Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Taking over the African narrative

 What I said at the Africacounts round table in Kampala, Uganda

In Africa today, interesting and indeed intriguing processes and events are unfolding that are gradually but profoundly shaping the conduct of the political economy and developmental trajectories of the continent. These present significant prospects and challenges for the regions prosperity and stability

Economic growth: Today, Africa is home to some of the fastest growing economies in the world. Uganda’s economy grew at an average 7% annually throughout the past decade (1999 – 2011).  Ghana, Nigeria, Angola, Kenya are now some of the hottest growth markets in the globe. Africa is positioning herself as the 21stC go to investment paradise. The number of investors flocking departments of trade and industry, energy, and finance in Mozambique, Angola, Tanzania, Kenya, South Sudan and many other African states is testimony to that reality.

Emerging global market: In terms of demographics, Africa is now home to a huge dynamic population; an expanding middleclass with substantive purchasing power and increasing consumerism. Africa is emerging as a global market that can no longer be overlooked.

Governance: We have made great progress towards accountability and good governance. Several Sub-Saharan countries are reforming their governance systems and inching towards effective constitutionalism, rule of law, open governance, citizen participation, transparency and accountability. Kenya is testing the products of institutional reform in the past five year; Rwanda is reaping the benefits of good governance; and South Sudan is on course towards building a strong state buttressed by modern day democratic institutions. African states are increasingly experiencing civilised political transitions and a new generation of African leaders are stepping up to change the facade of Africa’s political economy. These are developments that cannot be overlooked!

Internalising our externalities: Gradually, African states are recognising the value of maximising the advantages of pooling their sovereignty and moving towards supplying regional public goods. Different states West, South and East of Africa are courageously confronting the challenges and demands for regional cooperation, and are making encouraging progress, delicately weaving the wafts and wefts towards achieving ‘African-multilateralism’ based on the appreciation of the mutual benefits of internalising our externalities.

Closer home, East Africa is making giant strides toward strengthening the East African Common Market Protocol and pushing for higher stakes in the East African Community. The discovery of oil and gas in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania positions East Africa as one of the largest gas producers in Africa and a major global player in oil production in subsequent decades.  However continued conflict and political instability amongst the region’s neighbour’s remains a challenge. State fragility in South Sudan, delicate transition in Ethiopia, insurgencies in the DRC and the Somali crisis ... Moreover, there still persists a lingering spectre of poverty: East Africa has nearly 73% of the population in multidimensional poverty and is home to some of the world’s poorest nations, Burundi for example.

Taking charge: It is time to take charge of the African narrative and it begins with shaping the objects of the story. As we demand that Africa gets its fair share of attention and participation in global governance discourses, we must equally endeavour as states and as individuals to invest substantively producing evidence – new knowledge and using it to inform and shape our engagements between citizens, policy makers, media, civil society and academia. Africa must take an account of our resource endowments, recognise our challenges and appreciate the progress we’ve made. This must be effectively communicated to the globe – that Africans are capable and indeed ready to confront their ills and chart a sustainable path towards restoring our dignity and claiming our fair share of the earth.  

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