Africa’s achievements throughout its history are indicative of the impenetrable spirit of the African people from all corners of the continent and beyond.
Founded in 2002, the African Union is a continental body consisting of the 55 member states of the African continent with the main objectives of eliminating remaining remnants of colonisation from the continent; promoting a unified Africa; coordinating socioeconomic development; safeguarding the territorial integrity of the Member States and promoting international cooperation. With these missions at the forefront of the AU’s development plans, the continent is approaching a future ripe with opportunity in the social, economic, political and equality spheres.
Since the establishment of the AU, Africa has been working collectively toward its potential in an ever-changing world economy. A large part of this journey is represented through Agenda 2063, Africa’s blueprint for economic development, and the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement, which will create the world’s largest free trade area and connect 1.3 billion people across 55 countries. These two monumental plans will further Africa’s collective economic development, regional integration, innovation, security, political and cultural influence across the world.
Agenda 2063 is designed to deliver sustainable development for Africa through wealth creation, collective progress, gender equality, opportunities for Africa’s youth and a high standard of living for all. On the national level, many countries have developed similar visions that are catered to their local economies that still push forward Agenda 2063 and continue to transform Africa into an empowered world player. AU Chairperson, H.E. President Félix Antoine Tshisekedi of the Democratic Republic of Congo, recently emphasized the Agenda and its role in the rebirth of the continent and the potential it brings to Africa’s children. H.E. Tshisekedi says, “It is from this human capital that the genius of tomorrow will emerge capable of inventing solutions adapted to the equations of our own future. I ask them to become aware of their irreplaceable role in the construction of Africa, of its regional communities and of each of its States.”
In conjunction with the AU’s Agenda 2063, the AfCFTA agreement is accelerating intra-African trade, expanding Africa’s trading position in the global market and strengthening Africa’s common voice. The AfCFTA will create a combined GDP of about US$3.4 trillion for the benefit of African nations, inspire a 7% increase in African income by 2035, create an increase in exports to US$560 billion and increase wages that will lift millions of Africans out of poverty. Wamkele Keabetswe Mene, Secretary-General of the AfCFTA, adds, “The recovery from COVID- 19 will come from the implementation of the AfCFTA. We will work very aggressively to make sure that we implement the agreement to the best of our abilities. It will be difficult and challenging, but we owe it to millions of Africans who are expecting that, in these positions, we make a difference in their lives.”
“It is from this human capital that the genius of tomorrow will emerge capable of inventing solutions adapted to the equations of our own future. I ask them to become aware of their irreplaceable role in the construction of Africa, of its regional communities and of each of its States.” AU Chairperson, H.E. President Félix Antoine Tshisekedi of the Democratic Republic of Congo
Over the years, Africa’s historic steps in equality have set the global standard in gender inclusion. In 2018, Ethiopia proudly welcomed Sahle-Work Zewde, the country’s first female president. This year on March 1, Nigerian-born Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala became the first female and first African Director-General of the World Trade Organisation in a monumental appointment that demonstrates to the world that Africa is more than prepared to lead the world economy. While we mourn the untimely passing of His Excellency President John Pombe Joseph Magufuli, Tanzania made history this year with the inauguration of Tanzania’s first female president, Her Excellency Samia Suluhu. These advancements in equality are a signal to the collective African spirit and pursuit of the Africa that future generations deserve. H.E. Suluhu says, “If your children will be touched by the coming changes, you should understand that we have done so for the good of the country, and not otherwise.”
Other notable examples of gender inclusion and women empowerment are inspiring all and inciting change on national and local levels. In Nigeria, philanthropist and businesswoman Apostle Folorunso Alakija founded the Rose of Sharon Foundation, a non-profit, faith-based, non-governmental Organisation focused on easing the burdens of existence for widows and orphans. In Madagascar, Pure Vanilla is a female-run company founded by two sisters, Naomy and Rosemine Rasolofonirina, who understand the importance of highlighting the invaluable role that women play in the African and global economies. Naomy Rasolofonirina says, “Our company is 99% women, and in our context, where women are usually not that self-reliant, this is incredible. We want to achieve equal pay; our women are already paid over 50% more than they would be in other companies. We aim to continue to grow their salaries alongside the company’s own development. In this way, our women can be financially independent and programme their future as well as those of their children.”
Equipped with a young and skilled labour force to make the production hub for the world, Africa remains an important resource and is key to global economic progression. “We have a tremendous workforce that is going to be the base of the future of Mozambique,” explains José Parayanken, Founder and CEO of Mozambique Holdings Limited. The advent of the 4th Industrial Revolution presents numerous opportunities for Africa; investing in skilling her youthful population and leveraging home-grown and external technological advancements will position Africa on a sustainable development trajectory. H.R.H. Prince Lonkhokhela, CEO of the Eswatini National Provident Fund, says, “Africa is diversifying and can lead in sustainable development. Africa has the ability to look at what works elsewhere then fashion its own answers. It can openly embrace new technology and ideas, with no historical imprint from which to break free.” Through the strength of the African Union and the dedicated guidance of the continent’s leaders, Africa represents a beacon of possibilities that have emerged from perseverance, unity and African pride.