Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Changing the rules in Africa

National Public Radio's Africa correspondent Charlayne Hunter-Gault has a good blog piece on some of the strides being made in Africa.

(Quite why NPR thinks one correspondent based in Johannesburg can cover a continent as gigantic as Africa is beyond me, but in this age of budgets for non-Middle Eastern foreign news coverage being slashed to the bone, I suppose I should be happy they have one at all; they might be the only US broadcaster that does.)

There remain many problems on the continent: the worst being Darfur, northern Uganda and the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. The crises in Somalia, Zimbabwe and Côte d'Ivoire aren't far behind.

Still, the tide may well be turning.

Hunter-Gault discusses the importance of the New Partnership for African Development. Nepad was imposed not by westerners but was conceived and advanced largely by three African presidents: South Africa's Thabo Mbeki, Senegal's Abdoulaye Wade and Nigeria's Olesegun Obasanjo. Nepad set up a procedure where by governments would submit to a review of its governance practices by its peers. Hunter-Gault suggests that this peer review mechanism is part of the 'Changing the Rules in Africa.'

Previously, there was a policy of non-interference in the affairs of other countries. Far from being done by a wink-and-a-nod, this non-interference policy was explicitly stated in Article III of former the Organization of African Unity's charter. Back then, the group would've been more accurately called the Organization for African Dictators' Unity.

This has been turned on its head by Nepad. Granted, the peer review mechanism is voluntarily, but Hunter-Gault notes that about half of African countries have submitted themselves to the process.

Another example of the changing tide is the African People's Court I wrote about yesterday. For the first time, a pan-African entity gives equal standing to citizens and non-governmental organizations as it does to heads of state. The idea of governments or the pan-African institution itself having any responsibility to its citizens is a key evolution, one that we should hope will trickle down to national governments themselves.

Increasingly, African leaders are looking not for aid handouts but for fairer trade. They want Europe and the United States to reduce agricultural subsidies and trade barriers so that African raw materials such as cotton and cocoa can compete fairly on the international market. Even countries who are rebuilding from war, such as Liberia, are more interested in ideas than foreign cash.

Is there an African renaissance, as famously predicted by Pres. Mbeki almost a decade ago? Not yet. Not as long as there's genocide in Sudan, an impending one in Côte d'Ivoire and the deadliest conflict since World War II in the DRC. And for all the talk of 'African solutions to African problems,' Mbeki's been criminally silent on the Mugabe-made disaster in Zimbabwe.

But leaders are laying the pan-African groundwork that, if supported and respected, will provide a framework for future justice and stability on the continent.


At 2:01 AM, Blogger Joshua said...

I think you might be interested in my article:

Will Africa Benefit from the Rise of Personal Media?


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