By Osai Ojigho, SOTU Coordinator
Honourable representatives of government present, Director of the Rwanda Governance Board, Special guests, SOTU members, colleagues, members of the Media, all protocols observed, ladies and gentlemen,
It’s yet another defining moment in our history as we launch the second edition of the SOTU Continental Compliance Report series. After a long walk and laborious research process, the report has finally been published in honour of African citizens to whom this report belongs to. This report reinforces our objective in playing a critical role – through research – in generating knowledge that contribute to closing the gap between Africa’s continental processes and reality of the situation that citizens find themselves in.
In this 2nd edition of the report, one overarching conclusion can be made: Efforts to establish mechanisms for implementing AU instruments have been robust. However this has not translated to actual implementation and more efforts are needed. A snapshot of compliance with regards to the various research themes reveals the following:
On Democratic Governance, Transparency, and Human Rights, in spite of the many laws enacted and institutions established to address corruption between 2012 and 2014, there was no significant change in addressing it for example in Kenya and Nigeria during the period under review. In Malawi, the anti-corruption perception index peaked between 2013 and 2014, while in Tunisia, where corruption has been low, there have been slight increases in anti-corruption perception indices. Rwanda has specifically maintained a laudable performance of 49% in the perception index, leading all the SOTU countries in citizens’ perception of government’s commitment to tackle or contain the vice. Ghana, Mozambique and South Africa have registered slight declines in corruption while Senegal has experienced a significant decrease as well.
Another challenge has been the shrinking civil society space across AU member states through increased control over civil society organisations activities both at the national and AU levels. The current wave of deregistration of CSOs in some countries as well as legislation of laws that limit CSOs existence and operations are pointers towards reduced space for citizens’ engagement in governance affairs. On governance, the effectiveness of political, legal, and economic reforms has been hampered by lack of local ownership and political support, and most reform programmes remain largely donor-dependent. Weaknesses in the existing reform frameworks as well as low commitment of civil servants and political leaders to policy reform initiatives also compound these limitations.
On Women’s Rights, the culture of patriarchy, for instance, continues to negatively impact on gender relations in the areas of power, production, distribution and governance, while harmful practices against women like Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) persist in most countries. Weaknesses in the application of laws, stemming from inconsistencies, also create permissive legal environments that perpetuate the violation of women and children’s rights. Rwanda should however be hailed in making deliberate and concerted efforts to empower women, especially by pushing for their participation in governance affairs. So far, Rwanda remains the only country that has exceeded the AU Gender Policy target of 50% representation of women in parliament. Being our host for this year’s AGM, we are indeed proud to be associated with Rwanda’s positive progress in this area. Rwanda however needs to do more by replicating these steps and gains in other sectors including private sector and civil service and other areas of decision-making.
Countries have also registered some positive progress on Rights and Welfare of the Child & Youth affairs. Most countries are facilitating child education by providing free books, transport and uniforms, with an overall increase in enrolment of female students, and provision of free basic education in many countries. Governments are also allocating funds for children’s immunisation programmes, with allocation being highest in Senegal and South Africa (100%), lowest in Mozambique (24%), and between 45 per cent and 70 per cent in the other case-study countries.
However, mortality rates for children under five have remained high in some countries. This has been above 100 out of 1,000 births in Mozambique and Nigeria, for instance; between 70 and 95 in Malawi and Rwanda; and between 50 and 90 in Ghana, Kenya, Senegal and South Africa. The percentage of children under five suffering from malnutrition has remained higher in Ghana (87%), lowest in South Africa (23%) and between 30 per cent and 45 per cent in the remaining countries — except Tunisia. The right to basic education has also not been equally enjoyed by children in rural areas with declining quality of education and increasing number of school dropouts. Youth unemployment also remains a major challenge across the continent.
A look at Agriculture & Conservation of Nature reveals positive steps taken by most governments to ensure self-sufficiency and food security. However, only 28 AU member states (52%) have at least developed formal national agriculture and food security investment plans. Only 13 countries — Burundi, Burkina Faso, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Zambia, and Zimbabwe — have met or surpassed the 10 per cent target in one or more years since 2003. Land transfers and privatisation of land in the recent past is undermining conservation initiatives, and governments’ leasing large tracts of land to mining and logging companies without restrictions is also creating a permissive environment for destructive land use methods.
Finally, the recent Ebola crisis that hit some parts of Africa put the continent on the spotlight with regards to Health, health financing, and management of health systems. On a positive note, some member states have registered positive progress in health spending: The percentage of government health expenditure as part of the total budget has slightly increased in Cameroon, Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal and South Africa. In Rwanda, this has trebled. On the issues of HIV/Aids, the percentage of women living with HIV/Aids has remained above 40 per cent in all the case study countries, with the lowest being Nigeria (47%) and the highest in Kenya and Rwanda at 63 per cent. Indeed, member states have a gap to close in matters health if Africa is to achieve socio-economic transformation and prosperity through availability of quality and healthy human capital.
Ladies and Gentlemen, let me close by assuring us that this report has taken a deeper look at these successes and challenges. We have the responsibility of sharing this knowledge with Africa and the world, using it to effectively tell the African story, learning from the challenges, and using the report’s evidence to engage power wielders to act and ensure AU decisions are fully implemented to positively impact African citizens. We also hope the report will invigorate our efforts to pursue courses we believe and make Africa a prosperous continent with empowered citizens.
I hope you enjoy reading the report.
Bravo SOTU, Viva Africa!