Path to the Africa We Want: Sustained Peace and Development
Whether Africa can become an “integrated, prosperous and peaceful [continent], driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in international arena” will fundamentally depend on its ability to achieve the twin goals of sustained peace and development. And here is why:
In 2007, a report presented some striking findings on the costs of insecurity and instability on Africa’s development efforts. In the period between 1990 and 2005, for example, half of all deaths due to armed conflicts worldwide took place in Africa, and the continent became the host of world’s largest number of refugees and internally displaced persons. Moreover, during the same period, violent conflicts cost the continent about $300 billion, almost an equivalent amount of foreign aid it received throughout the same period. Indeed, civil wars, which are hitherto recurrent, have been the most devastating to the continent. According to Paul Collier, for instance, civil wars last about seven years, during which the GDP of the concerned countries shrink by around 15%. To return to pre-war economic performance, they would need about ten years and more than twenty extra years to attain the development levels they would have reached had they not descended into chaos.
Yet Africa is intermittently mired in violent conflicts and insecurity, further frustrating its development initiatives. For example, the Peace Research Institute Oslo finds that 2015 and 2016 witnessed the most conflicts in Africa since 1946, a trend that would continue well into to 2017; and the Council on Foreign Relations reports that of the 25 ongoing conflicts worldwide, nine are in Africa. Unsurprisingly, many African countries have been dealing with various forms of instability. In fact, although some progress has been made since 2016 (when Africa recorded 21 fragile states of a total of 26 worldwide), 14 of the world’s top 20 most fragile states were African in 2018. Such state of affairs creates “increasingly ungoverned and ungovernable spaces” while similarly greatly hindering African countries’ attempts to prosper. Undoubtedly, this explains as much the fact that of the 15 UN Peacekeeping Missions worldwide, 8 are in Africa and nearly half (10) of the 21 UN Political Missions and Good Offices Engagements are deployed in the continent as it does the fact that Africa’s security issues represent more than 60% of all issues dealt with by the UN Security Council. With such a reality, the AU’s goal to “Silence the Guns by 2020” is an almost missed deadline. Yet, rather than giving ways to a sense of helplessness, these issues call for more urgent and more decisive actions, if only because this is undoubtedly the Africa we have, rather than the one we want. And to shape the Africa we want, more efforts and new thinking in tackling security and development issues are called for.
What is clear though is that as they persist, security challenges have direct bearings on African countries’ development efforts. Indeed, many would agree that violent conflicts, with their high human, social, and economic costs, have been the most obliterating obstacle for the continent: lives are lost in untold numbers, people forcibly displaced, families and communities divided, future generations lost to ruins, and what little there may have been shattered.
Nonetheless, if insecurity and instability frustrate development efforts in Africa, securitizing development has equally proven disastrous, as the nexus of security-development is much more convoluted. Perhaps, this intricacy is best captured by the former UN Secretary-General and late Kofi Annan when he once observed that “there is no long term security without development. There is no development without security”. In line with this premise, I argue that Africa needs to rethink its development strategies to ensure that both security and development are given equal priority. More specifically, I contend that
African countries’ ability to collaboratively and cooperatively achieve the twin goals of sustained peace and development will decide on the future of Agenda 2063 for the continent.
Of the seven aspirations the Agenda set, aspiration number four, building “a peaceful and secure Africa”, will likely be the gateway to their materialization, because it entails effectively balancing the security-development nexus—whereby broader security measures adequately serve to promote sustainable development and development initiatives help foster efforts to consolidate long-term peace. As such, I primarily focus on this aspiration, which in turn requires three crucial initiatives to be realized: rethinking security, engaging the African youth, and fostering broader collaborative and cooperative efforts on security and development.
Rethinking security in Africa fundamentally entails reconsidering Africa’s approach to security to ensure that security initiatives are integral parts of the broader development efforts i.e. striking a balance between hard-security issues (state security) and the broader human-security through poverty alleviation and inclusive prosperity. It also entails reinforcing and adapting the African Peace and Security Architecture as well as updating its pillars to sustainably promote and maintain peace, security, stability, and prosperity in the continent. In more practical terms, for instance, post-conflict reconstruction and peacebuilding efforts would be more conscious and purposeful in striving to holistically address the root causes of the conflicts and promote more inclusive development. They would also effectively adopt and adapt the DDR Programs—disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programs—to fit each specific context. This would help end Africa’s recurrent violent conflicts as they prevent future outbreaks and foster more peaceful and inclusive societies.
