Ten reasons why 2015 is a crucial year for Africa

Source: Africa Progress Panel

Lessons from South Africa

Pic: Afronline.org

I still am at a loss for words on the xenophobic attacks in South Africa and have engaged with a number of friends in this discussion in the last couple of days. Some have voiced that it is quite obvious on why this happened and indeed keeps happening; increased inequality, lack of jobs and poverty levels in the country. Others have blamed it on a poor education system in South Africa while others have pinned it on the growing ineptitude in  leadership both within and out of the country. A former member of parliament from Zimbabwe recently came out vehemently blaming the Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe, for the unfortunate events because scores of Zimbabwean refugees have found themselves helpless and hopeless in a country that they envisioned to deliver them out of these very misgivings when they ran away from their native homes due to a collapsed economy. Indeed all these observations are true but I still can’t grapple with how one would pick a machete or light a fire to cause harm to one’s fellow brother and sister. Is this what we have become? A continent doomed to display the 4 D’s? Death, Disaster, Destruction and Disease? Is this what we are destined to be? Hopeless?

I like many of you are angry, this is both unacceptable and a grave embarrassment. South Africa which is seen to be a big brother to many nations across the continent could and should have done better! I pray that the families there do receive optimum security and that even those being evacuated may one day return to their jobs with renewed hope and dexterity. One school of thought believes that creating more jobs will stop this menacing attacks but I tend to disagree.

One hard lesson that South Africa has taught a couple of us is that rating economic progress in its individuality is regressive. A country cannot be successful without the success of its people and I do not mean success in the economic sense. No amount of jobs can teach a nation to be tolerant, compassionate and ethical to their fellow man. It takes conscious undoing of imbibed warped social ideologies to do this. Borrowing from Kwame Nkrumah, one of our founding fathers, independence from colonialism is not independence in its entirety, independence stems from the mind and Africans alike need to begin having difficult dialogues on who we are as a people. One cannot know where they are going as a continent if we cannot address our past and the challenges that come with it. For those of us with siblings we know that from time to time our older loved ones do need to be held accountable where they have failed, or even told off when they are out of line. Sometimes it also calls for tough love and assistance. South Africa cannot deal with this challenge alone. Does addressing our past mean a complete repudiation of colonial ideologies that are embedded in identities? Or does it mean embracing the old and finding solutions to it? What does Pan-Africanism mean to you and I? Our brother’s down south have posed us with a great number of questions.

All the misery on the planet arises due to a personalized sense of ‘me’ or ‘us’. That covers up the essence of who you are. When you are unaware of that inner essence, in the end you always create misery. It’s as simple as that. When you don’t know who you are, you create a man-made self as a substitute for your beautiful divine being and cling to that fearful and needy self. Protecting and enhancing that false sense of self then becomes your primary motivating force.”- Eckhart Tolle

Women’s Liberation and the African freedom struggle

BY THOMAS SANKARA
The question of women’s equality must be in the minds of all decision-makers, at all times, and in all the different phases of conceiving and executing plans for development. Conceiving a development project without the participation of women is like using only four fingers when you have ten. It’s an invitation to failure.

In the ministries responsible for education, we should take special care to assure that women’s access to education is a reality, for this reality constitutes a qualitative step toward emancipation. It is an obvious fact that wherever women have had access to education, their march to equality has been accelerated. Emerging from the darkness of ignorance allows women to take up and use the tools of knowledge in order to place themselves at the disposal of society. All ridiculous and backward concepts that hold that only education for males is important and profitable, and that educating women is an extravagance, must disappear in Burkina Faso.

Parents should accord the same attention to the progress of their daughters at school as they do to their sons, their pride and joy. Girls have proven they are the equals of boys at school, if not simply better. But above all they have the right to education in order to learn and know—to be free. In future literacy campaigns, the rate of participation by women must be raised to correspond with their numerical weight in the population. It would be too great an injustice to maintain such an important part of the population—half of it—in ignorance.

In the ministries responsible for labor and justice, texts should constantly be adapted to the transformation our society has been going through since August 4, 1983, so that equality between men and women is a tangible reality. The new labor code, now being drawn up and debated, should express how profoundly our people aspire to social justice. It should mark an important stage in the work of destroying the neocolonial state apparatus—a class apparatus fashioned and shaped by reactionary regimes to perpetuate the system that oppressed the popular masses, especially women.

