Today, on 25 May, we celebrate Africa Day 2018. Historically, this is the day that signifies the creation of the Organisation for African Unity (or the African Union, as we know it today) in 1963 and is meant to be a symbol for a united continent. It’s been 55 years since the liberation of Africa, and the continent has grown in many wonderful ways.
We could celebrate the massive strides made by African countries in growing their economies, building large urban centers filled with bustling populations, developing public health services, furthering education among African youth and creating governments that can comfortably share a table with international superpowers. We can praise the rich potential of the continent, in terms of resources, human capital, innovation and growth. We can laud the incredible diversity of African people and the range of cultures, religions and races that fill up this great continent.
These are points that should be celebrated with a respectful view of how far the continent has come since its liberation. Africa Day should be a day to reflect about the progress we’ve made as Africans and how we are a force to be reckoned with on the global political scene.
However, we cannot celebrate the continent’s successes without addressing the many ways in which it is not yet free. In 2015 the AU adopted Agenda 2063 which is a framework and plan for addressing past injustices and assist in securing Africa’s place in the world, making the 21st Century, Africa’s Century.
Agenda 2063 reads that in the next 50 years it aims to achieve:
- A prosperous Africa based on inclusive growth and sustainable development
- An integrated continent, politically united and based on the ideals of Pan-Africanism and the vision of Africa’s Renaissance
- An Africa of good governance, democracy, respect for human rights, justice and the rule of law
- A peaceful and secure Africa
- An Africa with a strong cultural identity, common heritage, shared 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
- Africa as a strong, united and influential global player and partner
In order to achieve this, we have to critically and seriously address the various obstacles to growth, development and true liberation for Africa.
Even though we’ve seen a rise in democracies in Africa and democratization has been common place, we still have not reached an age of true democratic governance. African leaders and their governments continue to fail their countrymen by abusing power, misusing state funds, suppressing opposition and neglecting vital responsibilities. Once celebrated liberation movements have turned sour and hold on to power, with no regard for the well-being of citizens. An even more concerning trend is the abuse of democratic measures such as the constitution and electoral processes to legitimize authoritarian regimes. Until governments take responsibility for their countries and citizens, respect the rule of law, and leaders step down when it is their time, Africa will not be truly free.
OPPRESSION OF OPPOSITION
A healthy democracy comprises of a multiparty system that allows for opposition parties to partake in elections and critique the status quo. The constant suppression and persecution of opposition parties in Africa is not only undemocratic but an abuse of human rights in many cases. Every year opposition parties, their leaders and voters get targeted, jailed and in many cases killed, for speaking out against corrupt and oppressive authoritarian regimes. A worrying aspect of this phenomenon is governments and their leaders’ abuse of powers such as the national armed forces, state media and courts to oppress and persecute. Media should be independent and free to report on matters of national importance, whereas courts should be impartial in their proceedings and allow for unbiased trials. This constant oppression is not conducive to stable democracies and arenas for sustainable growth, to the benefit of all.
Over the past few decades we’ve seen rapid urbanisation take place in Africa’s major cities. However, with this increasing population growth comes many troubling issues, one of them being unemployment. Africa is struggling with an unemployment epidemic, with large portions of populations being left unemployed, impoverished and not empowered to live fulfilling lives. Most concerning is the enormous amounts of African youth who not only have job opportunities but also have very little education. Governments should be investing more resources into secondary and tertiary education, especially for girls, and ensure that with economic growth comes job creation and investment in local and small businesses. Economic liberation is something yet to be achieved for many Africans and liberal economic policies that ensure the most disenfranchised in Africa are taken care of is paramount.
SECURITY AND ARMED CONFLICT
In many African countries a harsh reality still exists: armed conflict is a daily occurrence. From rebel groups to terrorist organisations and even state-sanctioned conflict, it is unacceptable that there is an increasing lack of human security on the continent. Large groups of refugees have fled their war-torn countries in search of a safer life, resulting in mass displacement of African people. Some end up in situations not much better than the countries they fled from: in countries that do not want to accept them, refugee camps, or the slave trade. It is simply appalling that African people are treated with such discontent, with no regard for their lives. Conflict is never a solution and governments should go to the utmost lengths to ensure their entire population is protected.
LACK OF LEADERSHIP
What we experience in Africa today, is a leadership vacuum, on varying levels. Once impressive leaders have revealed themselves to be power hungry, while true leadership has not been given a chance to prove their worth. The Africa Liberal Network works with some of the most passionate and dedicated parties on the continent and remains hopeful that these leaders will be given an opportunity to govern and show Africa what true liberal governments can do for their countries. Furthermore, there is a need for regional and international organisations, such as the AU, to step up and critically engage on the issues plaguing the continent. It is no longer good enough to sit in the shadows while Africa goes through some of its most challenging years. We require a continental leadership who can bring countries together for mutual gain and equal development, while assisting those who are in dire need.
It is the hope of the Africa Liberal Network that Africa will reflect on its turbulent past today, whilst simultaneously being aware of how far we’ve come as a continent. However, it is also necessary to realistically assess the situation we find ourselves in today and think of ways we can achieve a truly free African reality, with empowered Africans living fulfilled, safe and empowered lives. A very Happy Africa Day to from our Liberal Family, to yours.