Commemoration of the Africa Day should be a reflection on the strength of education, economy, and health sectors among others. This was uttered by the Acting Pan-African Parliament (PAP) President, Hon. Bouras DJAMEL, while officiating the continental Parliament’s virtual celebration of this important day on the African Union Calendar.
Addressing over 100 participants joining the PAP webinar on 25 May, Hon. Djamel lauded the continent for evident development in emancipation, recognition and empowerment of youth and women which are aspirations of the Agenda 2063.
Hon. Djamel also welcomed the Africa Day message from H.E Cyril RAMAPHOSA, President of the Republic of South Africa and Chairperson of the African Union, who called for greater solidarity among African countries in the fight against COVID-19 while praising the continent’s response to the pandemic so far. PAP’s Acting President further acknowledged the call for a stable and peaceful continent by H.E Moussa Faki MAHAMAT, Chairperson of the African Union Commission.
The PAP had day-long engagement with the Civil Society from across the continent as well as the African Diaspora in Africa, Europe and the United States of America to reflect on Agenda 2063 and the goal to silence the guns on the continent in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Unpacking the role of Members of Parliament in the Covid-19 response, Vice President of the Pan-African Parliament, Hon. Chief Fortune CHARUMBIRA was emphatic on the need for more scrutinization of policies, oversight on the utilization of public funds and advocating for improved budget allocation for the health sectors. The Vice-President also called for provision of personal protective equipment (PPE) for Parliamentarians, to ensure they are safe while sensitizing constituents on the coronavirus and other threats.
Civil Society Forum
Civil Society Organizations believe that while there are undeniable achievements since the formation of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), commemoration of this day should be about aspirations in order to propel the continent to address and achieve on the most crucial vulnerabilities confronting Africans.
In his intervention, Mr. Solomon AYELE DERSSO, Chairperson of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), called for redirection of priorities and review of social policies. “For many Africans, Health, water, sanitation, education and housing are still are dream. Our oversight reveals that on the response to COVID-19, many are still unable to practice social distancing because they live in one tiny room and regular hand-washing is an aspired luxury. Our success will also rely on our capacity to successfully address lingering issues such good governance and human rights,” he emphasized.
The Southern African Trust (SAT) emphasized on the need for African members of Parliament to mobilize support for relief funds and other initiatives while addressing policy vulnerabilities that have reportedly locked-up women and children in more abusive situations since the start of the COVID-19 era.
“We plead with the Pan-African Parliament to encourage national Parliaments to prioritize addressing ‘care economy’ which is essentially about strengthening health systems and promoting food security,” said Ms. Masego MADZWAMUSE, SAT CEO.
Speaking in agreement that covid-19 be used as a benchmark to build resilience against potential health threats yet to come, the gathering lauded Mauritius Island for its swift response to the virus. The Island has not lost any life to coronavirus and has recorded full recovery of all its 11 cases.
The forum also tasked PAP to steer member states into normalizing and making meaningful investments in research, citing the Madagascar covid treatment as potential that could have easily thrived with the back-up of research from the Continent. Chairperson of the PAP Permanent Committee on Cooperation, International Relations and Conflict Resolution, Hon. Aboubacar Kone SIDIKI lauded Madagascar for demonstrating that with strong Parliaments, Africa has the potential to provide solutions to threats against the rest of the world.
The African Union Commission (AUC) also used the opportunity to make a case for Civil society and the Continental Parliament to double efforts to sensitize members -states and the public about Agenda 2063; Africa’s development blueprint. “Countries need to account for Agenda 2063 which was signed by all member states in 2013 , yet it is hardly known by the African people and national development plans do not talk to the strategy,” said Mr. Charles WANGADYA, Policy Officer at the African Union Commission.
The sentiment was echoed by civic Organizations that are worried about the pace at which conflict exacerbates vulnerability of the continent. “It is worrisome that seven years into the adoption of the Agenda 2063 there are very little gains, although a lot of work has been done to address conflict. We call on more involvement of Civil Society, and its integration into the overall continental agenda. Leaders need to be aware of the extent to which conflict feeds on socio-economic deficiency,” said Dr. Nkatha MURUNGI.
On the other hand, Director of the Centre for Democracy and Development-Abuja (CDD-Abuja) Ms. Idayat HASSAN underscored the need for Africa to explore the possibility or reality of universal democracy by addressing the conflict resolution framework and further mainstream disability, gender and youth into development conversations as well as the African Union annual themes.
The Pan-African Parliament applauded the African diaspora for commitment to use knowledge for the benefit and development of Africa, particularly during this crucial time of COVID-19 where at least 35 000 doctors in the diaspora are battling to save world citizens from the claws of the novel virus. The Parliament has marked the current health threat as central to many other challenges that the Diaspora in general could be of use and help to the Continent
The Acting President of PAP, Hon. Bouras DJAMEL said the Continental Parliament also takes note of the incredible contribution that could be made by many of those young Africans who are crossing oceans in abnormal ways in search for better opportunities elsewhere or fleeing conflict from their countries. “We also have a duty to work with them in building Africa. Together we can find solutions to the problems of Africa, and of the world. The African Diaspora is the Pride of the African Continent,” he said while officiating the Diaspora forum whose engagement was on exploring opportunities presented by the Agenda 2063, in which the African Diaspora could participate to build African economic industries.
Rev. Dennis DILLON, an Economic Activist from the Harlem Chamber of Commerce and Organizer of the Door of Return said Africa’s strength in terms of economic and knowledge power must be harnessed outside its borders where approximately 50 million Africans represent 1.75 trillion dollars in buying power in the United States alone. “The Nations of Africa need to begin to explore ways of harnessing this power. The Diaspora is ready to collaborate and give back to the motherland,” he said.
Presenting key economic opportunities and areas for collaboration and participation of the diaspora, Mrs. Bridgitte Motsepe-RADEBE, PAP’s Goodwill Ambassador for Socio-Economic Development highlighted legislative impediments as an area that needs to be addressed with the creation of laws that empower indigenous people to invest and play in the mining sector. She encouraged more unpacking of the Agenda 2063, exploration of other minerals in abundance such as cobalt, copper and uranium; also encouraging exploration of beneficiation of minerals and harnessing the entire value chains in Africa.
“It is important for Africa to work towards creation of laws that ensure Africa exports end products, not raw materials. COVID itself is a wake-up call and the strengthening of the local manufacturing base is long overdue,” says Mrs. Radebe.
Participating Diaspora advised that the ease of integrating infant industry technologies, value-adding technologies to exploit the entire value chains as well as facilitating Diaspora links to support the youth economic activity, would enhance and respond to the African Union’s goal to build local economic development.
Worried that 90% of African economies are supported by the informal sector and that Africa imports 60% of its food, the African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD) reiterated the urgency to support and invest in Small and Medium enterprises and to assist SMEs to graduate from informal business activity. AUDA-NEPAD said Africa should begin to re-think and transform mechanisms to respond to challenges through technology, post Covid-19.
“Governments have to start investing on the health sector and re-building the business sector on the foundation of innovation and creativity and investments in manufacturing and industrialization,” said Mr. Amine Idriss ADOUM.
Senator James SANDERS called for careful review of sectors for Africa to gain the most from possible collaborations but also appealed for governments to be more transparent for the anticipated joint initiatives to bear fruit. Ms. Anna McCOY called the PAP to reflect on how Africa can be future-relevant, citing human development and upskilling youth in technological advancements, artificial intelligence and material science as key and an area that has a promise of possible collaborations between African industrialists and the African diaspora.