Moreover, rethinking security in Africa entails recognizing the fact that mismanagements and illegal exploration of Africa’s abundant natural resources (alongside deeply entrenched grievances, inequalities, and exclusions) have been playing a leading role in fueling and sustaining violent conflicts throughout the continent. For that reason, adopting, effectively enforcing, and transparently evaluating performance with natural resources management mechanisms such as the Kimberly Process Certification Scheme (KPCS), the Equator Principles (EPs), the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), NEPAD’s guidelines for resource management, the ECOWAS’s Conflict Prevention Framework (as this has brought some successes in West Africa), etc. would be a necessary step forward, a concerted effort a better future. And although it is crucially important to reinforce regional and continental initiatives on resources management, it is equally important Africa learns from and adapt to its specific contexts the “good practices” and effectiveness of the international mechanisms.
Finally, in rethinking security, Africa would do better to initiate and operationalize cross-regional interactions, dialogues, and learning. As such, the AU could reinforce its continental leadership role by aligning regional economic communities (RECs) to its agenda while allowing for more flexibility to tailor continental guidelines to meet regional and country contexts. To that end, the dual principles of subsidiarity and proportionality should be given more momentum. It would be a trust-building process across the continent and across RECs. Perhaps, the African Standby Force, which has been divided in line with the existing RECS, is a good example, as it helps ensure a quick response to security challenges in each region. But more coordination and cooperation amongst them is needed, especially in cases where the challenges do not fit into the traditional geographical delimitations (as is the case with the cross-border crises in Nigeria and Cameroon).
Engaging the African youth
There is a growing consensus that Africa’s failure to “take off” is largely due to its long practice of sidelining its vibrant and dynamic youths. That is, with its long history of marginalizing its young population, hence its future, Africa has been missing a lot. It is, therefore, time to better engage the African youths, empower young men and young women. That building an “integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa” is a fundamental task for each African cannot be overstated. As a crucial stakeholder, thorough participation of the African youths in shaping Africa’s future is as important as the aforementioned rethinking security in the continent.
Yet to better harness Africa’s demographic dividend, the quality of education and training this a dynamic segment of Africa’s population receives would certainly play a determinant role. That it is quite impossible to build “an integrated Africa” without integrating the educational systems of its youths is to state the obvious. Hence rekindling, in the African youths, the spirit of a continental togetherness in forging Africa’s destiny would help promote the idea of peace, continental unity despite diversity as much as it would revitalize the sense of common destiny. For example, initiating continental exchange programs and regional and cross-regional working groups, youthful movements of which Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma talks about so passionately, would allow young Africans to learn from their shared knowledge, experience, and aspiration through interactions, exchanges, discussions, and even (positive) confrontations. Only when the youths feel empowered and meaningfully engaged, could there be “a peaceful and secure Africa” the aspiration four Agenda 2063 has called for.
Fostering broader collaborative and cooperative efforts on security and development
In addition to empowering and engaging the African youths, building a secure and peaceful Africa also requires more collaborative and cooperative efforts at all levels of governance systems i.e. continental bodies, regional organizations, national governments, civil society, activists, etc. This would ultimately promote cross-border and regional dialogues and learning processes. In that regard, despite the fact that there is room for betterment, the newly established Continental Free Trade Area and the adoption and ongoing implementation of initiatives such as the Kampala Convention on internally displaced persons may serve as tangible results born out of combined and concerted efforts.
Likewise, collaboration and cooperation would help the continent effectively claim ownership of its destiny and its development priorities, both of which are largely lacking to these dates. They would also help the continent use efficiently its limited resources to achieve measurable goals. Governance deficiencies have been identified to be detrimental to Africa’s development efforts. Yet fostering broader collaborative and cooperative efforts on peaceful and secure development would contribute to achieving Agenda 2063. Since it is obviously counterproductive to attempt to do too much, as it would dilute the efforts and weaken the impacts, it is imperative that peace and development strategies have informed focus, clearly defined priorities, implementation guidelines, and transparent and accountable evaluation mechanisms—all of which may be best achieved through intensive and rigorous research (R&D) and well-informed policy making, especially, given that security-development challenges are as dynamic as they are intertwined.
To sum up, Africa faces daunting security and development challenges. Yet I strongly believe that the Agenda 2063 is achievable and must actually be achieved. To meet that imperative, however, I identify the aspiration number four of the Agenda as the gateway to realizing other aspirations. In finding a way forward, I argue that Africa needs to rethink its approach to security, better engage the African youths, and collaboratively and cooperatively work toward sustained peace, security, and inclusive prosperity. Certainly, the success or failure to take such bold and innovative measures, at such a critical moment of the continent’s history, will determine the future of Agenda 2063 and that of the continent more broadly, no less because “Destiny is not a matter of chance; it is a matter of choice; it is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved.” Thus Africa’s stakeholders must work together even more diligently in choosing and building the future of the Africa We Want.
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