The Future of Africa
Inequality, conflicts, food insecurity and hunger are some of the words that have always been associated with Africa in Western minds. In fact, from Cold War proxy wars to the conflicts in the 1990s, from the conflict in South Sudan to Boko Haram massacres in Nigeria and the looming war in Burundi, news from Africa seems to be dominated by unending wars, hungers and dictatorship. This depiction is, however, outdated because as of this writing, conflicting situations in Africa have declined dramatically. Unfortunately, some troubled areas remain, but the receding picture of calamities, undemocratic politics and economic hardships rooted to the colonial era is continuously changing how the Western powers are viewing the prospectus of Africa. Besides the internal peacebuilding and socioeconomic development efforts, the actors from outside Africa are increasingly helping African states to reinforce positive internal and external trends meant to mitigate food insecurity, political conflicts, poverty, and avoid the rise of new conflict zones. It is the responsibility of African states and the international community to prevent genocides and crimes against humanity, as well as armed conflicts, which lead to socioeconomic degradation. However, caution must be taken to avoid interference with internal peacebuilding mechanisms and failures induced by military interventions as in the case of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Historical grievances traced back to colonial systems or movements contribute to the current structural problems in most African states, with Belgian Congo as an apt example. The prolonged conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) between 1998 and 2003 led to the loss of millions of lives and destruction of property. Despite the fact that the country has the deposits of valuable minerals, including gold and diamonds that could revive the economy, this conflict destabilized the country’s currency and economy. Such conflicts are known to affect the economy of even the neighboring countries, especially where one country relies on the other. Currently, the dynamic of groups such as Boko Haram in Nigeria and Al-Shabaab, ISIS in Somalia can only be understood by analyzing local politics that drives their success. Consistent with this argument, the international community should avoid interfering with the internal peacebuilding or reconciliation process. By failing to consider local politics, military efforts similar to the French support of Mobutu Sese Seko in Zaire may temporarily save repressive regimes, but in the long term achieve little or even postpone the collapse of a state, in turn leading to civil wars. As a matter of fact, military interventions in undemocratic African countries may foster the repression of the marginalized populations and evoke political instability.
In order attain the desired peace, food and democratic maturity in Africa, it is important to explore and understand what these terms constitute. In line with this remark, the purpose of this paper is to explore what the future holds for Africa, with emphasis on democracy, food security, along with peace and war matters. The ensuing discussion consists of three preliminary sections. Thus, the first section investigates the prospects for democratic maturity in Africa. The second section discusses the issue of food security in Africa and attempts to give projections of the future status of the continent in regards to food security. The last section studies the problem of conflicts and wars alongside peacebuilding efforts. To that end, the paper will have analyzed Africa’s future prospects.
Unlike in the Western economies, Africans have increasingly demonstrated that they take elections very seriously. For instance, voters wake up very early in the morning and patiently wait in long queues for hours under the scorching Saharan sun to cast their ballots. Besides the unfortunate incidences of tribally incited violence, any misguide attempt to steal or nullify the votes of these passionate voters will definitely evoke a sting reaction between the competing parties. This sheds light as to why most post-election violence accidents in African states tend to begin with contested disputes over a fraudulent electoral process or the unconstitutional transfer of power. In the recent past, the allegation of electoral fraud in Africa has stirred post-election violence and civil unrest leading to the destruction of property and loss of life as in the cases of Ethiopia in 2005, Kenya in 2007, and the DRC in 2011 among others
The resilient refusal of the respective leaders to share or relinquish power has scarred the democratic processes of the various African countries, including former Zaire, now the DRC in 1993, Rwanda in 1994, and Egypt in 2011. Despite these incidents, Ghana’s economy has prospered against odds and improved the African picture regarding democratic maturity. Even though none of the present Ghanaian leaders has received any prize pertaining to democratic maturity, the country has successfully held general elections and peacefully transferred power since 1992 without registering any civil unrest typical of the neighboring Ivory Coast. In acknowledging that Ghana is more democratically mature than most African states including the DRC and Ivory Coast, this discussion progresses with the assertion that the future of Africa’s democratic maturity is bright by focusing on the lessons learnt from Ghana and other countries where there has been a mediated or peaceful transition of power following a strongly contested general election.
