Raissa Malu

Heading for the African Union

The DRC is leading the African Union for one year.

As you know (I hope you know it), the President of the Democratic Republic of Congo, His Excellency, Mr. Félix Antoine Tshisekedi Tshilombo, will take over the Chairmanship of the African Union next February at the 34th Ordinary Assembly of Heads of State and Government. His Excellency, Mr. Cyril Ramaphosa, President of the Republic of South Africa, will hand over the baton.

This is the first time that the Democratic Republic of Congo will take the helm of the African Union (AU) since its creation in 2002, in Durban, South Africa. Needless to say, the expectations are high and the challenges important for President Tshisekedi and the Democratic Republic of Congo!

Continental Organization

The African Union was established following a decision in September 1999 by the pioneering Organization of African Unity (OAU) to establish a new continental organization that would consolidate its achievements. The AU's vision is of an integrated, prosperous, and peaceful Africa, led by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force on the international stage.

To materialize this vision, Agenda 2063 was developed. It covers a 50-year period from 2013, the Golden Jubilee year of the establishment of the OAU, to 2063.

Dam and Free Trade

In it are detailed Africa's Seven Aspirations for the Future with their 20 Goals and 14 Flagship Programmes that should spur Africa's economic growth and development and lead to the rapid transformation of the continent. To give you an idea, among these flagship projects, we have the implementation of the Grand Inga Dam project in the DRC and the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) that came into effect on January 1st, 2021.

The fifty years of Agenda 2063 are subdivided into five periods covered by five ten-year plans. The First Ten-Year Implementation Plan covers the period from 2013 to 2023. These plans are to identify priority areas, set specific targets, and define the strategies and policy measures needed for their implementation.

First Report

In February 2020, the AU published the first continental report on the status of the implementation of Agenda 2063 with progress reports from 31 African Union member states and the 6 regional economic communities (regional economic communities (RECs) are regional groupings of African states led by a Head of State or Government on a rotating basis). This is progress against the 2019 targets of the First Ten-Year Implementation Plan for Agenda 2063.

Overall, the continent scored 32%. The assessment by region yields this:

  • East Africa performed best in five of the seven aspirations with an overall score of 40%;
  • West Africa scored 34%;
  • North Africa's overall performance was 27%;
  • Southern Africa and Central Africa both recorded an overall score of 25% against 2019 targets.

Efforts needed

The report concludes by saying that "despite the progress made in implementation, additional efforts will be needed to accelerate the realization of the First Ten-Year Implementation Plan to bring Africa back to "the Africa we want". The continent will need to address key challenges in monitoring Agenda 2063, such as lack of data and both human and financial capacity. It will also need to make concerted and coordinated efforts at the sub-national, national, regional and continental levels to harness, among other things, the enormous latent potential of the demographic dividend represented by its young population in productive economic processes for sustainable and inclusive economic growth."

"Hummm, it's not happening!", we feel like saying a raised eyebrow. I know what you're thinking. "Nice words, but little or no concrete action in the lives of African men and women", right? You are not the only one to think so, but here is the rest of the story, the beginning of the DRC chapter.

Presidential Panel

On October 30, 2020, President Tshisekedi created and appointed by ordinance the six members of the Presidential Panel to accompany him in the mandate of the Democratic Republic of Congo at the head of the African Union. He did me the honor of choosing me among these High Personalities asking me to take care of the areas of education, youth, science, technology and innovation.

I would like to point out that since these areas are cross-cutting, all the members of the Panel contribute to them in a collegial manner. I am like a focal point for these themes.

Online consultation

It is obviously up to the President himself to unveil his strategic vision and action plan. Here I would just like to tell you about an initiative we launched a few days ago that I believe marks the beginning of this term.

It is no secret that education and youth are dear to President Tshisekedi and that he is keen for the institutions of the Republic and by ricochet those of the African Union to get closer to the people. It is in this spirit that we launched on January 5, 2021 an online consultation of African youth to obtain their opinion on what should be the priorities of the Presidency of the Democratic Republic of Congo at the head of the African Union.

