It is Africa Integration Day 2020 and there are several activities being carried out to commorate this special agenda. This year’s theme will focus on “COVID-19: The road ahead for African trade, economic integration and growth.”
Greater African unity has long been a cherished yet seemingly elusive goal. With the #BlackLivesMatter cry getting louder, there is now a renewed vigor to establish closer economic and political ties among the continent’s numerous countries. This is also happening based on a heightened appreciation of the need for regional integration and a clearer understanding of the reasons for past failures.
Some of the solutions to the central challenges facing the drive for integration on the continent include enhanced trade among African countries, improved/ more roads and other infrastructure, reform of regional institutions, greater accountability and popular involvement, and closer coordination of efforts by the public and private sectors.
Let’s take a look at a good example of inter Africa trade issues. On the edge of Porto Novo, Benin, runs an unpaved and unnamed road. It is less travelled during the daytime, but at night large transport lorries weave around the potholes to bring in petrol and other commodities from just across the border in Nigeria. At this time, no customs officer check the goods, and they are not accounted for in Benin’s official trade statistics. Yet, sales from these unofficial goods satisfy consumer needs and provides livelihoods to thousands of small-scale traders in market-places across the country.
Just like Benin, each of Africa’s 53 countries has its untarred, unnamed road separated by lines on the map. The huge loss arising from this unaccountability is enough to make life better for the people of a country. These leaks sealed and can be improved upon to promoting the closest possible political, economic and human ties across national boundaries.
The idea of better integrating African countries and regions has long been promoted by political leaders in speeches, official conferences and formal treaties, although with only limited results on the ground. Yet till today their words ring true. Here are some of their quotes. They can serve as food for thought.
Olusegun Obasanjo, Former President of Nigeria:
We need to get a critical mass of hands, heads and minds of political and private sector leadership to move us forward. I am surprised that any African leader at this point in time will be talking about either not understanding or not very important to be at the Africa Continental Free Trade Afreement (AfCFTA) to support what we are signing.
I see that as criminal.
Kwame Nkrumah, First President and Prime Minister of Ghana:
“We must unite now or perish… We must recognise that our economic independence resides in our African union and requires the same concentration upon the political achievement. Without necessarily sacrificing our sovereignties, we can forge a political union based on defence, foreign affairs and diplomacy, and a common citizenship, an African currency, a monetary zone and a central bank. We must unite in order to achieve the full liberation of our continent.
Thabo Mbeki former President of South Africa:
“The evolution of humanity says that Africa reaffirms that she is continuing her rise from the ashes. Whatever the setbacks of the moment, nothing can stop us now! Whatever the difficulties, Africa shall be at peace!”
Patrice Émery Lumumba, Congolese first Prime Minister:
“We know that Africa is neither French, nor British, nor American, nor Russian, that it is African. We know the objects of the West. Yesterday they divided us on the level of a tribe, clan and village…They want to create antagonistic blocs, satellites.”
Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda:
“Africa’s story has been written by others; we need to own our problems and solutions and write our story.”
“Leap frogging has its limits. Africa should not play catch up by the 5th industrial revolution.”
Akinwumi Adesina, President African Development Bank (AfDB):
“We have to be impatient in moving Africa forward.”
Nancy Kachungira, Journalist, United Kingdom:
“Africa needs to see itself as the leader of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.”
Gisele Yitamben, African Female Entrpreneur:
“African villages need to start owning the discussions surrounding their own resources.”
Mo Ibrahim, Founder Mo Ibrahim Foundation:
“What we need in Africa is balanced development. Economic success cannot be a replacement for human rights or participation or democracy… it doesn’t work.”
It is hoped that the efforts being made from the highest political office, to the traditional chiefs and that local farmer in a remote village will work towards inclusivity in the dream of bringing about integration of the continent and achieve structural transformation.
Africa can become the most admired continent. It takes a deliberate move from her people.
What are your thoughts on Africa’s integration? Please share with us in the comment section.