The United States, European Union and their Pacific allies’ sanctions are truly fast-driving Russia towards Africa. As the sanctions bite, Russia continues stepping up to realign with Africa, steadily stemming its policy with mountainous pledges of helping with sustainable development, increase trade through economic cooperation and strengthen relations. In addition, the sanctions have created the conditions for Russia to push its anti-Western and neo-colonialism agenda, reminiscent of the Cold War during the Soviet days. But such steps must necessarily and discernibly be implemented with renewed determination and decisiveness.
Late April, Russian Presidential Special Representative for Middle East and Africa, and Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Mikhail Bogdanov explicitly explained in an interview to Interfax News Agency that Africa has always been an important region from the point of view of foreign policy for Russia. As oftentimes, he traced and renarrated, especially from 1950s and 1960s, the historical role the Soviet played in support for African peoples in attaining their statehood and political independence, the fight against colonial rule.
“After the collapse of the Soviet Union, many other problems emerged and pushed cooperation with Africa into the background. Regrettably, much has been lost over this period,” he told the media, and frankly admitted further that Western and European countries, China, Turkey, and India et cetera, have filled the vacuum that emerged after the ‘retreat’ from Africa.
According to Bogdanov, Africa is beyond any doubt a continent of the future, both from the point of view of human resources and because it is a storeroom of the world, one of the richest regions. But another issue is that colonial powers, as well as neocolonialists, have never let the Africans take advantage of the treasure which is literally right under their feet.
These past years, Russian diplomat have played the song of “neo-colonialism” and its negative effects on Africa, this song aims at winning the sympathy of African leaders. It has meanwhile embarked on fighting “neo-colonialism” which it considers as a stumbling stone on its way to regain part of its Soviet-era influence in Africa. Russia has sought to convince Africans over the past years of the likely dangers of neocolonial tendencies perpetrated by the former colonial masters and the scramble for resources on the continent.
Russian diplomats might have read Jamiacan Walter Rodney’s book “How Europe Underdevloped Africa” – as they similarly and consistently blames Western and Europeans for political, economic and social bottlenecks in Africa. Russia has expressed uttermost disatisfaction about Western and European engagement with Africa. All kinds of Soviet assistance rendered until many African states got the independece be simply considered as history.
In an interview with Steven Gruzd, Head of the African Governance and Diplomacy Programme at the South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA), explained that Africa is a busy geopolitical arena, with many players, both old and new, operating. Apart from EU countries, China and the US. There are players such as Iran, Turkey, Israel, the UAE, Japan and others. Russia has to compete against them, and distinctively remain focused its efforts with strategies. On the other side, Russia uses the rhetoric of anti-colonialism in its engagement with Africa, and that it is fighting neo-colonialism from the West, especially in relations with their former colonies. It sees France as a threat to its interests especially in Francophone West Africa, the Maghreb and the Sahel.
“I would largely agree that there is a divide between what has been pledged and promised at high-level meetings and summits, compared to what has actually materialized on the ground. There is more talk than action, and mere intentions and ideas have been officially presented as initiatives already in progress. There needs to be a lot of tangible progress on the ground for the second summit to show impact. It will be interesting to see what has been concretely achieved in reports at the second Russia-Africa summit scheduled for this 2022,” he distinctively argued.
Steven Gruzd heads the Russia-Africa Research Programme initiated at SAIIA, South Africa’s premier research institute on international issues. It is an independent, non-government think tank, with a long and proud history of providing thought leadership in Africa.
From Russian and African experts’ point of view, Africa’s most valuable asset is not only its natural resources, but its people, especially the youth. The population of the continent has already passed the 1.3 billion mark, with a median age of about 20. Around 60% of the population are young people under the age of 25. With digital technology, these young Africans have the benefit of several alternative perspectives, and choose the approach they feel is closest to them. The young African generation between 25 and 45 years now have different perceptions and approaches toward issues relating to politics,economics and social questions.
Given these numbers, for instance, United States and European countries are investing in the youth. China trains about 10,000 yearly, ranging from short-term courses to long-term academic disciplines. During the days of Barak Obama, the White House created Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI). It brings 500 Africans to the White House in Washington and this YALI still runs various academic and training programmes for Africans. Before the Covid-19, The The Times Higher Education index indicated that approximately 43,000 Africans enrolled into American universities. There are many African universities and institutes with joint agreements running programes, including fellowships, together with Westerners and Europeans. That compared, Russia’s annual scholarship of about 1,800.
The young African generation (that constitutes the electorate) expect their leaders to deliver on sustainable development and initiatives that focus on employment creation. Political leaders, highly desirous to consolidate their positions, are searching for external partners who are ready to invest in energy, transport, industry, agriculture, health and other viable economic sectors. Therefore, in practical terms, all such warnings on the existing or emerging neo-colonialism could fall on deaf ears as African leaders choose development partners with funds to invest in the economy.
