Following a Long Dream: Quo Vadis African Union?

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It has been 53 years since the African countries embarked upon the quest for unity in Addis Ababa on 25 May, 1963. In her recent message on the Commemoration of “Africa Day”,...

It has been 53 years since the African countries embarked upon the quest for unity in Addis Ababa on 25 May, 1963. In her recent message on the Commemoration of “Africa Day“, the Chairperson Zuma accentuated the targets for the year 2063 and finished her speech with the words “Long live Africa and her Diaspora! Long live African unity and solidarity!“

While the enormous building of the African Union (AU) was under constructions, it had already come in for criticism, on one hand. On the other, according to the Ethiopian President Wirtu, the new headquarter of the AU should not only be seen as an enormous building but also as a symbol of hope, for Africa. But what does the AU really mean to the future of its continent?

If the performance of the AU so far is considered, it is clearly recognized that there are dissatisfactions as well as compliments. The criticisms typically intensify on two points: the lack of common political will and the lack of organizational capacity. Excluding Morocco, who left the Union in 1984, there is an organizational set-up with 54 members covering the whole continent, in fact. As yet, it is early and an idealistic approach to expect from the AU a perfect political willpower and a professional capacity. First of all, modelling supranational institutions like the EU and the UN is a rational choice for the AU, but yet, shaping an idiosyncratic methodology, philosophy and discourse will produce more precious outputs for the Union. In this perspective, it gains an importance for the Union to create shared values interiorising all varieties and differences in the continent. In some cases, the varieties of ethnicity, language/dialect and religion even within a single country make it difficult to develop an overarching “African“ concept in the continent. Furthermore, some problematic cases, such as border disagreements, inherited from the colonial period are seen as the main source of ongoing socio-cultural dissonances. Nonetheless it is a fact that there are not only differences and varieties but also common points embracing almost the entire continent. All similar sufferings of Africa coming from history, underdevelopment, lack of education, ongoing health problems, chronic conflicts, instabilities in security-politics-economy and problems related to fundamental rights and freedom seem to be common points gathering all African communities. Accordingly the interlock of African decision makers and policy makers on these common problems will provide the solution for most of the separations on the continent. Recently, very often reference is made to ‘African Solutions for African Problems’ that is a meaningful motto in this sense.

Over time, the AU has many indications in which it tends from discourse to functionality and from theory to practicality. A willpower which is no longer unresponsive and taking steps for solutions is clearly noticeable. In this regard, 'Agenda 2063' contains an array of values, for the centennial of AU. Here are the set of characteristics for a desirable Africa in 2063.

· A prosperous Africa focusing in comprehensive and sustainable development.
· A prosperous Africa based on inclusive growth and sustainable development;
· An integrated continent, politically united, based on the ideals of Pan Africanism and the vision of Africa’s Renaissance;
· An Africa of good governance, respect for human rights, justice and the rule of law;
· A peaceful and secure Africa;
· An Africa with a strong cultural identity, common heritage, values and ethics;
· An Africa whose development is people-driven, relying on the potential of African people, especially its women and youth, and caring for children; and
· Africa as a strong, united, resilient and influential global player and partner.
· To achieve these goals, the First Ten Year Implementation Plan for “Agenda 2063“, which can be described as a check point, is already switched on. Therefore, well-planned target 2063 is a highly brave initiative as the global developments and multi-dimensional regional factors decline the chance of making successful predictions. It is difficult to guess to what extent it will reach the intended level. If it is really possible to establish an Africa as planned and wished, it wouldn’t be a prophecy to say that power of balances in the international system will change and there will be no political equation established in which Africa is not a component.

To realize the dream of the AU, there is one another factor which is as important as the internal dynamics of the continent: African Diaspora. It is very likely that the role of the African Diaspora is going to be significant in Africa’s transformation. The level of bond and cooperation between Africa and the different Diaspora communities spread across the countries can therefore be a determining factor. On the other side, the related policies of non-African countries that host African migrants/population will become more important towards these communities. In the eyes of future Africa, the more advantageous and esteemed countries will be those which are positively perceived by the African diaspora today.

Consequently, a more liveable Africa is the precondition of a more liveable world. So the international societies must also take responsibility for the realization of this long dream. Otherwise if the dream turns into a nightmare, it might be a messenger of a deep chaos and disappointment both for the regional and the international system.
Dr. Engin Akçay
Expert, Africa Department, TASAM
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