Saturday,25 November, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1183, (6 - 12 February 2014)
Saturday,25 November, 2017
Issue 1183, (6 - 12 February 2014)

Ahram Weekly

Africa 2014

Gamal Nkrumah analyses the themes of the 2014 African Summit in Addis Ababa

Al-Ahram Weekly

The time for lofty speeches is long over. This is the time that Africa commences its main act. High aims and high stakes are uppermost in the minds of African leaders, or so they contend. No less than 50 African leaders converged on the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa for the 22nd Summit of AU Heads of State and Government, which took place 30-31 January, including Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan. The latter’s nation is Africa’s most populous by far, and yet it is beset by many of the typical political and religious conflicts that ravage the continent. It is also a net food importer.

President Jonathan and other participating heads of state and government are to formally launch the Year of Agriculture and Food Security in Africa. It’s about time that Africa takes food production more seriously.

Nigeria is struggling to boost agricultural production. Jonathan is expected to join other African leaders in various deliberations at the summit, under the theme “Transforming Africa’s Agriculture: Harnessing Opportunities for Inclusive Growth and Sustainable Development.”

Why do most African summits leave many Africans feeling flat? And why do many Africans feel that they are stuck in the past? Some would say that these are the worst of times for Africa. Are conflicts like those in the Central African Republic and South Sudan, and political upheavals in North Africa, just bumps on a path to democratisation? Is Africa at the same point it was in 1960 when most of the continent’s countries gained independence? Or is it in the mid-1960s and 1970s, when military takeovers became de rigueur and dictators ruled with utter impunity?

Africa has come a long way, but most Africans still believe that the continent is on the road to nowhere.

African elections lack the drama of the power struggles of yesteryear, and people are bored with parliamentary democracy and have little faith in the ballot box. Small wonder then that turnout has fallen in most African nations. The electorate is simply not enthused with the neo-colonial status quo.

What is the best way through this nexus of troubles? The United States claims it has some answers. And so do the old colonial masters, such as Britain and France. US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns addressed America’s commitment to Africa at the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa. And I suspect that African leaders listened attentively. “But as all of you know, in too many parts of this continent, violence and conflict hold at risk the region’s economic progress,” Burns said, stating the obvious. American leaders should be forgiven a certain amount of self-indulgence at African summits, I suppose. As long as they let the Chinese get on with the business of doing brisk business in Africa.

Burns reminded the assembled African leaders that US President Barack Obama stressed that Africa and America need to “realise the full potential of partnership”. Yet, American credibility on the continent is on the line.

The United Nations applauded the African leaders pledge to end hunger by 2025. “This is the first time in history that African leaders have made such a strong pledge to eliminate hunger and it is also a show of confidence that, working together, we can win the fight against hunger in Africa in our lifetimes,” Food and Agriculture Organisation Director-General José Graziano da Silva trumpeted.

Be that as it may, Africans have heard similar statements before.

Ethiopia, with an estimated 100 million people, is constructing dams in an effort not only to generate energy sufficiency, but also to regulate its food supply. Nigeria, as mentioned, is also in the same game. But there are reasons to be wary. There is a great deal to be done to right Africa’s food production policies. And African leaders have shown little appetite for radical reform. Look around the continent and there are a surprising number of opportunities for promoting food security. The problem is that Africans need slightly more ambitious and conscientious presidents.

In light of the ongoing conflicts in the continent that hinder social and economic development, the question of hard security also cropped up. African leaders assembled in Addis Ababa considered and adopted the reports of high-level committees on the assessment of the African Standby Force. African leaders likewise considered the operations of the African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crises.

Leaders also reviewed the reports of other high-level committees on UN reforms, the post-2015 development agenda, African trade and climate change.

Egypt did participate at a rather low diplomatic level at the AU 2014 summit, partially because of a resolution by the AU Peace and Security Council to suspend the country’s membership. Egypt was represented in Addis Ababa by Egypt’s deputy foreign minister, Ambassador Hamid Sanad Loza.

Ambassador Loza met with Ethiopia’s State Minister Ambassador Berhane Gbere Christos, the two high-level officials reiterating their country’s commitment to strengthening bilateral relations.

“As being part of the family of the Nile Basin, our fates are intertwined, giving us more reason to cooperate rather than to diverge,” the Ethiopian official declared on the sidelines of the AU summit.

Egypt in turn responded, with Ambassador Loza explicitly inviting Ethiopian Foreign Minister Tedros Adhanom to visit Cairo at his earliest convenience.

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