A Model of South-South Cooperation

Jean Ping
Chairperson, Commission of the African Union

The African Renaissance is not a new invention at all. It is drawn from the deep well of the struggle that Africans have engaged in to assert themselves and break loose from bondage. African leaders such as Kwame Nkrumah, Julius Nyerere and Steve Biko preached the same concept when they propagated self-reliance, economic recovery, political and economic independence, democratic governance and development.

Over the years, many others have pursued the idea that Africa must rise to establish a Pan-Africa identity and re-claim its position in the Commonwealth of Nations. Since the well-known 1995 meeting held in Sun City, it has been acknowledged that the 21st century must be Africa’s century, the century of African renaissance, and the era of the re-birth and renewal of the Continent of Africa.

Today, this renaissance is no longer a mirage or a trendy movement. The groundwork for change has been partly laid and conditions now exist for the process to be enhanced —through the translation of the idea from a dream to a practical roadmap for action to accelerate Africa’s development and deepen its people’s stake in global affairs.

Indeed, the continental process of total liberation from colonialism was achieved with the demise of apartheid; the world has been marked by very great changes, particularly globalisation and multipolarity since.

Africa, which now boasts of new aspirations, new determination and a new breed of leadership, is pursuing an irreversible process of integration and development based on a common African identity. The transformation of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) into the African Union (AU) marked the beginning of this change. Ten years on, there have been many milestones on the roadmap of African governance: the AU is endowed with organs like the Commission, the Pan-African Parliament, the African Court of Justice and Human Rights, the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, and the Economic Social and Cultural Council.

Additionally, the African Union Commission is implementing a vital four-year plan in its pursuit of building an integrated continent. This is the Strategic 2009-12 plan, which is essentially the commission’s framework articulated around four major pillars: Peace and Security, Integration, Development and Cooperation, Shared Values, and Institutional and Human Capacity Building. Significant progress has been made in all these areas.

In the area of peace and security, for instance, the AU now has a continental architecture for peace and security, whose keystone is the Peace and Security Council, which is like the United Nations Security Council, the key organ for global peace and security. In addition, we have the Continental Early Warning System and the African Standby Force. This African Standby Force (AFS) is composed of five multidimensional regional brigades, including standby multidisciplinary contingents with civilian and military components and ready for rapid deployment at appropriate notice. The structure of this architecture, its objectives, its principles, its composition, and its modes of operation confirm the resolve of African leaders to act on their own and to take their destiny into their hands, especially in the area of conflict management. It has to be pointed out that the AU has been despatching peacekeeping forces regularly to conflict areas.

In the area of integration, development and cooperation, recent years have seen tangible progress made by many African countries in reforming their economies and in creating an enabling environment to bring about equitable growth and poverty alleviation.

This shows the will of African leaders to lift the continent out of underdevelopment. In fact, these improvements helped Africa to insulate itself from the recession during the global crisis of 2009. The evidence provides new grounds for hope and suggests recovery fuelled by the continent’s high economic growth, a global search for commodities that Africa has in abundance, and by an unprecedented level of foreign investment. According to an article in The Times, ‘The African renaissance is under way’, published on March 22, 2011, “Africa is on the move and a billion people, hardworking and hustling, are changing the face of a vast region, one that could accommodate China and Europe, India and the United States, with room to spare for Argentina and New Zealand!”

It is now established that Africa is gaining strategic importance and is thus attracting attention from a variety of partners, especially new and emerging players on the international scene like India, which are increasingly showing their interest in cooperating with the continent in mutually beneficial partnerships.

Africa and India are bound together by history, geography, economy, and culture. They have enjoyed centuries of good relations and have a common legacy of struggle against colonialism, imperialism, and marginalisation in global political and economic systems. Together, they account for about half the world’s total population. India is rapidly becoming a major global economic power that derives strength from its huge domestic market, human capital development, and advancement in science and technology. Africa, which is India’s next door neighbour, is widely regarded as the next and perhaps the last global frontier whose development potentials remain to be tapped. It is the continent that is most richly endowed with natural resources, which are much sought after by many global economic powers to sustain their growth and prosperity.

Through political and economic reforms, a conducive environment is being created for trade and investment while the process of the creation of a Pan-African integrated market of about 1 billion people is being accelerated. Africa and India need to take advantage of their proximity and seize the emerging opportunities on both sides to build a partnership that can serve as a model of South-South cooperation and “deliver values” to their respective peoples.

To meet the challenges of development in the 21st century, Africa seeks to improve its participation in the global economic and trading system through economic diversification and reduction of heavy dependence on the economies of the traditional partners of the North. It is in this regard that the AU has accorded high priority to the development of Africa’s strategic partnerships with the emerging powers of the South, including India.

In this connection, in January 2007 the AU Executive Council adopted a framework for the establishment and operationalisation of Africa’s partnerships with the emerging powers of the South. According to the framework, the partnerships must be those of co-development and mutual benefit and be qualitatively different from Africa’s existing relationships with the traditional partners of the North. The major priorities of Africa in the partnerships include the acceleration of industrialisation, infrastructural advancement, agricultural development, human capital development, technology and knowledge acquisition and development, the development of a modern services sector, and the enhancement of market access. I am happy to note that these priorities have been reflected in the Framework of Cooperation of the 2008 Africa-India Forum Summit held in New Delhi.

Within this framework, a programme for human development in Africa is being jointly implemented. Initiatives within the programme include the establishment of Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET) centres in 10 African countries: the creation of four Africa-India centres of excellence (Institutes for Diamond, Foreign Trade, Information and Technology, and Education Planning and Administration); the reinforcement of three African Scientific Research Institutions; and support for the establishment of Pan-African Stock Exchanges. In addition, India has agreed to contribute to Africa’s human capacity building by providing specialised trainings in critical sectors such as agriculture and small and medium-scale enterprises. Particularly worthy of note is the commitment of India to the mainstreaming of regional components into the framework of Africa-India cooperation. I wish to commend India for these achievements of cooperation. I have no doubt that if the agreed activities and initiatives are effectively implemented, they will create possibilities and deliver values to the peoples of Africa and India.

Africa’s experience in the recent global economic and financial crisis has provided some justification for the high priority that the continent is placing on the development of partnerships with the emerging powers of the South. Although the global crisis was not of Africa’s making, the continent’s impressive growth of about 6 percent per annum since the early 2000s had been reduced to less than 2 percent by 2009. The good news is that unlike in previous crises, Africa did not have to wait for a full recovery in the traditional markets. The continent’s growing trade and economic relations with India and other emerging powers of the South, which have continued to achieve rapid economic growth in the midst of the crisis, enabled it to return quickly to the path of sustained economic growth. Given the proximity of India and Africa and the growing complementarity of their economies, a great deal of trade and investment potential remains to be harnessed. This is a challenge, which the India-Africa partnership should help to meet.

Africa attaches great importance to increasing its share in global trade and improving its structure as well as a means of reducing its dependence on aid for the attainment of rapid economic growth and development. It is in this regard that I wish to express the gratitude of the AU Commission to the Government of India for the grant of duty-free tariff preference to 33 African countries. To date, 19 African countries have become part of the initiative.

I wish to appeal to the remaining 14 countries to take full advantage of the initiative. I wish to end on a note of optimism about the future of Africa-India partnership. I have no doubt that Africa and India can build a partnership that can serve as a model of South-South cooperation. It is more than doable

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