How can we continue to accept that a woman doing the same job as a man should earn less? Can we accept the levirate* and dowries, which reduce our sisters and mothers to common commodities to be bartered for? There are so many things that medieval laws continue to impose on our people, on women. It is only just that, finally, justice be done….

As we go forward, our society should break from all those feudal conceptions that lead to ostracizing the unmarried woman, without realizing that this is merely another form of appropriation, which decrees each woman to be the property of a man. This is why young mothers are looked down upon as if they were the only ones responsible for their situation, whereas there is always a guilty man involved. This is how childless women are oppressed due to antiquated beliefs, when there is a scientific explanation for their infertility, which science can overcome.

In addition, society has imposed on women norms of beauty that violate the integrity of their bodies, such as female circumcision, scarring, the filing of teeth, and the piercing of lips and noses. Practicing these norms of beauty is of dubious value. In the case of female circumcision, it can even endanger a woman’s ability to have children and her love life. Other types of bodily mutilation, though less dangerous, such as the piercing of ears and tattoos, are no less an expression of women’s conditioning, imposed by society if a woman wants to find a husband. Comrade militants, you look after yourselves in order to win a husband. You pierce your ears and do violence to your body in order to be acceptable to men. You hurt yourselves so that men can hurt you even more! …

Comrades, no revolution—starting with our own—will triumph as long as women are not free. Our struggle, our revolution will be incomplete as long as we understand liberation to mean essentially that of men. After the liberation of the proletariat, there remains the liberation of women.

Comrades, every woman is the mother of a man. I would not presume, as a man and as a son, to give advice to a woman or to indicate which road she should take. This would be like giving advice to one’s own mother. But we know, too, that out of indulgence and affection, a mother listens to her son, despite his whims, his dreams, and his vanity. And this is what consoles me and makes it possible for me to address you here. This is why, comrades, we need you in order to achieve the genuine liberation of us all. I know you will always find the strength and the time to help us save our society.

Comrades, there is no true social revolution without the liberation of women. May my eyes never see and my feet never take me to a society where half the people are held in silence. I hear the roar of women’s silence. I sense the rumble of their storm and feel the fury of their revolt. I await and hope for the fertile eruption of the revolution through which they will transmit the strength and the rigorous justice issued from their oppressed wombs.

Comrades, forward to conquer the future.
The future is revolutionary.
The future belongs to those who struggle.
Homeland or death, we will win!


* The levirate is a marriage in which the widow weds a brother of the deceased, with varying degrees of compulsion.

This is an excerpt from Women’s Liberation and the African Freedom Struggle by Thomas Sankara. Sankara was the central leader of the popular democratic revolution in the West African country of Burkina Faso (formerly Upper Volta) from 1983 to 1987. This excerpt is from a talk he gave to several thousand women commemorating International Women’s Day on March 8, 1987, in Ouagadougou, the country’s capital. Copyright © 1990 by Pathfinder Press.

Article Cross posted from The Militant

Moving from early Pan-Africanism towards an African Renaissance

Like the famous mythical Sankofa bird symbol, Africans must look into their past to create their future; acknowledging our previous mistakes and learning from them but also celebrating our successes and building on them.

A focus on African Renaissance gives an opportunity to reflect on Africa’s self-reliance trajectory and the need to demystify, appropriate and popularize our history, our shared values, and our narrative about the state of Africa today, in honor of the generations that went before us and to inspire current and future generations.

Pan-Africanism at its inception was more than just a search for racial or geographic identity. Initially led and popularized by Africans in the Diaspora such as Marcus Garvey and W.E.B. DuBois, it was a clear rejection of the laughable fallacy that Africans did not have a history. It was also a strong refutation of the mindset that defined Africa and Africans from the perspective of the historical experience of slavery, colonialism and racial discrimination.  Rather it was the affirmation of the rich cultural heritage of African societies and the importance of achieving freedom and continental unity.

