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The focus of the next 50 years for the African Union should be to move from being a rigid bureaucracy to an agile organisation, which is able to flex and move at speed in a global society

On the 25th May 2013 the African Union (AU), the successor of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), will be 50 years of age. This is a milestone and can be seen as a cause for celebration - the golden jubilee.

I am not against celebrating milestones by having a party as it seems to be the norm in Africa. We do love to party. My unease is that I don’t really understand what we are celebrating. That we have survived a number of challenges, achievements to date, and/or we just need an excuse to celebrate?

The life of OAU to AU can be viewed through the development stages of life from birth to childhood, adolescence, adulthood and maturity.

THE CHILDHOOD – ADOLESCENT YEARS SECURING INDEPENDENCE

The formation of the OAU on 25 May 1963 was when many African states gained independence from colonial rule. Its key focus was on eradicating from the continent all forms of colonialism and preventing its members from being controlled by outside powers. This was the height of the Cold War when nations were used by the West to further their agendas. The OAU focus could be described as political freedom and learning/using its skills to maintain its political freedom and independence. As in life, this was fraught with challenges as Africa experienced the birth of dictators, military rule and civil wars.

Moving to adolescence, Africa continued to be reliant on colonial powers for economic aid, which came with strings attached, loans with high interest and unacceptable tariffs for our goods.

Total unity was difficult to achieve, as the Cold War meant that African nations were either supporting the US or the then USSR, while many others were still dependent on former colonial powers.

However, the OAU played a key role in achieving political freedom and its initiatives paved the way for the birth of AU.

THE ADULT – MATURE YEARS: FINDING ITS PLACE IN THE GLOBAL SOCIETY

The birth of the AU in 1999 marked Africa’s move into adulthood. The AU’s vision is of an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in a global arena. The AU recognized the Diaspora as one of its constituents.

The focus shifted to what we need to do as Africans to develop. With independence came responsibility and accountability for socio-economic development of the continent. This has been an evolving process fraught with so many challenges that will eventually lead to maturity and ultimately success. Recent years have seen African countries grow in understanding and awareness of who we are, and how we fit into the wider global context.

The increasing awareness has led to a greater insight into the issues, potentials and opportunities within Africa and the effect of external stakeholders. This journey of self-discovery has led to numerous changes across Africa, that is, moving from military to civilian rule, increasing calls from within to speed the developmental process, a growing and maturing media, civil society and a vibrant private sector.

Democratic reforms have coincided with declarations of an economic renaissance in Africa, prompted by growth averaging 6 percent in the 2000s. The emerging middle class and the growing economic gaps with the low-no income earners is an area that needs to be addressed.
The maturity of Africa and its coming of age is reflected in various sectors, that is growth and expansion of African owned companies inside and outside Africa. The increasing self-belief that Africans can and must solve the problems in Africa; is evidence of maturity.

MOVING TO MATURITY – THE NEXT 50YEARS

The focus of the next 50 years for the African Union should be to move from being a rigid bureaucracy to an agile organisation, which is able to flex and move at speed in a global society. To do this it must have the capacity and capability to deliver, implement and enforce its objectives and or decisions. Its fingerprint must be evident across Africa at grassroot level. The focus must be on ensuring that it has the right people with the right skills in the right place at all levels of the organisation.

Its focus must be on ensuring that:

• Good governance and transparency is practiced at all levels of society and the natural resources of the continent is used to deliver wealth for all citizens not the privileged few that live on patronage

• The decisions and programmes are based on evidence and facts not perception and move from laudable statements and platitudes to implemented programmes and delivery

• Elections are based on policies, proven track record rather than tribe, ethnicity, religion, power of incumbency and or patronage

• Institutions are robust and move beyond individuals and personalities able to withstand shocks

• Citizens are able to hold governments to account

The next 50 years will see the emergence of African countries on the global platform as key economic players. The African Union is a key enabler that is able to facilitate the process.
One of the key signs of maturity is when you are no longer financially dependent on others (aid) but you not only pay your own way in the world but also give to others in need.

CAUSE FOR CELEBRATION

I believe that we do have cause for celebration for the journey travelled so far and the achievements to date. However, the celebration should be low-keyed as the real celebrants, that is the heroes, are the many Africans who have endured years of poverty and yet remained optimistic about the future.
My personal score card is 6/10 well done for all the efforts but can do better.

* Dr Titi. A. Banjoko, AfricaRecruit & FindaJobinAfrica.com

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