The people who call the continent of Africa home have never lived at a better time than this. The potential of Africa is open for the world to see. According to a World Bank report, child mortality has dropped in most countries and poverty is being annihilated as several Africa countries rank with the highest economic growth in the world.
While most African countries are soaring economically, some European countries are experiencing slow economic growth. Africa is indeed rising. The ‘Dark continent’ is standing tall with pride as it takes its place in the hall of fame shared by global giants.
The African Union chair position recently got filled in Addis Ababa. Congratulations to the winner Mousaa Faki Mahamat from Chad who will now assume the office for the next one year.
Despite the loss, Kenya managed to cement its position in the continental space after Amina Mohamed came second. The news of her loss was heartbreaking to Kenyans. However, we must focus on uniting the continent so that together we can combat the challenges that face Africa.
As an entrepreneur and a strong believer in the Pan-African dream I would urge the new AU chair to focus on the following areas if Africa is to reap rapid dividends:
The AU visa was recently launched with the goal to enable intra-Africa travelling easier by the year 2020. However, the visa, which is currently available to African Heads of States and selected diplomatic officials, will not solve the immigration dilemma in the short or medium run. A much quicker way to make travel easier for Africans immediately could be easing restrictive visa requirements to Africans by following in the footsteps of countries like Ghana that did the same.
I get frustrated at the thought of travelling in Africa. Apart from expensive visa charges and the stringent requirements it takes to get a visa, there is a generally condescending attitude that our people have against our own. Yet we are one people, with a common history and a shared destination.
The borders that were created by the colonialists need to be urgently brought down. Africa was one before the white men came. Yes, we might have ideological differences. Sometimes we might even disagree on fundamental issues but the fact that we need to unite our people by letting them move freely should be top of our agenda.
Opening air routes will also be a greater way to accelerate economic growth. Having an African Union passport will not pay for air transport. Do you know that it is much cheaper to travel to Dubai from Kenya than travel to Zanzibar from the same destination? Let’s open our borders.
The trade deficit between Africa countries is worrying. Way too many bottlenecks that discourage investment and choke the Ubuntu spirit that is inherent in us. The majority of the Africa’s trade is with Europe and America.
First, trading between African countries is punctuated by laborious border checks, pestering and solicitations from a customs official for kickbacks. According to reliable reports, Intra-Africa trade stands between a paltry 15 and 17 percent while Northern America stands at 40 percent and 60 percent in Western Europe.
Second, African countries must urgently unite to undo a crippling legacy dominated by trade with our former colonial rulers rather than with ourselves. Let us encourage a system of free trade between African countries.
Third, it is time for us to further the idea of an African currency so that we can control our destiny. The resources Africa has is adequate to act as collateral for an African currency.
Poor infrastructure is one reason to be blamed for Africa’s trade deficit. The continent also has a plethora of agreements that turns into a hindrance rather than an enabler. Africa as a continent alone has 14 distinct trading blocs with overlapping members.
Regional trade integration is a strategic way to enable Africa achieve its objectives. Yet, despite attempts and some degree of success in eliminating trade barriers within regional communities, the giant African market remains highly fragmented into tiny markets.
The gap that Africa has to fill is too huge to be filled by the Governments alone. There is need to encourage private-public partnerships to jointly undertake some of the flagship projects that Africa needs to grow. Let us bring on board Public Private Partnerships and empower them with requisite legal framework. The challenge to the governments then is to put up policies and regulatory frameworks that can encourage the PPP kind of investment and partnerships.
Africa has its best days ahead. The current continent that we have borrowed from our future generations must be handed over back to them with tangible benefits.