Since then the concept of Pan-Africanism has continued to evolve, measured by the challenges and aspirations of the African continent. During the independence period, this ideology enabled Africans to overcome domination and oppression by ending colonialism and apartheid in the continent. The possibility of rapid socio-economic transformation of the continent was another goal promoted from early days. As noted by Emperor Hailé Selassié during the launch of the OAU, “Unless the political liberty for which Africans have for long struggled is complemented and bolstered by a corresponding economic and social growth, the breath of life which sustains our freedom may flicker out.” This statement still rings true. [1]

Despite strong political mobilization for the liberation from oppression, Africa has failed to fulfill its full potential. It is well known that in the early 1960s, at the time of the establishment of the OAU, there was high optimism that the continent will perform well. Several African countries were at par or had even higher GDP rates than their counterparts in Asia. It is now common place to mention that, the GDP per capita of Ghana and South Korea were at the same level in 1960. Up until 1975, the fastest growing developing country in the world was Gabon. Botswana’s growth rate exceeded that of Hong Kong, Taiwan, Malaysia, and Thailand. Despite the optimism of the time, Africa failed to complete the transformation journey which Asia has to a large degree now traversed. While East Asia’s share in world global exports grew from 2.25 % to 17.8% over a period of 40 years (1970 to 2010), Africa’s share in world global exports drastically reduced from 4.99% to the current 3.33%. This led to Africa being called the ‘hopeless continent’, ‘a scar on the conscience of humanity’ and many other Hegelian fallacies.

As we entered the 21st century, Pan-Africanism reflected Africa’s conscious need for not only political independence, regional integration and the improvements of its living standards, but also the throwing of the shackles of economic bondage and democratic stagnation that had seen it reverse the short lived prosperity of the independence era. This meant devising a new economic positioning and new forms of partnership in which Africa, as an equal partner, would negotiate with the rest of the world, with fierce defense of its own defined priorities.  Without losing the key elements of unity, cultural heritage and freedom, the reinterpretation of Pan-Africanism in the form of an African Renaissance is very relevant. It is a new phase that requires popular participation and mobilization of the African people behind the goals of structural transformation and improved governance.  Indeed, Africa’s Renaissance can only be complete when the African voice will be heard and taken into account.

The relevance of the Pan-Africanism ideal, and its continuous attraction to intellectuals both on the continent and in the Diaspora, will be measured by the ability to adjust to new demands and new generations. Indeed, the ability to continue to provide inspiration and conviction to Africans across ages is the trade mark of Pan-Africanism. Thankfully, things have changed for the better since the turn of the century. Six out of the ten fastest growing economies are in Africa, there is a marked reduction in the number and size of conflicts in the continent, democratic governance and the respect of human dignity are on the rise. Africa is therefore ripe for change. It must seize this moment for re-strategizing.

The AU’s proclaimed vision is for ‘an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena’. Laudable in its aspirations, what guarantees do we have that it will not remain rhetoric? We must ask ourselves how we reach these goals.Agenda 2063 identifies the prerequisites for Africa’s sustained transformation in clear and unambiguous terms and offers a reinterpretation of the continent’s trajectory and claim the 21st century as Africa’s!

What might draw Africa back from achieving its objectives?

In pursuing any bold transformation, there are a few risks that must be appreciated and tackled head on. Current challenges facing any developing countries are very different from past two decades. These include addressing borderless problems such as the impact of climate change, creating jobs while building an educated and innovative workforce, tackling the scourge of disease, famine and conflicts, as well as ensuring that Africa’s vast natural resource wealth benefits its people. Economic inequality, expanding opportunities for all, reducing illiteracy and creating the enabling conditions for the growth development and protection of nascent local industries are just a few examples of a myriad of tasks that will certainly continue to drag Africa down in the world scales.

Towards an African Renaissance.

One thing is sure; Africa must act very differently, if it is going to take advantage of the current momentum. African leaders need a paradigm shift in their thinking. This transformation has already begun and it shows itself in diverse ways. For example, the perceptible change in the orientation of current African leaders from a dependence on external aid and external actors to an Afro-centric and internal support system.In an interview he granted in 1993, Issa Diallo questioned the rationale behind Africans expecting foreigners to build their countries for them[2]. An aid dependence mentality is slowly giving a space to a more assertive leadership.

