At a time when more and more voices are being heard to challenge the European Union (EU), the idea of unity of the Old Continent and especially the functioning of its institutions, the African Union (AU) has just accepted a new member: Morocco.
This demonstrates the attractiveness of the continental organization, which, although not perfect, has to its credit many achievements that are conducive to stability and development. It must be said that the AU was able to renew itself. From the OAU of independence to the AU that we know today – in fact largely inspired by the EU – there has been a real qualitative leap we must welcome.
Today the AU is an essential interlocutor for the international community. Africa is able to speak with one voice in the major international arenas, whether on climate or trade. Unity is strength, as the saying goes. But union, especially when it goes beyond the mere economic framework, is not easy: one sees it in other parts of the world, in the Middle East for example, but also in North America where deep divisions have been growing.
In Africa, on the contrary, the continental unity is now strengthened. It is interesting to note that even when countries are divided, at no time do the new entities envisage leaving the AU. I’m thinking here about the latest example to date, South Sudan. Morocco has clearly understood this, which is back in the ideological lap of the founding fathers of Africa, who, after independence, wanted this African unity because they dreamed of a community of destiny and interests.
Already with NEPAD, or with the African Development Bank (AfDB), the vision of development, projects and commitments are continental. We have succeeded in producing an overall African project, where each country sees its interest and can hope to be part of the general effort. This is true for infrastructures – rail, electricity – but also for the social issue through Agenda 2063, which includes measures over 50 years to stimulate socio-economic transformation across the continent.
A key element of this transformation is to take full advantage of the “demographic dividend” to ensure that economic progress improves growth, social development and the sharing of wealth. This is also the case for health with the “African Health Strategy” and the “Catalytic Framework for the Elimination of AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria in Africa by 2030”, set up by the AU. There is still progress to be made, especially in integration, the free movement of people and goods, but in 15 years progress has been quite extraordinary.
With its values, ambitions and strengths – economic and demographic growth, important natural resources and dynamic youth – Africa today can face the challenges coming from a world in perpetual change by cultivating unity. In the UN, for example, our countries weigh more when they are united. And it is with this unity that we can also open ourselves to the rest of the world. The AU is our home, our safe haven. We can look at other geographical areas, such as the EU, for example, for Morocco and Tunisia, or as the BRICS for South Africa, but in the end we know where we come from. That is our strength. These extensions from Africa to the rest of the world via individual countries, or also via diaspora, is a key strength. It remains to ensure that there is a principle of “diplomatic sharing” or preferential access set up within pan-African bodies.
Our partners are already very active: for example, on the board committee of the AfDB, we find France, the United Kingdom, the United States, Japan and China, among others. These partner countries and friends of Africa therefore participate directly in the projects implemented by the continental bank. This facilitates action and makes the partnership more effective. Our inequalities can also be forces: if Moroccan and South African banks play their role as a capital distributor, this can benefit other countries and their respective private sectors.
Integrating the pan-African perspective into reflection can only benefit the actors in this immense market that has become Africa.