Africa needs to silence the guns for AfCFTA to work
Africans celebrated the signing of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) in the Nigerien capital Niamey last week, but one of the underlying pillars for the success of the free trade area is peace.
Leaders on the continent therefore have their work cut out as they must ensure that conflicts, whether internal or between states, are put to an end. Peace is the backbone of economic development and without it, Africa might as well kiss goodbye any hopes of turning around their fortunes.
The African Union has targeted silencing the guns and ending conflicts on the continent as one of its top priorities. Indeed, Africa cannot continue to experience destructive conflicts which stifle economic development on the continent.
Thousands of young Africans drown each year crossing the Mediterranean Sea as they flee conflict and poverty in their home countries. Millions more die fighting in wars that are not necessary, with the scourge of child soldiers still prevalent on the continent.
Over the years, terrorist groups, including Boko Haram, have been waging wars against authorities in Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameroon that has affected about 30 million people and displaced over two million others.
In the Horn of Africa, there are civil wars and conflicts ragging in Sudan, South Sudan and Somalia which apart from costing those countries in terms of economic development and prosperity, have also resulted in the death of millions of people, including women and children.
Civil strife fanned by other extremist groups continues to ravage countries in the north, including Libya and parts Mali. Sadly, the people of the Saharawi are still fighting Moroccan occupation, in an usual case of an African country occupying another African country.
Violent conflicts in the Great Lakes region also continue, especially in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Last week we reported that while former rebel leader Bosco Ntanganda had been found guilty of war crimes by the International Criminal Court at The Hague, people in the eastern DRC still experience conflict waged by insurgents fighting against the government of that country.
The conflict in the eastern DRC is said to have displaced over three million people, while many others have fled the country to Zambia, Angola and other neighbouring countries.
Silencing of guns is one of the 13 flagship projects under the First Ten-Year Implementation Plan (2014-2023) of the AU’s Agenda 2063 that are expected to be successfully implemented within a decade. As time ticks away towards 2063, Africans must therefore speed up economic development on the continent.
Agenda 2063 is a strategic framework that AU member states have adopted to advance socio-economic transformation for the next 50 years. According to AU, the plan builds on and seeks to accelerate the implementation of past and existing continental initiatives for growth and sustainable development.
The African leaders need to redouble efforts to end conflicts on the continent and allow a new era of peace and economic development. African cannot afford to continue sliding backwards while other regions of the world are developing.
We are encouraged, however, by efforts by Regional Economic Communities such as SADC, the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in East Africa and the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) which have been trying against all odds to end conflicts in their backyards.
Southern Africa is probably the most peaceful REC, thanks to the efforts by SADC which has successfully presided over internal political conflicts in the DRC, Lesotho, Madagascar and Zimbabwe.
We urge members of the Maghreb Community in North Africa to also go out of their way to bring peace to Libya, which has not known peace since the killing of Muammar Gadaffi in October 2011 by forces backed by the United States, France and their western allies.
The Maghreb Community must also play an active role in ending the conflict between Morocco and the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic. Africa must not allow a fellow African country to oppress another.
Most conflicts on the continent are sponsored by western powers who want to divide Africans so that they continue to exploit their resources. It is therefore high time to put an end to this. The AfCFTA thus provides an avenue for Africans to eradicate conflict, silence the guns and concentrate on economic development.