‘The Africa We Want’ debate sparks off Pan-Africanism, ropes in youth

Saturday May 24 2014

AfDB meeting in Kigali identifies the youth as the next growth drivers. TEA Graphic

The just-concluded African Development Bank Annual General Meeting will remain in the memories of the continent’s leadership for a long time.

From the theme “The Next 50 Years: The Africa We Want,” one may discern the magnitude of debates that took place in Rwanda, which drew the attention of analysts around the continent.

Sitting and former presidents discussed issues around the theme, mainly focusing on the kind of leadership that would deliver “the Africa we want.”

Contentious issues included the kind of “Africa we want” and who can help realise it. The bank set the ball rolling when its president Dr Donald Kaberuka asked online what the desired Africa would look like.

“The Africa We Want” is embodied in Agenda 2063, which, according to Dr Kaberuka, is the realisation of a continent that is integrated, people-centred, prosperous and at peace with itself. Agenda 2063 also enhances the ideals of Pan-Africanism.

To achieve its potential, the continent’s development trajectory over the next 50 years must be firmly anchored in the aspirations of the people — women and men, young and old, rural and urban populations of all age groups. Panellists and participants agreed on similar aspirations for their continent.


Drivers of Africa

The background of the discussion is that AfDB is 50 years old and, while looking behind on what it has achieved for Africa all that time, it found it prudent to set the agenda for the continent for the next half a century.

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AfDB was categorical that children born within the next five years will be the drivers of Africa in the next 50 years and that leaders from all walks of life must prepare the continent for that generation.

Governance was cited as key to the realisation of this agenda. It requires governance with strong institutions to ensure peace and sustained development and prevent countries from sinking into cycles of fragility which breed poverty and instability.

Strong and sustained growth

The agenda envisions Africa reaching strong and sustained growth for most countries to obtain upper middle-income status. But this can only happen if the continent maintains its current economic performance and resolves internal crises that have bedeviled a few countries.

Some of the conditions that may help to realise Agenda 2063 are youth empowerment and gender equality. The agenda calls for strategic policy leadership at all levels and segments of society, regional integration, creation of productive jobs and reducing conflict and fragility.

Regional integration was cited as a multifaceted and evolving process, comprising movement of goods, capital as well as people, talent and ideas.

Leaders also deliberated on the theme, fragmenting it to various sub-themes.

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One of the strongest debates was leadership that would achieve the “Africa We Want.” President Paul Kagame of Rwanda was of the view that almost everybody in the conference knew the Africa we want but the problem was the practical of it or realising that continent envisaged by many.

Giving an example of the Genocide against the Tutsi that occurred in his country in 1994, President Kagame accused African leaders of dividing the youth on tribal lines and misusing them for selfish gain.

“We have to reverse this and leaders must expend their energies towards transformation and delivery of services,” he said.

Kenya’s Deputy President William Ruto called for quick solutions that impede personal development based on poverty, traditions and culture.

Former Tanzanian president Benjamin Mkapa said the vision can be achieved through gender equality, an educated population, savings and access to health services. Africa has stunted growth because of leaders’ selfishness, he said.

Mr Mkapa’s South African counterpart Thabo Mbeki asked leaders to look for ways to achieve an Africa free of poverty, one driven by women participation, corruption-free and without violence and war.

Mo Ibrahim, the Mo Ibrahim Foundation founder, did not mince his words.

Refused to mentor successors

There is a crop of leaders in Africa that has refused to mentor successors and, at over the age of 90 years, they were still running for presidency, he said. This, he added, was a misnomer as leaders of the future required dynamic and vibrant ideas, which the elderly may lack.

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Mr Ibrahim cited US President Barack Obama as one of the young people who took leadership of a $16 trillion economy and wondered whether had the American leader been in Africa he could have ascended to the position since the old guard has refused to vacate office.

African Union Commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma urged countries to develop and implement education programmes that are relevant to the attainment of the “Africa We Want.” She asked politicians and academicians to chart the best education programmes for the youth.

University of Nairobi’s Prof Crispus Kiamba said although every sector needed experts, more emphasis should be put on science and technology.