Joseph Rwagatare Correspondent
There seems to be greater urgency among African leaders to raise the level of cooperation across the continent than there has ever been.
Everywhere one looks there is a flurry of bilateral and continent-wide activity to make deals, sign agreements or implement existing ones.
Africa finally seems to be in a hurry.
It is already playing catch up and does not want to be overtaken by events and left far behind again.
One sees urgency about competitiveness that was not there before, with more attention being paid to various indices measuring different aspects of development.
Economic growth rate figures, inflation, GDP and others are no longer just statistics contained in reports that interest only economists and academics.
They are taken seriously by everyone in government as clear indicators of progress, stagnation or retrogression, and the basis for policy formulation.
The buzzword is results and that comes from implementing agreed programmes, and in the case of relations between states, agreed protocols.
President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and President Felipe Nyusi of Mozambique underlined this urgency recently at a Press conference during the latter’s state visit to Rwanda.
When asked whether what they had signed would not be shelved and gather dust as had happened in many instances across the continent previously, both answered: we will implement immediately and that greater cooperation was crucial to the transformation of their countries.
They said they were aware of the past and were determined not to repeat shortcomings of that period.
They are right, as activity on the continent shows. There are a number of ongoing or completed infrastructure projects linking countries and then on to ports.
This is in addition to similar intra-country projects. These include roads, railways and port expansion and modernisation to handle a growing volume of cargo.
They also include electricity transmission lines, oil pipelines, telecommunications and air transport.
On a continental level, ambitious initiatives like the Continental Free Trade Area, Single African Air Transport Market, telecommunications cooperation and more travel friendly visa regimes have been signed. But more than that, there is a push for their quick ratification and implementation than we have ever seen.
This is happening at the same time when efforts to reform the African Union to make it more efficient and effective and responsive to African citizens’ needs are at an advanced stage.
Even the resolution of some of Africa’s oldest and most intractable conflicts is happening at a dizzying pace. For instance, the speed at which Ethiopia and Eritrea are normalising relations has left many breathless trying to catch up with developments.
There is greater diplomacy on the African continent, but of a different kind.
In the past, agreements between states were invariably about political and cultural exchanges. Today they are more about trade and investment, transport and communication between them.
They are more about establishing closer links and cooperation and reducing external dependency.
It is perhaps a good thing that this is happening at a time when Africa is being courted by some of the emerging economic powers. Again, everywhere you look; there is interest from China, India, or Turkey.
It will not be long before Brazil increases its presence. A South Africa, recovering from years of corruption and stagnation, can also be expected to revive its interests in Southern and Eastern Africa and even expand beyond these regions nearer home.
It is, therefore, important that African countries have a firm basis in order to face the new competition for its resources and markets, and ultimately, influence.
Of course, talk of increasing cooperation and reducing dependency on the outside is not new. What makes us think it will be different this time?
It is greater urgency and real attempt to translate rhetoric and plans into achievable goals. It is the insistence on results.
You might even say that we have seen it all before. There is a spark followed by feverish activity, then it flickers and goes cold and everything comes to a halt.
That scepticism is understandable, but must also be placed in context. That may have happened in the past when countries acted a lot more in isolation.
Today they appear to be working more in concert.
They are also no longer contented with simply plodding along. They want to move fast and with purpose.