This vision for Africa was outlined by Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma at the time when she was Chairperson of the AU Commission. It is an “an email from the future”, written to a fictional Kwame Nkrumah, the Ghanaian politician and revolutionary. He was the first Prime Minister and President of Ghana, having led the Gold Coast to independence from Britain in 1957. Dlamini-Zuma shared it during the ministerial retreat of the AU Executive Committee in Ethiopia’s Bahir Dar.
“Date: 24 January 2063
Subject: African Unity
My dear friend Kwame,
Greetings to the family and friends, and good health and best wishes for 2063.
I write to you from the beautiful Ethiopian city of Bahir Dar.. as we finalize preparations for the centenary celebrations of the Organisation of African Unity.. Yes, who would have thought that the dream of Kwame Nkrumah and his generations, when they called in 1963 on Africans to unite or perish, would one day become a reality? And what a grand reality.
At the beginning of the 21st century, we used to get irritated with foreigners when they treated Africa as one country…! But, the advancing global trend towards regional blocs, reminded us that integration and unity is the only way for Africa to leverage its competitive advantage.
In fact, if Africa was one country in 2006, we would have been the tenth largest economy in the world! However, instead of acting as one, with virtually every resource in the world (land, oceans, minerals, energy) and over 1 billion people, we acted as 55 small and fragmented individual countries. The bigger countries that should have been the locomotives of African integration failed to play their role at that time, and that is part of the reasons it took us so long. We did not realize our power, but instead relied on donors, that we euphemistically called “partners”.
That was the case in 2013, but reality finally dawned and we had long debates about the form that our unity should take: confederation, a united states, a federation or a union. As you can see, my friend, those debates are over and the Confederation of African States is now 12 years old, launched in 2051.
What was interesting was the role played by successive generations of African youth… We were a youthful continent at the start of the 21st century, but as our youth bulge grew, young men and women became even more active, creative, impatient and assertive, often telling us oldies that they are the future, and that they (together with women) form the largest part of the electorates in all our countries!
Of course this was but one of the drivers towards unity. The accelerated implementation of the Abuja Treaty and the creation of the African Economic Community by 2034 saw economic integration moved to unexpected levels.
Economic integration, coupled with infrastructure development, saw intra-Africa trade mushrooming, from less than 12% in 2013 to approaching 50% by 2045… Even more significant than this, was the growth of regional manufacturing hubs, around the beneficiation of our minerals and natural resources, such as in the Eastern Congo, north-eastern Angola and Zambia’s copper belt and at major Silicon valleys in Kigali, Alexandria, Brazzaville, Maseru, Lagos and Mombasa, to mention but a few such hubs.
My friend, Africa has indeed transformed herself from an exporter of raw materials with a declining manufacturing sector in 2013, to become a major food exporter, a global manufacturing hub, a knowledge centre, beneficiating our natural resources and agricultural products as drivers to industrialization.
Pan African companies, from mining to finance, food and beverages, hospitality and tourism, pharmaceuticals, fashion, fisheries and ICT are driving integration, and are amongst the global leaders in their sectors.
We are now the third largest economy in the world… we did this by finding the balance between market forces and strong and accountable developmental states and regional economic communities to drive infrastructure, the provision of social services, industrialization and economic integration.
We refused to bear the brunt of climate change and aggressively moved to promote the Green economy and to claim the Blue economy as ours. We lit up Africa, the formerly dark continent, using hydro, solar, wind, geo-thermal energy, in addition to fossil fuels.
If I have to single out one issue that made peace happened, it was our commitment to invest in our people, especially the empowerment of young people and women. By 2013 we said Africa needed a skills revolution and that we must change our education systems to produce young people that are innovative and entrepreneurial and with strong Pan African values.
From early childhood education, to primary, secondary, technical, vocational and higher education – we experienced a true renaissance, through the investments we made, as governments and the private sector in education and in technology, science, research and innovation.
The African Express Rail now connects all the capitals of our former states.. it is not only a high speed-train, with adjacent highways, but also contains pipelines for gas, oil and water, as well as ICT broadband cables: African ownership, integrated planning and execution at its best!
The continental rail and road network that now crisscross Africa, along with our vibrant airlines, our spectacular landscapes and seductive sunsets, the cultural vibes of our cities, make tourism one of our largest economic sectors.
KiSwahili is now a major African working language, and a global language taught at most faculties across the world. Our grand-children still find it very funny how we used to struggle at AU meetings with English, French and Portuguese interpretations, how we used to fight the English version not in line with the French or Arabic. Now we have a lingua franca, and multi-lingualism is the order of the day.
How things have changed. The Confederation last year celebrated 20 years since we took our seat as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, and we are a major force for global stability, peace, human rights, progress, tolerance and justice.
Till we meet again, Nkosazana.”
The email was published by the AU’s Directorate of Information and Communication, www.au.int.