On the eve of the 33rd Summit of the African Union, which will be held on February 9 and 10 in the presence of all the States of the continent, it is essential to recall the ties that unite us. Reinvesting in our territories, strengthening our economic regions, abolishing customs borders, and freeing ourselves from external constraints are all elements that will enable us to regain the meaning of our actions and stimulate our ability to unite around common values.
A paradigm shift is needed
The new decade that is beginning holds out the hope of a paradigm shift if we respect what we preach. Our continent, whose youth and dynamism are its real wealth, must meet the high expectations of social justice and equity in the distribution of wealth of a population that is increasingly integrated around a globalized conception of economic and political life. We have no choice but to rethink our relationship to ourselves and to the rest of the world. To this end, from now on we have sought to include and involve our youth in the design and implementation of Agenda 2063, our continental vision of socio-economic transformation.
Play as a team
Since its recent establishment, the African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD) promotes regional economic integration, cross-border projects and aims to strengthen its cooperation with the regional economic communities. The launching of major PIDA priority projects – the North-South or Abidjan-Dakar corridors, the Abidjan-Lagos coastal corridor, the Dakar-Bamako railway lines, the Zambia-Tanzania-Kenya Transmission Line (ZTK) and so many other achievements – is the fulfilment of our wish to work together. Henceforth, the progress of regional integration is moving in the direction of an interconnected continent, obviously transcending borders.
“It is also an opportunity for African political and economic actors to aim for democratic consensus and adopt a common position in international negotiations.”
Facing climate change
Included in Agenda 2063, the protection of biodiversity, the conservation and sustainable management of natural resources, water security and renewable energies are critical strategic choices. Indeed, there can be no sustainable growth without inclusion, and this will be even more true in the years to come. The urgency of meeting the challenges posed by climate change calls for a two-pronged approach: mitigating the causes and adapting to the consequences. Hence the need to focus on development with the highest possible ecological value. This implies planning differently and implementing concrete adaptation measures, building resilience, reviewing our food systems, adopting green economies that are resilient to climate change, improving climate and weather monitoring. It is also an opportunity for African political and economic actors to aim for democratic consensus and adopt a common position in international negotiations.
Breaking down borders for the free movement of people
Unless there is a denial of the obvious, population displacements respond to a need for survival and security. Hindering this movement means running the risk of seeing poor populations trapped in a vicious circle of impoverishment and the most dynamic areas deprived of labour power. Rethinking our borders to allow free movement. We must work to make this possible and in the best possible conditions.
In this context, important steps have been taken on two of the key objectives of Agenda 2063: the creation of a continental free trade area, FTAA, and the creation of a Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM). Indeed, 80% of air traffic in Africa is still handled by foreign companies. A major objective of Agenda 2063, SAATM was launched on 28 January 2018 by the AU Commission. The liberalisation of market access between African States, the free exercise of traffic rights and the liberalisation of frequencies should contribute to the continent’s socio-economic integration and growth. As for the FTAA, which started in March 2018, once in force, it will be the largest trade zone in the world, theoretically expected to increase intra-African trade by 52% by 2022, eliminating customs duties on 90% of goods. Let’s free up our spaces on earth or in the air. This is a challenge.
We are now at a crossroads. We have never been so collectively aware of our material and immaterial resources, of our strengths, of our place to create in this uncertain world. Meanwhile, these uncertainties in the face of major demographic, climatic, political or economic changes are accelerating. At the dawn of this new decade, our responsibility as citizens is to ensure that the hopes of our young people and the dreams of the founding leaders are not in vain.