In a recently concluded G20 meeting held in Hamburg, Germany, the world leaders vowed, among others, to commit to Africa Partnership. This was in a bid to recognise the opportunities and challenges in African countries as well as the goals of the 2030 Agenda. This Agenda is a plan of action for people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnership. It seeks to stimulate action over the next fifteen years in areas of critical importance for humanity and the planet. Africa, as a continent, is an integral part of the Agenda. An agenda whose target is to change the welfare of earthly dwellers, including Africans. The Agenda 2030, though universal, mirrors the AU Agenda 2063, which aims at the socio-economic transformation of the African continent over the next 50 years. In particular, it seeks to accelerate the implementation of past and existing continental initiatives for growth and sustainable development.
G20 initiative to launch the Africa partnership is paramount. No doubt, Africa still faces a myriad of challenges that, however, Africans know very wellmore than an outsider. Africans obviously have needs and aspirations that can contribute to decent employment for women and youth, who form the largest part of the population. Africa’s underlying problems are mainly associated with poverty, inequality and wars. As such, Africans know better than anyone else how best to address these challenges though limited by limited capacity.
G20 commitments to Africa, as earlier noted, focus on increasing skills for girls, rural youth employment, renewable energy and facilitation for investment. These and many other initiatives, Africa remains in a better position to show how they can be successfully implemented, rather than being dictated. A good case in point is ‘Investment Compacts’ designed by Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Morocco, Ghana, and Tunisia. These compacts aim to mobilise private investment as well as promote efficient use of public funds. These initiatives intend to boost investments as a gateway to socio-economic transformation. Who else could better know this than Africans themselves?
It is important to welcome the support of, or partnership with, G20 so as to change the welfare of Africans, but the fundamental question is: how and which way? A careful answer here turns out to be astepping stone to reach specific objectives. Partnership should not be construed as the saying goes ‘he who pays the piper calls the tune’, instead it should be interpreted in working together in a way that emboldens mutual respect and benefits. This position, of course, comports well with the guiding vision for Agenda 2063 whose vision is “an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in international arena”.To this end, Africa will be able to demonstrate an active and fundamental role in defining its future.
Generally, external partnerships have been seen as one of strategic approaches to assert the AU leverage in matters that concern the continent and the global community. Africa, for example, has forged a number of partnerships with individual countries and regional agencies, such as ‘Africa–Arab Partnership, Africa–European Union (EU) Partnership, Africa–South America (ASA) Summit, Africa–India, Africa–Turkey, China–Africa Cooperation Forum (FOCAC), Africa-United States, Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD), Africa–Korea,and Africa–Australia’.In all these partnerships, Africa signed a couple of memoranda of understanding with its partners to clearly delineate their commitments.Even though these agreements are non-binding, in a legal sense, they illustrate collective commitment and willingness to pursue common interests. Talking loosely, any partnership has legal significance to the partners. In the sense of international law, they constitute guidelines or policy declarations designed to promote areas, namely trade, mining and industry, renewable energy, internet, transport and communication, tourism, agriculture and food security, democracy, governance and human rights, climate change etc.Neither Partnership has safeguarded selfish or one-sided interests.
G20-Africa Partnership shouldn’t be built on imposing terms, or strings attached, but balancing the interests and aspirations of all partners. However, it is important to welcome the willingness of G20 to help African countries in respect of its priorities and interests.
Based on equal partnership, Africa will own its strategies and priorities, and thus implementation would be achievable. In this regard, the African Union, through its specialised agency, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), will take a leading role in the implementation and monitoring of set out programmes. These various partnerships are, in fact, a growing evidence of Africa’s increasing prominence in the international arena. Nonetheless, it demands Africa to engage more in new partnerships with other interested parties.
In doing so, Africa shouldn’t place itself in any peripheral position, but in a position where it can assert its leverage. The mistake, at times, lies with Africans when they don’t trust themselves and, as a result, lose bargaining powers. Africans must transcend this level of thinking, which in many instances its partners capitalise on. African leaders, in particular, must create a level of playing field with its partners. To this end, it will respond to its evolving context and reshape Africa’s posture on the international scene.
The writer is an international law expert.