Agenda 2063—The Concept and its Links to SDGs

Published on 18th June 2019

In 2013, the African Union adopted the “Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want.” It is the common framework for African countries, how they aspire to be 100 years after the creation of the Organization of African Unity, which transformed itself into the African Union in 2001.  The vision of this framework is “to become an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in international arena.”

This is another attempt of Africans to come together and set priorities for themselves for the future. It is born out of the frustration caused by perceived lack of sustainable progress in relation to the other continents in many aspects. Africans have been disappointed by foreign influence in their plans, and being looked upon as beggars and incapable of making their own decisions. Many of the previous plans of action to save Africa, both by outsiders and insiders have not actually achieved the intended results.  Africa wants to get rid of the syndrome of “always coming up with new ideas, but no significant achievement.” 

The Africans want the Agenda 2063 to be an integral part of the “African Renaissance”, which calls for changes in attitudes, values, and mindsets by promoting discipline, focus, honesty, integrity, ethos of hard work and ensuring successful implementation of the agenda.  As part of the whole concept, Africa wants to take charge of its global narrative and brand. We want Africans to be respected and treated equally.

The Agenda 2063 mentions seven aspirations.  I like the term “aspirations”. That is what we aspire Africa to be in 2063. 

  1. A prosperous Africa based on growth and sustainable development
  2. An integrated continent, politically united and based on the ideals of Pan-Africanism and the vision of Africa’s Renaissance. 
  3. An Africa of good governance, democracy, respect for human rights, justice and the rule of law
  4. A peaceful and secure Africa
  5. An Africa with a strong cultural identity, common heritage, shared values and ethics
  6. An Africa whose development is people-driven, relying on the potential of African people, especially its women and youth, and caring for children
  7. Africa as a strong, united, resilient and influential global player and partner.

The African Union has identified 20 practical goals which cover all these aspirations.  The goals are really noble and a lot of thinking has been put in envisioning strategies and resources of implementation of the programmatic activities to reach those goals. The strategies to reach the goals include the so-called flagship projects which are intended to spur development throughout the continent. They are:

  1. Integrated high speed train network
  2. Virtual and E-university
  3. Formulation of commodities strategy
  4. Establishment of an annual African Forum (for politicians, private sector, academia and civil society)
  5. Continental Free Trade Area by 2017
  6. African Passport and free movement of people within Africa by 2018
  7. Implementation of Grand Inga Dam project for 43200 MW of power
  8. Pan-African E-Network
  9. Silencing the guns by 2020
  10. Outer Space strategy
  11. Single African Air Transport Market
  12. Establishment of the African Continental Financial Institutions

These projects are supposed to contribute to the integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa. The truth is that, the thinking is modelled to our closest neighbours — the European Union (however unpatriotic that may sound).  In my view, even the creation of the African Union itself, though highly supported by China so far, is modelled to European Union. Africa aspires to be as peaceful as Europe, as prosperous as Europe, and as united as Europe, being quite aware that even Europe is not perfect. We aspire to establish powerful continental institutions and systems, communication networks, financial and political integration like Europe. Just as a side note, we are therefore sad to see popular movements in Europe which would like to weaken the European Union. They have no idea what a big mistake that would be. I hope that Africa will not abandon its aspirations, because of the bumps on the road which we see across Europe. Do not play with your jewel.  It is hard-found. Keep it. 

Relationship with the SDGs

The German language has given the world a word that is not easy to translate: Zeitgeist. Africa is part of the global community. When we look at the goals of the Agenda 2063, we cannot look at them, without linking them to the global Sustainable Development Goals. Africa has also adopted the SDGs. In the development of Agenda 2063, Africa has clearly identified how they relate to the SDGs. They both cover the same areas. The African Union has prepared a table which puts side by side the 20 goals of the Agenda 2063 with the 17 SDGs.

The Agenda 2063 linkages with the SDGs and how the two agendas relate to each other can be summarized as follows: -

AU Agenda 1: High standard of living, quality of life and wellbeing for citizens is tied to SDG 1, No Poverty; 2, Zero Hunger; 8, Decent Work and Economic Growth; and 11, Sustainable Cities and Communities.

AU Agenda 2: Education, skills development, technological advancement and innovation is tied to SDG 4: Quality Education.

AU Agenda 3: Health and Nutrition is tied to SDG 3: Good Health and Well-being

AU Agenda 4: Transformed economies ties to 8, Decent Work and Economic Growth and 9, Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure.

