Address by Mr Alvin Botes, Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, at the CPUT Africa Day Commemoration held on 27 May 2024, at the CPUT Hotel School in Granger Bay, Cape Town

Address by Mr Alvin Botes, Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, at the CPUT Africa Day Commemoration held on 27 May 2024, at the CPUT Hotel School in Granger Bay, Cape Town


Professor Chris Nhlapo, Vice Chancellor and Principal,

Consul Esther Mudambo, Consul General of Zimbabwe in Cape Town,

Consul Selma Nghinamundova, Consul General of Namibia in Cape Town,

Consul Elsa Caposso Vicente, Consular General of Angola in Cape Town,

Consul Ivete Muquingue Uqueio, Consular General of Mozambique in Cape Town,

Prof Simphiwe Sesanti, Faculty of Education, University of the Western Cape,

Mr Lwandile Socikwa, Convocation President,

Ms Sinelizwi Nontshilika, SRC President,

Ms Nonkosi Tyolwana, Dean of Student Affairs,

Dr Osward Mhlanga Director, CPUT Hotel School,

Honorary Consuls present,

Esteemed Guests,


The 1960 United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples demonstrated an international anti-colonial consensus. The declaration asserted the ‘necessity of bringing to a speedy and unconditional end colonialism in all its forms and manifestations’ and proclaimed that ‘the subjection of peoples to alien subjugation, domination and exploitation constitutes a denial of fundamental human rights, is contrary to the Charter of the United Nations and is an impediment to the promotion of world peace and co-operation.


This was subsequent to a history of African agitation against colonial rule and its system. This included formal colonial education and economics; both were considered unfair and discriminatory. Agitators for independence believed that self-government would reverse this. At decolonisation, administration of all colonies was placed in the hands of Africans educated in colonial schools. However, colonial education had coloured indigenous African thought, classifying it as pre-logical and pre-critical, disregarding the fact that difference will not always suggest inferiority. Post- independence anti-colonial initiatives informed by postcolonial writing on the subject have not sufficiently decolonised the socio-political, socio-cultural and socio-economic structures which were colonial inheritances.


The colonial relationship functioned through acculturation mechanisms such as ‘assimilation’ and ‘association’, predicated on presumed African inferiority; these mechanisms were justified by treaties that disempowered and fervent evangelising, as well as arguments that alluded to both imperial profit-making and humanitarian munificence. Colonisation was an enterprise of appropriation, familiarisation and utilisation, with the overall result being to effectively silence African history, knowledge and autonomy.


The idea or invention of Africa cannot be divorced from the ideology that drove colonisation – the distinction between the civilised and the uncivilised. That ideology pervades Africa’s current relation with the rest of the world – power structures, politics, language and knowledge. Chinua Achebe, commenting on Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (1899), states that the book’s thesis is based on a presumption of African savagery, barbarism and intellectual inferiority. Further critique of the Heart of Darkness notes that, despite the author’s disgust for colonial horrors, a world where Europe did not exercise mastery over Africa was beyond the author’s imagination. Postcolonial theory recognises that the incompetence and dependence of Africa’s contemporary political and intellectual elite on external approval and assistance result from hybridity of supposed African authenticity and the attempted replication of colonial character, all carried out within an inherited colonial structure.


Post-colonialism is concerned with:


…… the purely methodological question of knowing whether it is possible to offer an intelligible reading of contemporary Africa solely through conceptual structures and fictional representations used precisely to deny African societies any historical depth and to define them as radically other, as all that the West is not.


In other words, postcolonial theory seeks to find the truth about Africa.


South Africa’s foreign policy pillars are encapsulated within four concentric circles, being Pan Africanism, Global South Solidarity, Cooperation with the Industrialised North and the Transformation Global Governance institutions.


To appreciate the Pan Africanist progress being made by the African Union, my contribution is intended to provide a more comprehensive overview of the continent’s geopolitical outlook, within the global landscape. Africa, like other continents, is immensely important in providing insights into the prospects facing the world, particularly given the trajectory from a unipolar to a multipolar world. While forecasting by its very nature is futuristic, it is very often premised by current realities and challenges. The latter allows for the mapping of certain trends and likely developments that can be referenced as indicators.


Pan Africanist should be increasingly conscious that the transitional epoch from a unipolar to a multipolar world, ordinarily implies the deepening multilateralism. However, the multilateral system is hamstrung by significant ‘push back’ by the big powers, reluctant to abandon their unilateral conduct and oppose to subordinate their narrow national self-interests to the broader good of the world.


There are long-term and highly disruptive global situations developing and which will pose fundamental challenges to South Africa and its foreign policy. It is important to highlight that Africa is a pivotal region from a social, political, security and economic perspective and has experienced a number of developments that are both internal but also extraneous in nature.  These elements points to periods in the near, medium and long-term, which, whilst likely to be adverse and unstable, also contain positive prospects that need to be harnessed strategically.  Africa is a Continent of the future, based on current demographic and economic patterns. In addition, its voice on important global matter will continue to be articulated.


