Forty to fifty years after many countries in Africa gained independence, the continent stands at a critical juncture in deciding its fate. There are an innumerable amount of challenges to confront when working towards a stronger Africa. In his lecture, “Africa: A New Agenda”, the Right Honourable Jack Straw, British Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary, outlines what he believes to be the ten issues which Africa must face in order to regain control of the downward spiral Africa is currently headed in. These obstacles include decreasing poverty, development, governance, peace, security, conflicts, terrorism, migration, crime, and drugs.
Straw provides convincing arguments to defend the issues he feels are important to rebuilding Africa in the article “How African Can Succeed, By Jack Straw.” However, some goals he raises are not quite as integral to Africa’s success as others that Straw did not mention. Though concerns such as drugs are important to the stability of any people, there are other problems that are far more widespread and immediate. For example, Straw does not address the issue of AIDS and treatable diseases under any of these topics.
These illnesses are contributing to other factors that Straw lists such as poverty. This is one issue which I would have hoped Straw would include in his list seeing as much of the instability in Africa is being caused by the disappearance of those in their 20’s and 30’s. The loss of this age group due to AIDS leaves children to raise themselves, perpetuating a cycle of poverty. In addition, without this age group, who are usually the solid base of most societies, governments are more vulnerable due to a lack of individuals willing and able to defend the nation.
Straw was completely correct when citing development as what should be at the center of Africa’s policy for the future. Development is the key to improving all of the issues Straw outlines. Many may be quick to jump to poverty as the number one issue Africa must address, but this perspective does not take into account that problems must be solved from the ground up. Development, especially economic development, will create wealth for the nation by utilizing the continent’s abilities and teaching Africans how to support themselves for sustained economic growth. If we seek to solve poverty without first tackling development, Africa will cycle back into poverty once foreign aid has dwindled.
Nonetheless, poverty is the second most important issue out of Straw’s ten. Just as development has a direct effect on poverty, poverty is directly correlated with many of the other problems Straw addresses. For instance, crime and drug prevention cannot occur in a nation where there is hardly enough money to feed its citizens. All these things require funds that must be generated through development, but can only be considered a priority once the basic needs of Africa’s citizen have been met.
The third, fourth, and fifth vital points to Africa’s success are strongly interrelated. Governance is the third most imperative matter confronting Africa because without a strong government, African nations are susceptible to great instability in the form of coups and ethnic wars. This subject is naturally linked to the fourth and fifth chief determinants of Africa’s success: peace and security. It is only after a sturdy government asserts itself that peace and security can be achieved without the threat of regime changes and internal conflicts.
The road to rebuilding Africa is a long and uncertain one. The Right Honourable Jack Straw presents a very interesting argument when he posits that tackling the issues of decreasing poverty, development, governance, peace, security, conflicts, terrorism, migration, crime, and drugs are essential to the triumph of the African continent in the 21st century. However, Straw neglects to the role AIDS and treatable diseases might play in hindering Africa’s progress. Nevertheless, Straw is correct in identifying development as what the primary concern of Africa should be. The best strategy to rebuild Africa is to start from the ground up. This approach is the only one that can make the road of progress a little more certain.