Politics aside, myriad challenges bedevil Africa

Tuesday, April 13th, 2021 00:00 | By
World Health Organisation. Photo/Courtesy

It is now firmly established that the Covid-19 pandemic has trumped politics locally and globally, forcibly directing focus to the critical challenges confronting humanity today.

After the year of death, disaster and despair in 2020, the human toll from SARS-Cov-2 continues to multiply in 2021 as the economic costs hit colossal levels. 

While politics pervaded the society before the virus struck, strong political will is still required to urgently tackle the grave multiple challenges of the climate emergency, pollution and biodiversity loss now aggravated by Covid-19.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has summed up humanity’s priorities in the Covid era, with 500 million jobs lost and extreme poverty back to levels not seen in a generation.

A grimly disturbing warning that should occupy the minds of the principals and legislators as they chaperone the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI). Inequalities are widening, hunger is increasing and global fragilities continue to be exposed.

We should be gravely alarmed about the war we have declared on nature. Nature is fighting back.

The climate crisis is raging. Last year, natural disasters caused $210 billion in damage and incalculable human costs.

Biodiversity is collapsing as geopolitical tensions undermine collective efforts for peace.

Unless the BBI report comprehensively factors these concerns for nature and the economic upheaval, citizens will have little appetite for the political dimensions of its contents.

Hostile reactions to the public debt mountain, the devastating impact of Covid-19 on lives and livelihoods, inaction on corruption, and the lack of transparency on public spending at the expense of politics, should be matters of great concern to national and continental leadership.

President Uhuru Kenyatta as the East African Community (EAC) chairperson has an opportunity to leave a lasting legacy by placing these critical issues alongside democracy and human rights on top of his agenda.

He needs a strong ally in current African Union chair-Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) President Felix Tshisekedi.

DRC is probably Africa’s richest country, with abundant natural resources. Its mining industry provides a large part of the world’s supply of cobalt, coltan, copper, diamond, gold and tin. 

However, DRC and South Sudan are glaring examples of the African dilemma of conflict, poverty, underdevelopment, unfair exploitation of natural resources and environmental destruction that require an urgent solution.

The vast natural wealth has brought perpetual suffering and misery to the people. It has failed to deliver economic development.

It is the cause of numerous conflicts, grave human rights abuses and a pervasive culture of impunity.

Bad governance, corruption and obsession with empty politics compound the African “curse of natural resources”.

Yet the critical issues facing the continent today relate to health, the environment and food security. 

Latest UN reports indicate “staggering high” levels of hunger in the DRC affecting one-in-three people.

Some 27.3 million people face “acute” food insecurity, seven million suffering “emergency” levels - the highest number of people in the world in urgent need of assistance.

While Kenya may not be on the scale of DRC, remember food security is a pillar of the legacy Big Four agenda.

DRC, like Kenya and South Sudan (also experiencing food insecurity) has the capacity to feed its population and export a surplus to the rest of the world.

It is time to shun cheap politics and focus on the seven critical issues at the intersection of the environment and development – climate, energy, food, forests, water, cities and the ocean. [email protected]

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