However, domestic political and security challenges in some countries have however regressed and threaten to unravel the positive gains that have been made in the past decade. This geo-strategic analysis of the continent’s prospects and outlook is underpinned by a multiplicity of factors influenced by international developments.


Africa is a globally contested region. The scramble for Africa post Berlin Conference, post Cold-War and post-Colonial period has been replaced by a more nuanced scramble for influence and resources, led by old and new protagonists and actors. What is critical in this new phase is that Africa is poised to exercise its leverage, influence and being an active participant in determining its role.


At the economic level, prospects for growth within African economies will continue to be positive, even when the global economy will likely face headwinds. How Africa, and South Africa in particular, navigates and respond to the social, political, security and economic trends is thus important.


The demographic dividend in Africa has anchored the rise of the continent and provides a platform for positive prospects in 2024 and beyond. Africa is home to the world’s youngest and fastest-growing population, burgeoning cities, and bold innovations in diverse fields such as fintech and energy, as highlighted by the McKinsey Global Institute Report of June 2023. The population of the continent is expected to reach 2,5 billion by 2050. In this regard, abundant human potential exists for innovation in numerous areas. Despite the outflow of many young African migrants to other regions, there has been the emergence of skilled young people both in their countries and the Diaspora who are beginning to have an impact in their home countries, particularly in the science and technology, arts, heritage and culture, and eco-tourism fields, among others. Entrepreneurship development in some countries, particularly in adaptive new fields such as artificial intelligence (AI) is beginning to emerge and will be on the high trajectory this year going forward.


The afore-mentioned opportunities will equally be confronted with challenges. Social disaffection of the youth in some countries will continue to pose a threat, particularly as economic opportunities for advancement continue to be limited. This often leads to substance abuse and other societal ills. Women and youth empowerment will continue to be a recurrent theme on the continent as efforts are made to realise the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The challenges of migration will also be an issue to follow and will be a factor going forward. However, the negative, draconian and discriminatory practices perpetrated against African migrants in Europe, some parts of Asia and other regions is a concerning trend that is likely to persist.


The analysis on internal political and security developments and trends within countries on the continent points to combination of positive and negative trends that will likely impact on prospects for inclusive democracy, good governance and stability. In the past decade there were positive developments in the advancement of democracy and participation in institutions on the continent by the public. The holding of regular elections at presidential, parliamentary and other levels became a feature in a number of countries. After preceding decades when popular political participation in democratic systems was at a low level, notable progress was registered.


The holding of regular elections will continue to be a prominent feature across the continent. There will be 17 national presidential and/or national elections in 2024, including among others, Algeria, Tunisia, Senegal and Mauritania. In the SADC region, South Africa, Mozambique, Botswana, Comoros, Mauritius and Namibia will hold elections. This bodes well for democratic institutions on the continent and also strengthens efforts aimed at the advancement of the AU’s African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, adopted in 2007.


However, the contestation of the outcomes of these elections in some instances presents a major problem and is likely to re-emerge in 2024 in some of the elections. The disputes around election results impact on perceptions of illegitimacy of election outcomes among sections of the citizenry in those countries. Accusations of political manipulation of election outcomes is often cited. However, there are also structural weaknesses that also hamper some of the electoral bodies mandated to manage and oversee elections. Some related impediments relate to lack of resources for these important institutions.


Unconstitutional changes of government continue to be a major political challenge. There have been nine military coups since 2020 on the continent. The recent military coups in Burkina Faso, Mali, Guinea Conakry, Niger and Gabon have brought this challenge to the core and undermine constitutional order in those countries and present a major source of concern. The outbreak of these activities is in violation of the OAU framework for a response to Unconstitutional Changes of Government (Lomé Declaration) of 2000, subsequently subsumed into the AU. In addition, a recent failed military coup in Guinea Bissau, and an equally unsuccessful countercoup in Guinea Conakry also reflects this emerging trend.


The influence and presence of external actors provides another complicating factor on the continent. There is increasing resentment by populations to the role of France on the continent. In some of the Franco-phone countries, populations are calling for a reset of relations, emphasising the need for mutually beneficial and relations with France based on equality. This has been reflected in Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso. The pillars of previous domination are being challenged. This is likely to persist into the future, with similar sentiments likely to emerge in Cameroon and Congo-Brazzaville, among others. The prolonged tenure of governments in the latter two countries, regarding as dynastic in nature and close allies of France, are likely to provide incentives not only for change but a move away from French influence.


Furthermore, the countervailing forces presented by the existence of alliances and partnerships African countries have forged with China, and some with the Russian Federation, and to a lesser extent with Turkey, will shape the contestation for influence and access to resources by external actors. This development takes place at the time when the United States, following the retreat from Africa by the Trump administration, has begun efforts to re-assert itself on the continent. A sharp and robust implementation of the instruments provided economically by AGOA and from a security perspective by the US Africa Command, will be a feature of African developments.


The Russia-Ukraine armed conflict will continue to have an impact on the continent, particularly on the accessibility of grain imports to Africa. In terms of international alignment, Africa faced pressure from the Western countries to take sides in the conflict in support of Ukraine. This pressure will continue to persist. South Africa’s principled position to remain impartial, promote dialogue and lead the Africa Peace Initiative was thus strategic in nature.


