Germany’s assumption of the G20 presidency kicked off on 1 December 2016 with a concerted presentation of its priorities, as the multilateral economic and financial forum looks towards its Hamburg Summit of July 2017. Of note among these priorities is the Compact with Africa through which Germany seeks to intensify partnerships with Africa
The focus lies on promoting private investment, economic growth and sustainability, investment in infrastructure and renewable energy, capacity-building for employment opportunities, knowledge-sharing and assistance with managing risks associated with climate change. Stylized as a ‘Marshall Plan for Africa’, Germany envisages that increased investment on the continent will foster conditions that will incentivize Africans to remain at home, thereby mitigating the migration crisis in Europe.
Although the U.S. Marshall Plan to help rebuild Western Europe at the end of World Word II played an important role in economically reviving Europe, the notion of a Marshall plan for Africa has received mixed reactions in various quarters. Supporters see it as a timely alternative to orthodox aid programmes for Africa which have failed to live up to lofty expectations. On the other hand, critics contend that Africa does not need another Marshall plan in addition to the slew of grandiose mega-plans and initiatives that have been tested on the continent. After all, Live Aid, program of Action for African Recovery and Development 1986-1990, Special Initiative for Africa of 1996 and the G8 Year of Africa are just some of initiatives that have come and gone over the decades.
Instead of trying to re-invent the wheel, what is needed is a complementary approach to the existing frameworks that Africans have already established. Africa has well-thought initiatives aimed at bolstering its diverse economies; however, these often fall short of implementation which remains a crucial question of concern on the continent. First of all, the African Union’s Agenda 2063 which is the continent’s blueprint for socio-economic development and integration has pin-pointed a set of priorities that will drive Africa’s transformation over a period of five decades towards the vision of “an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena.” The first ten-year implementation of Agenda 2063 (2014-2023) identifies goals and priority areas based on the broader seven continental priorities of the continental agenda – namely agriculture, human capital development, social development, industrialization and manufacturing, integration, governance, and peace and security.
Furthermore, other continental frameworks include the Lagos Plan of Action for the Economic Development of Africa (1980-2000), the Abuja Treaty establishing the African Economic Community of 1994, New Partnership for Africa’s Development of 2001 (NEPAD), the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme of 2003 (CAADP), the Malabo Declaration on Accelerated Agricultural Growth and Transformation for Shared Prosperity and Improved Livelihoods of 2014 (3AGTs), the Plan of Action for Accelerated Industrial Development in Africa of 2007 (AIDA), the Minimum Integration Programme of 2009, the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA), the AU/NEPAD Science and Technology Consolidated Plan of Action, Africa’s Agro-industry and Agribusiness Development Initiative (3ADI) and the Common African Position of 2014 (CAP) on the post-2015 Development Agenda.
The issue of implementation raises complex questions around mechanisms and means. In considering its approach to the Africa compact as outlined under the German presidency, the G20 will need to emphasize the principle of ownership and African responsibility couched in the results-driven implementation of programmes on the continent. In a sense, the proposed Africa compact represents an economic instrument with implicit political goals but its effectiveness will mostly hinge on the promotion of regional and sub-regional integration and the African-led dynamism of the partnership. A core ingredient for success is recognition of the diversity of African countries ranging from small island states, landlocked states, natural resource endowed states and natural resource poor states, and fragile states and post-conflict states. A crucial element is NEPAD’s prioritization of the concept of enhanced partnerships which builds on demand-driven programmes, pooling of donor funds and joint monitoring and evaluation mechanisms.
This leads us to the question of whether the preferred approach to the Africa compact would be multilateral and continent-focused or country-specific and bilateral. Proponents of the multilateral approach will argue that it will be a guard against potential geopolitical and geo-strategic divisions created in the absence of a cohesive rationale among donors while the bilateral approach is seen as better suited to the purposes of domestic ownership, implementation and monitoring at the country-level.
From the perspective of legitimacy, the G20 would do well to build its Africa agenda on existing platforms of international co-operation such as the Joint EU-Africa Partnership, the Forum for China Africa Cooperation and the India-Africa Summit by linking similar strategies and action plans. Such a coalescence of plans and initiatives, through networking and knowledge-sharing, would bode well for global governance and the international community’s renewed focus on sustainability and innovation.
Finally, as the only African country in the G20 forum, the discourse around the Africa compact presents a unique opportunity for South Africa to push for the strategic interests of Africa concomitant with the African agenda pillar of its foreign policy. And so far, South Africa has done a good job of representing African interests indirectly and unofficially through its participation in the G20’s Development Working Group, as well as more directly, by providing feedback of G20 work to the AU and the African Development Bank. Given that Africans are always calling out for greater agency and representation in multilateral forums, the onus is on African states to mobilise and collectively leverage South Africa’s position in the G20 in taking ownership of the African agenda and outlining what the value addition of the G20 will be to the continent.
Put differently, instead of waiting for the G20 to lay out specifics, Africa should take sufficient advantage of the opportunities presented to it at the G20 table and present a co-ordinated and cohesive front for engagement with the G20 as a partner. This means maximizing on the attendance of the AU Chair, NEPAD Chair, and the Heads of Regional Economic Communities at the G20 summits. The AU Commission could establish a G20 co-ordinating committee or unit to represent Africa at the G20 which could work with relevant organisations such as NEPAD, the African Development Bank and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa and a range of stakeholders including business, civil society and academics.