The African Union is fifty years old and its fiftieth anniversary is being celebrated as part of the Pan-African renaissance.
The African Union is fifty years old and its fiftieth anniversary is being celebrated as part of the Pan-African renaissance.
An anniversary is an opportune time to consider results and the African Union balance sheet reveals both successes and failures. According to the Chairperson of the African Union Commission Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, elected to the post in 2012, “we must regard Africa as a priority.” In the view of the Togolese Edem Kodjo, OAU Secretary General from 1978 to 1983, “Pan-Africanism is the only path which, in view of our specific subregional characteristics and traditions, can build future African power.”1
In Africa this need for unity is a long-held obsession. The founding fathers of the Pan-African organisation — Kwame Nkrumah, Jomo Kenyatta, Sékou Touré, Mobido Keita, Haile Selassie, Léopold Sédar Senghor, Félix Houphouet-Boigny, Hassan II, Gamal Abdel Nasser and Julius Nyerere — despite their disagreements on how Africa was to be constructed, were broadly inspired by the same black thinkers: Booker T. Washington, George Padmore and William Edward Burghardt Du Bois.
Current instigators, promoters and major stakeholders of the idea of African unity are all agreed on one point: in the wake of successful decolonisation, the need for a Pan-African Renaissance in the world of tomorrow. However, there are still obstacles to be overcome in achieving the political and democratic consolidation of the African Union: political stability still does not exist throughout the continent and conflict prevention and resolution remain relatively ineffective.
The construction of the African Union has been tackled basically from the political standpoint. It is time to build unity on the basis of an economic strategy that emphasises industrialisation, a dimension that to date has remained the Cinderella of the different summits of the Organisation which put much more emphasis on the problems of development and regional integration on the basis of the concepts of trade, customs union and monetary union. These aspects of Pan- African construction, while naturally important for an Africa rooted in globalisation, do not sufficiently emphasise the development of production, whereas all the experts believe that Africa is the least productive continent. The growth of current revenues in Africa is more a function of foreign investment and terms of trade than of labour or capital productivity. This productivity deficit means a prosperity deficit. There must be greater production using the available resources: labour, natural and mineral wealth, capital and equipment management capacity and finance.
Africa is at a crossroads. An original model must be created for development through growth, based on good infrastructures and taking into account the ecological issues, a model that encourages the conditions which will enable industrialisation to contribute to Africa’s emergence.
The Chairperson of the Commission must take the opportunity of the fiftieth anniversary to emphasise the role of industrialisation in Pan-African construction. Industrial development strategies will need to be developed and implemented not only at State level but also in the regional organisations: ECOWAS, CEMAC, SADC and other African economic communities.
Industrialisation or the industrial question did not feature among the concerns of the instigators and founders of the OAU: for them, the primary issue was to liberate Africa, strengthen political liberation and the sovereignty of the States; the problems relating to its economic development were regarded as secondary.
Industrialisation in the form of the development of the manufacturing industry and creation of production units, infrastructures (railways and ports) began to become a key issue in the 1980s, when the Togolese Edem Kodjo, who was at that time the OAU Secretary General, established the ambitious Lagos Action Plan (LAP). Adopted in 1980, the goal of the LAP was to promote an African development model based on food self-sufficiency, cooperation and economic integration. But this plan did not become reality because it was overtaken by the structural adjustment plans (SAP) of the World Bank which forced the African States to abandon the LAP and comply with the requirements of the donors. The latter, hiding behind the demands of the World Bank, forced the African States to drastically restructure their civil service, reduce their debt and create the conditions to be able to repay their debts through the export of their natural resources. The failure of the Lagos Plan led to a fresh look at the need to incorporate Africa into globalisation by means of expanded cooperation with the rest of the world.
At the France-Africa conference held in Yaoundé in January 2001, the Senegalese Head of State, Abdoulaye Wade, had proposed the Omega Plan to his peers. According to President Wade, the Omega Plan aimed to “reduce the gap between developed countries and underdeveloped countries through massive foreign investment, coordinated at the Western level to lay the foundations for the development of the African continent.” The Omega Plan for Africa was to be managed by a “world authority” under the direct responsibility of the UN Secretary General. This authority would be tasked with managing funds mobilised from both the African States and their Western partners. Secondly, the authority was to ensure the management of major infrastructural projects (road networks, railways, ports). According to the Senegalese President, it was important to emerge from the recurrent impasse situations of the loan and aid mechanisms which led to an intolerable level of debt for the African countries; their economic development should be achieved through mutually beneficial partnerships which enhanced the agreements between the countries of the North and the countries of the South.