AU Agenda 5: Modern agriculture, increase productivity and consumption          ties to SDG 2, Zero Hunger

AU Agenda 6: Blue/ Ocean economy for accelerated economic growth ties to SDG 14, Life Below Water

AU Agenda 7: Environmental sustainability and climate resilience ties to SDG 6, Clean Water and Sanitation; 7, Affordable and Clean Energy; 13, Climate Action; and 15, Life on Land.

AU Agenda 10: World Class Infrastructure crisscrosses Africa ties to SDG 9, Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure

AU Agenda 11: Democracy, Human Rights, justice and rule of law; 12, Capable Institutions and Transformative Leadership; and 13, Peace, Security and Stability ties to SDG 16, Peace and Justice Strong Institutions

AU Agenda 17: Gender Equality ties to SDG 5, Gender Equality

AU Agenda 18: Engaged and Empowered Youth and Children ties to SDG 4: Quality Education and 5, Gender Equality

AU Agenda 19: Africa as a major partner in global affairs and peaceful co-existence ties to SDG 17, Partnerships to achieve the Goals

AU Agenda 20: Africa takes full responsibility for financing her development ties to SDG 10, Reduced Inequality and 17, Partnerships to achieve the Goals.

When Africa is trying to reach the Agenda 2063, it is at the same time trying to reach all the SDGs. Therefore, we must look at the Agenda 2063 as an African way of reaching the SDGs, and a bit more. 

There are some aspects I notice and would like to mention about the Agenda 2063.

  • Africa does not play a blame-game and find a scapegoat for its problems. It owns up to its problems and challenges (not blaming colonialism and slavery and the history as the main causes of its problems)
  • Commits to work for its own development and solve its problems through its own resources, though as part of the global community.
  • Clearly sees its future success in partnership with non-western institutions (no mention of World Bank or IMF, nor G8 but BRICS) even though acknowledging the significance of FDI and official assistance 
  • I have identified three weaknesses or gaps in Agenda 2063: lack of compliance enforcement, minimal involvement of the populations and missing some key issues, particularly sustainable population growth and migration.

Africa-Europe Migration

What is not clearly mentioned in both the SDGs and Agenda 2063 is the issue of migration, which gained prominence after the adoption of both Agendas. Now migration significantly influences politics in the Western countries.  Surprisingly, in Africa, there is no much debate about it, except in a few countries, as a reaction to the mistreatment of its people on migration routes and changing attitudes towards migrants in the West. 

The AACC is trying to raise awareness of the churches and countries of Africa to pay serious attention to the issue of migration. Migration outside of Africa does indeed negatively and wrongly paint Africa as a desperate continent that all its citizens want to run away from and go to settle in Europe and America. This is not actually the case, since most displaced people remain within Africa and what they long for is to go back home. Those who migrate are of two types —those who must move to save their lives, and those who move in search of a better life. 

If we indeed reach the goals of Agenda 2063, we will have eliminated the root causes of migration. Most people in Africa are displaced by conflict. That is why the goal of silencing guns by 2020 is so important. People in refugee camps across Africa long to go back home, but they cannot, due to insecurity. Lack of peace displaces most of them either internally or in the neighbouring countries, where they cannot have their destiny in their hands. Africa must end its conflicts. Only with peace will Africa develop and each family will take care of itself and every government will focus on developmental agenda. Africa wants to stop scapegoating and blaming others for its problems (export of guns, interference of externals) and take responsibility for its own peace. 

Other people leave their homes to other places within Africa or abroad as they look for prosperity. Many of the migrants from Africa who die in the Sahara desert or sink in the Mediterranean sea are not the poorest of the poor. They are comparatively more prosperous than their colleagues, since they must finance their adventure, and it is not cheap. They are cheated by human traffickers who use a wrong depiction of Europe as paradise and Africa as hell. And, unfortunately, many believe this narrative and perish. That is why AACC wants to change the narrative about Africa and contribute to accurate knowledge about chances of success for migrants in Europe at this time.

It is natural to love home. But all people love prosperity and high quality of life, the reason for which we have people from Europe all over the world, particularly in the Americas. It is true that quality of life for many Africans, though improving very quickly for many, is still comparatively very low globally and people naturally aspire for a better life. Even those who migrate, eventually they intend to make money to make their life back home better, then return. I do not know whether there are migrants who never long to go back home at some point.  The need to migrate would not be there if and when the goals for education and jobs for all, integration of the continent and modernity will abound. As more and more countries aspire to become middle-income, and give proper education, sustainable peace and livelihood to their people, we are going to see a sharp decline in a wish to migrate. We long for the time when Africa will provide to the world not only people, but also its products for mutual benefit. We see many signs of this happening, even though slower than we wish.

