the elimination of significant tariffs on goods and services. Other protocols on intellectual property, dispute resolution, investment, and e-commerce are being discussed within the RECs. This progress is highly commendable and we look forward to the swift and full implementation of the AfCFTA agreement. The benefits of a continental free trade area for small-scale businesses, women, for innovation, for market growth and for employment is phenomenal. We look forward to this very important institution working to its full mandate.
- The African passport and free movement of people. This project is designed to fast-track continental integration through the advent of a common African passport. Free movement of people is a pillar to accelerate growth and increase intra-African trade.
I have looked forward with eager anticipation to receive my African passport but sadly, this dream is yet to be realised. In the past 4 years, a lot of work has been done to advance this goal. In 2018, more than 30 African countries signed on to the Free Movement of Persons protocol, and yet its implementation has been fraught with administrative and political bottlenecks. Success in this light has been more on a unilateral basis than a large-scale pan-African basis.
Benin and Seychelles offer visa-free access to all African visitors with appropriate travel documents. Senegal and Rwanda have a combination of visa-free access and visa on arrival policies for Africans. Comoros, Madagascar and Somalia offer visa on arrival policies for Africans.
Some Regional Economic Communities (RECs), such as the East African Community and Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), have strong multilateral border opening agreements. But these are unevenly implemented.
The emerging trend is that the richer and larger countries, such as Nigeria, South Africa and Egypt, do not seem to want to fully open their borders; and by delaying this process, they delay the achievement of the overall objective.
- The youth bulge – potentials and opportunities. The Agenda 2063 recognises the growing number of young Africans.
Goal 18 speaks to an engaged and empowered youth and children. There are approximately 840 million Africans under the age of twenty-five. This cohort of young people—representing almost one in eight people in the world—is disproportionately affected by, but currently underrepresented in, decision-making processes across the continent.
Progress on the agreed youth-related milestone is staggered with marginal improvement in employment, with the aggregate value of the continent on youth unemployment rate standing at 17.6 percent in 2021, reducing very minimally from 18.4 percent in 2013. Unfortunately, the continent registered increases in the percentage of children engaged in child labour, rising from 15 percent in 2013 to 23 percent in 2021. Similar patterns were recorded in the percentage of children victims of child marriage, which rose from 8 percent in 2013 to 18 percent in 2021. Furthermore, Africa registered a weaker performance in the percentage of children who are victims of human trafficking compared to 2013. The proportion tripled from 1.1 percent in 2013 to 3.3 percent in 2021.
The African Youth Charter, which was adopted by the OAU in 2006 and revived as part of the [email protected] agenda, contains salient articles that speak to the growth and total development of the African youth on a variety of subjects. I remember very well that at the very first African Youth Forum held as part of the AU @50 event, the young people said and: “The African youth cannot wait for the future to take up opportunities. Our future is now! Give us the opportunities now”! This birthed the Mo Ibrahim’s NOW Generation, which meets annually on the side-lines of the Mo Ibrahim Governance Weekend.
So much more needs to be done on the youth front to improve education, increase employment and ensure the achievement of Aspiration 1, which I believe underlies all the other aspirations.
The African Union, as a body, has potential to move the continent in a positive direction, curtailing excesses and encouraging innovation and creativity in all aspects. The first long-term vision for Africa was couched and birthed from within us and we continue to keep that fire burning.
It is good to know that the current AUC Chairperson, Mr. Moussa Faki, has committed to continue the implementation of the doctrinal heritage of the founding fathers, the Aspirations of Agenda 2063, and to respond to the demands of the world today. These are the important fundamentals.
My verdict after the first 10 years? Well, a lot has been done at the policy level, with some trickling down to communities and countries. But more has to be done, and fast. The poor and vulnerable woman does not have the luxury of time. The young girl caught in a poverty trap cannot decide to delay her education any further. Policies and laws must be made to work in the interest of all of us and not just a few. We all need to put our hands on the wheel of posterity. Africa must win. The Africa we want is doable and achievable within our generation. Let us work toward it!
The author is the 2013 Mo Ibrahim African Leadership Fellow and served with the UNECA in Addis Ababa. She currently lives in Ghana and works as a lawyer and development practitioner.
You may reach her on https://www.linkedin.com/in/iamteikosabah/