Oh for eyes that see, ears that hear: Why is there a tendency for Africans to skim over the most obvious and critical issues staring them in the face and instead chase after impossible utopias?

Author:Ankomah, Baffour

I know no national boundary where the African is concerned. The whole world is my province until Africa is free--Marcus M. Garvey

I don't know why, but sometimes we Africans behave much like the people described in the prophecy of Isaiah in the Bible, (Isaiah Chapter 6: 9-10): "You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people's heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them."

I was reminded of this injunction as I sat in over four days of deliberations at a UNECA-convened conference in Zimbabwe's second largest city, Bulawayo, at the end of October.

The conference was in two parts: the first two days were taken by an ad hoc expert group meeting on "Deepening Regional Integration in Southern Africa: The role, prospects and progress of the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA)"; and the last two days by the 23rd Intergovernmental Committee of Experts of Southern Africa, who discussed the topic: "Trade Facilitation in Southern Africa: Bridging the Infrastructure Gap".

Established in 2015 by 26 countries in Southern, East and North Africa, the TFTA is an attempt to resolve the difficulties posed by the overlapping membership of the 26 countries in multiple regional economic communities (RECs) such as SADC, COMESA, EAC and others, which seek to do the same things. Thus deepening regional integration in these overlapping RECs is long overdue.

But two things struck me most at the Bulawayo conference. The first was the realisation that even after 60 years of African independence, we are still loath to do the right things first.

The second was that Africa is just not willing to free its citizens from the depressing restrictions imposed on their movement in their own continent by the colonial borders.

Having worked closely in the last 10 months with the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF) and the African Regional Intellectual Property Organisation (ARIPO), I knew, before attending the Bulawayo conference, about the infamous issue of "capacity deficit" in Africa that is said to hinder African development and even the implementation of the AU Agenda 2063.

Both ACBF and ARIPO have been calling on African nations to take the capacity deficit issue seriously, or otherwise the continent will be left still treading water...

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