2024: The Year of the Functional African State

A Year of Opportunity and Challenge

2024 has begun. The world is in turmoil and Africa remains at a juncture of both opportunity and challenge. This is a year in which the Continent can make bold, radical moves to transform its governance and its economies to respond to citizens’ needs. It is also a year in which Africa has the leeway to reaffirm its stance of non-alignment and renegotiate almost all its international partnerships in its own interests. This is the opportunity.

The challenge?  The Continent remains mired in fundamental problems that must be resolved, if its 1.3 billion citizens are to even catch a glimpse of the much proclaimed “Africa Rising” and join the global community in the innovation and creativity required to address climate change, global inequality as well as international peace and justice. All of which cannot be resolved by any country or continent alone. 

The African Giant maintains its clay feet as over 54% of Africans live in poverty and over 118 million are in food insecurity.  More than 43% have no access to electricity and over 350 million, no access to drinking water. Perhaps most importantly, Africa’s conflict belt stretching from the Sahel, through the Lake Chad Basin, to the Horn of Africa and encompassing the Great Lakes Region, shows few signs of abating or diminishing. Over 40 million Africans are displaced, impacting their economies, education, healthcare, and development in all its forms. About 30%, 16 out of Africa’s 54 countries are experiencing active violent conflict and are burdening their neighbors with the hosting refugees, spending of scarce resources on border security and extreme pressure on already fragile social systems.

These multiple, complex crises above will continue to be aggravated by climate change. Extreme weather and resource scarcity are negatively impacting agricultural production, increasing tensions and increasing the number of Africans in vulnerability. In 2024, the African Giant, must tackle its clay feet to find solutions to this wide array of crises, within Africa and in partnership with the world.

The Key: Functional States

The key at this crossroads of opportunity and challenge lies in the functionality of the African State. It is severe dysfunctionality of numerous African states that has produced the statistics above. Countries like Botswana, Mauritius, Cape Verde and Seychelles which succeed, for example, in providing electricity to 70-100% of their population, do so by greatly increasing the functionality of the State, at least in that domain. Several of these countries know success in other domains, again directly linked to their functionality.  

Functional states are simply states that actively seek solutions to citizen’s problems, allocate resources to these solutions, implement and continuously improve. African countries must radically improve their functionality in 2024. It is the continent’s greatest opportunity.

At STRATEGIES! we have determined the functionality of the African State to include three key areas: the Presence of the State, the Security and Sustainability of the State and the Hope the State provides.

The Challenges of 2024 for Africa

In 2024, it is imperative that Africa seizes the opportunity of increased and improved functionality of its states to address some of its most important challenges. Five challenges in which this functionality can make a significant difference in 2024 include:

– Reducing and Managing Conflict and its Impact
– Improving Public Financial Management
– Reducing Food Insecurity
– Structural Transformation of Economies for Pro-poor Economic Growth
– Radically Improving Local Governance

Functionality as a Key to Conflict Resolution

The origin and mismanagement of most conflict in Africa stem from acute dysfunctionality of the state. This can be seen in 3 key areas:

>The absence of the state in remote regions of the country, its inability to provide basic services such as life cycle administration (birth certificates, national IDs, marriage licenses, etc.), water, electricity, healthcare, education, etc.
>The inability of the state to allocate and manage resources in a manner that is just, transparent, and fair. Conflicts have grown or been exacerbated by clashes between farmers and herders, fishermen and herders, etc. as they compete for land and water. Many of these clashes continue under poor and corrupt management by government for decades, before they became full-blown violent conflicts and/or armed struggles.
>The dysfunctionality of armed forces as they attempt to end violent conflict. In most African countries in conflict, state armed forces have often initially aggravated the conflict and alienated the population as they enter the conflict zone. Many armed forces in Africa have never revised their colonial design. They treat citizens as expendable adversaries who can be violated, sometimes even killed in the “higher interests” of the state.

From the Sahel to the Congo as African States seek to resolve conflict and manage its effects, they must do so with a Functional State approach. This includes:

1Developing a Whole-of-Government strategy that synergizes the response of the armed forces with improved and increase presence of the state for citizens as territory is recovered.  Notably as concerns:
> Life Cycle Administration
Notably the issuance of birth certificates and national IDs to citizens in the conflict zones as well as internally displaced persons. Building a sense of belonging to the state as well as the practical ability to access services from state institutions is essential to ending many of these conflicts.

> Basic Services
Delivering water, electricity, education, healthcare, housing, etc. to populations on the periphery of conflict zones and as part of a reconstruction process to recover territory, is essential.  Populations must perceive government as adding value to their everyday lives.  Many non-state armed groups have identified this gap and fill it by providing some basic services to the population. Thus creating a relationship and some allegiance to their movement.  States must become the go-to actor throughout their countries for the provision of basic services.
2Developing strategies and road maps to address the complex, in-depth causes of the conflict which are sometimes decades old, include multiple events and in which Government is often a protagonist.
While the armed forces address the urgency of bringing violence to an end, it is important for the State to but in place credible platforms and processes that simultaneously begin the work of analysis, reconciliation, dialogue and road maps to peace.  Let it be said once and for all: “1-3-day dialogues for peace which bring only the armed groups together, cannot resolve conflicts”. Conflict involves the entire population. Only in-depth, grassroot to grass-tops, inclusive processes that restore justice and address root causes, can build pathways to sustainable peace.
3Building professional armed forces who see their principal role as the protection of the citizen and who are able to carry out their duties within the parameters of respect for human rights and rule of law.
Conflict zones provide the opportunity to build the capacity of the armed forces, improve resource and equipment allocation to them, improve on the synergy between armed forces and other government departments and build a relationship of trust between citizens and the armed forces. African States must improve the functionality of their armed forces as a service to citizens.

The year 2024 brings opportunity and challenge to Africa. May African States seize the opportunity of functionality to address their multiple challenges.

Discover soon the second part of this article titled: Seizing functionality to Improve Public Financial Management

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