Starting from the original OAU Charter, there already existed a myriad of resolutions, treaties, accords and inter-governmental agreements to sustain Africa’s ambitions. What is needed now is for African leaders to move their agenda forward. The advantages of regional integration were recognised by Africans through the Pan-African ideology long before others and even longer before the term ‘globalisation’ was coined. The OAU’s creation simply reflected this awareness. The benefits of regional cooperation – increased investment, sustainability, consolidation of economic and political reforms, increased global competitiveness, prevention of conflict- are accepted, but sometimes just that: accepted.

If Africa is going to own its narrative, it has to preserve its policy space and try out its own development approaches. Renaissance means ‘revival’ or ‘rebirth’ and in the context of its usage now, not only offers an opportunity to awaken the spirit of Africa in the 21st century, but also a rallying call to rid the continent of poverty, instability, corruption and neglect. This new mindset means the need to rethink the traditional models of growth and development. In conclusion, the spirit of African unity is alive. It still lives amongst Africans. As Patrice Lumumba said so long ago, ‘The day will come when History will speak… Africa will write its own history… It will be a history of glory and dignity. Long live Africa!![3]

[1] ECA, AU. 2013. Celebrating success: Africa’s voice over 50 Years 1963-2013. Speech of Emperor Haile Selassie during the inauguration of the OAU in 1963
[2] Interview with Issa Diallo in ‘The Courier’ Jan 1992. http://collections.infocollections.org/ukedu/uk/d/Jec131e/1.1.html
[3] Patrice Lumumba, 1961. Letter from Thysville Prison to Mrs. Lumumba.http://www.marxists.org/subject/africa/lumumba/1961/xx/letter.htm

By Carlos Lopes, Executive Secretary Economic Commission for Africa

Article Cross Posted from the Executive Secretary’s Blog

Marxism and Anti-Imperialism in Africa: Letter from Thysville Prison to Mrs. Lumumba

My dear wife,

I am writing these words to you, not knowing whether they will ever reach you, or whether I shall be alive when you read them.

Throughout my struggle for the independence of our country I have never doubted the victory of our sacred cause, to which I and my comrades have dedicated all our lives.

But the only thing which we wanted for our country is the right to a worthy life, to dignity without pretence, to independence without restrictions.

This was never the desire of the Belgian colonialists and their Western allies, who received, direct or indirect, open or concealed, support from some highly placed officials of the United Nations, the body upon which we placed all our hope when we appealed to it for help.

They seduced some of our compatriots, bought others and did everything to distort the truth and smear our independence.

What I can say is this—alive or dead, free or in jail—it is not a question of me personally.

The main thing is the Congo, our unhappy people, whose independence is being trampled upon.

That is why they have shut us away in prison and why they keep us far away from the people. But my faith remains indestructible.

I know and feel deep in my heart that sooner or later my people will rid themselves of their internal and external enemies, that they will rise up as one in order to say ‘No’ to colonialism, to brazen, dying colonialism, in order to win their dignity in a clean land.

We are not alone. Africa, Asia, the free peoples and the peoples fighting for their freedom in all corners of the world will always be side by side with the millions of Congolese who will not give up the struggle while there is even one colonialist or colonialist mercenary in our country.

To my sons, whom I am leaving and whom, perhaps, I shall not see again, I want to say that the future of the Congo is splendid and that I expect from them, as from every Congolese, the fulfilment of the sacred task of restoring our independence and our sovereignty.

Without dignity there is no freedom, without justice there is no dignity and without independence there are no free men.

Cruelty, insults and torture can never force me to ask for mercy, because I prefer to die with head high, with indestructible faith and profound belief in the destiny of our country than to live in humility and renounce the principles which are sacred to me.

The day will come when history will speak. But it will not be the history which will be taught in Brussels, Paris, Washington or the United Nations.

It will be the history which will be taught in the countries which have won freedom from colonialism and its puppets.

Africa will write its own history and in both north and south it will be a history of glory and dignity.

Do not weep for me. I know that my tormented country will be able to defend its freedom and its independence.

Long live the Congo!

Long live Africa!

Thysville prison

Patrice LUMUMBA

The passion of uncle Ruckus, House of Slaves, the Slave Trade

Uncle Ruckus: If you black of skin and full of sin, come forward so I may lay my hands on you.

