As Africa finds itself on the receiving end of a whirlwind of contemporary challenges, the need to spur South-South cooperation has never been this acute. Only through increased cooperation and genuine political will can Africa and the “Global South” at large meet challenges like food security and other aspects of sustainable development.
The plea, a balanced blend of alarm ringing and optimism, was made by Morocco’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nasser Bourita, who spoke at a panel on the sidelines of the UN Climate Action Summit in New York.
Bourita addressed the promise of South-South cooperation, stressing the need for sustainable agriculture and intra-African cooperation amid anticipation of climate-caused crises expected to hit the continent in the coming years and decades if nothing is done to curb the current tide.
“Only together can we tackle the challenge of food security,” Bourita said at one point is his address. He acknowledged the optimistic winds that have been coming out of Africa over the past four of five years.
Since at least 2011, a host of African countries have jumped in the global rankings of GDP and business-friendly environments. The notable changes have significantly altered global discussions on Africa, ranging from “Africa Rising” stories in the mainstream media to suggestions thatthis century will be Africa’s.
Even as these changes are notable and much-needed gains for the continent, Bourita warned, the celebratory mood should not push aside the fact that most countries on the continent are still battling to provide some of the most basic necessities for their populations. “The fight against famine is one of the most ambitious goals” for the majority of African countries still struggling to meet the Sustainable Development Goals, Bourita asserted.
He went on to argue that, for all the individual ambitions and efforts in Africa and the Global South at large, the stakes of the current challenges call for strong and effective platforms of South-South cooperation. “South-South cooperation is indispensable…. Our challenge is to work together, with the support of our multilateral and bilateral partners, to free Africa of famine and poverty by tackling the root causes of the food security challenge.”
Bourita did not speak solely about Africa’s problems, however.
As is now customary in African policy and decision-making circles, the Moroccan minister inevitably mentioned the perceptible winds of change that have markedthe African storyin the past three to five years.
Bourita spoke at length about the recent discussions on the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) and the multiplicity of AU summits on spurring collective action on common challenges. The suggestion, according to Bourita, is that most countries across the continent are showing glimpses of genuine—and growing—commitment to collectively tackling shared challenges.
“All these challenges should not cloud the fact that Africa has all the potential it needs to turn the tide. Africa is a big continent with numerous vital forces and resources, and it can become the world’s breadbasket. Moreover, our continent is currently experiencing positive dynamics, both on the socio-economic and the governance fronts.”
Bourita concluded with the hope, widely shared by African policymakers and other, non-government advocates of the newly signed AfCFTA, that an African free trade area would “help stimulate intra-African exchanges for affordable agricultural products,” increase the disposable income of African entrepreneurs (including of local farmers), and “rekindle the food industry.”