Africa: Safeguarding her democratic dividend

Decolonisation in Africa began in 1957 and gained great momentum during the 1960s, as newly appointed African Governments, reimagining Africa’s future, began moving towards pan-Africanism. In line with this, on 25 May in 1963, the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) (now the African Union – AU) was formed with the objectives of:

  • Promoting the unity and solidarity of African states;
  • Coordinating and intensifying cooperation and efforts among African states, in order to achieve a better life for the people; and
  • Defending the sovereignty of African states, their territorial integrity and their independence.

Each year, 25 May is now celebrated as Africa Day, commemorating the ongoing quest for unity on the continent, as well as the political and economic liberation of African people. While independence certainly hasn’t led to political stability and liberation in every African country – and in some countries there is still a long way to go – this was a massive turning point in African history.


Unfortunately achieving true unity remains a challenge on the continent. Unlike the U.S. which is one country, Africa is made up of 55 very different countries – and all at different levels of liberation. That said, governance in Africa is progressing and, although it will take more time to navigate through all the complexities, we shouldn’t forsake any movement towards achieving the African Dream of pan-Africanism.

Today, seven out of the 10 fastest growing economies in the world can be found in Africa and, the continent is increasingly moving more into the global limelight as a promising investment destination – despite preconceived risks of investing in turbulent times. A significant amount of the growth that is being experienced and enjoyed in key markets across Africa is as a direct result of the Governments in these markets being able to successfully implement far-reaching economic and political reforms – thus creating more conducive business and investment climates.

The reality is that effective governance is integral to sustainable economic development, for instance, the best way to reduce poverty is through continued economic development, where successful development and economic growth is dependent on a functioning and responsible Government that wants to implement change towards the benefit of their people. To put this into further perspective; while Africa is enjoying a continuous flow of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), it needs to be noted that it is in fact domestic investment that fuels national economies and, increasing inter-African trade will make Africa more globally competitive.

Although there is significant potential strength and inclusive prosperity to be gained from unity and integration, to achieve this, a consolidated approach should be taken to the design of Africa’s governance architecture – and we’re not there yet. In fact, according to a paper by the South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA), the level of compliance and implementation of African shared values as elaborated in the norms and standards by the AU and the Regional Economic Community (REC) organs and institutions is a key concern, as is the engagement and participation of African citizens in continental and national initiatives to strengthen and consolidate democracy.


David Okwara

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