In terms of working with the African continent, Russian business leaders say the African continent remains so little known in Russia. The historic Russia–Africa Summit and Economic Forum held three years ago played a crucial role in addressing this, as did the 2018 FIFA World Cup. But many issues stipulated in the joint political declaration largely remain untouched on the shelves of the Kremlin and the Russian ministries, departments and agencies. And who cares about those official files? The newly created Russian African Public Forum Secretariat and the Association of Economic Cooperation with African States (AECAS). People who work within these structures hardly talk about the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). They faintly know, if nothing at all, that AfCFTA could also serve as a platform to strengthen business ties between Russia and Africa.
Nevertheless, the African Continental Free Trade (AfCFTA) promises creating a single borderless market, it offers various opportunities for localization, production and marketing of consumables throughout Africa. This should perhaps, be the strongest dimension of Russia’s dealings in Africa.
Currently, Russians know and strongly value only state-to-state cooperation, completely ignored the private sectors and civil society in their diplomacy with Africa. While the public sector has a responsibility to create an enabling environment for businesses to thrive, the private sector, equally plays a key role in among others, enhancing trade and investment, expanding innovations and resource mobilization for investment in socio-economic projects. Increased investment is a prerequisite for the realization of the UN Development Goals 2030 and the African Union’s Agenda 2063.
Unsurprisingly, both Russian and African experts have expressed their concern about official visits proliferating both ways, with little impact on the sustainable development currently needed by the majority of African countries. While some see official visits simply as diplomatic tourism. But a number of the African leaders wonder how to turn Russia’s focus towards realizing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Last November, a group of 25 leading experts headed by Sergei A. Karaganov, the Honorary Chairman of the Presidium of the Council on Foreign and Defence Policy, released a report that vividly highlighted some spectacular pitfalls and shortcomings in Russia’s approach towards Africa. It pointed to Russia’s consistent failure in honouring its several pledges over the years. It decried the increased number of bilateral and high-level meetings that yield little or bring to the fore no definitive results. In addition, insufficient and disorganized Russian African lobbying combined with a lack of “information hygiene” at all levels of public speaking, says the policy report.
The United States, EU representatives, China, India, Turkey and even the Gulf States are, these days, looking at Africa from different perspectives, but more importantly pushing for their economic footprints on the continent. For instance, fresh from their previous EU-AU summit, both agreed on several infrastructure and investment projects. EU is committing approx. €300 billion ($340 billion) for financing new investment initiatives – similar to China’s Belt and Road initiative – an investment programme the bloc claims would create links, not dependencies.
U.S. investment amounts to billions of dollars. At the 13th US-Africa Business Summit, organized by the Corporate Council on Africa (CCA), a leading reputable American business association, the American investors indicated that there are ways the continent can benefit from them, including in sectors like pharmaceuticals, automobiles, agro-processing and financial technology. On the other hand, American investors are looking forward to exploring several opportunities in the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), a policy signed by African countries to make the continent a single market.
The United States is pursuing agreements that go beyond African Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA). It will be pursuing public-private partnerships that support the US and African businesses, including women-owned and led Small and Medium Enterprises. Special focus is also on youth business especially technology, while looking to build more stronger relationships with willing Africans through bilateral engagement. There were diverse panel discussions that emphasized the growing trend of digitalization of SMEs and African business operations.
During the separate discussions with more than 20 former African ambassadors who served in the Russian Federation, they have abundantly made it clear how to stimulate African governments to explore best investment opportunities in Russia and woo Russian investors into developing Africa’s SDGs within a framework of bilateral cooperation.
Former South African Ambassador, Mandisi Mpahlwa, said that Sub-Saharan Africa has understandably been low on post-Soviet Russia’s list of priorities, given that Russia is not as dependent on Africa’s natural resources as most other major economies. The reason: Soviet and African relations, anchored as they were on the fight to push back the frontiers of colonialism, did not necessarily translate into trade, investment and economic ties, which would have continued seamlessly with post-Soviet Russia.
“Of course, Russia’s objective of taking the bilateral relationship with Africa to the next level cannot be realized without close partnership with the private sector. Africa and Russia are close politically, but they are geographically distant, and the people-to-people ties are still rather under-developed. This translates into a low level of knowledge on both sides of what the other has to offer. There is perhaps also a measure of fear of the unknown or the unfamiliar in both countries,” according to Mpahlawa.
On April 29, Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC), Russian NGO that focuses on foreign policy, held an online conference with participation of experts on Africa. Chairing the online discussion, Professor Igor Ivanov, former Foreign Affairs Minister and now RIAC President, made an opening speech, pointed out that Russia’s task in Africa is to present a strategy and define priorities with the countries of the continent, build on the decisions of the first Russia-Africa Summit.
On the development of cooperation between Russia and African countries, Professor Igor Ivanov pointed out a few steps here: “Russia’s task is to prevent a rollback in relations with African countries. It is necessary to use the momentum set by the first Russia-Africa Summit. First of all, it is necessary for Russia to define explicitly its priorities: why are we returning to Africa? Just to make money, strengthen our international presence, help African countries or to participate in the formation of the new world order together with the African countries? Some general statements of a fundamental nature were made at the first Summit, now it is necessary to move from general statements to specificity.”
In this context, Russia needs to face the new geopolitical realities and its challenges. Whether one likes it or not, Africa has become an arena for competition between various global powers. As Chinese President Xi Jinping emphasized at the Boao Forum, “We have to uphold the principle of indivisible positions on the global stage, continue building a balanced, effective and external sustainable economic architecture around the world.”
