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African Renaissance: Still an illusion?

William Manful
By William Manful

William Manful is a human rights advocate committed to the democratization of Africa. He has worked as a contributing columnist for afrik- and talkafrique. He holds degrees in french and spanish as well as international relations from the University of Cambridge. Mr manful also writes on philosophy, sports and cinema. He is currently working for the Government of Ghana.

Posted on Wednesday, 5 June 2013 10:54

Fifty years after the inception of the African Union (AU) and its predecessor the Organization of African Unity (OAU), African leaders continue to trot the globe for handouts. Cause for celebration or lamentation?

Indeed the antecedent OAU was generally successful in decolonising the continent but the AU has so far failed to implement elements of good governance through a holistic democratisation process or has failed to generate the needed stimulus to lower poverty levels on the continent.

The current modalities instituted by the AU to ensure peace and stability in Africa are inadequate at best with the West subsidising or in some cases taking over peacekeeping operations on the continent.

The recent intervention exercise in Mali readily comes to mind with the French taking up the mantle for fighting insurgents originating from the northern part of the country.

In spite of some terribly minor achievements particularly in the area of supporting democratic rule in some member countries such as Madagascar, Guinea Bissau, the Central African Republic and Mali through the suspension of these member states from the Union due to violent transitions of political power, AU summits are still by and large talk shops with a group of leaders who are still unable to frame long term solutions to the continent’s unending problems.

The economic gloom in Europe is yet to dissipate. Countries like Spain, Greece, Portugal, Italy are dragging down the European project. Even France’s François Hollande is struggling to prop up his approval ratings.

That continent’s rulers are attributing the lack of growth to fiscal issues pertaining to the welfare policies of member states, but could the reason be due to the systemic changes in global economics with financial power shifting to China, Brazil, United Arab Emirates, Vietnam and other emerging economic giants around the world?

Unfortunately, with the exception of South Africa the rest of the African continent still cannot boast of an economic clout strong enough to take advantage of the slump in Europe.

The combined economic forces of all member states in the AU is still less than the GDP of a small European Union (EU) state like the Netherlands with the continent still struggling to add even 2 percent to the world economy.

Yet all the prized resources that can be extracted from the ground are richly available on the continent.

If initiatives such as the African Peer Review Mechanism or the African Union’s 2007 Charter for Democracy fail to shape the comportment of the continent’s leaders in terms of good governance and selfless political leadership, Africa will remain on the margins of international economics for a long time irrespective of the quantum of loans, grants and overall goodwill that the continent enjoys from its developmental partners.

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