African leaders are meeting this weekend in Johannesburg for their routine mid-year African Union (AU) summit to discuss the continent’s development plan amid a myriad of challenges confronting the continent.
Among key issues for discussion during the leaders’ two day meeting is the first 10-year implementation plan for Agenda 2063 and modalities for alternative sources of financing the AU.
In pursuit of the continental developmental framework adopted in 2013, African leaders will consider the first 10-year implementation plan of Agenda 2063, noting that two years of the first 10-year phase have since lapsed.
The AU adopted the long-term development plan to help accelerate development and ensure the continent fully exploits its resources for the benefit of its one billion people.
This was in realization of the fact that African countries continue to be among the poorest globally despite possessing abundant natural resources.
Agenda 2063 will be implemented in rolling phases of 25 years, 10 years and 5 years as well as short -term action plans.
TRADE AND INDUSTRILIZATION
The leaders’ meeting takes place just days after the continent on June 10 launched its largest economic bloc – the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) – encompassing 26 countries of the East African Community (EAC), the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
The 26 countries represent close to 60 percent of the AU’s GDP and population.
Zimbabwean President Mugabe, in his speech as the chairman of the Tripartite Integration arrangement, lauded the launch of the TFTA as a milestone that will make contribution towards achieving total continental integration.
He said if the 26 countries were one country with such a GDP, the TFTA would rank number 13 in the world.
However, Mugabe underscored the need for the TFTA to be underpinned by robust infrastructure development and industrialization to enable structural transformation of member states’ economies from low productivity economies that export primary commodities to high productivity economies that are technology and skill intensive.
“We need to pursue robust industrialization policies and create jobs for our people and curb the migration that has seen our men, women and children die in thousands in the Mediterranean Seas as they search for jobs,” Mugabe said.
With African countries expected to launch negotiations for the Continental Free Trade Agreement (CFTA) at the AU summit, Mugabe said the establishment of a one trade regime in Africa will reduce the cost of doing business and create a single market that would strongly help to attract trade and investment.
The CFTA, tentatively set for launch in 2017, will create a market of over 1.3 billion people with a combined GDP of over 2 trillion U.S. dollars.
Nhamo Mhiripiri, a lecturer at the Midlands State University of Zimbabwe, said as Africa implements its Agenda 2063, Africa can score development milestones if it deepens regional and economic integration through a continental free trade zone.
“The development plan needs a lot of vision, focus and investment from within and outside Africa,” he said.
Economist Vince Musewe urged the continent to focus more on infrastructure development and technology transfer to fast-track the process of industrialization.
“Africa is falling behind because of under developed infrastructure,” he said. “We have failed to industrialize and depend too much on imports as a continent. We are also not investing enough in our human capital potential as China has shown us that you invest in your people first then you create economic opportunity for them by developing industry,” said Vince Musewe.
The African leaders at their last summit in January in Ethiopia agreed on the need for the continental bloc to wean itself from foreign funding and move towards financial independence and self sustenance.
This was after realization that foreign donors were exerting considerable influence on the AU, with foreign donors contributing more than 50 percent to the AU’s 308 million U.S. dollars budget in 2014.
Out of the 308 million dollars, AU member states contributed 137.8 million dollars while international partners contributed 170 million dollars.
The 2013 budget was 278.2 million dollars, of which 122.8 million came from member states while donors contributed 155.3 million dollars.
African leaders are arguing that reliance on donor funding compromises activities of the AU.
The leaders thus want the situation reversed, with funding for AU activities earmarked to be raised internally mainly through additional taxes.
The leaders will also discuss the continent’s position on proposed reforms at the United Nations, paying particular attention to the role and level of representation of African states in the UN system.
With the continent still reeling from the deadly Ebola virus which killed more than 10,000 people in West Africa, African leaders will take the opportunity to receive an update from the AU Commission on the Ebola outbreak.
The leaders will review the work of the African Union Support to the Ebola Outbreak in West Africa (ASEOWA), which was deployed in the hard hit countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone in September 2014, according to Harare-based regional research organization Southern African Research and Documentation Centre.
ASEOWA was the first manifestation of the African Solidarity Initiative (ASI) launched in July in 2012 by the AU to mobilize support from within the continent for countries emerging from conflict or facing emergencies.
One of the main objectives of ASI is to deepen the essence of African solidarity and promote a paradigm shift which centers African mutual assistance as a key dimension for enhanced and effective development of the continent and to encourage, motivate, and empower African countries to offer support to countries emerging from conflict or facing emergencies.
Dovetailing with this year’s theme that is also focusing on women empowerment, the leaders will consider a report of the Commission on Maternal, New Born and Child Health, which aims to improve maternal and child health on the continent.
While Africa has made considerable progress in reducing child and maternal mortality rate, much more still needs to be done to make child-bearing safer for women.
According to the World Health Organization, Sub-Saharan Africa suffers from the highest maternal mortality ratio in the world ? 510 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births – and accounted for 86 percent of maternal deaths worldwide in 2013. Enditem