The Africa Liberal Network (ALN), Africa’s largest affiliation of liberal political parties, met in Accra, Ghana from 2 to 4 March 2018 for their 14th annual General Assembly meeting. This year we were graciously hosted by ALN member party, the Progressive People’s Party (PPP) of Ghana, where they helped us welcome member parties from 24 African countries, and partners from various European countries. Delegates met in their annual meeting to discuss ALN matters as well as the theme of this year’s General Assembly:
“More Freedom & Fairness: The Pursuit of Growing Africa’s Economy”.
It is apt that we met in West Africa, with countries where liberals govern on a national or regional basis, such as in Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire act as shining examples of the opportunities and prosperity which can be created and sustained by liberalism in action. We live in a world where the liberal democratic values and the institutions that uphold it is under constant threat. This is a challenge to regional and global cooperation, human rights, and liberal values of tolerance, peace, and justice. Nevertheless, African liberals have a unique opportunity to continue to rise against the tide and provide beacons of hope for the globe. The role of opposition parties in African countries are as important as ever and liberals must remain critical voices of opposition with promises of hope for all citizens.
The theme of this General Assembly is becoming more important than ever. As countries are consolidating their democracies all over the continent, we cannot forget about the development and stimulation of Africa’s economies. It is a continent rich in resources, capital and potential. Today, Africa homes almost half of the world’s 20 fastest growing economies. As these markets and economies grow, often at rapid rates, it is important to address how this growth can be shared broadly, rather than benefitting a small percentage of the country. Dialogue about how liberal economic policies and market economies can bridge the widening gap between the most and least advantaged is crucial. It is not a matter that can wait but should instead be considered as a parallel process.
Over the two days of the General Assembly, delegates engaged on various topics relating to this topic with the help and assistance of our crucial strategic partners: the Liberal Democrats’ International Office and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom. Experts from Africa and Europe hosted sessions on the liberal’s handbook for policies that can be developed to grow African economies while still keeping the well-being of all Africans in mind. Another session was held on how countries are able to stimulate the job market and economy through the use of apprenticeship programs. Delegates were divided into French and English-speaking groups, ensuring that optimal engagement and group work is guaranteed. They were encouraged to think outside the box, think of creative solutions and to debate the finer issues relating to the theme.
The second half of the General Assembly we dedicated our time to the discussion of the Accra Declaration on Liberal Economies. Various issues raised as priorities for the ALN in terms of liberal economies are free and fair markets without barriers, increased trade, innovation and digitization, women empowerment and gender equality, the establishment of fair and independent institutions, and the protection of human rights in light of imminent development. The ALN member parties committed to working for secure and peaceful economic growth for all the peoples and nations of Africa and emphasised their belief that fair liberal economic policies have to be adopted by the governments of Africa.
At the end of the final day, the program diverted into two side events. The Liberal International Human Rights Committee in partnership with D66 from the Netherlands is hosted a workshop on Freedom of Religion and Belief. Here, participants exchanged experiences from their own countries and formulated policy proposals on how to tackle the issue on both a national and international level. The session served to agree on a common liberal approach to the issue. The second session was a panel discussion hosted by VVD form the Netherlands and the Arab Liberal Federation (ALF) on intra-Arabic trade, and the challenges and opportunities that entail. This panel discussion aimed to share the results of the Arab Liberal Federation report on Intra-Arab Trade and its recommendations. The panel also exchanged ideas and recommendations from the broader African point of view and in particular of the Western African region.
We are pleased to announce that our membership grew significantly during this gathering. Three new parties from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Madagascar and Burkina Faso have been accepted as observer members, whereas five parties, from Mali, Mauritania, Ghana and Zambia, respectively were promoted to full membership. It is a good sign that our membership is growing so sustainably and constantly – liberalism is on the rise in Africa!
In conclusion, it has been an extremely fruitful General Assembly. We are pleased that 25 different countries took time out of their busy political schedules to attend the largest gathering of liberal parties in Africa. It’s an opportunity we are grateful for, and we wish to thank our strategic partners, the Liberal Democrats and Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom for their continued support on all levels for ALN activities. In the same vein we would like to extend our thanks to our donors and partners in liberalism, the VVD and D66 from the Netherlands, and Liberal International, in particular the Human Rights Committee. We hope to grow the network, our partnerships, our economies and our countries in the next year to come!