OAU to AU: Looking at Africa’s Economy

The major reason why Organization of Africa Unity was changed to African Union was to create an organization that was inbreed with the ideology that was Afro-Centric. The African Union was created looking at samples of other organizations like the European Union (EU), The North American Free Trade Area (NAFTA), Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), these are organizations that looked within to solve problems of member states, especially economic and military problems.

The idea of the African common market was brought up at the Abuja Protocol of 1991, during a submit of African heads of states, and it was finally established in 2000. It was very unfortunate that African leaders were looking at a drastic change in the continent at the beginning of a millennium, but nothing really changed according to the article, to say this will be very wrong, a lot has happened. Africa might not have been where they wanted to be but, they had begun to look within to solve issues, for example, it is public knowledge that Nigeria, took it upon itself to send troops into several African nations to ensure peace within these states. Another typical example is the case of Nigeria in South Africa to eradicate apartheid.

It is fair to agree that AU’s evolution is within the context of historical experience of such other organizations, particularly the EU. I agree that some of the principles enunciated in the Constitutive Act of the African Union go beyond the pusillanimous principles of the Organization of African Unity like the Union accepts the right of member states to request intervention from the union in order to restore peace and security, and several others.

The AU was to operate with the AEC (African Economic Community) to create a great economic environment within the continent, because it felt one of the reasons for instability on the African continent is the lack of economic opportunities, which usually leads to serious struggle for the few opportunities, thus exacerbating tension and conflict.

There are also several economic organizations in the sub-regions that deal with economic integration of these areas. It must be said that it is assumed that it is the ECOWAS and SADC that have been the most active sub-regional organization.

There have been many conflicts on the continent that the African Union has been very slow to intervene in for example the AU was first tested in Darfur after the whole world had cried itself hoarse, the AU eventually intervened in Darfur by sending a battalion of African troops made up of Nigerians and Rwandans to protect the civilian population particularly women and children from further slaughter.

What made the case of Darfur interesting is the fact that the world took a serious interest in it, even went as far as branding it a genocide but the intervention that came was from Africa. It was a clear case of Africa standing up for itself.

There are also several other cases of conflict on the African continent, like the issue between Ethiopia and Eritrea, Congo, etc. These are very crucial issues to be looked at, but we should be very objective in looking at these issues because they are not exclusive to Africa, there are other states in the world that are going through very much of the same, so instead of looking at the conflict in Africa, and make it look like these issues are exclusive to Africa, it is safe to say no matter the international organization presiding over any region in any part of the world, conflict is inevitable and an inherent part of daily living, with classic examples of Israel and Palestine, South and North Korea.

In Africa, South Africa has been helping mediate conflicts, but we agreed that the presence of conflict is the absence of meaningful development, an example which was mentioned in the case of the DRC that is a huge state, that should drive the states in the region towards dramatic growth and development is herself beset by instability. President Joseph Kabila of the DRC was not elected he merely succeeded his assassinated father as if the country were a monarchy. He however has taken steps in the right way by conducting an election which he won but was still disputed by his opponents.

In East Africa, there is no uniform level of economic development, every state is growing at its own oace. Tanzania is the laggard in economic development in East Africa. We must also not fail to mention that Uganda and Kenya are also doing well economically in East Africa, and East Africa has also come to the realization of the importance of African economic integration.

The most advanced sub region in terms of economic development on the African continent is Southern Africa. The non-Africans that were there before independence of these states had already put really good structures on ground that would aid development, infrastructures like railways, roads and ports. South Africa has also had good relationships with the states that surround it, states like Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Swaziland, Mozambique, Botswana, and Zambia. And as mentioned earlier the absence of conflict will lead to a lot of positive and economic development. Southern Africa has been reasonably going through a gradual development because the level of conflict in this region is very low compared to other regions on the continents.

Nigeria has been the strongest economy in West Africa for a long time in spite of seeming problems that arise as a result of language difference among Anglophone, Francophone and Lusophone countries, the West African region has managed to put in place administrative structures to assist closer economic integration. They have been very successful in the area of military intervention through the ECOWAS Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) in Sierra-Leone, Guinea Bissau and Liberia.

Without peace and common political worldview, which are now largely absent on the continent, one cannot seriously talk about a thriving African union. The regional organizations must come together to form a way forward for the continent. A huge percentage of African states have their economies reliant on export of raw materials and very light industries based on import substitution, this also involves even the biggest economy on the continent, Nigeria. This strategy has failed to lift the African economies, Africa depends too much on importation, and the level of manufacturing on the continent is very low. When you look at the biggest African owned businesses, a vast majority of them depend on already finished products brought in from other continents. As noted, Africa is the only continent that has not witnessed any noticeable economic growth in the last 30 years. There have been many UN led interventions in the continent but this has also not helped, because it seems to come with ulterior motives. Agencies like World Bank and IMF, give loans and in return will want to dictate the fiscal policies of these states. This is usually met with resistance, that is one of the reasons why their projects more often than not do not bred good results, because they do not have good intentions, their intention is to find ways to make these African states dependent on their goodwill and without them, there is only so much these African states can do. Africa in spite of being resource rich, probably the richest continent in the world has also been a victim of exploitation, skewed market and unstable prices for her commodities thus making planned economic growth almost impossible.

African countries have been tried to be also identified based ion their income and debts level, but South Africa is regarded differently, as developed and developing. There have been issues about the aids given to Africa by foreign bodies, little of these aids have been spent on developmental projects, what the donations have been used for most have been consultancies and purchases in the donor states.

In truth there has been strive in Africa even after the creation of the AU. To look at only this will be unfair the continent has been progressive and the future is bright for the continent especially economically.

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