Assessing the Role of Civil Society and African People in Deepening and Supporting the AU’s Agenda 2063

04 December 2014, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

By Kassim M. Khamis*


Agenda 2063 is a strategic framework for the socio-economic transformation of the continent over the next 50 years. It builds on, and seeks to accelerate the implementation of the past and existing continental initiatives developed at national, regional and continental levels to ensure growth and sustainable development.

It is a continuation of the pan-African drive over centuries, for unity, self-determination, freedom, progress and collective prosperity pursued under Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance. It was agreed upon by the African leaders in 2013 during the 50th Anniversary of the Organization of African Unity (OAU). Therefore, it should be understood in that context.


The term Pan-Africanism was first used by Henry Sylvester William who organized the first pan-African congress in 1900 in the United Kingdom. On the conviction that all Africans had a common destiny, it later on developed as a world-wide Pan-African Movement that aimed at bringing together and unite all Africans wherever they were to emancipate themselves from sufferings of slavery, colonialism, economic exploitation, racial discrimination etc. In the process, there also developed the term African Renaissance conceptualized by Cheikh Anta Diop in 1946 who contended that Africans could overcome the challenges they were experiencing and would be able to transform themselves by re-birth of their cultures, societies, values and socio-economic progress.

Thus, Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance progressed as an ambition ideology of Africans whose first concrete result was the creation of the OAU in 1963 to realize its objectives. It has continued to be promoted by many people and institutions in various ways, including the African Union that designated 2013 as the year of Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance. The decision was reached because 2013 coincided with the 50th Anniversary of the OAU; and the African leaders wanted to seize the opportunity to reflect on the past, re-kindle its ideals and plan for the better future of Africa and its people.

The move was informed by the fact that when the OAU was established in 1963, there were many challenges that had first to be overcome. Firstly, almost half of the continent was still under colonialism; other African countries that were free were still internally not well organized; relations with the regional groupings (today Regional Economic Communities—RECs) had not been laid down and strengthened, and people’s involvement not yet properly strategized. As a result, there was no common vision, hence no clear strategy, on how to pursue the OAU objectives, among which fundamentally was the African unity agenda and generally on how to advance Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance.

In the circumstances, member states had first to focus on the liberation of the continent, strengthening RECs and nation-building, and so on. This affected most of the socio-economic strategies laid down at that time, as they were of short-term and not very well conceived. For instance, they did not involve fundamental stakeholders—African citizenry and their grassroots institutions—other important elements such as reliable sources of funding, constant monitoring and evaluation strategies etc. The situation led to many plans and decisions taken under the OAU to be ineffectively executed with limited or no anticipated results at all.

By 2013, the African Union (AU) found itself in a new conducive environment for taking bold steps to advance the socio-economic development and integration of the continent through a long-term planning. For instance, colonialism had been greatly defeated and apartheid dismantled. Member states were better organized with major advances in many areas such as in conflict management and resolution, and good governance where the important role of civil society and ordinary people started to be recognized. In addition, consensus had been reached on making the better-organized RECs pillars of the continental organization; and most important, member states had agreed on a common vision of “an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven and managed by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the international arena.” Meanwhile, good experience had also been gained in running successfully continent-wide blueprints, like the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). Furthermore, there have emerged other new factors to Africa’s advantage. They included development and investment opportunities that have started seeing many African countries economically booming; emergence of new international alliances, like that of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS); and in general the changing of universal context of globalization and revolution in information technology, and so on. Therefore, by 2013, it was high time that the Africa Union developed a long-term strategy that would harmonize and integrate all plans and frameworks available at national, regional and continental levels under one umbrella for their successful execution in order to advance integration in Africa.

The 50th Anniversary Solemn Declaration

Consequently, during the OAU Golden Jubilee, the African leaders adopted the 50th Anniversary Solemn Declaration in which they identified eight priority areas to focus their attention. They pledged to integrate them in their national plans and in the development of the Continental Agenda 2063 through a people-driven process. The eight areas were:

  • African Identity and Renaissance
  • Continue the struggle against colonialism and the right to self-determination of people still under colonial rule
  • The Integration Agenda
  • Social and Economic Development
  • Peace and Security Agenda
  • Democratic Governance
  • Determining Africa’s Destiny
  • Africa’s Place in the World

For the purpose of this meeting, and as far as peace and human security is concerned, the African leaders confirmed, in the Declaration, their determination to achieve the goal of a conflict-free Africa, to make peace a reality and to rid the continent of wars, civil conflicts, human rights violations, humanitarian disasters and violent conflicts, including prevention of genocide. They pledged “not to bequeath the burden of conflicts to the next generation of Africans and undertake to end all wars in Africa by 2020”.

On the African Unity and Renaissance, the African Heads of State and Government committed themselves to accelerate the African Renaissance by ensuring the integration of the principles of Pan-Africanism in all policies and initiatives; and the promotion of people-to-people engagements, including youth and civil society exchanges in order to strengthen pan-Africanism. Thus, when one finds out that the principles of the African Solidarity Caravan which are to “reflect, connect, strategize, organize, mobilize, transform, consolidate and celebrate” sees this occasion to be at its proper place and timely to assist in advancing the Agenda 2063.

In overall, Agenda 2063 was therefore intended to be a well-conceived plan for the realization of the common vision coming the next fifty years, when the AU will be celebrating the OAU Centenary. The choice of a fifty-year lifespan for the Agenda was also to offer an opportunity and enough time to build coherence for all the plans at all three levels (from national to continental) and bring them under one framework. This is because presently member states have plans with different lifespans (some 40 years, others targeting 2050, while others less). Furthermore, such a long-term strategy is an experience that has been successfully tried in countries like China. It is our time in Africa; and we can do it!

