AU summit aims to reignite Africa's renaissance

2013-01-26 13:43:05 GMT2013-01-26 21:43:05(Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

by Ronald Ssekandi

ADDIS ABABA, Jan. 26 (Xinhua) -- African leaders will gather here on Sunday for a two-day meeting, aiming to bring about the continent's renaissance in the context of globalization.

They will be meeting at the 20th African Union summit held under the theme -- "Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance".

The African Renaissance or Pan-Africanism is not a new phenomenon on the continent as it could date back to the colonial era when most Africans struggled to liberate themselves from imperial rule.

During the colonial and post-colonial era, Africa had, with varying successes, strived to determine or champion its future.

Africans and their leaders, at that time, were determined to play an equally major role on issues pertaining international politics, economy and social affairs.

Former heads of state like Nigeria's Olusegun Obasanjo, South Africa's Thabo Mbeki, Ghana's John Kufuor, and Mozambique's Joaquim Chissano had been critical in pushing for Africa's self-determination.

Their actions were a testimony that the continent's political, economic and social landscape had been changing fast.

In the late 1990s, the African Renaissance phenomenon was reignited by Mbeki who spoke of the rebirth and renewal of the continent, the establishment of democratic political systems, the achievement of sustainable economic development and the changing of Africa's place in the world economy.

Africa is increasingly becoming a major player in the global economy, especially after the devastating 2008 global economic crisis which ravaged Western economies.

According to the World Bank's 2013 Global Economic Prospects report, developing economies are still the main driver of the global growth, although their output has slowed down.

"The GDP growth in Sub-Saharan Africa remained robust at 4.6 percent in 2012, notwithstanding the slowdown in the global economy. Indeed, excluding the region's largest and most globally integrated economy -- South Africa -- the GDP growth in the region was at a strong 5.8 percent in 2012, with a third of the countries in the region growing by at least 6 percent," said the report released on Jan. 16.

Since 2000, investment in Africa has increased steadily from 15.9 percent of the GDP to over 22 percent in 2012. The trend is expected to continue as an increasing number of the region's economies are able to tap into the international capital markets to help address binding infrastructural constraints.

Overall Africa is projected to grow at its pre-crisis average rate of 5 percent over the 2013-2015 period (4.9 percent in 2013, gradually strengthening to 5.2 percent in 2015), according to the Global Economic Prospects report.

In a bid to gain greater say in world trade after decades of marginalization, African countries are in the process of integration through different regional economic blocs.

In West Africa, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) brings together 15 countries. ECOWAS has a common market and a common currency, which are critical in boosting cross border trade.

In East Africa, the East African Community (EAC) gathers five states with a combined GDP of 74.5 billion U.S. dollars and a total population of over 130 million people.

There are also the Southern African Development Community and the Economic Community of Central African States in Southern and Central Africa, respectively.

Cross regional economic blocs are also flourishing: for instance, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern African states have brought together 19 countries with a combined population of over 400 million people.

Through these regional economic blocs, African states have been able to promote intra-regional trade and cross border projects like transport and energy infrastructure to boost trade.

In 2001, African states formed the New Partnership for Africa's Development, a strategic framework aiming to accelerate economic co-operation and integration among African countries.

The political landscape in Africa is changing as well. The number of conflicts on the continent has reduced and in places where there are still conflicts, warring parties are willing to sit at the negotiating table to talk about peace.

For instance in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the Congolese government is negotiating with the M23 rebels to end fighting that has displaced hundreds of thousands Congolese.

In the Central African Republic (CAR), the government is negotiating with the Saleka rebels to end fighting.

Sudan and South Sudan are also at the negotiating table to ease tensions between them.

Increasingly African states are carrying out joint military operations to end civil conflicts. For instance, the African Union Mission in Somalia has brought together peacekeepers from eight African countries to help to address the decades of fighting in the Eastern African country.

In the Great Lakes Region, Uganda, South Sudan, the DRC and CAR forces are jointly fighting to eliminate rebels of the Lord's Resistance Army, a Ugandan rebel group that has wrecked havoc in the region

In a bid to improve governance, African states have agreed to put in place the Africa Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), a mutually agreed program to promote and improve high standards of governance.

The APRM's mandate is to ensure that the policies and practices of participating countries conform to the agreed values in democracy, political governance, economic governance, corporate governance and socio-economic development.

As of Jan. 29, 2011, 30 member states had agreed to be reviewed. Between January 2006 and January 2011, 14 member countries have been peer reviewed, including Ghana, Rwanda, Kenya, South Africa, Algeria, Benin, Uganda, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Mali, Mozambique, Lesotho, Mauritius and Ethiopia.

African states also cooperate in areas of health, education, and cultural affairs.

In their quest for self-renewal, African states still face problems like civil conflicts, poor transport and energy infrastructure, and issues like governance and corruption still pose a critical threat to the region.

But as the theme of the AU summit goes, "Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance", Africa is clearly on its way to take charge of its future.

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