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and AUC Chairperson, Chad’s Moussa Faki Mahamat have also been discussing the ways and means of encouraging Russian corporations’ participation in major infrastructure projects on the continent and expecially in Africa’s Fourth Industrial Revolution. Lavrov has many times assured that Moscow firmly supports the principle of “African solutions to African problems” within a framework of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as developed by individual African countries, sub-regional organizations and the African Union.
Most importantly, given the sanctions imposed on Russia by the collective West, it would be necessary to substantially adapt mechanisms of cooperation to suit these new realities, primarily in the bilateral and multilateral relations. Lavrov, in one of his speeches posted to the official website, has noted frankly in remarks: “it is evident that the significant potential of our economic cooperation is far from being exhausted and much remains to be done so that Russian and African partners know more about each other’s capacities and needs. We still have to create conditions necessary for interaction between Russia and Africa.”
Now at the crossroad, it could be meadering and longer than expected to make the mark. Russia’s return journey could take another generation to reach destination Africa. With the current geo-political changing world, Russia has been stripped of as a member of many international organizations. As a direct result of Russia’s “special military operation” aims at “demilitarization and denazification” of its neighbouring Ukraine since late February, Russia has come under a raft of sanctions imposed by the United States and Canada, European Union, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and a host of other countries.
Decorating Africa at United Nations
At least majority of African leaders are calling for complete overhaul of multinational financial system to enable them pursue their development goals across Africa. Further to their scathing remarks on negative impact inflicted by imperialism, neocolonialism and western hegemony struck a serious chord during their invaluable speeches delivered at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
But in critical assessment and careful analysis of develoments for the past decades, Africa’s poor development could be attributed to several reasons which African leaders have realized but grossly failed to address in the continent. African leaders provided diverse perspectives on the state of politics, economic development and socio-cultural issues that are unique and thought provoking. Paradoxically, Africa has huge resources both natural and human, but the larger size of its population lives in abject poverty. As it is now, the African continent is wrapped with its own distinctive complexities and contradictions.
Conflicts, Democracy and Good Governance
The nature of politics in Africa includes monarchy, autocracy, dictatorship, military and democracy. The intellectual and middle-class apathy to politics is also formed alongside down the years. Throughout its history, civil society have been mounting peaceful demonstrations to demand transparency and accountability primarily due to weak institutions, ineffective organs of the state especially the parliaments. Opposition groups are stiffed, putting democracy at risk, across Africa.
A number of African leaders have different views about fundamentals of democracy. Guinea’s military leader Mamady Doumbouya told the U.N. General Assembly that the Western model of democracy does not work for Africa, as evidenced by a recent wave of coups. Doumbouya took power by overthrowing Alpha Conde, Guinea’s then 84-year-old president who had changed the constitution to run for a third term, sparking widespread protests. Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Chad and Gabon are also run by military officers.
The United Nations and Western powers such as the United States and France have urged democracy to be restored as soon as possible in those French-speaking West African states. But Doumbouya vehemently argues during his speech at UN that Africans are mature enough to design their own models of governance. “Africa is suffering from a governance model that has been imposed on it… a model that is good and effective for the West but is difficult to adapt to our realities, our customs and environment,” he told world leaders gathered in New York.
At the UNGA, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa told the gathering there that through the United Nations Charter nations accepted a shared mandate to foster peace and to promote fundamental human rights, social progress and a better standard of life for all. “And yet, as we gather here, much of humanity is confronted by war and conflict, by want and hunger, by disease and environmental disaster. Solidarity and trust between states is being eroded. Inequality, poverty and unemployment are deepening. In these conditions and in the wake of a devastating global pandemic, the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals seem increasingly remote,” according to Ramaphosa.
The global community needs to work alongside the African Union to support peace efforts in the eastern DRC, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, Mali, Central African Republic, South Sudan, northern Mozambique, the Great Lakes Region, the Sahel, Niger and the Horn of Africa. (UNGA, September 19, 2023). The UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS), Mohamed Ibn Chambas, suggested to the UN Security Council’s meeting as far back in 2020 that conflicts raging through Africa has to be dealt with through multilateral mechanisms. Academic research studies have shown that the radical Islamic groups have set foot in Libya, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Chad, Somalia, Kenya, Sudan and South Sudan, and are spreading further throughout Africa.
The military leaders of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger signed a mutual defense pact, establishing the so-called Alliance of Sahel States. It was explained that the objective of establishing an architecture of collective defense and assistance mutual for the benefit of the population and the three participating states in the Sahel region. A similar multilateral defense mechanism already exist in Southern Africa. The Southern African Development Community (SADC) with support from the Addis Ababa based African Union Commission (AUC) have set the deployment of joint regional military force in Mozambique. According to the statement released by SADC (Southern African Review, July 2012), the mission has as its objective, to support the Republic of Mozambique in the fight against acts of terrorism and extremist violence, in addition to supporting the country in restoring the rule of law in the affected areas of Cabo Delgado province.
