Concordia Africa Advisor Funlola Otukoya on the significance of this week's 2020 Africa Initiative
On the eve of Concordia’s first major convening on the continent (albeit virtually), Africa sits at an interesting inflection point. The continent is being pulled by a past controlled by strongmen leaders and incompetent governance, corruption, and ailing infrastructure, and being pushed by a new generation building the technologies in a digital revolution that are leading disruptions in banking, agriculture, and civil society. Simultaneously, the continent must also grapple with the intensifying effects of climate change, urbanization, and inequality. Where the world sees risks and failure, Africans do not have the luxury to lament, but must actively live into the future she creates.
To love Africa is to constantly be aware of its intricacies and its contradictions. In a time where we hear the cries of a younger generation tired of being treated as second class citizens in their own countries, Africans are displaying the agency that the global community so often fails to acknowledge. On the streets of Lagos you will hear the chants of “End SARS” to protest intense police violence and brutality, and in Congo, you will hear the cries of “Congo is bleeding” to highlight the child slavery and corruption that is rampant in the mining of rare earth minerals by multinationals, amongst other cries throughout the continent.
While we must continue to amplify the voices of peaceful protesters, we must also amplify the advances made in society across all sectors. The narrative must be multifaceted. The continent has shown resilience in the face of COVID-19 and can teach developed nations a thing or two about good community health systems bolstered by the Ebola outbreak and quick action.
Launched in 2018 with President Kagame of Rwanda and President Akufo-Addo of Ghana, Concordia founded its Africa Initiative on the belief that a growing youth population, a digital revolution, and equitable partnerships with Asia would lead Africa to a destiny designed and implemented by Africans. Over the last two years the conversations have been varied and global. At their core is the belief that partnerships are essential to achieve progress in economic growth, social issues, and lasting prosperity. From ESG investment conversations with investors in D.C., to conversations oriented around bridging the urban-rural divide in London and gender-lens investing in Lagos, the focus has been to center Africans in conversations dealing with Africa, and in global conversations that will invariably have implications for Africa.
Africa indeed sits at an interesting precipice and only she can decide her future. As the continent forges its collective destiny with trade-utilizing instruments like the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement, it must do so in a rapidly-evolving global market. It’s an exciting time to be African or someone interested in Africa. We hope convenings like this can help shine the way toward a better future.
See you all virtually!