Friday, May 26, 2017

EDITORIAL COMMENT: Africa Must Now Fight for Economic Emancipation
May 26, 2017
Opinion & Analysis
Zimbabwe Chronicle

Yesterday, the Mother Continent celebrated the 54th anniversary of the founding of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), now African Union (AU).

May 25 of every year is important for Africans as it marks a day when the OAU was formed in 1963 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, with an agenda to fight for the liberation of their land from foreign occupation.

Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique, Angola, Malawi, South Africa, Namibia and Democratic Republic of the Congo are among the countries that were under colonialism at that time. A number of others had already been independent when the OAU was formed — Ghana in 1957, Nigeria, Senegal and Chad all in 1960, Tanzania in 1961 and Uganda a year later.

Leaders of the newly independent countries assumed the onerous responsibility of helping those that were still occupied to be free from colonialism. They mobilised arms and moral support from the continent, Eastern Europe, Asia and Latin America.

No African worth their salt will forget the immeasurable contribution that the OAU’s founding fathers — Kwame Nkrumah (Ghana), Julius Nyerere (Tanzania), Modibo Keita (Mali), Gamal Abdul Nasser (Egypt), Sekou TourĂ© (Guinea), Ben Bella (Algeria) and Emperor Haile Selassie (Ethiopia) made in not only shaping but also prosecuting the fight for African self-determination. They were men of tremendous courage and foresight who took on colonialists head-on at a time when a mere sight of a white man was enough to send many blacks on bended knees, worshipping the imperialists. They were a special people.

Now Africa is independent except for one country, Western Sahara, that remains a colony, not of a European country, but of a neighbouring African country, Morocco. A sad state of affairs indeed.

In a political sense, Africa is in charge of itself now. It was a long journey, one that left millions dead, communities broken and spirits broken. But everything that is sweet demands one’s sweat. We have to state, however, that Africa remains under occupation economically. African economies are still very weak and narrow as they are based on one or two pillars. They are not as diverse as they must be and remain foreign-owned. Also, they are still based on exports of primary products — unprocessed minerals, crops and so on. The raw materials go out cheap yet Africans spend a fortune importing finished goods.

This is an area that Africans must concentrate on. They need to further develop their economies to be able to extract their resources themselves and process them into finished goods before they export them to earn more.

We are glad that the contemporary leaders, chief among them President Mugabe, are mindful of the inadequacy of Africa’s political freedom. Without economic independence, we cannot say that Africa is independent in the true sense of the word.

Pursuant to that agenda, the AU is prosecuting Agenda 2063, a strategic framework for the socio-economic transformation of Africa over the next 50 years.

It builds on, and seeks to accelerate the implementation of past and existing continental initiatives for growth and sustainable development.  It is interesting to note that the year 2063, the target for the attainment of the goals of Africa’s socio-economic blueprint, will also mark the 100th anniversary of the founding of the OAU.

The theme for this year is “Harnessing the Demographic Dividend through investments in Youth”.

Said the AU in a statement expounding the theme: “Over the last 10 years, it has become evident that a demographic dividend lens offers a strategic basis for focusing and prioritising investments in people in general and the youth in particular, in order to achieve sustainable development, inclusive economic growth, and to build ‘an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, which is driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the international arena.’”

Indeed the youth are the future of any community. They are the engine of growth of any society, they are its energy. A community without the youth cannot perpetuate itself, it soon dies off.

More than three out of every five Africans are aged 35 years and younger. For the continent to make the most out of this demographic group that constitutes citizens generally referred as the youths, there should be more investment in education, training, decent work, and engaging young people in shaping their future.

However, focus on youth must be accompanied by focus on women, the disabled, and the elderly for more inclusive growth to be achieved.

As we marked this very important day for Africa, we are unhappy that there are a few pockets of armed conflict — the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, parts of Nigeria and Uganda just to name but four. This fighting does nothing to develop Africa. It drags us back.

Most of the conflicts on the continent are internal, which means that it is Africans fighting among themselves for political power, access to resources and associated privileges. It is sad that after fighting and defeating colonialists, Africans have turned on each other. That must stop.

“Most of today’s conflicts are internal,” said the AU in its Africa Day message, “triggered by competition for power and resources, inequality, marginalisation, disrespect for human rights and sectarian divides. Often, they are inflamed by violent extremism or provide the fuel for it. But prevention goes far beyond focusing solely on conflict.

“The best means of prevention and the surest path to durable peace is inclusive and sustainable development. It is critical to continue building more effective and accountable institutions to address governance challenges, advance the rule of law

and promote civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.  We can speed progress by doing  more to provide opportunities and hope to young people.”

Yesterday was a big day for the continent as it marks the attainment of political independence for Africa but to achieve much more, Africans need to intensify the struggle for economic independence while maintaining peace and unity.

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