Moussa Faki Mahamat, the Chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC), highly commended and described it “as a strong and concrete act of African solidarity” on the part of the Rwandan Government and the Southern African Development Community (SADC). The forces are still based in Cabo Delgado Province, Mozambique. That region has suffered from what is, always referred to as acts of terrorism. Beginning in October 2017, armed extremists linked to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) launched an insurgency in the Cabo Delgado region of Mozambique.
Reviewing the gravity of these conflicts and Islamic militant treats, it is therefore necessary to ensure a continental security, a set of measures needs to be taken, along with preventive action to combat possible threats. The biggest vulnerabilities include proliferation of weapons, weak border control and unprotected industrial facilities.
Besides creating effective armed forces is just one factor of ensuring national security, preventive measures are, in fact, necessary. In order to eliminate the root causes of conflicts, review and plan for sustainable development and it is necessary to resolve acute socioeconomic problems and strengthen their public institutions in Africa.
In spite of that suggestions mentioned above, African leaders express support for the UN Secretary-General in the New Agenda for Peace for Member States to provide more sustainable and predictable financing to peacebuilding efforts. But on the opposite side, there have been so many unconstitutional changes of government in some parts of Africa.
Bema D. Yeo, a doctoral student in Global Security at the American Military University and a U.S Army Veteran, however argues in a report that “the emergence of the new wave of politicians in West African countries alongside the resurgence of coup d’états has become evident that Africa is at a critical juncture in its political evolution.”
In assessing the political evolutionary processes in the continent, it is convincing to say that Africa is experiencing transformative changes especially through military coups the removal of long-time dictatorship. The path ahead may be fraught with obstacles, but with determination and strategic foresight may lead to a better future political stability. “The success of the new leaders in this political landscape may require a commitment to inclusive governance, transparency, and accountability. Learning from the successes and failures of past political transitions will be instrumental in steering these nations towards a future characterized by stable, prosperous, and democratic societies,” the expert concluded.
Mismanagement and Deep-Seated Corruption
The 12th Regional Conference of Heads of Anti-Corruption Agencies in Commonwealth Africa convened in Kigali, Rwanda, from May 2022 under the theme: ‘Combating Corruption for Good Governance and Sustainable Development in Africa’ shared and exchanged reports. It finally discussed the impacts of corruption on sustainable development in Africa and innovative approaches in the fight against corruption, to fast-track implementation of the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC). This actionor decision pointed explicitly to the common fundamental fact that was in line with Africa’s Agenda 2063, “The Africa We Want” – aspiration number 3, which provides for an Africa of good governance, democracy, respect for human rights, justice and the rule of law.
Most African countries have ratified African Union Convention on preventing and combating corruption and other international legal instruments on corruption. As required by international obligations, African countries have enacted national anti-corruption laws and established anti-corruption institutions. Almost every African country has a specialised anti-corruption agency to address specific crimes and malpractices including illicit flow, money laundering, embezzlement, and conflict of interest among others.
Prime Minister Ngirente, for instance, pointed to the conference several reports indicating that global corruption is now costing around $1 trillion annually, there are common causes of Africa’s corruption, and this is adversely impacting the lives of African people. Corruption creates economic distortions and hampers investments. There are so many corruption-linked adverse effects. Corruption is a serious threat to sustainable and equitable development.
Corruption in South Africa
Under the presidency of Jacob Zuma, who ruled South Africa from 2009 to 2018, corruption was at its highest. Zuma participated in anti-apartheid struggle until South Africa finally attained its independence in 27 April 1994. He held various positions in ruling African National Congress (ANC) until he was elected president of South Africa. Before that, he was the deputy to President Thabo Mbeki, but was dismissed of corruption over arm deals. There were multiple graft scandals, that he was forced to step down in February 2018, and currently spends time in prison, and faces corruption allegations in court.
In January 2018, as elected president of the African National Congress, Cyril Ramaphosa has raised hopes that he will stamp out corruption. “Corruption must be fought with the same intensity and purpose that we fight poverty, unemployment and inequality. We must also act fearlessly against alleged corruption and abuse of office within our ranks,” Ramaphosa declared in his maiden speech after his election. “We must investigate without fear or favour the so-called ‘accounting irregularities’ that caused turmoil in the markets and wiped billions off the investments of ordinary South Africans,” he added.
In May 2021, the South African commission investigating corruption and graft, Ramaphosa acknowledged that the ruling ANC party did little to prevent corruption, including by his predecessor Jacob Zuma. “State capture and corruption have taken a great toll on our society and indeed on our economy as well,” Ramaphosa said. “They have eroded the values of our constitution and undermined the rule of law. If allowed to continue they would threaten the achievement of growth, development and transformation of our country.”
Since Ramaphosa made his promise in 2018, already five years, there are still fresh demonstrations and allegations of persistent corruption in Ramaphosa’s administration and inside the government.
Africa Needs Strong Institutions
The Transparency International’s Global Corruption Barometer, in its report 2021 for instance, aspect relating to Africa indicated that “Corruption is hindering Africa’s economic, political and social development… More than this, it affects the wellbeing of individuals, families and large communities.” The report attributed the deterioration of rule of law and weak democratic institutions, as well as a rapidly shrinking space for civil society and independent media to corruption in Africa.
