• Thursday, July 18, 2024
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African Union leaders sign 4D Pact at Boma Summit today

Bold ambitions and uncertain paths in the African Union’s new ten-year development plan

To mark Africa Integration Day, in a celebration dubbed the ‘Boma of Africa 2023″, today, July 8, 2023, African leaders are signing a pact to usher in the 4D Initiative to accelerate agenda 2063 flagships.

Agenda 2063, launched eight years ago, is the central development plan and framework of all of Africa’s 55 countries. The 4D Initiative, on the other hand, is a mechanism for implementing some of the plan’s elements by mobilising major public and private stakeholders to work more closely together.

The Boma Summit is a gathering of Africa’s key policymakers in various sectors to hasten Africa’s actualisation of the Agenda 2063 goals of single market integration and continent-wide prosperity. This year, the 4D Initiative is taking center-stage at the Boma.

Speakers include: Azali Assoumani, president of the Union of the Comoros and chairperson of the African Union; Cyril Ramaphosa, president of the Republic of South Africa and Nana Akufo-Addo, president of the Republic of Ghana.

Other prominent figures on the agenda include: President of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, Sahle-Work Zewde, former President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo and Director-General of the World Health Organisation, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

Several other prominent government and business leaders will also feature.

African Union and AfroChampions experts and strategists behind the summit revealed that the launching of the 4D initiative was made the centerpiece of the summit due to its immense significance to the post-pandemic recovery of the continent.

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The new 4D Pact is intended to secure tens of millions of dollars from key African and global development finance institutions to fund innovators, start-ups, researchers, SMEs and university spinoffs to play a more frontal role in the quest to make Africa self-sufficient in vital technologies and commodities like vaccines, biopharmaceuticals, artificial intelligence systems and genomic applications.

Underlying this new radical vision is a strategy to deepen cross-border and cross-sector synergies across public and private domains in Africa to create smart jobs in the context of the new geopolitical wrangling over supply chains, critical minerals and the climate transitions.

Besides these geopolitical pressures, which saw Africa marginalised during the pandemic as shortages of health supplies intensified and during the war in Ukraine when grain and fertilizer exports were curtailed, are Africa’s unique demographic challenges and the huge burden for job creation it creates.

Nardos Bekele-Thomas, the Chief Executive of the African Union’s main development think tank and planning agency, AUDA-NEPAD, described 4D as a complete game changer because of how it responds to these pressures. She said that for the first time, the AU and its lead agencies and affiliate pan-African institutions, with technical support from AfroChampions, are working together to influence the funding of innovation on the continent, something that has long been left to the private sector to do. To her, this is no longer tenable, since it has led to the continent being unable to cater to basic developmental needs.

The original blueprint for 4D is the Trillion Dollar Fund, set up by the African Union at the instance of African Union Heads of State, with technical support from AfroChampions. Whilst the initial emphasis was on trade, Bekele-Thomas says it has now become clear that without innovative production, trade alone will not suffice. She lamented the slow pace of commercialisation of the continent’s innovations as clear evidence that the laissez-faire approach has failed.

Bekele-Thomas warns that recent research shows that Africa is at risk of falling wide off the Agenda 2063 mark. “4D was built on top of an initial plan launched by the African Union Heads of State three years ago called the Trillion Dollar Fund (TDF), with technical support from AfroChampions. 4D is actually an evolution of TDF, which had focused on boosting continental trade under the AfCFTA by pushing for critical infrastructure,” She stated.

Over time, and especially after the pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine conflict, and the massive debt and cost of living crises they have triggered in Africa, it became clear that more urgency is needed to realise the goals of market integration as outlined in Agenda 2063, Africa’s common development plan.

“The missing piece is linking the fast-growing start-up and innovation ecosystems in the private sector with the classical development and aid programs that are dominated by the public sector,” Bekele-Thomas explains.

“Right now, those two trains are moving in wildly different directions. We need to hitch the coaches together and push towards one destination, with all the passion, resources and energy we can muster. Hence the need for 4D,” She added.

In addition to crowding in funds from aid agencies, major philanthropies and development finance institutions to support and enrich private sector financing of innovation, 4D operates through scaling instruments. These instruments are pieces of digital infrastructure that serve as amplifiers of private sector efforts. They include ProPer, Tranzyt, PanaBIOS, Transforma and the AfCFTA Hub.

Working together, they connect the individual efforts of startups, SMEs, innovators and even e-government projects into a single continental ecosystem.

Experts at AUDA-NEPAD believe that only such coordinated interventions can overcome the massive infrastructure and institutional gaps private sector innovators confront when playing their role in Africa’s industrialisation and the broader quest to make the continent self-sufficient in vital development areas such as health, AI, and agriculture.

The 4D framework launched at Boma 2023 is, according to African Union strategists, a major step towards such full-blown continental coordination.