Monday, June 17, 2024

Africa Day – The Need to Ignite Africa Integration Agenda?

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By Sheriff Conteh

On this very important day called “Africa Day”, formally, Africa Liberation Day, I wish to deliberate on the need for regional integration as an instrument to liberate our beloved continent from decades-long shackles of economic and political domination – contributing to massive exploitation. Quite bothersome!

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Couldn’t genuine and effective regional integration help solve this aggravating menace? Of course, only if we begin to think along the line of unity – UNITED AFRICA!

When I refer to African regional integration, my lenses see beyond the free movement of goods and services between member countries, or intra-African trade, but Africa-Europe or Africa-America trade, etc. The need to create a common economic and political union against external dominance.

From the establishment of the Organization of African Union (OAU) in 1963 to transforming into African Union (AU) in 2002, integrating Africa was amongst the main objectives placed on the table. Therefore, we can agree that our dear continent’s integration will go a long way in dismantling the foreign and economic exploitation Africa has been enduring for decades.

60 years on, or more, since the first congress of independent African states in Accra, we must begin to question ourselves whether Africa has really been integrated both politically and economically. These were issues highlighted by the founding fathers of OAU, now AU – Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Haile Selassie of Ethiopia, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa of Nigeria and Sekou Toure of Guinea Conakry, etc. Must we, the Africans continue to blame these great minds? Certainly, no. They have done their parts. What is expected of this generation of Africans and African leaders?

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When I say political and economic integration, I mean, for example, that of the United States. Today, if any country wants to attack Texas, you will think twice because Arkansas is already there waiting to fight you back – they have been united politically.

Despite many challenges, The European Union has succeeded in creating a common or single market for many goods, resisting external penetrations. That is a strength you will know only if you try to penetrate their market.

Has the African continent succeeded in creating a single market after decades? If there is any closer attainment, you may rate its strength and effectiveness in the faces of others – thanks to the Kigali Declaration that gave birth to AfCFTA but a lot needs to be done.

Fellow Africans, what we need to do now is to genuinely unite, for that is where our strength lies. Without this, we will continue to be exploited, both politically and economically. We have many challenging issues to be addressed.

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A World Bank report estimates the share of Africans who are poor fell from 56% in 1990 to 43% in 2012. The report further stated that the poverty rate may have declined even more but because of population growth, many more people are poor.

Meaning, poverty is declining in Africa, but the number of poor are increasing. It’s like going forward and back at the same time. We have a task to free our continent from economic and political domination, but only if we genuinely integrate.

Imagine, us having a continent that defines its image and place in the global economy but is still, stagnant. There are reasons but, one of the main reasons is a lack of unity. Let’s ignite the agenda of African regional integration. The agenda must not die.

“It is clear that we must find an African solution to Africa’s problems, and that this can only be found in African unity. Divided, we are weak; united, Africa could become one of the greatest forces for good in the world,” Dr. Kwame Nkrumah said. We might sometimes try to doubt this message but certainly, we are learning our lessons by day.

Fellow Africans, whether in Europe, the U.S. or Asia, as we continue to celebrate Africa Day/Africa Liberation Day, we must keep questioning ourselves how far Africa has gone or moving towards freeing itself from foreign domination and exploitation – the very reason behind reflecting on this day.

To African leaders, the individual sovereignty and integrity of your countries seem to be your number one priority but take into account that, your real sovereignty lies on the sovereignty of your continent.

Africa Liberation Day!

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