[slaps a black man]

Uncle Ruckus: Black be gone!
[slaps black woman]

Uncle Ruckus: Praise White Jesus!
[slaps another black man]

Uncle Ruckus: Now, I want everybody to find the nearest black man and lay hands on him. But first, make sure your hand is balled up in a fist so you can beat the black outta his soul. God smiles when you hate blackness so you beat that darkie in the name of the Almighty! Hallelujah!
[the whole congregation starts beating each other. Granddad pulls Tom away from the melee]

Uncle Ruckus: That’s right! Ronald Regan said ‘Beat a blackie and go to Heaven.’ God is good! Now, let us pray. Lord, I have spent my whole life hating you for making me black. And now I see I must hate myself and all those like me. And cause them misery just like your servant, Ronald Reagan did. And if any of my words don’t come directly from the Almighty God himself, then may I be struck by lightning right this very instant! Halle-

[Ruckus is struck by lightning]

Uncle Ruckus: AAAAHHHHHHH!

(Scene from Boondocks)

Pause and Rewind.

I would like to go back in time, back to a place where being black was indeed a crime and burden, a place that knows pain and anguish, has seen both tears and immense fear, witnessed countless deaths as well as countless atrocities; a place known for the role that it played in the slave trade era; that place being Goree Island.

To be more specific, the place is Maison des esclaves, a slave house that has in fact been preserved well and looks just as it did several hundreds of years ago.

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As I set foot into the building, I couldn’t help but try and fathom what was going through the minds of women, children and men as they stepped into the house back then. Some fighting to avoid getting in despite the heavy shackles on their feet; others silent from the acceptance of their impending doom; others being unable to look their children in the eye, while others breaking down from the sight of them. Honestly, I couldn’t fathom it, and just those thoughts in themselves made my chest tense up.

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Below is a picture showing the manner in which the slaves were ferried across; stacked as if lifeless objects or what you would of marbles in a bowl.

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Below is the children’s room which is about 8 square foot in size and that held 30 in number. Children were separated from their parents and were left to relieve themselves within the same space; this is the same place in which they were fed.

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Below is one of the windows in the room, one can see that the opening narrows outward to avoid the children from escaping.

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Below is where the rogue prisoners were kept. A small space underneath the stairs that led to the colonial master’s quarters above. The prisoners were stacked there whether dead or alive. One can only imagine the trauma and disease.

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A sobering fact to note is that the colonial masters held parties and hosted dinners in the top quarters while the slaves were at the bottom barely a few metres away.

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Quite the sobering and heart wrenching visit.

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The slave trade era dates back hundreds of years yet whose reverberations still ring true today. This is what I wish to write on today. Mental slavery as witnessed through uncle Ruckus above and many of us through our day to day activities.

On various platforms today, be it political, social or economic, Africa is still yet to rid itself of its shackles.

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(Art piece by Goree Island resident)

For starters, when did it become okay for us to export majority of our agricultural produce when our citizens still die from hunger?

The recently convened African Union second high level private sector and agribusiness meeting saw discussions surrounding this topic. A participant rightly put it when he stated that Africa has lagged behind in emancipating itself from slavery giving the example of Nigeria which imports tea from England when it could do so from Kenya. This statement is not only true for the West African state, but one that sheds light on the entire continent. Today intra African trade stands at barely 12%.

Moving on, when was it ever okay to require 33 visas to travel around Africa? In fact to connect between some countries in Africa, one needs to leave the continent only to fly back in.

When did headlines such as these ever become acceptable especially in the year 2014?

“14 African Countries Forced by France to Pay Colonial Tax for the Benefits of Slavery and Colonization”

The article continues as follows… “14 African countries are obliged by France, trough a colonial pact, to put 85% of their foreign reserve into France central bank under French minister of Finance control. Until now, 2014, Togo and about 13 other African countries still have to pay colonial debt to France.” To read the full article kindly do so here.

Where did we go wrong?

“Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds,” Bob Marley stated.

Indeed there is no temptation so insidious as the one of pointing fingers when it comes to slavery today. No one is to blame but us. Uncle Ruckus rants are our own doing.

When will we begin to take pan africanism and the African renaissance seriously?

