Africa Day: a time to reflect on Africa’s capacity to solve own problems

African solutions to African problems, hereafter simply referred to as ASAP, is a school of thought that advocates for the solving of African problems by African Nations without dependence on international organizations such as the UN, other continents or nations outside Africa.

Zivai Mhetu - Zinasu National Spokesperson

Zivai Mhetu – Zinasu National Spokesperson

As our country joins the rest of the continent in celebrating Africa Day this week, which is an annual commemoration of the 1963 founding of the Organization of Africa Unity (OAU) presently recognized as the Africa Union (AU), it is crucial to interrogate whether the African continent is in a position to come up with and implement solutions to the litany of challenges bedevilling it without too much outside assistance.

The problem with African solutions to African problems

The notion of Africans being able to solve their own problems has over the years proved to have a lot of drawbacks which include biased mediations, lack of agreement on the ‘African solution to the African problem,’ disregarding of African solutions by Western powers and the fact that the AU is affected by the selfish interests of its member states.

One by one, I am going to examine these problems which have resulted in ASAP failing to gain traction with the entirety of the African community.

Biased mediations

Mediation is one of the mostly used conflict resolution methods in Africa. However, on more than one occasion, there have been accusations of bias levelled against African mediators who seem to favour ruling parties over the opposition. These accusations can be substantiated by the fact that opposition parties always seem to be the biggest losers in agreements reached after mediation.

The 2005 Thabo Mbeki role in Cote d’Ivoire where New Forces, former Ivorian rebels, cried foul over his mediation between them and Ivorian strongman Laurent Gbagbo, is a good example.

The effect of biased mediation – or mediation that is perceived to be biased – when looking at ASAP is that it makes the implementation of an African solution to an African problem difficult because those who feel their African mediator lacks neutrality are most likely to seek solutions that are outside Africa. This is exactly what happened in Cote d’Ivoire in 2005 where the New Forces rejected Mbeki and began clamouring for a UN intervention.

Lack of agreement on the ‘African solution to the African problem’

ASAP is a notion that makes an assumption that those meant to implement it always agree on exactly what the ‘African solution’ is – that is not always the case.

A perfect example of this is the crisis that gripped Libya in the wake of a popular uprising against Muammar Gaddafi. The AU came up with a diplomatic response to the crisis which entailed facilitating a negotiated solution in Libya.

But the three African countries who were in the UN Security Council at that time, namely Gabon, Nigeria and South Africa all voted for resolution 1973 which was militaristic in nature and flew in the face of the AU’s diplomatic response.

It is important to note that if just one of the three African countries mentioned above had abstained from voting the resolution would not have passed. But they all voted in favour of the resolution, a clear indication that those African countries were not in agreement with the rest of their fellow AU members who had decided that a diplomatic solution was the best way to go in Libya.

The question then becomes: how do African countries implement African solutions to African problems when they cannot agree on what the solution is?

Disregarding of African solutions by outside powers

As a school of thought ASAP can only work if there is no possibility of forces outside Africa coming up with their own solution to an African problem and forcing it down the throat of Africans. As long as African solutions can be successfully substituted by those from outside Africa, the whole concept of ASAP becomes a futile exercise whose only purpose is to make theoretical suggestions which are never implemented.

Coming back to the Libyan example of 2011 it can be found that though there were three African countries in the UN Security Council which passed resolution 1973, the UN as a body is an outsider when it comes to African issues. As such, implementation of resolution 1973 which was against the AU proposed diplomatic solution to the Libyan crisis serves as a recent example of how African solutions are often disregarded by outside powers.

Selfish interests of AU member states

On a continental level, most of the solutions to African problems come from the African Union. However, because this body is compromised by the fact that some of its member states are more concerned with their selfish interests than providing lasting solutions to African problems, ASAP is an unviable concept.

As of January 29, 2016, at least 439 people had been killed in crackdowns by the Burundian government while 240 000 people had fled Burundi into neighbouring countries.

The AU failed to intervene in this conflict even though it could do so under article 4 (of the AU) which permits intervention in member states, “in respect of grave circumstances, namely war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity.”

The AU has its fair share of states led by governments that are allergic to democracy but are in love with the use of violence as a means of thwarting dissent.

Because of this more than any other reason, the AU selfishly decided not to send troops to Burundi without invitation by its Head of State. It was afraid of setting a precedent that could be used in the future against other member states many of which have governments that live in perpetual fear of being brought to book for crimes against humanity they have committed in the past or may have to commit in the future in order to maintain their solid grip on power.


ASAP is a concept that is not feasible within the current context of international relations or the set-up in most African countries which is characterized by undemocratic rule which seeks to protect selfish interests.

As shown in this article, the undemocratic set-up in a large number of countries that make up the AU is resulting in selfish interests witnessed in those countries being replicated at the international level through the AU much to the detriment of ASAP.

Zivai Mhetu

(Zinasu spokesperson writing in own capacity)

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