In July 2009, Barack Obama was right when he told political tyrants and autocratic African leaders who have enriched themselves through opaque deals that Africa’s future (including efforts to uproot all kinds of crimes, engage in sustainable development et cetera) is up to Africans.
“Development depends upon good governance. That is the ingredient which has been missing in far too many places, for far too long. That is the change that can unlock Africa’s potential. And that is a responsibility that can only be met by Africans,” Obama said during his first landmark presidential trip to Africa.
Obama, in addition, declared that “Africa doesn’t need strongmen, it needs strong institutions.” Some leaders of external countries have it a policy to interfere in the internal politics of African States, and as a result end up supporting long-time corrupt autocratic leaders. Here it must not be absolutely analysed that the United States is dictating or imposing its form (model) of democracy.
It is a normal political culture to show tenets of good governance by public accountability and that business deals at the highest levels are conducted with transparency. For instance, large-scale deals involving natural resources and financial, must be thoroughly discussed at the legislative assembly, and approved by the executive cabinet. Unilateral decisions taken, without consulting with legislative body or parliament and the cabinet, by a leader are proned to be also criticized by the civil society.
Simultaneously, there should be initiatives to boost transparency and clean society. It is worthy, at least, to keep in mind the suggestion made by the Republic of Ghana’s Vice President, Mahamudu Bawumia, who early May 2022 stated: “Building strong institutions means putting in place the right systems and practices that ensure transparency and brings about efficiency. As the saying goes, the biggest disease is corruption and the vaccine is transparency. The fact is that corrupt people hate transparency.”
Economic Policies and Strategies
Economic and business paradigms. The African Union expresses hope that through a series of actions and strategic mechanisms, African countries world be able to overcome development difficulties and deficiencies. The opening of the world’s largest free trade area, popularly referred to as the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), in Africa on January 2021, is also seen as one great leap towards attaining economic independence.
It aims at making Africa the largest common market in the world and accelerating continental integration. It is expected to reinforce the measures taken in terms of free movement of persons and goods and services across borders. But much depends on the collective determination and solidarity demonstrated, to face the challenges in a united and resolute manner, by the African leaders. It depends on the strong mobilisation of African leaders and the effective coordination provided by the African Union.
For this to successful, Africa has to engage in modernising agriculture, strengthening agri-food systems by working towards its own food security rather than simply accept food packages as ‘gifts’ from the so-called external friends. The next stage to industrialise, add value to the agricultural products by processing them, and finally distrivuting locally and for exports, hence the establishment of the AfCFTA. From this concrete perspective will emerge a new Africa, “the Africa we want” which has understandably become the resounding guiding slogan.
Modernising Food Production
What is Africa doing with its huge agricultural lands? In fact, taking adequate measures toward shedding import dependency should be part of African leaders’ challenge, so also improving food production for the entire population which stands at an estimated 1.4 billion. In stark reality, Africa should not be presented as beggars at the global stage. The most popular rhetoric, it becomes more or less a chorus, is that it has abundant natural resources, and yet Africa remains the world’s poorest and least-developed continent, resulting from various causes including deep-seated political corruption. According to the United Nations Human Development Report in 2023, the bottom ranked (151st to 175th) are all African states.
At the Paris summit, AfDB President Akinwumi Adesina, insisted that “it is necessary to unlock Africa’s potential in agriculture. Africa must feed itself.” He emphasized that adopting measures for establishing food security is crucial to sustainable development. Addressing food security, therefore, is one of the keys for Africa in this 21st century. In this context, important to say here that African Development Bank (AfDB) and the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) have gained increasing prominence for their work with the private sectors within Africa. These two banks support the agricultural sectors, but more is needed to meet the highest target.
Faustin-Archange Touadera and William Ruto
Taking the podium at the United Nations General Assembly, Central African Republic Faustin-Archange Touadera raised in his flowering speech the appalling consequences of the plundering of natural resources. He was not alone in the African choir group to song the chorus. Alongside the widespread attacks on unipolar system, many African leaders who spoke in New York hold the perception that Westerners and Europeans have plundered the continent’s natural resources through slavery and colonization.
Western governments and aid organizations have poured billions of dollars into Africa suffering from hunger, armed conflict and other crises over the years, but critics say delivery of the aid is often hampered by corruption from local governments and militants. Corruption has been an unerasable characteristic feature of African politics, from Maghreb down to the Southern African Development Community, from East African Community and the Horn of Africa across the Sahel to the Atlantic coastal West African States.
Addressing the General Assembly later, Kenyan President William Ruto said investments in technology, infrastructure, green initiatives and agriculture in Africa will “enable our young people to find the livelihoods they desire at home, and reverse the tide of migration in the opposite direction.”
Progress Slow But SDGs Still Vital
As the world continues to evolve with key players pursuing their special interests, Africa has to discern between the truths and untruths. Speeches at the September UNGA in New York reviewed the achievements, the challenges and the highlighted pathways into the future. Some of the African leaders offered resonating development strategies, future visions worthy of appreciation that need to be unreservedly supported. Those suggestions are consistent with the ideals of African Union’s Agenda 2063 and that of the UN SDGs 2030.