“Besides, political independence, though worthwhile in itself, is still only a means to the fuller redemption and realization of a people. When independence has been gained, positive action requires a new orientation away from the sheer destruction of colonialism and towards national reconstruction. It is indeed in this address to national reconstruction that positive action faces its gravest dangers. The cajolement, the wheedling, the seductions and the Trojan horses of neocolonialism must be stoutly resisted, for neocolonialism is a latter-day harpy, a monster which entices its victims with sweet music. In order to be able to carry out this resistance to neo-colonialism at every point, positive action requires to be armed with an ideology, an ideology which, vitalizing it, and operating through a mass party with a regenerative concept of the world and life, forge for it a strong continuing link with our past and offer to it an assured bond with our future. Under the searchlight of an ideology, every fact affecting the life of a people can be assessed and judged, and neo-colonialism’s detrimental aspirations and sleights of hand will constantly stand. In order that this ideology should be comprehensive, in order that it should light up every aspect of the life of our people, in order that it should affect the total interest of our society, establishing a continuity with our past, it must be socialist in form and in content and be embraced by a mass party.” Kwame Nkurumah

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(Friends at the door of no return)

It always seems impossible until it is done #Silencingtheguns #DGTrends

Nelson Mandela, a man that we all love and respect, a true Pan Africanist once reminded us that revolutions and solutions always seemed impossible until they were done; indeed he was right.

30th to 31st October 2013 has seen the inaugural convening of heads of state, former heads of state, members of several governments, civil society, academia, think tanks and researchers but to name a few in Dakar, Senegal. This is to bring forth and propel a substantive and priority dialogue; that being, Silencing the Guns: Strengthening Governance to Prevent, Manage and Resolve Conflict in Africa by 2020.

The theme is inspired by the 50th Anniversary Celebration Declaration adopted by African leaders in May 2013.

Bold claim isn’t it?

Majority of us, I included, have at times found myself on the well known down trodden path of afro pessimism. A state of mind and being that has seen us cower and shy away from dealing with the challenges that we face across the African continent. We bear the brunt of the pernicious effects that war has brought on us yet still insist on the status quo remaining the same.

Development across the continent is increasing at an exponential rate and majority of us do know that it is still not at its optimum for one reason only: blazing guns. We must bear in mind that where growth increases disproportionately with security, it renders our efforts futile and this has been witnessed on a large scale, this is not new to us.

War has no emotion and does not discriminate, it does not have mercy on the business that you able handedly and painstakingly started several years ago, nor does it support the new exciting business venture that you take such pride in and it most certainly does not distance itself from your family. Make no mistake to disengage yourself from this topic; terrorism in itself has no borders and we have witnessed the extent to which it has spawned undesirable socio-economic consequences.

The third High Level dialogue on Democracy, Human Rights and Governance is a momentous forum as it is dedicated to the vitally important discussions affecting us all. Be it in Kenya, Morocco, South Africa, Angola, Mauritius, intra and interstate conflict has crippled us and this dialogue could not have come at a more urgent time.

With majority of African states celebrating 50 years of independence or there about, it’s evident and disheartening to see the extent to which insecurity which has been exacerbated by corruption, poverty and poor governance has stagnated our progress in the last half century. Alive to our potential, that including human capital and resources, then democracy, governance and human rights cannot just be a mere dialogue but a top priority; a priority not only for us but for generations to come.

This is a dialogue that is focusing on sharing evidence based knowledge and analysis on the root causes of conflict in Africa and how they can be addressed through appropriate governance reforms; a forum that aims to enhance a dialogue on the exchange of lessons, experience and best practices in fostering accountable, responsive and effective governance in conflict situations and lastly, is a dialogue to concretize strategies for achieving synergy and complementarity between the Africa Governance Architecture framework and the Africa Peace and Security Architecture framework towards silencing the guns in Africa.

Undoubtedly, it is imperative for us all to be on the same page and this is an excellent forum that provides the platform for doing so. We all have the opportunity to come together to develop innovative and practical solutions to our common problems. It is only through concerted efforts and cooperation that we, as the African continent can address the ever increasing challenge that we face.

I invite you to join in the discussions and to stream in live at www.dgtrends.org/dgtrends-live or on social media using the hash tags #DGTrends and #Silencingtheguns.

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