The Technical Process

The task of developing the Agenda 2063 was entrusted to the African Union Commission, working with NEPAD Coordinating Agency (NPCA) and in close collaboration with the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA). It is being undertaken and coordinated in the Office of the Chairperson of the AU Commission, under the Directorate of the Strategic Policy Planning, Monitoring, Evaluation and Resource Mobilization (SPPMERM).

The technical process has been covering analytical work and consultations in almost all sectors. Specifically, the analytical work has involved the review of national plans (about 38 member states), regional (RECs) and continental frameworks such as Prograsmme for Infrastructure and Development in Africa (PIDA), Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Plan (CAADP), Accelerated Industrial Development in Africa (AIDA), the Abuja Treaty etc.

With regard to consultations for the collection of opinion from the African people, extensive meetings with key stakeholders, namely, African people of nearly all categories—youth, women, civil society, including those in the Diaspora and just recently faith-based groups—RECs and AU organs have been undertaken. From them, seven aspirations were distilled that the African citizenry wanted to see pursued in the Agenda 2063. They were:

  1. A Prosperous Africa based on inclusive growth and sustainable development
  2. An integrated continent, politically united, and based on the ideals of Pan Africanism
  3. An Africa of good governance, respect for human rights, justice and the rule of law.
  4. A Peaceful and Secure Africa – free of conflict and at peace with itself
  5. An Africa with a strong cultural identity, values and ethics.
  6. An Africa whose development is people-driven, especially relying on the potential offered by its youth and women.
  7. Africa as a strong and influential global player and partner.

The seven aspirations have, therefore, formed the fundamental basis on which the Agenda 2063 framework document and all its various components, like the Agenda 2063 Popular Version: Africa We Want; Communication Strategy; First Ten-Year Implementation Plan; Monitoring and Evaluation Strategy as well Resource Mobilization Strategy etc., have been developed and most of them submitted to the policy organs that have commended the work that has been done so far. They requested to have final documents submitted to the January 2015 summit.

The documents have elaborated for each aspiration its goals, targets, priority areas and strategies for their realization to be achieved in phases starting with the first ten years and beyond to 2063.

Once again, in the context of this meeting, and as a few examples (because issues concerning civil society falls under all aspirations), we have developed targets under Aspiration Four regarding peace and security to be: self-reliance in funding Africa’s Peace and security institutions; well equipped, competent regional and continental security structures/mechanisms to deal with emerging security threats; capable, equipped and professional security forces with continental capabilities; self-sufficient defense industry. Under Aspiration Six, concerning an Africa whose development is people-driven by relying on the full potential offered by its youth and women, we have developed two goals, namely, full gender equality in all spheres of life; and engaged and empowered youth and children, and so on.

In view of the foregoing, Agenda 2063, besides the Constitutive Act of the African Union being the basic legal instrument of the Union, it is basically built on the AU Vision; the 50th Anniversary Solemn Declaration, the seven aspirations of African people and frameworks already adopted.

Critical Success Factors

For Agenda 2063 to succeed, the following are important:

  1. Transformational leadership: There is a need for transformational leadership in all
  2. Political commitment to implementing the plan.
  3. African unity and solidarity: Agenda 2063 reaffirms African unity and solidarity in the face of continued external interference including by multi-national corporations attempts to divide the continent and undue pressures and illegal sanctions on some countries.
  4. The participation and inclusion of all stakeholders in the conception, design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation is a critical success factor, which enhances awareness and ownership and knowledge of Agenda 2063, thereby solidify collective commitments to implementing it. Agenda 2063 very much depends, therefore, on its envisaged main actors which are AU and its Organs, RECs, member states, African citizenry at large represented in various forms, including the African civil society, and the Diaspora etc. These are in addition to close collaborators, the AfDB and UNECA, and other partners.

On this note, this occasion is part of the process, and by planning to hand over the Declaration of Solidarity to the African Union, you have already manifested your determination to play your part. You are, therefore, invited to participate fully in moving forward the Agenda 2063 in order to ensure its success for the good of our continent.

What Could be Done?

On the guidance of your Declaration that you intend to submit, this is left to you to decide what you cannot do, since the scope is very wide for you.

However, as an example just to start the ball rolling, during the Faith Based Consultation that was organized in collaboration with the All African Conference of Churches from 5 to 7 November 2014, in Nairobi, Kenya, Agenda 2063 was presented to all the Faith Based Groups from all corners of the continent that participated. The consultations provided an opportunity to deliberate on the Agenda and on how to realize it. There was a general consensus that the Faith based groups have a key role to play in the implementation of the first ten year plans in the following areas amongst others: creating ‘Africa We Want’ desk in every faith based organization at the national and continental levels; using the desk to galvanize the government and non- state actors to participate in the implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the implementation of the first ten year plan at the national and continental level; communicating the goals/ responsibilities of the Citizenry with respect to Agenda 2063 in the churches, mosques, radio and TV stations owned by Faith Based Groups; and participating in all continental level stakeholder platforms on Agenda 2063.

Therefore, the participants here can built on such kind of foundation or be more creative to come up with better programme of activities to advance the Agenda 2063. In that connection, one can think of, for example:

1. Recommend the best ways to realize the African peoples’ aspirations, including suggesting strategies to achieve the identified goals and targets and generally the implementation of the Agenda 2063.

2. In view of that, the Festival can continue organizing seminars, workshops etc to assist in popularizing the Agenda. This should be a great contribution.

3. The Festival to align its activities to the Agenda 2063 Framework, and make any relevant contribution.

Let me end by advising that most of the documents about Agenda 2063 can be found on the following website:

Thank you.