One of the countries that has demonstrated the possibility of peaceful contestation of election results after a crisis is Kenya. In 2007, Kenya almost plunged into a bloody conflict following the heavily contested general election between the incumbent President Mwai Kibaki’s Party of National Unity (PNU) and Raila Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party. The subsequent mediation following the 2007/2008 post-election violence in this country is celebrated as an effective application of the Geneva Convention’s international community’s responsibility to protect (R2P) doctrine. By referencing the process and success of mediation in ending the crisis in Kenya, it is arguable that Africa is on the right path to peacebuilding. In light of the highlighted challenges, the restoration of faith in electoral democracy in Africa is being facilitated by the institutionalization of Africa’s political systems that motivates mass participation and incorporates all marginalized groups on various levels of the society. The expected achievements will mark a significant transformation in democratic governance in African states. Democracy emphasizes the value of participation and inclusion in the political systems. This implies that people must be put first before politicians and political parties. In other words, political leaders should consider electorates as partners in development and democracy. Democracy also demands civility in governance. In that regard, African political leaders should be able to demonstrate civility and be conscious of the fact that they are elected to serve as the reflection of their country in the international community. These demands should also be accompanied by strong political parties, a transparent and credible electoral process, and a free press. As in the case of Ghana, strong political parties are the pillar for the democratic political transition and constitutional transfer of power. In other words, parties must outlive their tribal affiliations and have a national look as demonstrated by the developed economies in Europe and North America. The availability and quality of information is integral in power politics. A review of the character and nature of politics in most African states suggests that the majority of governments control information and speech. Furthermore, states intimidate and harass many individuals or organizations that challenge the government. However, for the past decade, a greater part of African states have created a healthy environment for journalist to report cases as they are, without interference. In the same line, Africans are increasingly enjoying the freedom of association and speech. Congruent with these developments, the strong and free press in Africa will undoubtedly produce informed citizenry marked by civic consciousness. Consequentially, the democratic maturity will improve.
Global warning and climate change are considered as some of the primary threats to sustainable agriculture, food production and peace in Africa. If the zones struck by drought in Africa increase in terms of acreage, then the number of Africans suffering from hunger and malnutrition will grow significantly. Severe droughts and catastrophic floods also contribute to the damage of Africa’s agroecosystems and ecosystems hence threatening the lives of millions of Africans. For example, thousands of Ethiopians are affected by droughts annually. In the same line, thousands of Chadians are affected by perennial floods. The most immediate impact of these natural disasters is the disruption of social life and economic activities, including agriculture, which is the central pillar of food security. Essentially, inadequate food supply is the main cause of food security. For this reason, addressing the supply side of food production is the most effective approach to solving food insecurity. Arguably, the rising African population is the demand side factor that is straining the efforts of farmers. Logically, food supply should meet and even surpass its demand to ensure food security. A market failure in terms of demand exceeding supply is much likely to induce government measures such as reduced subsidies on basic foods and the increase in prices of basic commodities. Consequently, disgruntled consumers may run to the streets protesting and even rioting violently, leading to the destruction of property and life losses. In response to the food security crisis, African states are increasingly investing in sustainable agricultural practices, as well as the adoption of genetically modified foods to quench the growing demand for food. After the Green Revolution, Africa is increasingly protecting its environment and taking care of the marginalized rural societies. Central to these efforts is the political will to ensure that people’s right to free trade and food security is maintained. The appreciation of globalization is also enhancing the transfer of agricultural practices, inputs and technologies that have been effective in other countries faced with similar challenges such as the UAE and Israel. Furthermore, African states are increasingly adopting agroecology, which entails reliance on the association of crops and livestock and the diversification of crops in farms to ensure better protection of crops against pests.
