A survey of the capacity needs of Africa’s Regional Economic Communities

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Can anything good come out of the African Union (AU) and the Regional Economic Communities (RECs)? The answer, from the perspective of this study, is an unequivocal and resounding “Yes”—but only if we are willing and able to acknowledge our failings; to confront, rather than seek to circumvent them; and to make honest attempts at finding credible and lasting solutions to them.

Much as this may sound like a cryptic summary of this report, it is not intended to dramatize, but simply to draw attention to some of the realities we faced while carrying out the study. The realities are effects of unintended negative actions or inactions that have characterized the implementation of various post-independence development strategies in Africa. The pictures of starving and dying African children splashed across television screens around the globe may have become so familiar that they no longer shock anyone. Is this the inevitable lot of Africa then? Should our leaders also resign themselves to fate just as some of the victims of the many preventable human disasters in Africa often do?

There may appear to be no direct links between the decisions made in the Council of Ministers or Heads of State and Government of the African Union member states and the pictures of starving and dying African children. However, one aspect of the major challenges of African underdevelopment is to reduce the incidence of pervasive poverty. If these sad pictures move others to scramble to organize aid and concerts to raise funds or draw attention to the plight of Africa, they should have no less effect on African leaders at all levels. These leaders are the ones who should take the right decisions to prevent these avoidable human tragedies and put the continent on a path of sustainable growth and development. Such objectives, no doubt, underlie the transformation of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) into the AU and the emergence of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) as a special program of the AU. Looking over the post-independence era, that is  from the 1960s, the continent has never been short of such noble intents and goodwill. What has been lacking up until now is the willingness and ability to translate these intents and resolutions into concrete programs at all levels, followed by effective implementation to achieve desired results.