According to the Kusi ideas Festival organized by Nation Media Group, Africa is at a crossroads, and what it does in the years ahead could leave it a big winner - or with the scars of a few half - won victories. However it’s a fight we’ll win.
The name Kusi comes from Kusi -the southerly trade wind that blows over the Indian Ocean between April to -September, and enabled trade up north along the East African coast and between Asia and Africa for millennia. Beyond that this winds have allowed for intellectual, cultural and technological exchanges that have considerably shaped the life of the nations on the east side of the continent, it’s out-lands and the wider Indian ocean rim.
The festival saw over 500 influential leaders, scholars, entrepreneurs and innovators from across Africa gather in Kigali, Rwanda, gazing into the crystal ball and taking a bet on how the next 60 years will be. They explored ways and means how Africa could chart its socio-political and economic course in the next 60 years. This festival shared some similar goals to the AGENDA 2063: The Africa We Want a framework for an inclusive and sustainable development with a concrete manifestation of the pan-African drive for unity, self-determination, freedom, progress and collective prosperity pursued under Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance.
An Africa with open borders, allowing unrestricted movement of people, goods and services will provide Africa with a whopping $134 billion a year. The panelists urged the African Leaders to push for a borderless continent that can allow young people to freely interact, invest and migrate within the continent. Securing free trade throughout the continent through the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (ACFTA) has the potential to kick-start Africa’s industrial revolution and develop its economy in ways never before seen, goods could see their tariffs phased out. The continent currently has a generation of young people who are more interested in collaboration than competition. Dr. Mukhisa Kituyi United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad) secretary-general said during the Kusi Ideas Festivals, “These young people look for opportunities beyond national frontiers. They overlook analogue boundaries and all the physical boundaries as they chase their dreams. This is the future and governments now need to create policies for them to ease travel, access and movement across the continent.53 percent of migrant movements is intra-African and for Africa, we should take advantage of this.”
A week barely passed from the Kusi Ideas Festival where borderless Africa was discussed to promote the ACFTA. Nigeria took a leap to lighten visa rules for African passport holders.
Climate Change; Winning the Fight
“When it comes to climate change, Africa is in the eye of the storm”, it has been noted. Despite being the least contributor. While the region is surging, boosted by a renewed economic will, business-favoring reforms and good trade through a common and free integration climate change poses an existential threat. According to Sarwat Hussain Senior adviser for African Media Initiative “To secure the triple win of higher agricultural productivity, increased resilience to climate change, and lower greenhouse gas emissions, climate- smart agriculture is needed. The battle against climate change will increasingly have to be fought and won in the rural areas”
Guarding the Gates
Sub-Saharan Africa has the second largest number of refugees in the world – nearly 7 million. Last year the region had about 10 million internally displaced persons, the second highest in the world. Africa is also the continent with the largest number of people living in extreme poverty, with 383 million people living on less than $1.90 per day. All this, during the longest period with the sharpest improvement in social indicators, and the highest drops in poverty, the continent has ever witnessed.
Geopolitics Of The Indian Ocean Circle
Nearly 80% of all UN peacekeepers are deployed in Africa – with the vast majority of them in the wider Horn of Africa. The region also has the world’s highest concentration of foreign military bases – and more are being built. Vera Songwe, the Head of Economic Commission for Africa also a panelist at the festival offered her thoughts, “The dreams for the next 60 years will only work if there’s a confluence of three things; Peace, Governance and Leadership. On the peace side we cannot but be happy that in the next two days Nobel peace prize will go to Africa-Prime Minister of Ethiopia, but Africa is still far from reaching a peaceful continent. One way to get a peaceful Africa we need a few/ more women in governance…”
Media, Democracy Race & New African Narratives
"Until the lion learns to write, the story of the hunt will always be told by the hunter! The African lion must urgently learn how to write so that Africa's stories can be told differently," Honorable Raila Odinga.
Africa has been in the past held hostage with different narratives from the western media, however we’ve proven resilient and also shaken off the likely demise of the Radio before, the death of magazines and the death of newspapers on more than one occasion but on every occasion they have adapted and come back. These presses has aided in democracy in almost every African state. In the words of Fatma Karume, Senior Partner, IMMMA Advocates, “Democracy could not have spread as fast as it did without the printing press. But now we have something even more powerful (Social Media).” Social media is front and center of any communication drive. Leaving it out would be foolhardy; you will not only fail to reach millions of your target groups but also miss out on a great value for your money which is constantly in short supply. Also according to Mutuma Mathiu, Nation Media Group Director, “Journalism as an organized activity in truth-seeking, fact-checking and storytelling is becoming better because of converged technology.” While these new forms of media offer an opportunity to leverage on it also worth getting cautious for since algorithms make choices for us and manipulate us; that is a concern for the next 60 years.