Seemingly there are three main directions: democracy and good governance, food security and industrialization, and economy and trade. With these, it could lead to social inclusion, and broadening employment for the youth and the next generation. It could also lead to economic growth, stability and better life conditions across Africa. All aspects of Africa’s development are incorporated into the joint report published at the African Economic Conference 2022.
In a nutshell, Africa is lagging behind on the UN’s sustainable development goals. However, the report further argued that formulating policies to promote the SDGs, including transforming agricultural productivity through modernisation and promoting equitable and affordable access to energy. Achieving the SDGs in their entirety may now be beyond many African nations, but much good could still come out of conscious efforts to pursue them. That ought to concentrate minds as global policymakers meet in New York for the UN General Assembly.
It might be difficult to say though, but the African Union and African leaders have to realign the foreign policies, back away from geopolitical insinuations, rather with eagle eyes take advantage of the complexities and confrontations to look for substantive opportunities to support their efforts in pursuit of building back better. Attaining sustainable development requires allies, transforming relations and refining strategies with external players. It is also advisable to bolster the confidence in raising up whatever deteriorating relations to avoid regret in foreseeable future. Above all, what is necessary, during this changing era, ability to prioritise negotiations instead of engaging in geopolitical games and confrontations. We cannot install steel borders, segregate and put partitions in this emerging multipolar world.
Africa Needs Increased Financial Support to Achieve Sustainable Development Goals
Seventy-eight years ago, in the aftermath of the Second World War, the nations of the world made a solemn commitment to save future generations from the horror and the suffering of war.
Through the United Nations Charter these nations accepted a shared mandate to foster peace and to promote fundamental human rights, social progress and a better standard of life for all.
And yet, as we gather here, much of humanity is confronted by war and conflict, by want and hunger, by disease and environmental disaster.
Solidarity and trust between states is being eroded.
Inequality, poverty and unemployment are deepening.
In these conditions and in the wake of a devastating global pandemic, the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals seem increasingly remote.
At the moment when every human effort should be directed towards the realisation of Agenda 2030, our attention and our energies have once again been diverted by the scourge of war.
But these woes, these divisions, these seemingly intractable troubles, can and must be overcome.
Over millennia, the human race has demonstrated an enormous capacity for resilience, adaptation, innovation, compassion and solidarity.
At this moment, we are all called upon to reaffirm these essential qualities that define our common humanity.
These qualities must be evident in how we work together as a global community and as nations to end war and conflict.
Democratic South Africa has consistently advocated for dialogue, negotiation and diplomacy to prevent and end conflict and achieve lasting peace.
It has committed itself to the promotion of human rights, human dignity, justice, democracy and adherence to international law.
From the experience of our own journey from apartheid to democracy, we value the importance of engaging all parties to conflicts to achieve peaceful, just and enduring resolutions.
It is these principles that inform South Africa’s participation in the African Peace Initiative, which seeks a peaceful resolution of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.
In this conflict, as in all conflicts, we have insisted that the UN Charter’s principle of respect for the territorial integrity of every country should be upheld.
Our participation in the African Peace Initiative is informed by a desire to see an end to the suffering of those most directly affected by the conflict and the millions on our continent and across the world who, as a result of the conflict, are now vulnerable to worsening hunger and deprivation.
As the international community, we must do everything within our means to enable meaningful dialogue, just as we should refrain from any actions that fuel the conflict.
As we confront other conflicts in several parts of the world, including on our continent Africa, we need to be investing in prevention and peacebuilding.
We support the call by the UN Secretary-General in the New Agenda for Peace for Member States to provide more sustainable and predictable financing to peacebuilding efforts.
As a global community, we should be concerned by recent incidents of unconstitutional changes of government in some parts of Africa.
The global community needs to work alongside the African Union to support peace efforts in the eastern DRC, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, Mali, Central African Republic, South Sudan, northern Mozambique, the Great Lakes Region, the Sahel, Niger and the Horn of Africa.
The African Union Peace and Security Council has declared that it stands ready to deepen its cooperation with the UN Security Council to silence the guns on the African continent and to achieve peace, stability and development.
We are called upon to remain true to the founding principles of the United Nations, by recognising the inalienable right of the people of Western Sahara to self-determination in line with the relevant UN General Assembly resolutions.
We must work for peace in the Middle East. For as long as the land of the Palestinians remains occupied, for as long as their rights are ignored and their dignity denied, such peace will remain elusive.
The actions of the Government of Israel have imperiled the possibility of a viable two state solution.
The principles of the UN Charter on territorial integrity and on the prohibition on the annexation of land through the use of force must be applied in this situation.
South Africa continues to call for the lifting of the economic embargo against Cuba, which has caused untold damage to the country’s economy and people.
Sanctions against Zimbabwe should also be lifted as they are imposing untold suffering on ordinary Zimbabweans.
As many people around the world are confronted by hunger and want the essential human qualities of cooperation and solidarity must be evident in the actions we take to bridge the divide between wealthy and poor.
We must summon the necessary will and resolve to regain the momentum towards the achievement of the 2030 Agenda.
This means that we must address the fundamental development challenges that have long characterised our unequal world.
To address the developmental challenges that face many people in the world we required targeted investment, technology transfer and capacity building support, especially in key areas such as industrialisation, infrastructure, agriculture, water, energy, education and health.
