An integrated Africa will also be in a better position to safeguard its policies and preferences from external interference, selective sanctions, and unreliable transactional diplomacy that erodes our mutual trust and threatens our countries’ national security. Realizing this ambition will depend on our resolve to define and conduct a truly independent external policy. And for Africa to project its interests internationally, it first needs to put its own house in order.
Sound foreign policy always begins at home, and the conditions for just and enduring peace and prosperity on the continent are closely intertwined. The key question is what core ideas an integrated African external policy might embody.
Fortunately, the African Union has already articulated many of them. Above all, we must remain true to the enduring pan-African vision of “an integrated, prosperous, and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the international arena.”
Our lofty aspirations, enshrined in the AU’s Agenda 2063, are ambitious but long overdue, challenging but achievable, and remote but within reach. There can be no alternative to a prosperous, inclusive, and integrated Africa. We cannot move forward without silenced guns and good governance on the continent. We must nurture, teach, and theorize our rich cultural identity and common heritage. Finally, Africa must exercise international leadership and influence proportionate to its size and its global economic and social contribution. All this and more is clear, urgent, and inevitable.
Our struggle as a continent is one of implementation. As the 2017 Kagame report on AU reforms emphasized, we have a history of not following through on our own decisions, causing our citizens to doubt our resolve.
This is where we need to focus. It is in every African country’s interest to strengthen continental institutions. We need to bolster home-grown and African-owned dispute-management mechanisms in order to address our differences swiftly, amicably, and impartially – and without intervention by non-African actors.
Similarly, our efforts to establish new international relationships should be devoid of hostility and driven by the vision of a single African brotherhood and a peaceful and prosperous future. We should not permit ourselves to be tempted by narrow self-interest to the detriment of our close neighbors. In our independent dealings with other countries, we should not barter our core beliefs for short-term advantage, and we must always take full account of all vital African considerations.
Finally, Africa must speak out courageously, openly, and honestly on major global issues, and say bluntly what is right and wrong. Let us not deny our ideals or sacrifice our right to champion the poor and the oppressed everywhere. The acts by which we live, and the attitudes by which we act, must be unquestionably clear.
We know the odds are stacked against us here more than elsewhere. Nothing terrifies Africa’s adversaries more than its determination to set and implement a coherent, independent, and continentally integrated foreign policy.
But the world can no longer afford to be without an independent and unified African voice on important global issues. Africans know what it means to be divided, conquered, enslaved, looted, discriminated against, and dehumanized. A strong and united Africa would be a powerful advocate for reason, justice, equality, and dignity for all, regardless of gender, color, or creed. Such a vision is right for Africans and necessary for the world.
This piece by Abiy Ahmed, Prime Minister of Ethiopia, appeared in Project Syndicate