It was a simple question, one that required a direct answer. In a talk given by Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma on the African Union’s Agenda 2063, she spoke at length of a need for Africa to develop and modernise, to position itself in a post-American global political order. The need to equip Africa’s young population with the skills and resources necessary for success. To fiercely embrace Africa’s history and change our mentality from servitude to masters of our destiny. It was a truly electrifying speech, and coming from the former Chair of the AU Commission, Dlamini-Zuma certainly made it feel like Agenda 2063 is a solid action plan.
Except, it all felt painfully familiar.
Kwame Nkrumah spoke on the urgency of African unity and development in 1963, at the conference that led to the creation of the Organisation of African Unity.
Muammar Gaddafi preached about African unity and solidarity during his tenure as the AU Chair, promoting his now-famous idea of a United States of Africa.
Following the re-entry of Morocco into the continental body, King Mohammed VI addressed the 28th AU Summit, speaking on the need for Africa to develop and use its resources for its citizens.
And who can forget Robert Mugabe’s speech at the 26th ordinary AU Summit where, amongst other things, he spat righteous anger about Africa’s poor global standing, all to the hearty applause from the audience.
All these speeches – including Dlamini-Zuma’s address – fit into the same mould. They speak to the hopes and dreams that Africans have of a vibrant, prosperous continent. Their words stir up emotions and get their audience excited about all the wonderful plans the AU has in place.
Except those words are just that. Words. Powerful rhetoric that promises wonderful things but fails to deliver.
So, as Dlamini-Zuma opened the floor for questions, there was only one thing I wanted to ask. Why? Why should I believe her? Why should I believe that Agenda 2063 will work when other initiatives have failed before they even began? How can the AU expect African citizens to believe in yet another vision and agenda, when pretty words are no longer enough?
Unfortunately, instead of admitting that the AU has failed its continent several times, Dlamini-Zuma turned around and asked me what I was personally doing to ensure a better Africa. Although a valid point to consider, the point of contention was not my shortcomings as a private individual, but the pattern of grand promises and broken dreams that has come to characterise the AU.
The newest initiative deserves closer inspection. What exactly is Agenda 2063?
Formed in 2013, Agenda 2063 is billed as “a strategic framework for the socio-economic transformation of the continent over the next 50 years”. Building on programmes including the Lagos Plan of Action and the Minimum Integration Programme, it’s meant to be a comprehensive plan of action for Africa to position itself as a player in global affairs and strengthen inter-continental relations. The agenda has seven aspirations:
It’s a very ambitious plan, meant to come to fruition in the year that would mark 100 years since the formation of the OAU. Dlamini-Zuma assured us that they had consulted widely with ordinary citizens from different countries across the continent to produce a plan that would benefit all of Africa.
To be fair, during her time as AU Char, Dlamini-Zuma was vocal on issues of decolonisation and African development. She raised the profile and visibility of the AU Commission, and even now that her tenure is over, she continues to work for the betterment of African citizens and promote the agenda that she had a hand in creating.
However, Dlamini-Zuma is not the sum of the African Union, and her passion for the Agenda 2063 action plan does not detract from the truth that it’s a tall order to ask. Looking at the the initiatives it’s building upon. The Lagos Plan of Action and the Minimum Integration Programme both fell short of their ideals of increasing Africa’s self-sufficiency and continental integration. If some of the initiatives that Agenda 2063 builds upon had inadequacies, how and why should Agenda 2063 expect to live up to its expectations?
My concern and frustration does not stem from a desire to see the AU fail. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. As an organisation, it has immense potential, and launched with of a genuine desire to promote unity, development and sustainability. However, the AU is bogged down by endless talk and empty promises, failing to serve its people when they needed it the most. If the AU truly wants Africa to be taken seriously as a global force, then it needs less action plans and more action. I don’t need another iconic speech or address. I need the AU to really live up to its mandate, and I don’t want to wait until 2063 for that to happen. DM
All tortoises are actually turtles. Some turtles however are not tortoises.
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