The global geopolitical landscape is shifting rapidly, leaving no nation untouched, and exerting significant pressure on nation-states and their governments, irrespective of their political and economic status, to adapt or perish in oblivion. There is no doubt that the world is in the throes of tremendous change.
In response to this inevitable wind of change, most governments across the globe are reconsidering their position in the global economy, revisiting their policy stances on a range of thematic issues ranging from trade, education, health, climate financing, industrialization, and human skills development among other aspects. Africa, like all other continents, has not been left behind, in repositioning itself as a strategic partner in global development.
Since the COVID-19 outbreak, the continent has emerged stronger in its resolve to be an active and vocal shaper of global discourses in various policy themes mentioned above. The continent is keen to work with other continents to help shape the rules of the future world order. Africa is no longer a passive bystander watching events unfold, but an active pursuer of its interests in the emerging global development landscape.
The challenges facing the continent and individual member states are known and well-documented. The challenges have presented an enviable opportunity for the continent to rethink its policy stances on various strategic sectors with the potential to stimulate faster post-COVID-19 economic recovery and socio-political development.
However, for the continent to be properly positioned to influence policy decisions and attract foreign direct investments (FDI), it must take pragmatic decisions and steps to mitigate the challenges that the member states are experiencing. At a recent Think Tanks Summit convened in Accra, Ghana, by the African Policy Circle (APC), a network of think tanks in Africa, the delegates shared some of the steps that can be taken by governments in Africa to reposition the continent toward sustainable development and economic prosperity. The steps are:
Addressing the leadership deficit that is brave to confront all the negative elements in existing partnerships between the continent (and her member states) and their partners from the global North. To change the status quo, political leadership in the continent must courageously engage with their counterparts from the global North to accept that the interests of Africa must be at the centre of political and economic policies. If African interests are not at the centre of policy conversations, Africa is most likely to re-enter new unhappy partnerships that are lop-sided and possibly exploitative.
Citizens’ interests must be at the centre of member states political and socio-economic policies. Politicians in Africa must cease taking their electorate for granted by pushing their political parties and individual interests rather than those of citizens. It is a disservice to the nation if this remains a trend. Democracy in most African countries is on the decline characterized by increasing incidences of citizen disaffection with their governments and politicians; the lack of respect for the Constitution, given the rise in unconstitutional changes of government in some countries in the continent; the disrespect of the rule of law given the increasing incidences of police-led violence on citizens, and the list goes on. Citizens’ disaffection with their governments is one of the many signs of a failing democracy. African nations need to promote active protection of democracy, the Constitution, and the rule of law to restore citizens’ confidence in their elected political leadership.
Address governance and information accessibility challenges using technology – technology has the potential to increase information flow for timeous decision-making and efficient service delivery thereby promoting good governance. By harnessing the power of artificial intelligence, blockchain, and data analytics, the continent can fast-track its attainment of sustainable development, and economic growth, eventually improving the livelihoods of Africans.
Address infrastructural gaps by fostering regional integration – The African Development Bank (AFDB), estimates the continent’s infrastructural gap at $107.5 billion annually. Addressing this gap is not an option for the continent. It is one of the keys to unlocking the potential of member states through mechanisms such as the AFCTA, whose main objective is to foster cross-border trading and stimulate inter-country economic development through trade. Regional integration is imperative and not an option.
The next step is to tackle conflict in various parts of the continent. Since 2020, there have been successful military coups in Burkina Faso (twice), Chad, Guinea, Mali (twice), and Sudan, and failed ones in the CAR, Djibouti, Guinea-Bissau, Madagascar, and Niger. According to a recent 2023 UNDP report, the cost of wars and coups in Africa is staggering at approximately $50 billion. The persistent bleeding of resources deprives the continent of the ability to enhance the livelihoods of Africans. This financial hemorrhaging must be stopped so that the continent can grow and improve the welfare of Africans.
Intensify efforts toward mobilizing private sector financing for climate and green growth – it is undeniable that Africa cannot respond effectively to climate change challenges and opportunities without resources. The private sector plays a crucial role in providing the much-needed resources to mitigate against the multiple shocks that climate-change effects had on the economies of most member states across the continent. According to the African Economic Outlook 2023, most African economies have remained resilient despite the various multi-dimensional shocks, with average growth projected to stabilize at 4.1 per cent in 2023–24. However, African states must put in place the necessary legal frameworks and policies that will incentivize private sector investment in climate actions whilst removing all barriers to this investment.
In conclusion, although fragile, there have been notable incidences of economic recovery across the continent, with most African states rebounding strongly post the COVID-19 pandemic scourge. The continent stands at a critical crossroads, with immense potential for transformative economic growth and development. However, the pressing challenges must be addressed urgently for the continent to leapfrog through innovation in various sectors where it has a competitive advantage and maximize opportunities for positive change that are emerging in favour of the continent. It is time for collective and concerted efforts to unlock the continents’ real potential.
Dr. Paul Kariuki is the Executive Director of the Democracy Development Program (DDP) and the interim chair and co-convener of the African Policy Circle (APC). He writes in his personal capacity.