This also requires predictable and sustained financial support, including supportive trade policies, from the international community.
We call on our partners from wealthier countries to meet the financial commitments they have made.
It is a great concern that these wealthier countries have failed to meet their undertakings to mobilise 100 billion dollars a year for developing economies to take climate action.
We support the proposals outlined in the Secretary-General’s Sustainable Development Goals Stimulus.
In particular, we support the call to tackle debt and debt distress, to massively scale up affordable long-term financing to 500 billion dollars a year, and to expand contingency financing to countries in need.
It is a grave indictment of this international community that we can spend so much on war, but we cannot support action that needs to be taken to meet the most basic needs of billions of people.
The achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals depends fundamentally on the empowerment of women in all spheres of life.
Social and economic progress will not be possible unless we end gender discrimination. We must ensure that there is equal access for women to health care, education and economic opportunities.
We must pay particular attention to the provision of adequate health services to every woman, child and adolescent. By doing so, we will fundamentally improve the health and well-being of all.
The empowerment of women must be central to the actions we now take towards the realisation of Agenda 2030.
The essential human qualities of innovation and adaptation must be evident in the actions we take to prevent the destruction of our planet.
Africa is warming faster than the rest of the world.
We are told that of the 20 climate hotspots in the world, 17 are in Africa.
Centuries after the end of the slave trade, decades after the end of the colonial exploitation of Africa’s resources, the people of our continent are once again bearing the cost of the industrialisation and development of the wealthy nations of the world.
This is a price that the people of Africa are no longer prepared to pay.
We urge global leaders to accelerate global decarbonisation while pursuing equality and shared prosperity.
We need to advance all three pillars of the Paris Agreement – mitigation, adaptation and support – with equal ambition and urgency.
African countries, alongside other developing economy countries, need increased financial support to both implement the 2030 Agenda and achieve their climate change goals in a comprehensive and integrated manner.
We need to operationalise the Loss and Damage Fund for vulnerable countries hit hard by climate disasters, as agreed at COP27.
Africa has embraced this challenge.
Africa is determined to deploy smart, digital and efficient green technologies to expand industrial production, boost agricultural yields, drive growth and create sustained employment for Africa’s people.
As the global community, we must ensure the essential qualities that define our humanity are evident in the institutions that manage the conduct of international relations.
We require institutions that are inclusive, representative, democratic and advance the interests of all nations.
We require a renewed commitment to multilateralism, based on clear rules and supported by effective institutions.
This is the moment to proceed with the reform of the United Nations Security Council, to give meaning to the principle of the sovereign equality of nations and to enable the council to respond more effectively to current geopolitical realities.
We are pleased that the Common African Position on the reform of the Security Council is increasingly enjoying wide support.
This process must move to text-based negotiations, creating an opportunity for convergence between Member States.
We must ensure that the voice of the African continent and the global South is strengthened in the United Nations and broader multilateral system.
All the peoples represented here in this United Nations had their origins in Africa.
In Africa, they developed the tools and capabilities to spread across the world and achievable remarkable feats of development and progress.
Despite its history, despite the legacy of exploitation and subjugation, despite the ongoing challenge of conflict and instability, Africa is determined to regain its position as a site of human progress.
Through the African Continental Free Trade Area, which is creating a wider seamless trading area of low tariffs and accelerated interconnectivity, African countries are mobilising their collective means and resources to achieve shared prosperity.
Through the African Continental Free Trade Area, African countries are establishing the foundation for a massive increase in trade, accelerated infrastructure development, regional integration and sustainable industrialisation.
As the global community, we have the means and we have the desire to confront and overcome the enormous challenges that face humanity today.
As the nations gathered here in this General Assembly, let us demonstrate that we have both the will and the resolve to secure a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable future for our world and for the generations that will follow.
A New Wave of Leaders in West Africa: A departure from instability to stability
In recent years, West African countries have witnessed a notable shift in political dynamics, characterized by the emergence of a new wave of politicians. These leaders, often hailing from younger generations, mostly military, bring with them a fresh perspective and a renewed commitment to addressing the pressing concerns of their countries. Several countries in sub-Saharan Africa have experienced a resurgence of coup d’états, marking the departure from instability to stability with a better political landscape compared to previous decades per se. This phenomenon prompts a critical examination of the underlying factors driving these political transformations and their implications for governance, stability, and regional dynamics in West Africa. In this context, it becomes imperative to analyze the interplay between these new political actors and the resurgence of coup d’états and to discern the broader implications for the socio-political landscape of the region.
Causes and Catalysts of Coup d’états in African Countries
The surge in coup d’état in some sub-Saharan African countries seems to be a departure from a long hold of colonialists to freedom. Recently, the crisis in Burkina Faso has spotlighted a shift in political approaches, with a new generation of politicians aiming to address the pressing concerns faced by the society, particularly the youth, who are growing up on a path seemingly devoid of opportunities. Following Burkina Faso, Niger has witnessed a change in leadership due to the predecessor’s failure to adhere to the law and serve the interests of the people. Prior to Niger, Mali boldly resisted colonialists, and now Gabon has taken a similar stance. What is the correlation or the relationship between these coup d’états, and what are the possible causes?
