Despite the steady growth prospects seen across Africa, poverty, weak infrastructure, unemployment, inadequate human capital development, poorly regulated environment, and corruption still remain major issues on the continent. For these reasons among many others, on January 27, 2013, 36 African heads of state and officials came together in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa for the 20th African Union (AU) summit. The goal was to find common means of achieving a more solid and secured united Africa through stability, material prosperity, peace and social progress.
At the summit, the first female chair of the African Union and former South African Home Affairs Minister, Dlamini Zuma affirmed that "Africa's time has arrived and we can achieve our dream within 50 years, or even less."
While she confidently reassured that the continent is at a point where it must seize the opportunity to fast track its economic development, she also cautioned governments, saying that “Africa must remain united if it is to achieve its desired goals and pull millions of people out of poverty.”
She asserted that if the African Union deeply yearns to achieve a strong, solid, secured and progressive economic take-off, in and across many African countries, it is up to them – each African leader – to actively set the tone for such, because Africa’s steady growth depends largely on the energy and ability of its leaders to pursue a vision of unity that will bring about extraordinary performance and results.
Africa needs iron willed-take charge-progressive leaders among other attributes, who will gain the trust and respect of their people, be willing to sacrifice for them, and be able to create a message that if Africa is to be the “land of the future” (especially in terms of global competitiveness), it must reject its portrayal as the “victim” within its home ground and in the international community.
Even more importantly, the poverty ideology should be replaced with one of prosperity as a possible, realistic goal, and the message must reject the insult regarding Africa as a “special case” that requires continuing intervention.
With increase vigor, the African Union and African countries should pursue steady growth, which will certainly generate additional employment opportunities and contribute immensely to poverty reduction. This steady growth should first and foremost include women because when you educate a woman, you educate a village, a society, a country, and a continent. The inclusive growth should also include the youth. It is a known fact that a good way to preserve a nation is to begin with its youth, on which the future depends solely with confidence and faith.
Steady growth prospects also means eliminating recipes for societal decay, economic collapse, and moral misery that are often translated to self-interest, selfishness, greed, lack of transparency, the increase of wealth through corruption etc… However, through good governance and transparency in actions and accountability to the public, each of these disincentives can be checked and eliminated to produce decries decency, civility lawful order as well as strong institutions.
A strong institution in particular is another major necessity for the realization of a high employment generation. This institution includes underlying frameworks which guarantee the ability of the economy to not only generate employment opportunities but also increase labor capacity. This is perhaps what President Obama had in mind when he stroked a chord from Ghana that Africa does not need strong men but strong institutions, for strong institutions eradicate corrupt practices, uncertainty and many others setbacks.
Africa overall holds hope. There is no doubt about that. However what we want to see here is a continent of action. Therefore, while we passionately chant these words “Africa is Rising”, while we pat ourselves on the back for Africa’s steady growth prospects, and for what is now a continent that is associated with opportunities, we its leaders, its people, as well as the African diaspora cannot afford to be complacent.
There is still a lot of work that needs to be done and even more importantly questions such as the following that still needs to be answered: How does the African Union accomplish this goal of a more continuous solid, secured united African continent? How do we ensure we have accountability and fair governance? How do African countries set aside their individual self-interests and cultural differences and unify to capitalize on the many opportunities available in Africa? How should we as a unified continent of 54 countries work together to create the best systems so we can unleash the power of the people of Africa?
It is in answering these questions and putting them into practice that will yield a continent with good governance, strong institutions, strong education and health care systems, unceasing infrastructure, effective political leadership, transparency, and economy stability.