The Millennium Action Plan (MAP) was another development track for the African continent proposed by Presidents Abdelaziz Bouteflika (Algeria), Olusegun Obasanjo (Nigeria) and Thabo Mbeki (South Africa). It was based on the idea that Africa was absent from the world debates which created the structures for economic development activity. In 2001, at the Lusaka Summit, the Omega Plan and the MAP were merged to create the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) whose mission was to create the conditions for the industrialisation of Africa and its development structured around infrastructures.
Twelve years after the adoption of NEPAD, it has to be conceded that the industrialisation of Africa remains in an embryonic state. Efforts have been made in the matter of infrastructures in the majority of the African countries (in the Congo under the impetus of President Denis Sassou N’Guesso, in Equatorial Guinea with President Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, in Senegal with former President Abdoulaye Wade). Nevertheless, these achievements remain localised within certain States and there is a poor perception of the efforts made to industrialise Africa at the continental and regional levels.
The infrastructures help to promote industrialisation, but represent only a part of it. The African Union Commission must insist on the fundamental role of the place and importance given to industrialisation in the emergence of Africa. Africa today is a reservoir of growth with an average rate of about 5% per annum. But paradoxically, this growth rate is not synonymous with inclusive growth (in terms of jobs and income) for millions of Africans still caught in the poverty trap because the absence of processing industries is helping to make the growth of the African countries dependent on the export of commodities. At present, Africa’s economic growth is driven mainly by the export of raw materials, especially oil and metals. This economic development model contrasts sharply with that of the other regions, especially Asia, where growth is driven by a solid and permanent programme of industrialisation that encourages the processing of commodities.
The dependence of the African countries on commodity-based growth may lead to the deterioration of trade terms in the case of a drop in the prices of raw materials, which leads to strong economic instability. For the Africa of the 21st century, industrialisation must be a starting point which will promote the diversification of their economies, help to create added value and stimulate growth and the development of a green economy. This will enable Africa to reduce the gap between its own economy and that of the other regions of the world.
Economic changes in Africa occur via structural transformations and enhanced industrialisation is achieved by using natural resources in the best possible way while taking environmental concerns into account. Africa must discard the traditional model of the Western countries inherited from the industrial revolution which did not take ecological problems into account. Industrialisation, which is the key to Africa’s economic emergence, must take advantage of the experience of the developed countries and make use of one or more models of original economic development construction.
The challenge for Africa consists not only of transforming the economy through industrialisation, but also of making it permanent, by using the existing technologies and adapting them to the local conditions and by implementing indigenous technological innovations. The development model that we propose is that of sustainable development, whose foundation is included in Agenda 21 and taken up again in the decisions of the Rio+20 Conference. At present, thirty African countries have put in place a national strategy for sustainable development. For example, during the National Forum on Sustainable Development held in April 2013 in Brazzaville, the Republic of Congo incorporated its industrialisation strategy into the development of a responsible and sustainable economic development model. Sustainable development includes three basic elements: taking the environment into account, boosting the economy with an appropriate programme of industrialisation and social responsibility in the business sector. It is up to Africa to design strategies and policies based on its sectoral priorities and its own resources.
The success of an industrialisation process that will contribute to Africa’s emergence requires a review of the obstacles and other cumbersome procedures standing in its way so that the continent can get beyond the discussion stage and take the path of industrial and economic pragmatism capable of promoting development.
After independence and the breakup in 1960 of the Federation of Mali, the issue of industrialisation became one of the nationalist concerns of the Heads of State. Consequently, the first President of the Republic of Mali, the socialist Modibo Keita, thought that the transformation of production methods required the manufacture of finished goods. In his view, industrialisation was essential to the establishment of an independent economy which can be conceived of only through a voluntarist strategy in this sphere. But this prescient choice was not implemented, either in his own country, or in Africa in general.
The contradictions between the political doctrines of the States, some socialist, some liberal, led to the paralysis of the issue of industrialisation in Africa, both in the OAU and now, today, in the African Union. Consequently, there is a need to surmount political, ideological and institutional conflicts, conquer inertia and optimise the impact of growth so that the Pan-African renaissance in the industrial sector can move towards a path that takes into account the positive synergies of regional cooperation.
The Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, must insist in an active and pragmatic way on the necessity of surmounting the obstacles to African industrial development in order to refute the theory that “Africa has got off to a bad start.” In this context four basic elements must be considered:
— developing Africa through industrialisation adapted to its economy and the need to protect the environment;
— establishing technology transfers promoting African industrialisation, taking into account the partnership contracts in which “win-win relations” will be established between the African countries, the West and Asia; reflecting the specific advantages of the geographically localised activities in their countries (free zones, technology zones, special economic zones, business hubs, etc.);
— technology transfer must incorporate the elements related to technological learning, which requires training, assessment and monitoring and the participation of the economic operators in the efforts to promote learning and education of the African populations;
— industrialisation must become a key factor in development and regional integration, whereas at the moment, only trade partnerships between Africa and the rest of the world are being developed (free trade partnership agreements with Europe, bilateral contracts often to the advantage of the Western and Asian operators).
To meet these challenges successfully and build a prosperous Africa in the 21st century, not only national but also regional and continental responses are needed.
The first element needed to attract foreign investors is to create conditions of confidence concerning the economic environment. Consequently, political stability must be guaranteed in all the African countries. The recent creation of the African Union Peace and Security Council is a key factor in conflict resolution and can thereby contribute to establishing the necessary confidence for potential investments. Another source of political stability is good political, economic and democratic governance.
The creation of a private credit funds market is indispensable: the Economic Commission for Africa, the African Development Bank and the IMF believe that such a market must be developed to create favourable conditions for financial investments in Africa. Industrialisation can be financed by loans from abroad, but this method of financing will increase foreign debt, which remains a real problem for the African countries.
The regional economic communities — CEMAC, CEAAC/ECCAS, ECOWAS, SADC, etc. — have become key elements of Africa’s economic architecture. These regional organisations must become much more dynamic in taking into account industrial problems and promoting regional integration in industry and commerce in the member countries. There is a need to go beyond the European experience by creating original models of integration, and yet, somewhat paradoxically, the African countries seem to be imitating the behaviour of the European countries which first developed their local structures before thinking of organising at the regional level. Africa can look at Europe as a historical example, but it should not copy it pointlessly.
The emphasis needs to be on regional integration: the size of a large regional market is a decisive factor in achieving economic growth potential in the long term, and constitutes a key factor among the major incentives to investment of foreign capital in productive activities. Unified regulatory conditions in each regional bloc must be created, together with mechanisms to privatise the big state-run companies and contract conditions between the national companies and foreign investors. The privatisation of the big state-run companies requires harmonisation of legislation on business law among all the African countries. The purpose of the Organisation for the Harmonisation of Business Law in Africa (OHADA), recognised by sixteen Francophone countries of sub-Saharan Africa, is to consolidate the supra-national framework of business law enabling a guarantee in the last resort of an impartial justice to settle contractual disputes in the commercial, industrial and financial sectors between economic operators. Nevertheless, OHADA must undergo some improvements: changes must be made, since a number of countries are reluctant to refer trade dispute cases to its arbitration.
Company taxation is another aspect of the obstacles between foreign capital and the African countries. The majority of African countries have continued taxation practices dating from the colonial period; this system corresponded to the economic conditions of the colonial pact encouraging the production and export of commodities to the metropolis. However, the strategy has been counter-productive in the development of an industrial Africa. Therefore, it must be modified to enable the Africans to establish industrialisation models based on core industries.
Other structural and monetary obstacles remain, such as the low level of development of basic infrastructures, telecommunications and other means of communication (Internet, etc.), the energy sector, education, health systems and local financial mechanisms to enable private businessmen to make use of financial institutions adapted to their needs for growth and diversification. These obstacles must be removed through meticulous review at the regional and continental levels, and then at the local level, of ways to establish an economic and industrial model for imports or technology transfer.
How can the conditions of technology transfer be created that take the African problems into account (low level of education, low level of qualification, relatively inadequate basic infrastructures, development of an important sector, absence of national policy in the mining, oil or industrial sectors)? Following the political stage when the OAU/AU was created, after the creation of the regional organisations, we are now in the middle of the economic period which must put the emphasis on the economy and industrialisation.
This is one section of the road map of the African Union whose anniversary must serve to highlight an important issue for the billion Africans of the 21st century: the successful industrialisation for the Africa of the future. This is the price of the African renaissance.
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