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Can African leaders adopt a stronger voice on global issues?

By The Africa Report
Posted on Monday, 5 March 2018 16:43

YES.Today’s important global issues, such as trade, climate change, terrorism and migration, impact Africans the most. Africa is undergoing transformation that is increasingly giving its people and leaders power, confidence and a voice. In the past countries were weak and open to arm-twisting and even blackmail because of political and economic fragmentation, corruption, and dependency on foreign financial support. To overcome this demands a unified voice on the issues and the muscle to back it. That’s what the African Union and its ongoing reforms provide: to make it more independent in funding its activities, to increase its domestic and global impact and to strengthen regional economic communities. The Continental Free Trade Area that will be signed in March 2018 in Kigali will reinforce regional economic communities such as the EAC, ECOWAS and SADC, provide a huge market to African goods, and give the continent a stronger hand in negotiating trade matters. Greater economic integration and opportunities within Africa should stem migration, which is linked to weak economies although it manifests as a security and humanitarian issue. To be heard you must be respected. Respect comes from doing right, being strong and possessing the ability to stand on your own. The good news is that this is already happening. ● Joseph Rwagatare, Columnist, Rwanda

YES. It would be counter productive for leaders to express their position on global affairs as a country. Let us be realistic, the hands that gives is always on top of the hand that receives. So as long as Africa remains “aid” dependent, it is almost impossible to imagine having a seat at the table. An African proverb says, “Do not attack a lion if you only have one spear”. On the other hand, the African Union, with a clearly defined agenda and strategy can be the voice of the continent, especially in this era marked by political unpredictability and multiple centers of power. African leaders have the opportunity to leverage its human capital and natural assets to redefine the continent’s role on the global stage. We will get what we negotiate for and not what we deserve. Also, in recent years, we have witnessed the emergence of the African private sector and how it has taken its place in the driving seat of Africa’s economies. Their voice is also very important. Africa’s private sector’s perceptive is more pragmatic, where determining mutually beneficial interest is more palpable. In a nutshell, there is too much at stake for African leaders to play a passive role on the global stage. They can have a stronger voice if they are united and prepared to take actions. ● Angelle Kwemo, Founder & Chair, Believe in Africa

YES.The tides are changing and Africa have two great assets that the world cannot ignore: human capital and natural resources. As Ghana’s President Nana Akufo Addo eloquently put it during a press conference with President Emmanuel Macron of France, Africa does not need aid and handouts to develop itself and that mentality that has long been the norm, needs to change, starting with African leaders recognizing that no one can develop their countries but themselves. For the last few years seven out of the 10 fastest growing economies have been in Africa and global policy-makers are recognizing this huge potential. But in order to be more influential and rid itself of crippling colonial tendencies and mindsets, the continent need to be united. Just like the United States and the European Union have become a force to be reckoned with, Africa needs to follow suit and unite. As I said on a video posted on Bordernation, the one thing black people have in common is oppression and the silence of African leaders to such suffering is shameful and complicit. They need to speak up. Tackling head on pressing issues that are hampering economic growth such as corruption, bad governance and the misuse of power should also be of top priority. Once these issues are addressed, it will pave the way and put African leaders on an equal playing field with their foreign counterparts. ● Abdulai Jalloh, Founder & President, Bordernation

NO.It is difficult for African leaders to adopt a stronger voice on global issues for a number of reasons. First of all there are overwhelming socio-economic and political challenges on the domestic and continental front that inhibit their intervention or interest on global issues. Secondly, some African leaders are still subservient and take orders from their former colonial masters who wield strong influence on the global stage. Thirdly, no African State is a permanent member of the United Nations Secretary Council – a huge limitation if leaders are to have a stronger voice on world issues. Leaders across the continent still depend on aid and favours from wealthy nations and this mentality comes with dire consequences. Moreover, African leaders are not in a position to impose sanctions on countries, as powerful nations in Europe and North America do. The new generation of African leaders also lack the ideological depth of the first-generation leaders, which limits their ability to deliberate on vital issues. Lastly, those at the top might struggle to be heard in the global arena because they don’t show much interest in getting into the ring on issues that have no direct impact on their countries. Whereas the world wants to discuss the Syrian civil war and the North Korean nuclear threat, African leaders are more interested in discussing aid and economic assistance. ● Shehu Sani, Senator, Nigeria

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