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Africa looks ahead with hope and confidence in this Covid-19

By Stephen Ndegwa
Thursday, May 28th, 2020
Africa Union, Adis Ababa. Photo/Courtesy
In summary

The Covid-19 pandemic has once more confirmed the centuries-old resilience of the African continent.

While much of the world reels from the ravages of the pandemic, mainly the developed world, Africa remains hopeful that it will maintain its current status as one of the places yet to record any significant human cost. 

The celebration of the annual Africa Day 2020 on Monday was held against a backdrop of hope and uncertainty.

Hope that with a little bit of luck and preparedness, the continent can avoid getting deeper into a social, economic and political morass that has been the bane of its development.

May 25th marks the establishment of the Organisation of African Unity, the precursor of the African Union (AU), in 1963.

According to the AU, Africa Day is an occasion for its 55 member states to take credit for successfully handling major issues including peace and security, integration, women and youth empowerment and eradication of diseases.

The AU Charter espouses Agenda 2063 as “the continent’s strategic framework that aims to deliver on its goal for inclusive and sustainable development, and is a concrete manifestation of the pan-African drive for unity, self-determination, freedom, progress and collective prosperity.”

It is also an international event, as the AU reaches out to the rest of the world through promoting the organisation’s visibility under the banner, “The year of Refugees, Returnees, and Internally Displaced Persons: Towards Durable Solutions to Forced Displacement in Africa.”

For decades, millions of Africans have left their homes on a ‘journey to nowhere’, as they seek safety from wars, internal and external, as a result of political and social conflict.

Many have sought greener pastures in developed countries, as economies of their home countries ground to a halt due to various reasons to do with governance. 

But according to the United Nations Commission on Trade and Development’s (UNCTAD) report, Migration for Structural Transformation, international migration in Africa is primarily a continental phenomenon, contrary to popular perception. 

In 2017, over 53 per cent of Africa’s international migrants resided within the continent, many of them circulating around the same African region.

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees says Sub-Saharan Africa hosts more than 26 per cent of the world’s refugees, about 18 million of the global figure of about 70 million. 

Moreover, the cost of seeking refuge in foreign capitals has become too costly, and many may not be willing to pay the ultimate price for a better life overseas. The prevalent xenophobia is also not worth it.

But this has become a huge burden to countries like Kenya, East Africa’s largest economy, who for many years has hosted millions of refugees under the auspices of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

According to the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), Africa is the world’s second fastest growing region, averaging an annual Gross Domestic Product growth of 4.6 per cent between 2000 and 2016.

ODI had projected that Africa’s real GDP would grow at 3.9 per cent annually until 2022. But that was before the coronavirus pandemic, which has destroyed the fundamentals on which Africa’s economy is built.

With Covid-19 and a fast changing global context, Africa is faced with the challenge of redefining itself, particularly in achieving Agenda 2063.

Not that there is much expected to happen in the short term, as African countries also strive to recover from the pandemic, and regain the growing social-economic momentum.

But the future looks bright. As UNCTAD’s Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi notes, Africa has embarked on a journey of transformational change, particularly through economic integration.

Kituyi is sure that the 2018 African Continental Free Trade Agreement is the “catalyst for structural change and prosperity” in the continent. — The writer is a communication expert, and public policy analyst 

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