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Why Africa is on the right trajectory

By Amina Mohamed | May 29th 2015 | 4 min read

NAIROBI: On the occasion of Africa Union Day, we celebrate African unity and honour an organisation that has dedicated itself to securing Africa's rightful place on the world stage, to reaffirming the dignity of Africans and to achieving a better life for all the peoples of African descent.

We also celebrate the pan-African visionaries – from leaders such Jomo Kenyatta, Haile Selassie, Kwame Nkrumah and Muammar Gaddafi – to grassroots organisers such as Malcom X and academics such as (WEB) Du Bois, who laid the foundation for the liberation and unity of our continent.

We celebrate their ideals for a united, sovereign and prosperous Africa, which remain as relevant today as they were over 50 years ago. Within the framework of the OAU, they affirmed African solidarity by supporting liberation movements until the entire continent was free.

We are today reminded of our duty to uphold these ideals and demonstrate similar conviction in working to achieve the African renaissance. Kenya is alive to these ideals and has been pursuing an Afro-centric foreign policy which places our engagement with African countries at the apex of our diplomatic engagement. We are keen supporters of the African agenda and are fully committed to ensuring its realisation. Africa has come a long way.

Despite the optimism that greeted the dawn of independence championed by OAU, it was only 10 years later that Africa slid into what has been described as the lost decades.

These were the 1980s and 1990s, characterised by economic stagnation, poverty, hunger and dictatorships as well as violent conflicts in Somalia, Sierra Leone, Liberia and the Great Lakes as epitomised by the genocide in Rwanda.

This period gave rise to Afro-pessimism as diseases, civil wars, famine and corruption ravaged the continent. Around this time, a world-famous publication described Africa as a lost cause, a hopeless continent.

Indeed, the interest of the world shifted from the continent to the Eastern European economies then transiting to free markets and also to the then emerging dynamic economies of South East Asia.

Yet rarely is a situation so irredeemable. In retrospect, these tumultuous times generated serious conversations nationally and within the OAU which, at length, informed the political and economic transformation we are witnessing.

Today, Africa is being hailed as the rising continent. Economies are booming, peace prevails in most countries, democratisation has taken root, and foreign investors are all over Africa looking for opportunities.

Africa's overall trajectory is clear and a more stable and prosperous continent is on the horizon.

We are writing a new narrative in our history and this calls to mind the words of Emperor Haile Selassie at the opening session of the 1st OAU conference of 1963: "We stand today on the stage of world affairs, before the audience of world opinion."

However, challenges remain. The continent remains fragmented, poverty and disease still abound, jobs are not being created fast enough, and there are skills and infrastructure gaps to address.

Moreover, pockets of violent conflict persist while terrorism is threatening to not only erode the progress that has been made, but to also abort the dream of the African renaissance.

There is therefore considerably much that remains to be done to sustain the process of transformation. It is encouraging that the AU has risen to the occasion and is providing leadership.

In particular, the development and adoption of Agenda 2063, which is Africa's blueprint for sustainable development in the next 50 years, is a remarkable step forward.

Agenda 2063 has outlined necessary steps that need to be taken to realise the African renaissance; integration, economic sustainability and equitable development. Economic growth that leaves out large sections of the populace is a recipe for conflict. A sense of fairness and equity generates a strong basis for political legitimacy.

We must therefore deliberately move in the direction of creating stakeholder economies in which everyone has a stake. This will also help to stem radicalisation and terrorism that feeds on economic discontent.

As President Uhuru Kenyatta said during his maiden address to the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa:

"We must rekindle the spirit of Pan-Africanism that propelled us during the birth of independent Africa. We must inspire our people to once again take their destiny in their own hands, to cultivate faith and confidence in the ability of Africa to address her problems and craft appropriate solutions to deal with them.

"We must deliver on an Africa at peace with itself, driven by its people; an Africa that is prosperous but that shapes its own destiny and determines its international relations in a humane, just and equitable manner."

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