Africa’s Demographic Dividend & Peril
Four billion people (or 36% of the world’s population) could live in the region by 2100. Africa is projected to have over 840 million youth by 2050. However, by 2025, it will already have the largest and youngest workforce in the world.
“In Nigeria Alone, there are more babies born every year than in the whole of Europe” (Dongmo, 2018).
Dr. Mukhisa Kituyi asked this question on the festival while laying comparison between Africa and Hungary, “In 1960, Hungary and Kenya had same population 7M people. In 2019, the population of Hungary is 7M, Kenya has 48M. What magic does Kenya have to give the quality that Hungary gives to 7M to 48M?” These demographics show a population explosion which in turn can offer an economic bloom.
Acha Leke, McKinsey Africa Chairman offered his thoughts, “By 2079 which will be 60 years from now, Africa will be 30 % the world population. With this we can be the labor force of the world, together with the 65 % arable land we can produce for the world and ourselves. This will also offer a consumer market as Africa will be a hub.” He goes on to say, “In order to get to that a couple things need to happen, one Educate the continent differently; scale up the sector and foster innovation. Two, Create employment with a link between it and education, employment won’t necessarily come but through self-employment. The third thing, create a bigger market; one market between the 52 countries in the ACFTA.
The ‘Wakanda’ Century
The big unsung story, and one of the most remarkable triumphs in Africa, has been scored by the arts and sports. All these spaces look set to get bigger and better. According to Joy Mboya one of the panelists in the festival she says “The Idea that the west drives narratives around what art represents is being challenged. The work that we do as African artists is coming into the radar. Isaac Oboth, panelist on the festival stated, “In the 60 years, Africans will be unapologetically who they are; embrace their culture, customs and traditions.”
Who’ll grow the food, Who’ll get to eat?
“The future of food in the world will depend on what Africa does with agriculture”, said African Development Bank President Dr. Akinwumi Adesina. Africa is home to 65% of uncultivated arable land that has the opportunity to feed 9B people by 2050. However, 10% of this land is cultivated, and today the continent spends nearly $35 billion a year importing food.
According to Agnes Kalibata one of the panelists and president of the Alliance of Green Revolution in Africa she mentions, “Creating food security and economic opportunities on the continent is the surest path to a prosperous Africa that meets the aspirations of its people. Agriculture offers us a pathway to this prosperity. It’s our best bet for job creation.”
She continues, “We all know that hunger is the result of political inaction. It took Rwanda only three years to reduce the percentage of people that were food insecure from 55 % to 21 %. The country has worked hard in guaranteeing its people’s secure economic future. Other African governments can copy this.”
Finally, the road to achieve the aspirations of the next 60 years is not going to be straight, and neither is the destination clear or assured. However fortune favors the bold. The festival referenced Rwanda as a ‘control experiment’ as it represents the possibilities that societies everywhere in Africa, particularly those with less painful history can achieve. President Kagame of Rwanda towards the end of the festival said, “We can look back on the progress made in Rwanda and say some of it is by luck. But luck seems to go where people are trying something. If you’re trying something then luck comes your way.” In 60 years I envision Africa that invests in its own people especially young people because they are the ones that are going to take our continent to greater heights.
Chengo, Jimmie. 2019.Role of Young People in Actualizing the Development Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want. Nairobi: GYLA. https://aiducation.net/news/213746
Olingo, Allan. 2019. Give The Youth Opportunities To Grow, African States Urged. Nairobi: Daily Nation. https://www.nation.co.ke/news/africa/Give-youth-opportunities-grow--African-States-urged/1066-5378304-235cabz/index.html
Eyazuke, Aidan. 2019. Africa in 2079 is unrecognizable - it is digitally connected and is helping to set global standards. Nairobi: The East African. https://www.theeastafrican.co.ke/kusi/Africa-in-2079-is-unrecognisable-its-digitally-connected/5390494-5382228-ldik5i/index.html
Hussain, Sarwat. 2019. HUSSAIN: Climate change is a real threat to our growth agenda and must be defeated. Nairobi: The East African. https://www.theeastafrican.co.ke/kusi/Climate-change-is-a-real-threat/5390494-5391566-format-sitemap-uv80ad/index.html
Nation Media Group. 2019. Kusi Ideas Festivals Overview. Nairobi: NMG. https://www.kusiideasfestival.com
written by Jimmie Chengo