Bound Together for Development

Africa and Europe are bound together, even closer than any other continent. The development of Africa is in the interest of both for many reasons:

1. A developed Africa will provide a very big market for Europe for its industry. It is in the interest of Europe to facilitate the development of African connectivity, industrial development and financial success. As of now, despite all the blame on China, Europe has never been very keen on African development. We have for too long remained a source of raw materials and market for your products. Why don’t European companies invest really in African industrial development since the time of colonialism? There are more Asian (and increasingly Turkish) companies creating manufacturing jobs than European companies.  Most of European companies in Africa are only selling points for European goods (especially in Francophone countries).

2. A developed Africa with a highly educated workforce will supply Europe with proper experts, who will be needed for your own sustainability. We long for the time when African experts on the streets of Europe will be regarded as valuable assets and not as beggars and as illegal migrants wanting to scavenge on the leftovers after you eat and taking up jobs your people do not want. I long for the day when Europe will see African people on its streets as we see Europeans in Africa, even those who know very little indeed and cannot find a job in Europe.

3. In order to develop, Africa still needs partnership with Europe. The decision of many countries to reduce ODA or use it mainly in Europe without much of it actually going into Africa (e.g. paying for officers in those countries and taking care of migrants in Europe), or use it to suppress migration through expensive border patrols and surveillance, will bring negative results in the long run. It is better to invest in African development.  

4. In order to develop, Africa needs to put its house in order.  Corruption, bad governance, violation of human rights, capital flight, are ills which need to be addressed by the Africans as they affirm Agenda 2063. We in Africa must stop blaming foreigners and foreign companies as if we are ourselves stupid. We cannot continue to blame small arms smugglers for our conflicts, our economic woes on closed markets of the West, or to continue blaming international financial institutions when we are not committed to our own. No foreign country is making Africans ignore the decisions they make. For example, there is no foreigner who tells our countries not to amend their laws to allow for visa free access to Africans within Africa, or to actually operationalize the Continental Free Trade Area. But the deadline has passed and no consequences. 

5. African leaders need to be bold to strengthen their democratic governance as indeed it has proven to be the best foundation for sustainable development. We are very happy that indeed most of Africa is growing in democratic governance, taking into consideration the fact that most of African countries have become independent in less than 60 years.  But if democracy is “the government of the people, by the people, for the people”, Europe must respect the results of African democracy.  I hope it has become clear to Europe now that it was a stupid idea to use its military might to kill Gadhafi in Libya in the name of enforcing democracy, and that economic sanctions against Zimbabwe do not achieve the intended results. There is an impression that Europe thinks there is proper democracy when the opposition wins elections and when there is change of presidents.  I do not know many countries in Europe, which have term limits for leaders. From the West democratic experiences, we know that democratically elected leaders are not necessarily the best for countries, and much less for the world. We are seeing nasty, very inappropriate leaders (homophobic, dictators, racists) elected in many countries around the world and Africa respects those elections. Africa does not need lecturing into what type of leaders are appropriate and which are not.

6. Europe should stop the arrogant approach to Africa by the so-called “international community”, using western-dominated institutions, like the UN, World Bank, IMF, etc. I take the example of Tanzania, where the very much loved president who has restored discipline in civil service, reduced corruption in public service, embarked on industrialization, made sure social services are indeed available and accessible and truly free is being depicted as an authoritarian to shun. The decision of the country to hold accountable exploitative mining companies and to force value-addition on minerals is seen as “lack of business friendliness” and autocratic. The decision to build a hydroelectric dam in the “Stieglers Gorge”, conceived since the 1970s is debated in a foreign parliament and a decision is reached to ask Tanzania not to build it, but to “teach” Tanzania about alternative ways of power generation instead of using less than 2% of a protected national reserve, although Tanzania has reserved 35% of its land for conservation! Should African parliaments pass resolutions to criticize some Western governments about their many terrible decisions?

We believe the Agenda 2063 is a good, bold move. But, it is not perfect. It is not widely known. The adherence to its goals is shaky. We urge the Nation-States in Africa to stick to their commitments and find ways of enforcing compliance. We ask the international community to support Africa to reach its goals. And I am glad Germany is doing that through the Marshall Plan with Africa, which some people criticize, even before they read it. In my view, the Marshall Plan with Africa is the approach through which the German government wants to contribute to the implementation of the Agenda 2063, which itself is a way of reaching Agenda 2030 and beyond.

By Rev. Dr Fidon Mwombeki,

Director of the Department for Mission and Development (DMD) at The Lutheran World Federation (LWF)

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