Since the turn of the 21st century, the world has refocused its attention on Africa’s attempts to deal with the challenges of national, regional and global security. There have been continued debates around the world on how to find a lasting solution. This renewed attention many observers believed is not unconnected with the continent’s struggle to determine its future amidst the problem of insurgency fuelled by Islamic fundamentalism and extremism, bad governance and poverty.
Questions need not be asked as to whether Africa is faced with what the West calls “Radical Islam”. Radical Islam is a term used to describe extreme violence on public and private properties and on people. The fact remains that insurgency today in Africa has become the norm not the exception thus posing a serious threat to State (national) security and governance in the affected countries.
In Nigeria, for example, and as in other African States, there is the problem of militancy in the Niger Delta (the Southern part of the country) fighting and destroying oil pipelines in that region. The insurgency in North Eastern Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon caused by Boko Haram while in Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia and Mali we have witnessed the emergence of Islamic militancy by Al-Shabab. In D. R. Congo, Central African Republic and South Sudan, where rivalry between the two leaders, Salva Kiir and Riek Machar has created serious blood bath while the continued stay in power of President Umar El Bashir in Sudan is causing ripples across the country. These scenarios paint a negative picture of Africa around the world as peace and development are affected.
There is no gainsaying that opportunities abound in Africa, but the challenges are such that for Africa to develop, it must address and silence the excessive guns inflow and encourage democratic principles and processes for good governance to thrive which will bring about lasting change and liberation by the ballot. This will free Africa from the claws of military dictatorship, the sit tight leaders’ syndrome, who at the expiration of their tenure in office, will not vacate office or at best temper with the electoral instrument thereby creating room to elongate their hold on power.
It is important to note that the countries where insurgency is raging commonly share an environment ripe with poverty, unemployment, youth restiveness and illiteracy. Hence, the people are wide open for exploitation and manipulation on religious, political or ethnic grounds. This is the reason why African leaders should work hard to identify and address the root causes of the recurring conflicts/insurgency in Africa rather than view it from the perspective of America’s war on terrorism. An argument could however be made that to address the rising tide of insurgency in Africa, there is a need for collective efforts within and without. Failure to do so will affect social infrastructure in Africa especially peace and development.
Governance appears to be a constant challenge in Africa. African countries need good and transparent leadership committed to fighting corruption without which any effort at economic transformation will continue to be elusive. Corruption in governance has a ripple effect. A number of countries in Africa are trying to build strong democratic structures that will create room for popular participation in electing leaders. This is all because for Africa to become competitive and a world player in the global economy, a new strategy has to be put in place to cope with the issue of population growth, unemployment, education etc. Though it is widely believed that economic growth can be attained without economic transformation if efforts need to be geared towards the exploitation of the mineral resources and tourism potential of Africa. This means that efforts must be shifted towards improving land use to produce more food for consumption and enough for export to improve income generation.
Population explosion in Africa is another major challenge that needs careful harnessing because of the very fast growth rate in sub- Saharan Africa where statistics have shown a growth index of about four per cent per year. This means an increase in agricultural output to meet the demand of the additional mouths to feed. Employment generation should equally be planned alongside the increasing number of youth who need careful mentoring to avoid becoming victims of radicalisation which is one of the costly challenges the continent is struggling to overcome.
Power generation needs to be tackled with all honesty and sincerity of purpose or else Africa will not have enough industries to provide employment to youth turned out yearly from colleges of education, polytechnics and universities. This is important, for example, using Nigeria as a case study, at the inception of civil democratic rule in 1999, there were over 500 functional industries in Northern Nigeria, but as of today, only 117 are fully online and most of them producing at half their installed capacity due to the epileptic power supply in the country. Functioning industry provides employment and electricity or power generation keeps industries operational.
Unity in Diversity
Another factor which poses challenge to African states is the issue of unity in diversity. Most African countries find it difficult to promote and accommodate diversity which over time has been a cause of inter-ethnic or religious strife. Therefore, for example, to manage a complex heterogeneous and culturally diverse nation like Nigeria, it is understood that any attempt towards a temptation or tendency towards the establishment of a monolithic or mono-cultural institution would simply undermine the integrity and stability of the polity. It was in an attempt to eradicate this tendency that the Federal Character principle and a Commission were enshrined in the body of the national laws of Nigeria. This is intended to reduce or eliminate any tendency towards sectional or cultural particularism in public sector employment in the country. Other African countries can borrow from this concept with a view to curtailing or ending civil strife that have their root in ethno-religious differences.
As Africa’s potential in the textiles industry is being challenged by the bulldozing presence of the Chinese in the continent, it is time to redefine our relationship with the West and the East. This is neo-exploitation and even neo-imperialism. The infiltration of the Chinese and Europeans will eventually kill local production and put millions out of job while creating employment for the Chinese both in Africa and back home. Countries in the horn of Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa are being challenged by this metaphor. But generally speaking, Africa has great potential in the years ahead if its human and material resources are creatively managed. This will also go a long way in ending the deadly journey embarked upon by millions of African youth through the Mediterranean Sea in search of greener pastures in Europe.
Finally, the anti-corruption fight which the African Union has agreed to undertake in all African countries by appointing Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari (GCFR) as its head should be taken seriously since it holds the promise for a more stable and prosperous Africa.
Dr.Muhammad Ali is the Executive Director for Human Resource Development and Empowerment Initiative Kaduna. He is also Commandant Kaduna State Vigilance Service.