NOTE: This guest post was written by Morgan McMichen. Morgan is a graduate student at the Seton Hall School of Diplomacy and International Relations. Her specializations are in International Organizations and Global Negotiations and Conflict Management. Morgan’s interests are the function of international institutions in a global society and negotiation as a means of deterring conflict among multinational actors.
Last week was the 7th annual “Africa Week” at the UN. “Since its launch in 2010, Africa Week has evolved to focus on the wide range of Africa’s development priorities, covering the areas of peace, security, governance, human rights, socio-economic, and environmental development.” Each year this series of events works to engage both member-states and stakeholders to participate in a discussion of the most pressing issues on the continent.
This year’s theme was “Supporting an Integrated, Prosperous, People-Centred and Peaceful Africa: Towards the Implementation of Agenda 2063 and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”. The inaugural event covered the overall theme which highlighted African growth being fueled first and foremost by the citizens of Africa. Best practices were shared as well as caveats and lessons learned.
The main sentiments included the fact that Africa has the fastest growing youth population with 85% of the population under 25 and on top of that, an abundance of natural resources. This suggests that it is ripe with opportunities for economic growth, renewed infrastructure, and an all-around prosperous Africa for African peoples and the stakeholders willing to invest. However, there did seem to be some mixed views when it came to the different agendas. President of the 72nd UNGA, H.E. Mr. Miroslav Lajčák said that agendas must be nationally owned and nationally driven so that each country can own its destiny. On the other hand, H.E. Dr. Ibrahim Assane Mayaki-Chief Executive officer of NEPAD said “We can’t prioritize national agendas over regional plans” because we will not have a level of peaceful integration, as suggested in the theme of #UNAfricaWeek. Perhaps an overarching policy writing and monitoring system, which includes representatives from each country, to write both national and regional prescriptions could be one possible solution. The last thing Africa needs is more delays.
With such a young population, education is at the forefront of priorities. An educated youth is a productive youth. Neglect of this can be devastating. H.E. Ms. Marie Chatardová, President of ECOSOC noted that “If we fail to engage young people in the future of Africa, they will be vulnerable to all forms of extremism.” Extremism has ravaged entire regions of the 54-country continent with groups like Boko Haram and Al-Shabab. Between terrorists groups, intrastate warfare, and other conflicts resulting from the aftermath colonial devastation, the African continent has suffered immensely. In order to grow, conflict in Africa must be eliminated and both education and jobs have proven to assist with this goal. The Commissioner for Economic Affairs for the AU, H.E. Prof. Victor Harison appropriately asserted, “All development will be in vain unless all actors involved can live in peace.” In addition, other issues, such as gender equality, are costing the country billions, as stated by UN Secretary General, H.E. Mr. Antontio Guterres.
The challenges are daunting, but there is reason to have great hope. Let us not forget, much what is wrong in Africa is a direct consequence of colonial occupation. But imagine a young, vibrant, flourishing and sustaining population for the future of Africa. That is the hope of the African people and the stakeholders willing to bring this hope into fruition while at the same time making meaningful investments. But who on the international radar is willing to do this? If we go by attendance to this meeting, the stakeholders seemed to be, by and large, Chinese investors. Furthermore, China has recently put billions into Africa and it appears they plan to continue this trend. They have set up banks and other monetary funds to function much like the World Bank and IMF to fund things like infrastructure projects. China clearly sees Africa’s future as a prosperous one and one that a world leader and P5 member cannot pass up. In the past, the U.S. and former colonial powers have had major influence on the continent. Yet, their presence and commitment to invest was not felt at this meeting. Will the West miss its opportunity with Africa? After all, by 2050, 1 in 4 humans on earth will be African meaning Africa is not only the cradle of humanity, but future as well.