On Friday, 14 July 2023, the Foundation organised a webinar on Global Africa, focussing on the Now Generation Network (NGN) survey and the Forum Report. Tracy Kituyi, an intern researcher at MIF, hosted the session along with Mike Mpanya, co-founder of Igwele and a member of the NGN.
The discussion revolved around the significance of African youth voices and the need to amplify Africa's voice in multilateral systems. The webinar provided valuable insights into the current challenges and opportunities facing the African continent.
Here are some key findings from the Forum Report:
Africa in the World
- Africa has the highest number of members and programs in the IMF but only holds 6.5% of voting shares.
- Three countries – Nigeria, South Africa, and Egypt – account for nearly half (43.2%) of Africa's GDP.
- South Africa is the only African country in the G20, with three other African countries as guest members.
- In August 2022, eight African artists were among the top 10 most streamed artists on Audiomack.
The World in Africa
- Four of the top ten countries by voting shares in the African Development Bank (AfDB) are non-African.
- The AU currently relies on external contributors for 66% of its total annual budget.
- Only one African company, Sonatrach from Algeria, is among the five largest oil and gas companies on the continent.
- Currently, 23 out of 54 African countries host at least one non-African military presence.
The NGN Opinion Survey conducted during the Ibrahim Governance Weekend focussed on gathering African youth perspectives. The survey highlighted the importance of African youth voices, considering Africa's growing share of the global youth population and working-age population.
During the session, Tracy asked:
In what multilateral system does Africa's voice need amplifying? And what is hindering this?, and Who is the best fit to represent the continent in the global arena?
Mike shared his insights on the need to amplify Africa's voice and the hindrances faced in the current global architecture, specifically focussing on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). He emphasised the limitations of the UNSC, including its archaic nature, ineffectiveness in resolving crises, and fundamental inequality among member nations. He argued for the strengthening of African institutions, particularly the African Union (AU), as the best fit to represent Africa on the global stage.
Mike highlighted the importance of unity among African nations and the need to create a united voice that can negotiate from a position of strength. He acknowledged emerging multilateral organisations like BRICS and emphasised their potential for Africa to set new rules and have a say in global affairs.
We mustn't be naive – India and China are not saints when it comes to Africa. Africa is exploited not just by the Global North, but even by these new emerging powers, but I think the opportunity that presents itself in BRICS and many of these other forums is the construction of a table, where we can set new rules, where Africa today is very different from Africa 1914. We can have a voice in terms of how finances are structured, how money is distributed, how resources and how voices are chosen to be put around the table.
Tracy further discussed the findings of the NGN survey, which indicated that 37% of respondents considered the African Union as the most fit to represent Africa internationally.
Who should represent Africa in the international arena?
However, Mike challenged the perception of the African Union's effectiveness in democracy and elections, highlighting the need for improvement in addressing authoritarianism within member countries.
He also raised concerns about the African Development Bank, noting that non-African countries held significant voting shares, potentially affecting decision-making, and understanding of African contexts:
At a macro level, Africa's biggest challenge is that our risk is overstated, and our mitigation is understated therefore Africa is seen as incredibly risky African individuals, African businesses, African countries, Africa is a region and that is only true when you look at it through a western lens through a western model.
Mike argued that the Western perception of Africa at times is misleading, and this wronged view impacts funding. An example of this is the Grand Inga Hydroelectric Project. Although this is a good and well-established project, certain Western countries see it as a risky project because of their stereotypically negative view of Africa's investment landscape – and this ultimately has a negative influence on how they allocate capital. More worryingly, evidence also suggests otherwise. Mike suggests that several countries have a very high successful rate of entrepreneurial projects.
He also spoke about the importance of leveraging indigenous knowledge. He claimed that the most successful healthcare programs are those that thrive on leveraging indigenous practices. More broadly, embracing and incorporating traditional wisdom into modern strategies empowers communities to tackle complex issues effectively, cultivate resilience, and build a brighter future for the continent. In short, Mike said:
Africa is best for solving Africa’s problems.
By valuing and preserving local knowledge, Africa can forge its path towards sustainable development and prosperity.
The conversation then moved on and focussed on the importance of youth in Africa. Tracy asked Mike about how youth can get involved in uplifting Africa’s position. He was clear that if there is one thing that Africans should do to empower the continent going forward is economic enterprise. He sees economic enterprise as a critical element of Africa’s future. Mike provided examples of how China’s economic growth has helped change the world’s view of the country. Even more recently, Mike said, as India’s GDP has grown, it has become to exert its authority to the world because “it’s producing and creating wealth for its people.”
Finally, Mike argued that Africans must benefit more from its wealth, “we must hardline, nothing leaves Africa’s borders in a raw state”. He claimed that it’s important Africa keeps producing and creating wealth for its people. A way to do that, according to him, is to no longer allow raw materials to leave the continent without them upskilling Africans.
In conclusion, the webinar shed light on the importance of amplifying Africa's voice in the global arena. While the African Union was seen as a viable option, there was also a need for improvement in addressing internal challenges. The emerging multilateral organisations like BRICS offered opportunities for Africa to shape new rules and overcome historical inequalities. The path to amplifying Africa's voice lies in unity, strengthening African institutions, and creating a position of strength to negotiate on equal footing with global powers.