The coup d’état in Mali raised a lot of concerns about France’s foreign policies in Africa, but the narrative on the international realm seems to favor the country with the higher bargaining power. In most of the African countries, instability and political tensions have become common. A surge of grievance and discontent with leaders has emerged as people become increasingly open-minded, largely due to the influence of social media platforms. This trend has raised questions about the fragility of governance structures in several African countries and the challenges they face in consolidating democratic institutions. Factors such as political corruption, socioeconomic disparities, ethnic and regional tensions, and security threats have contributed to the resurgence of coup attempts. For instance, Burkina Faso experienced a revolt in 2014, leading to a transition towards a more democratic system. Similarly, Sudan saw mass civilian protests in 2019 and recently in Gabon, ultimately bringing down a longstanding autocratic or so-called democratic leader. These examples highlight the complex dynamics at play in Africa’s evolving political landscape, where both traditional military-led coups and hybrid models involving various actors are on the rise.
The international community and regional organizations such as the African Union (UA), and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), also known as CEDEAO in French, have been actively engaged in responding to these coup attempts. Diplomatic efforts, peacekeeping missions, other military interventions, and even sanctions have pressured coup leaders and sought resolutions that align with democratic values. However, the effectiveness of these interventions varies from case to case, and the delicate balance between stability and democracy remains a central challenge. As Africa navigates this period of political
transformation, there is a growing need to strengthen institutions, foster civic engagement, and uphold the rule of law to ensure that the departure from instability leads to lasting stability and democratic progress on the continent (Nkurunziza, 2020; Williams, 2018; Kandeh, 2021). However, despite the coup attempts, poor governance and political corruption remain some serious unsolved issues.
Governance Failure and Political Corruption
While the surge in coup d’états may appear concerning at first glance, it also signals a shifting dynamic in African politics. It reflects a growing desire for accountable governance and the rejection of autocratic regimes, as citizens increasingly demand transparency, representation, and a voice in their countries’ affairs. This changing political landscape is echoed in the popular uprisings and movements that are sweeping across the continent. There is an increasing belief that a positive change and the determination of African citizens to shape their own political destinies can be a reality. However, unexpected rise in coup attempts continues to raise concerns about the region’s progress towards stability and democratic governance. Factors such as socioeconomic disparities, governance failures, and security challenges have contributed to the fertile ground for discontent and unrest. An analysis of these factors and reforms from one regime to another is not convincing since the political landscape never really change and the leaders kept falling in the same path.
Governance failures and political corruption have long been persistent challenges in Africa, contributing to instability, economic stagnation, and diminished public trust in institutions. Weak governance structures, characterized by inadequate checks and balances, limited transparency, and a lack of accountability mechanisms, have allowed corruption to thrive. The misallocation of public resources and embezzlement of funds intended for essential services like healthcare, education, and infrastructure development have been detrimental to the well-being of citizens (Osei-Tutu & Mahama, 2017). This pervasive corruption not only hampers economic growth but also undermines the legitimacy of governments and erodes public confidence in the effectiveness of state institutions. The impact of corruption on development is particularly pronounced in several sectors like healthcare and education, where limited resources are stretched thin, leading to inadequate service provision and compromised public welfare (Méon & Weill, 2010). Efforts to combat corruption and improve governance in Africa are crucial for fostering sustainable development and ensuring that the benefits of economic growth are equitably distributed among all citizens, but first and foremost, strengthening institutional frameworks, promoting transparency, and empowering civil society are essential to address the challenges that are facing African countries.
Transitions to stable governance and the path from instability to stability
A successful transition to stable governance can provide valuable insights into the key factors and strategies that may contribute to sustainable political stability. Ghana has experienced a successful transition from military rule to democratic governance in the early 1990s. Through a combination of strong civil society activism, international support, and an effective transitional justice mechanism, Ghana has managed to establish a stable democratic system, and still today there is no coup attempt. The establishment of democratic institutions, coupled with a commitment to the rule of law, allowed for the peaceful transfer of power through multiple elections, solidifying Ghana’s reputation as one of the most politically stable countries in West Africa. I hope that Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Gabon will seize the opportunities presented to forge a more robust democratic system anchored in resilient and trustworthy institutions. These foundations, coupled with effective accountability mechanisms, hold the potential to catalyze the restoration and progress of these nations.
In examining the emergence of the new wave of politicians in West African countries alongside the resurgence of coup d’états, it has become evident that Africa is at a critical juncture in its political evolution. The dynamic between these factors highlights a complex struggle for governance and stability. While the infusion of fresh perspectives offers a promise for transformative change with youth conscious awakening, the specter of coup d’états must serve as a stark reminder of persisting challenges and the need for robust democratic institutions. The success of the new leaders in this political landscape may require a commitment to inclusive governance, transparency, and accountability. Learning from the successes and failures of past political transitions will be instrumental in steering these nations towards a future characterized by stable, prosperous, and democratic societies. The path ahead may be fraught with obstacles, but with determination, strategic foresight, and a collective dedication to the betterment of their nations, West Africa has the potential to emerge stronger and more resilient than ever before.
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