Ambassador Amina Mohamed, Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs and International Trade, has emerged as the leading contender for the African Union Commission (AUC) Chairperson position.
With the AUC chair elections just around the corner, it is imperative to propose afresh the key reasons why Amina’s candidacy presents the best value for the continent’s 1.2 billion people.
Besides Amina’s stellar credentials as a distinguished career diplomat, her sharp understanding of the catalytic role of business in Africa’s prosperity makes her the choice candidate for the AUC job. In her manifesto, she promises that she will put business at the centre of AU policy.
Amina’s business-first approach is the silver bullet for Africa’s challenges. Business is what will drive the highly anticipated African renaissance and set the stage for the realisation of the ambitious goals envisioned under Agenda 2063, which is Africa’s political and socio-economic development blueprint.
Admittedly, prioritising business may on the face of it imply that Africa’s economic and commercial interests prevail over other equally important interests such as social justice, armed conflict, security, and good governance. Nothing, however, could be farther from the truth. Business does not relegate these issues to the back-burner, but rather, provides permanent solutions to them.
Putting business first will enable Africa to address the root causes, and not just the symptoms, of the challenges she currently faces. At the root of hot-button issues such as illegal immigration to Europe, armed conflict and social upheaval is the scarcity of jobs and widespread poverty.
As the first woman to chair the General Council at the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Amina has gained a sharp appreciation of the inherent power of trade and private sector to drive economic growth, create employment opportunities and stamp out poverty.
It is no surprise, then, that business has a preeminent place in her overall strategy for the continent.
Furthermore, job creation, which is something that private businesses typically do better than government, can create the much needed opportunities for Africa’s growing youth population.
Africa has the youngest population in the world. Employment opportunities will enable the continent to reap this demographic dividend. Jobs will also pre-empt the risks associated with a large pool of unemployed youth, including armed conflict, social upheaval and increased migration out of Africa.
For instance, jobs and economic growth will combat the root causes of migration so that people see prospects for staying in Africa instead of making the dangerous voyage to Europe across the Mediterranean Sea, where an unprecedented2809 refugees and migrants died in the open sea in 2016.
Creating employment opportunities in Africa, as Amina’s vision statement proposes, will help stem many of the continent’s challenges that have lack of opportunity and poverty as their root cause.
Overall, Amina has a clear vision of what she wants for the continent. A review of her Vision Statement shows that she is a systematic thinker. She has mapped out the key challenges facing Africa and proposed practical and bold policy interventions to address them.
Key areas in which she plans to focus on, and which I believe will have a positive impact on the fortunes of African businesses, are-integration and intra-African trade, including the conclusion of the Continental Free Trade Area negotiations; peace; promotion of democracy and rule of law as an ideal; a Smart Africa whose growth is underpinned by advancements in ICT; and infrastructure development.
I am particularly enthused by Amina’s sharp focus on infrastructure development. In her Vision Statement, she states that if elected as AUC chair, she will oversee a “revolution of infrastructure within the continent.” This is long overdue.
The continent’s infrastructure deficit has reduced Africa’s global competitiveness by about 40 percent and further reduced the continent’s annual growth rate by about three percentage points, according to the World Bank.
Fast-tracked infrastructure development, as Amina proposes, will help put African growth back on track and set the stage for increased intra-African trade and faster regional integration.
The most admirable thing about Amina is not her competence, as commendable as it is, but her commitment to the values that bring us together. Anyone who has worked with her will readily admit that she puts emphasis on that which unites while setting aside the divisive.
Unity is critical at this juncture in Africa’s history. The continent needs to pull together and wage a united battle against common enemies such as terrorism, corruption and bad governance.
Though Amina is an African at heart, the international lawyer is also a global citizen who knows how to charm her way into the hearts of global leaders, thanks to her wealth of experience at the top echelons of the United Nations system.
Simply put, Amina has a global outlook but a Pan-African mindset. Hers is indeed a rare wisdom that will immensely benefit the AUC and help secure Africa a permanent spot on the top table of global business and politics.
(Kittony is the National Chairman of the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry – KNCCI).