Not too long ago in 2001, one former European Prime Minister infamously depicted Africa as a “scar on the conscience of humanity”. In 2015, as new global development goals come into effect, Africa stands as the promised land, a rising continent, writes Dr. Hage G. Geingob, President of the Republic of Namibia.
Once described by the international weekly magazine The Economist as “The hopeless continent”, Africa has made such strides that it will no longer be the prime target of the just-launched Sustainable Development Goals. Fifteen years ago when the first set of developmental goals were devised, they were aimed at addressing basic poverty, providing access to potable water and sanitation, reducing child mortality, eradicating extreme poverty, empowering women through gender equality, combating HIV, ensuring environmental sustainability, and building global partnerships.
Then, Africa, along with other impoverished regions of the world, was the main target of such lofty objectives. In 2015, still to meet some of the key goals of the year 2000, Africa is no longer the main dark sheep in the crowd. That the new sustainable development goals of discussions are directed also at even the so-called developed regions of the world, Europe and America for that matter, is an indication that our continent has moved away from its shameful status as the worst place in the world.
On the contrary, these days when Africa is singled out it is not for reasons related to its chequered past.
It is indeed pleasing to salute the rising Africa scenario being mooted in various circles, including in the very magazine which, fifteen years ago, only saw hopelessness and stagnation on our continent!
Considering that action speaks louder than words, Africa’s numbers are loud and clear about its new-found stature. The numbers point to a continent where growth rates are higher than almost anywhere else in the world, where peace is replacing war in many of its countries and regions, and democratic norms are progressively, albeit haltingly, on the march. It can also be mentioned that economic integration has now been understood by Africans of all walks of life as an imperative. Natural resources are being discovered abundantly – and a sovereign and profitable oversight on them is demanded by an increasingly better informed African leadership and citizenry. In the meantime, many governments have put in place sound home-grown macroeconomic policies while being aware of the need to create inclusivity in the development process and more shared prosperity to address the still prevalent scourges of poverty and inequality.
Democratic freedoms and more
That many outside investors, states and non-states actors, are rushing back to a continent they once dismissed is another proof of the changing lot of our continent, now seen as one of the few areas of growth in the world.
Yet, in the midst of this glowing reputation, it is advised that we, as Africans, remain calm, learn from the lessons of the past, especially from the early 1960s when our continent experienced impressive growth rates on the back of a commodities prices boom, in order to define ourselves what we want Africa to be in the years ahead. That is how we can ensure the 21st century is an African one – even if we have to share that ambition with others!
Deepening regional integration is the first step forward if we have to build on Africa’s successes in fighting colonial domination and apartheid colonialism during the past 50 years.
As I said at the 35th Summit of the Southern Africa Development Cooperation (Sadc), held in Gaborone, Botswana, from August 16th to 18th, while celebrating our achievements in ending colonial rule, providing democratic freedoms to our people, eliminating civil wars, banning military coups and consolidating the fiscal positions of our economies, it is our duty to address key challenges still ahead for all African nations. Amongst them are the necessity to wage an all-out war against poverty and stop our continuous bad habit of exporting our raw materials and not benefiting from value addition through the industrialisation of our economies.
Let us be blunt and admit that our people don’t eat natural resources nor democracy nor even good constitutions, even though these are important preconditions to the development dream we are yearning for.
If the Africa rising scenario is to become real and be felt by our people, we must naturally accelerate our regional integration processes. This requires that we put in place meaningful regional cooperation programmes, such as setting up intra-country infrastructures that would be the best display of our commitment to regional and continental solidarity. The energy and water sectors are fields where harnessing our common political will and resources would help create better living conditions for our people and a more conducive climate for investors and local businesses to contribute to the march of our nations.
At the end of the day, however, development begins at home and that is where each of our African nations must put in place the macro-political measures so as to build strong nations, since without them there can be no basis for coherent and credible regional and continental integration processes. I firmly believe that Africa now has in her hands the unique chance to negotiate better with her outside partners, respond to her people’s long-awaited expectations for improved lives, attract additional, innovative sources of funding, and, ultimately, make the continent’s image shine – as it should always have, considering the huge human and natural potential therein. Now more than ever is Africa’s time – and there is no excuse for missing this African moment! Let us all pull forward in the spirit of “Harambee” as a continent and as people with a common vision.