Sarah Skidmore, a member of our Emerging Fellows program inspects the intra-continental cooperation in Africa through the lens of security in her fourth blog post. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.
Foundational to intra-continental cooperation lies the abilities of leaders. Now is the time for African leaders to create a structure that perpetuates cooperation with paradigm shifting impact. The African Union (AU) is an African institution with the ability to increase security guarantees. In 2002 the AU, consisting of 55 member states, formed in an evolutionary nature from the Organization of African Unity (OAU). Where the OAU focused on ridding Africa of decolonization and apartheid, the AU’s focus is on cooperation and African driven growth.
In 2013, the organization launched a 50-year plan called Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want, noting a critical aspiration to be ‘a peaceful and secure Africa.’ Flagship projects in the plan include a high-speed train network, a commodities strategy, African continental free trade, free movement of people, silencing of guns, e-network, virtual university, cybersecurity, and an African museum authority to preserve cultural heritage. The AU’s work is critical in achieving intra-continental cooperation and associated security guarantees. But, how much of this work is achievable within the next three decades? What is a realistic expectation of progress to be made by 2050?
Security benefits accompany intra-continental cooperation. Security benefits may appear at several different levels within African society by 2050, including both people and businesses. With greater cooperation the day-in-the-life of an African may include burden-less travel in-between major African cities (think of vacation opportunities or family growth), readily available goods manufactured from other African regions in local stores, and the regular ability to consume and cook with foods and spices grown in other African regions. African businesses experience possible benefits of higher buying power in a cooperative market environment, an increased customer base due to a broader market, and opportunities to scale business operations throughout areas in Africa.
Intra-continental cooperation emphasizes peacebuilding efforts and conflict prevention strategies.
Consider the potential conflicts that cooperation may reframe by 2050 to include religious confrontation, tribal disputes, ethnic conflicts, and refugee displacement. Though Africa is a central contributor within the non-integrated gap, the Sahel is a primary source of African conflict. The Sahel, a belt spanning across the northern region of Africa, is known for its instability and violence. How might intra-continental cooperation defuse the Sahel’s reputation for violence come 2050? Will peacebuilding and conflict prevention strategies overturn the present corruption and kleptocracy that exists by 2050? Will the AU hold to their Agenda 2063 plan and create an unwavering African structure?
The desire for peace, security and stability is certainly not new. Yet, over the decades, leaders have not been able to achieve cooperation among the Africa nations. Why is this? Why has peace and security not existed? As a matter of comparison, why does the AU not hold the same level of cooperation as the European Union (EU)? Why are African nations not already cooperating with each other? When thinking towards 2050, modern leaders must ask themselves what will be different? What is be different today, tomorrow, and over the next three decades so that a peaceful and secure Africa, as the AU suggests, exists in 2050?
Cooperation reshapes the types of conflicts and security concerns that arise in 2050. With peacebuilding and conflict prevention strategies a default way of thinking within society, resources are relieved and available to combat other potential threats. Ultimately, intra-continental cooperation opens doors. Might these doors lead to non-European neo-colonialism? What about local entrepreneurship? The security guarantees that accompany intra-cooperation created through African structures drastically impact the continent’s ability to unlock the potential of Africa by 2050.