Time to implement African development plans – Stakeholders

UN Under-Secretary General and Executive Director of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), Mr. Carlos Lopes (left), former Mozambique President Joaquim Chissano and Chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC) Ms. Nkosozana Dlamini-Zuma, during one of the experts meeting at the African Development Week, which ended in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on April 5, 2016.

UN Under-Secretary General and Executive Director of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), Mr. Carlos Lopes (left), former Mozambique President Joaquim Chissano and Chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC) Ms. Nkosozana Dlamini-Zuma, during one of the experts meeting at the African Development Week, which ended in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on April 5, 2016.

The chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC), Ms. Nkosozana Dlamini-Zuma was not under any illusion after talks ended during the African Development Week, when she declared that it is now time for the most important step that must be followed, which is implementation of agreed action plans.

“The wealth of information, the diversity of views, the experiences shared, the lessons learned, the commitments undertaken, as well as, the political determination we garnered during these meetings are extremely useful not only for our individual countries and institutions, but for the entire world as we facilitate both Africa’s implementation of Agenda 2063 and Sustainable Development Goals,” Dlamini-Zuma said.

Starting from March 31 and running till April 5, Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital played host to leaders and experts under the aegis of the ninth Joint AU-ECA Conference of Ministers where delegates discussed how to work towards both Agenda 2063 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) Executive Secretary, Dr Carlos Lopes, said the resolutions adopted offered “great opportunities” for the alignment and implementation of Agenda 2063 and the SDGs.

While most of the issues and concerns are not new in practical terms, the renewed desire to meet targets, may be the defining moments –– that is of course, if one has to discountenance the discomfiture of the Moroccan delegations.

To the chagrin of other participants who had not anticipated such politically motivated reaction, and after hours spent in trying to negotiate a truce, blurted, they “the delegates from Morocco cannot continue to hold the meeting to ransom. This is not the place to address their grievances. The meetings must start.”

Morocco was aggrieved over the presence of delegates from Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR). A controversial break-away entity, otherwise known as the Western Sahara. Recognized by the AU, but not by the UN, which placed it under its trusteeship. Morocco’s contention is that since the African Development Week is in part a UN event, through the ECA, “a non-state entity should not be elevated to statehood status.” Tension went on unabated. Eventually, Moroccan delegates threatened to stop attending further meetings. Apparently, other delegates wouldn’t care less. And the Moroccan delegates left the meetings on day one – having achieved their aim, according to a delegate, “to ruffle some feathers.”

Significantly, the meetings soon moved into full swing. Concerns were raised, hope rekindled and truth was spoken to vexing positions. Critically, the major departure must be the intervention of professor of Economics at the Cambridge University, Dr. Ha-Joon Chang, who delivered this year’s Adedeji lecture. The renowned development economist must have ruffled not a few feathers, when he bluntly told his audience that Africa has stagnated (and largely regressed, in some other people’s opinion) because the continent has been held hostage by following conventional models. Countries in Africa must take bold initiatives in following through innovative models.

Chang, the author of widely discussed policy books, most notably ‘Kicking Away the Ladder’ and ‘23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism,’ recalled that the United States of America, through the efforts of the Secretary of Treasury, Alexandra Hamilton, went against the dominant Adam Smith economic thoughts to become the world’s biggest economy. According to Chang model: “Same is very true in the case of South Korea, which emerged from war, incompetent leadership, sparse natural endowments, disdain for engineering and entrepreneurship, and with a GDP less than half of that of Ghana by 1965, to emerge as one of the world’s most industrialised countries. As of the time South Korea embarked on development of steel industry, the country had no iron ore deposit and, against conventional wisdom, it put the monopoly of the industry in government’s hand. The world dismissed the effort as unrealistic and the World Bank would not assist the project.”

According to him, “artificial industrialisation, through the adoption of Import Substituting Industries (ISI) is one of the reasons why African countries fell behind in the global race to industrialise, especially when you compare their experiences with those of the Asian counterparts.” Chang urged countries on the continent to make up their mind on the path they want to follow to achieve industrialisation, by thinking out of the box or adopting known economic growth models. “The case for African industrialisation is very strong, but we need to reflect more. Whether it is coffee, or oil or uranium, these things are not peculiar to the continent; they can be found in many other countries inn other continents. Netherland is today the world’s third exporter of agricultural products, despite its relative small landmass and challenging demographic density,” he said.

If the words of Nigeria’s head of delegation to the event, the Minister of state for budget and national Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, were any assurance, Nigeria may have started in the Chang’s direction.

According to the minister, the development plan the government is working on is based on prioritising Nigeria’s national objectives, within the context of the country’s interest, while not being unmindful of best examples elsewhere. “The domestic resource enhancement is a primary goal for us. We are mobilizing resources domestically to the extent that the 2016 budget is driven 70 percent from non-oil sector. Nigeria is also contributing positively to regional initiatives aimed at economic sustainability and development. We are well aware that integration is still very low due to infrastructural deficit, poor governance and conflicts,” the minister stated. She also disclosed that the government has put in specific measures in rationalising public expenditures to reduce wastages, which can be channeled towards improving critical infrastructure and towards enhancing social initiatives for the people.

Largely, however, it is imperative for Africans to develop a positive mindset. “It is said that when you believe that you can, you find ways to do. If you think you cannot, you find excuses why you cannot,” Dlamini-Zuma said.

More governments on the continent, as well as various regional economic bodies need to domesticate development plans. Efforts to secure domestic funding for development will be critical, indicators for achieving both frameworks must be aligned, and quality and timely statistics will be crucial to monitor implementation. The public must be informed and involved in achieving the goals.

At the end of the conference,17 resolutions and deliberations were adopted, of which regional integration was a key focus. According to Lopes, there has been progress. But the ECE boss was quick to admit that the progress has been uneven. Integrating regions often focus first on the free movement of goods, then finances, then people, but Africa is trying to work towards all three at once.

Improving on integration, many wonder why many African countries are still strong on entry visa for citizens of member-African countries, despite AU’s effort at relaxation of ventry visas, “There is a decision and it’s up to all of us to hold our countries to that decision so that indeed, Africans can move freely among African countries,” Dlamini-Zuma said

Some countries have already implemented the goal of offering 30-day visas-on-arrival to citizens of other African countries, but this should be implemented more widely participants urge. However, some AU officials have been travelling on African passports and Heads of States will be granted the passports in Kigali, Rwanda, in July.

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