Central Africa: A Sub-Region Falling Behind?
Brussels--Persistent insecurity and fragility in the Central African sub-region can only be addressed if national and regional actors, as well as international partners, prioritize peacebuilding and development of border areas, boost citizens' engagement and participation, and improve governance indicators and management of natural resources.
These are among the recommendations of a strategic assessment report published by the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) Regional Bureau for Africa titled “Central Africa: A Sub-Region Falling Behind?” that casts a comprehensive sub-regional perspective on the challenges faced, in order to inform a new generation of responses both by the UN and other stakeholders.
The report focuses on member countries of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS): Angola, Burundi, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, the Republic of Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Rwanda and Sao Tomé and Principe.
“While other sub-regions of Africa have made real progress in recent decades, in Central Africa, persistent insecurity, combined with poor governance and absence of diversified and inclusive economies, have had profound effects on the overall development trajectory,” said UNDP’s Deputy Regional Director for Africa Ms. Ruby Sandhu-Rojon at a seminar hosted by the European Centre for Development Policy Management (ECDPM) in Belgium’s capital Brussels.
“With citizen’s rights and improved opportunities, the Central African sub-region has the potential to serve as a hub connecting north to south, east to west, and could play a pivotal role in attaining overall integration and vibrancy.”
Instead, the deepening humanitarian crisis related to the Boko Haram conflict – with 10.7 million people across the Lake Chad Basin in need of humanitarian assistance, among them 2.3 million displaced and 7.1 million severely food insecure – points to the need for renewed commitment from all actors in ensuring Central Africa does not fall permanently behind.
The report’s stark findings indicate that Central Africa is the continent’s lowest scoring region in terms of human development and governance indicators, and also furthest behind among African sub-regions in progress towards the African Union’s Agenda 2063 that envisions a peaceful, prosperous and integrated Africa. Six presidents in the sub-region are among the longest-serving in Africa having been in power for over 30 years, a political context presenting direct challenges to integration goals.
UNDP’s report urges improved coordination and complementarity among the two regional economic communities in the sub-region – the ECCAS and the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa (CEMAC).
The report emphasizes that insecurity across the sub-region's borders is multi-faceted and a huge source of continued fragility, and that concerted efforts to stabilize and promote peace and development of border areas are urgently needed.
Destabilizing factors that need to be addressed include inter-state border demarcation disputes and under-development of border areas; activities of armed groups spreading from country to country and organized criminal networks trafficking across state borders. Heightened insecurity around traditional migration patterns and the presence and needs of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) also affect longer-term development efforts.
To set Central Africa on the path to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals for all, the report recommends that national, regional and international partners:
• Demonstrate greater responsiveness to Central Africa as a sub-region. • Stabilize the sub-region through prioritizing peacebuilding and development of border areas. • Harmonize Central African regional economic communities and enhance capacity in key areas such as data and analysis. • Enhance ECCAS sub-regional identity in the socio-cultural sphere through exchanges and confidence-building among civil society, women’s groups, youth, business and other sectors. • Improve extractive industry governance and economic diversification. • Amplify Central African citizens’ voice and participation for inclusive and peaceful societies. • Advance sub-regional cooperation on environmental management, conservation and climate change response initiatives.
The UNDP strategic assessment report Central Africa: A Sub-Region Falling Behind? was informed by expert consultations including with national actors, regional institutions ECCAS and CEMAC, civil society and private sector representatives, the European Union, UN agencies and other development partners. It is the first in a series of studies taking an explicitly sub-regional perspective on Africa’s development priorities.
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