Youth Mobilization

Figure that in less than 24 hours, we had already received 346 responses from youth from 19 AU member states! I know, the web influencers will have a good laugh, they who in a few hours can receive 100 000 views on one of their post.

But I find this mobilization of African youth for the DRC's tenure at the head of the AU, however modest, worth noting. Let us continue our history.

Continental mobilization

To date, we have received 533 responses from youth in 35 out of 54 AU member states. Here is the list of countries from which we received at least one response, but for the majority, several youth responded: Angola, Benin, Burundi, Burkina Faso, Botswana, Cameroon, Chad, Comoros, DR Congo, Cote d'Ivoire, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Seychelles, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, South Sudan, Tanzania, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

This is a great continental mobilization and I would like to sincerely thank everyone who took part in this consultation and continues to do so (deadline January 15, 2021).

The respondents

Who responded ? We have 56% male and 44% female respondents. The majority (53%) are between 25 and 35 years old, 27% are between 18 and 25 years old. The distribution by professional status is shown in the figure below where " Members" refers to the proportion of African youth who are members of a national or regional youth organization, network, coalition or group.

Statut

Official Texts

To begin, we wanted to know if African youth were aware of the following texts:

  • the African Union's Agenda 2063;
  • the African Youth Charter;
  • the Continental Strategy on Education for Africa (CESA 16-25);
  • the AU Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy 2024 for Africa (STISA-2024);
  • the African Space Strategy;
  • the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development with the 17 goals.

Connaissance des textes officiels

The United Nations better than the African Union

It is striking that 49% of young people say they have either never heard of these texts, or they have heard of them but have not had access to them. It is also surprising that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted in 2015 is better known among our youth than the African Union's Agenda 2063!

Although strategies are primarily developed for policy, it is important to popularize them. Youth need to know what we plan for them in order to mobilize them to achieve the set goals.

Prioritization

Youth are then asked to choose (and propose) priorities from proposals in four areas:

  • youth;
  • education;
  • science, technology and innovation;
  • the environment.

I will not at this stage go into the details of their choice, but it emerges that young Africans are demanding more inter-African exchanges and cooperation in education and research, greater valorization of heritage and local knowledge, and a support system for their projects, achievements and initiatives.

The African Union approaches people

For many the African Union is a big machine far from the people. It gives the impression that it does not care about us and that there is not much to expect from it. The African Union itself acknowledges that it can do better in communicating these many actions, but reminds us that it is the member states that make the African Union.

That said, however modest, this consultation shows that African youth are ready to give their institution a chance. They want to believe in it and they want to participate.

Opportunities for the DRC

For the Democratic Republic of Congo's term of office, whether it is at the national, regional, continental, or global level, the current context is certainly challenging, but it offers opportunities. I am confident that President Tshisekedi with his peers and the African Union Commission, in this particular context, will mobilize to advance agendas with the views of the people.

To conclude, I forgot to mention that the 2021 theme of the African Union is "Arts, Culture and Heritage: Lever for Building the Africa We Want". It seems to be an ideal theme for the Democratic Republic of Congo.

We would indeed be famous for our music (Congolese rumba) and our artists. That's all well and good, but if you ask me, I look forward to the time when we will again be equally famous for our educational and research institutions (which would then be properly funded), as well as our mathematicians, physicists, chemists, engineers, scientists in general, and tech-entrepreneurs. I am preaching to the choir. 😉

Science is fun, join us!

PS: To participate in the consultation (if you're in the age ranges and haven't already), you can fill out one of two forms, the French or the English. You have until January 15. We will also keep you informed of the activities that will be organized for the DRC's tenure at the head of the AU. In particular, the culture team with historian Professor Isidore Ndaywel is preparing a program that should not be missed!

This article was first published on LinkedIn.

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