Since 2006, policymakers and scholars have given more attention to the potential impact of global food prices on political and social instability. In other words, food security is a critical issue that needs more attention than ever before. Consistent with Simmons, food insecurity is one the factors contributing to conflicts and civil unrests not only in Africa, but also in other developing countries. For example, in 2010, the citizens of Mozambique’s capital city, Maputo, protested violently against the state’s decision to increase the price of bread. The government’s efforts to control the rioting crowds led to severe injuries and the loss of lives. Regarding such occurrences, it is justified to point that food security in Africa needs to be given a high priority to not only to prevent conflicts, but to also ensure that the future generations have enough food to sustain themselves. As of this review, food security is still an issue in most African states as a lion’s share of Africans are suffering from starvation and malnutrition. In agreement with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, Africa failed to reach the first millennium development goal (MDG), in which countries should not have hunger and poverty by 2015. Failure to address the food security issue will directly result in an increase in the number of Africans suffering from hunger. There are numerous examples of food insecurity in Africa, some of which have reached a critical level, including Madagascar and the Horn of Africa. To recap, food security is still an issue in Africa, but due to its urgency, African states are increasingly becoming conscious by adopting sustainable agricultural practices to secure the future of the continent.
Peace, War and Conflict
The legacies of European rule in Africa had varying effects on post-colonial social, political and economic development in Africa. The 1960s was a decade when most African states got independence. Positively, this period saw the end of the oppressive colonial rule in Belgian, British and French colonies. Half a century is a considerable period over which to highlight the socioeconomic and political impact of the colonial legacies because it allows this research to consider the issues of democracy and conflict in the context of different phases of post-colonial performance. As with most conflicts, both armed and unnamed, the present situation on the continent has much rooted to the legacy of colonialism. The basic causes of the 2007/2008 post-election violence in Kenya were ethnic grievances. The country’s population consists of 42 tribes. As widely documented, the main influential factors on ethnic grievances were traced to the colonial era, whereby the colonial government introduced the concepts of tribes. The colonial government also replaced the existing traditional leadership system with the colonial-based chieftain system created on ethnic lines. Among the areas that were affected by the ethnic conflict between the Kikuyu and Kalenjin tribes was the Rift Valley province. The other tribes merged to vote out PNU party, which was predominantly a Kikuyu party. The main grievance that motivated this voting pattern was that the Kikuyu tribe allegedly benefited most from the British land settlement programs during both colonial and post-colonial periods. Additionally, Kenya’s Coastal Province shared the same grievances with a large portion of its land allocated to influential people from outside other provinces. This case study is thus an apt example of some of the determinants of conflicts and wars in African states. Besides causes traced to the colonial era, the issues regarding inequitable development and conflicts over scarce resources, such as water and grazing land for pastoralist communities, contribute to internal conflicts. Climate change is also linked to armed conflicts. However, the scarcity of resources, such as those mentioned above, is secondary to global warming and climate change as shown by the case of local power struggles in Sudan.
Africa is often depicted as a war and conflict-ridden continent, but this portrayal is increasingly becoming intangible. The 21st century has been marked by a decline in the incidences of armed conflicts in Africa, and as of this review, most Africans are more secure than before. In addition, the majority of countries are joining hands in peace building efforts to mend some of the political conflicts within the continent. Some of the countries that have received peacekeepers from African States include Southern Sudan and Somalia. The other apt examples of the growing corporation among African states in terms of peace building are the involvement of Angola, Zimbabwe, Burundi, Chad, Namibia, Uganda and Rwanda into the peacekeeping missions in the DRC prior to the UN intervention with troops to quench the humanitarian crisis.
Conflicts, wars, food insecurity and inequality are the terms that have been synonymous with Africa in the mindset of many individuals, entities and governments in the West. In fact, these issues have augmented the view of Africa as a dark continent. Despite facing certain socio-economic and political challenges, the future of Africa is bright. Wars and armed conflicts are on the decline. In addition, most countries are acknowledging the importance of equality and democracy to the growth and development of their political, social and economic aspects of life. Furthermore, African states are becoming more conscious of their food security. Hence, they are implementing sustainable agricultural methods. In the same line, the issues of environmental sustainability are given more attention than before. In summary, the 21st century will be marked by a decline in conflicts, improved security and maturity in democracy.