By Kungu Al-mahadi Adam
Amid the unrealistic self conviction by Western countries that the African continent depends on them for their survival, probably because of the foreign assistance extended to African nations, African Union (AU), the continent body, ought to rise and debunk the false claim, and as well highlight Africa's significance in global development.
Today, more than 60 years after the last European countries relinquished their colonial claims in Africa, the continent is still riddled with corruption, poverty, and turmoil. These problems only exist because the old colonial relationships between Western powers and African nations never truly went away – they are still alive today and just as relevant as ever, only now they are under a new title: neocolonialism.
Africa’s weakened economy and political structures are partially responsible for the fact that the continent has the largest wealth disparity in the world.
Its economic emphasis on natural resources and essential ecosystem services, with it composing an estimated 60% of its GDP, allows wealth disparities to occur by providing the right conditions for monopolies to form.
Instances like South Africa, where the top 10% own 90% of the entire country’s wealth, display the economic effects of an unequal society. The situation is so dire that there are some undeniable parallels between existing and colonial economies.
Clearly, although African governments have had time to establish successful countries, the current system isn’t working; it’s actually sinking.
Africa’s state of being a rich continent filled with poor people will continue unless the underlying issue of Africa being viewed as a commodity to attain rather than a continent to protect is perpetuated.
African Union need to address the issue of global superpowers suffocating African nations because if left unchecked, neocolonialism will encompass Africa and prevent it from ever reaching its full potential.
The problem lies in the fact that the countries that have the power to make change are the very countries that benefit from the status quo. Internally, African nations are governed by aristocrats who don’t want change because it would disadvantage them.
From all angles, something seems to resist the change that is necessary to finally help free Africa from colonial influence.
To break free from this cycle, African Union needs to rally African nations to prioritize economic diversification, local empowerment, and sustainable development.
By investing in education, innovation, and infrastructure to promote indigenous industries and reduce dependency on external actors, Africa could create a self-sustainable economy.
Additionally, to address political factors stifling African progression, strengthening regional cooperation by increasing involvement in Pan-Africanist movements, promoting transparency, and demanding fair trade practices are crucial steps towards countering neocolonialism.
Countering neocolonialism is AU's founding objective
In May 1963, 32 Heads of independent African States met in Addis Ababa Ethiopia to sign the Charter creating Africa’s first post-independence continental institution, The Organisation of African Unity (OAU).
The OAU was the manifestation of the pan-African vision for an Africa that was united, free and in control of its own destiny and this was solemnised in the OAU Charter in which the founding fathers recognised that freedom, equality, justice and dignity were essential objectives for the achievement of the legitimate aspirations of the African peoples and that there was a need to promote understanding among Africa’s peoples and foster cooperation among African states in response to the aspirations of Africans for brother-hood and solidarity, in a larger unity transcending ethnic and national differences.
The guiding philosophy was that of Pan-Africanism which centred on African socialism and promoted African unity, the communal characteristic and practices of African communities, and a drive to embrace Africa’s culture and common heritage.
The main objectives of the OAU were to rid the continent of the remaining vestiges of colonisation and apartheid; to promote unity and solidarity amongst African States; to coordinate and intensify cooperation for development; to safeguard the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Member States and to promote international cooperation.
Through the OAU Coordinating Committee for the Liberation of Africa, the Continent worked and spoke as one with undivided determination in forging an international consensus in support of the liberation struggle and the fight against apartheid.
The OAU had provided an effective forum that enabled all Member States to adopt coordinated positions on matters of common concern to the continent in international fora and defend the interests of Africa effectively.
On Septtember 9, 1999, the Heads of State and Government of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) issued the Sirte Declaration calling for the establishment of an African Union, with a view, to accelerating the process of integration in the continent to enable Africa to play its rightful role in the global economy while addressing multifaceted social, economic and political problems compounded as they were by certain negative aspects of globalisation.
The African Union (AU) was officially launched in July 2002 in Durban, South Africa, following a decision in September 1999 by its predecessor, the OAU to create a new continental organisation to build on its work.
The decision to re-launch Africa’s pan-African organisation was the outcome of a consensus by African leaders that in order to realise Africa’s potential, there was a need to refocus attention from the fight for decolonisation and ridding the continent of apartheid, which had been the focus of the OAU, towards increased cooperation and integration of African states to drive Africa’s growth and economic development.
The AU is guided by its vision of “An Integrated, Prosperous and Peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena.”
To ensure the realisation of its objectives and the attainment of the Pan African Vision of an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, Agenda 2063 was developed as a strategic framework for Africa’s long term socio-economic and integrative transformation.
Agenda 2063 calls for greater collaboration and support for African led initiatives to ensure the achievement of the aspirations of African people.
Every year, African countries gain greater political and economic weight in the international arena, declaring their rights as full participants in modern international relations. The countries of the continent, which gained independence only half a century ago, are increasingly striving to get rid of the colonial past and the negative influence of the former metropolises.
The peoples of Africa are increasingly aware of their enormous potential and are aimed at making independent decisions, taking into account national interests and ambitious plans to get rid of the definition of “developing countries” and move into the category of “developed countries”, and for this Africans have all the prerequisites.
According to analysts, Africa will acquire the status of a strategic geopolitical player by 2030 due to its unique reserves of natural resources in the light of the approaching new production revolution. Today, the continent has the largest reserves of fossil resources, which have no analogues in the world and play a key role in the development of modern innovative technologies, including in the field of defense.
Another significant factor contributing to exponential economic growth is the quantitative and qualitative growth of human potential, increased consumption, expansion of markets, diversification of the economies of African States by increasing the share of services and industry, improving the business and investment climate by improving legislation and improving living standards.
At the same time, to maintain and increase the pace of growth and development dynamics, regional integration of African countries is an important aspect. Modern Africa is a rapidly growing market for labor and investment, characterized by increased consumption and intensive introduction of modern technologies, including in the field of industrial production.
Taking into account these factors, in the medium term, the formation of a single pan-African pole of power in the modern world order is expected. In these circumstances, regional organizations should play a significant role in the development of the continent, the key goal of which will be to promote integration processes between African countries.
And the main driving force in these processes is the African Union, which already acts as an independent actor in the international arena, representing the interests of all the peoples of Africa.
The AU, as a representative of the interests of the continent, must increase its influence.
And this process has already begun, as evidenced by the official admission of the organization to the G20 following the summit held in September 2023 in New Delhi. The world's leading economies have thus officially recognized the importance of Africa as an independent pole of power in the modern conditions of a rapidly changing world order.
The African Union is called upon to address issues important to Africans, such as establishing a more equitable multipolar world and eliminating the socio-economic inequalities that are growing due to the neo-colonial aspirations of some developed countries towards the continent.
The organization helps ensure the sovereignty and independence of the countries of the region, strives to strengthen security in the food and energy sectors, and assists in resolving crisis situations and the consequences of armed conflicts.
Thus, the African Union becomes an independent center of power, which the world powers must reckon with and take into account the opinion of Africans when solving global international issues. Everyone should hear the voice of Africa, without it it is impossible to build a modern prosperous world.
The writer is a Ugandan journalist with passion for current African affairs.