The conflict in Gaza, characterised by Israel’s genocidal actions, will continue to be a factor in 2024 and further on, particularly as Israel continues to carry out its assault on the Palestinian people. Africa’s response has largely been mixed, with South Africa being a major rallying force is support of the Palestinian cause and further calling Israel to account in the context of international instruments. Supported by Tunisia, Algeria and Djibouti, and possibly other states, South Africa’s stance and representations will be paramount.


Security dynamics on the continent remain fluid. Conflict hotspots in 2024 will include the intractable conflicts in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, Libya, Cameroon and the Sahel region. The current hostilities in Sudan, unresolved challenges in South Sudan, terrorist insurgency in northern Mozambique and in Somalia remain a major threat to peace, security and stability. The current worrying rhetoric between Ethiopia and Somali on the issue of the territory of Somaliland threatens to explode in 2024, if not managed. In addition, the Pretoria Agreement between the Ethiopian government, and the Tigray Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF) remains precariously in force. Any resumption of hostilities in 2024 will be detrimental to stability in Ethiopia and the East Africa region.


Political challenges are likely to impact a number of African countries. Establishing inclusive governance and human rights is essential in addressing these factors. For instance, there needs to be a reduction of the trust deficit between governments and the people in some countries. The calls for human rights and accountability are likely to intensify in several countries. Strengthening of institutions of government, and their independence from political influence will also drive the agenda of sections of civil society in some countries.


At a global level, Africa will have to navigate and leverage the benefits of engagement with multiplicity of external actors. Global partnerships will thus be crucial.


Whilst the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA) provides a framework for peace and stability and is critical to Africa’s commitment to Silence the Guns, outbreaks of armed conflict will impact on future prospects for stability. In this regard, conflicts on the continent will in 2024 continue to be a part of the agenda of the African Union Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) and United Nations security Council (UNSC).


South Africa should continue to work with like-minded countries to promote and protect African interests, particularly consolidation of the African Agenda. With regard to the latter, South Africa should expand its efforts at ensuring that solidarity with the Saharawi people in the quest to achieve self-determination is intensified and Morocco’s colonial domination of Saharawi territory is ended.


Economic Trends


Africa’s economic forecast in 2024 will be characterised by steady growth. This year, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the continent is projected to be the second fastest growing economic region in the world with a growth rate of 4%, second to Asia. This will also be driven by the expansion of trade in commodities such as minerals, whose prices on the world market remain high. Considering the global economic landscape, which has largely remained slow in 2023, Africa on aggregate posted positive results. However, the IMF’s 2023 Global Economic Outlook Report on Africa points to a number of indicators that have and will continue to impact adversely on the world economy. These include rising inflation, high borrowing costs and a cost-of-living crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic had also dampened economic activity, but the global economy is steadily on a rebound, albeit slow.


A number of African countries have in the past couple of years consistently experienced very good Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth. Data published in 2023 by the African Development Bank in its biannual report indicates that GDP growth in Benin (6.4%), Cote d’ Ivoire (7.1%), Ethiopia (6.0%) and Tanzania (5.6%) are examples of this positive development. Other African countries also had positive growth rates with the ADB projecting that for the 2023-2024 period, economic growth across the continent will be at 5.5% or more, which will be above the projected global averages of between 2.7% and 3.2%. South Africa is projected to have achieve a growth rate of 1.2% in 2024, as compared to 0.9% in 2023.


In this context, Africa’s economic attraction will remain central to its global partners. Whilst maintaining economic relations with traditional Western partners, the continent has forged broadly beneficial links with China, which has become Africa’s largest trading partner. Despite China facing some criticism related to its Africa economic approach, it also remains a major credit provider for Africa and a significant source of direct foreign investment.


The African Union (AU) recognises innovation as a key driver of economic growth and development in Africa. The AU’s Agenda 2063, a 50-year development plan, prioritises innovation and technology as a means to achieve the continent’s goals. The AU’s Science, Technology, and Innovation Strategy for Africa aims to promote science, technology, and innovation across the continent. The African Union Commission’s Innovation and Technology Hub, provides a platform for innovators to showcase their work and connect with investors and partners, all these are critical interlocutors for economic diplomacy and Africa’s economic integration, envisaged by the Abuja Treaty and the Lagos Plan of Action.


Broadening access to African products will thus be essential for continent in a highly complex environment. Therefore, continued access to the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) preferential terms will also be important for Africa’s economic prospects in 2024. The United States has also identified AGOA as key to its interest in Africa. Furthermore, increasing trade with India will also become a feature of Africa’s economic reach. In this landscape of an interdependent global trade economy, Africa is making strides is achieving intra-African trade in order to break barriers and deepen mutually beneficial relations. Therefore, the continent will work towards the accelerated implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, which is a major milestone.


From a commodities perspective, particularly in the areas of mineral resource exploration, prospects will remain positive. Africa has an abundance of minerals which will continue to attract global demand. Strategic minerals which the continent possess include rare earths, such as lithium, graphite, bauxite, manganese and cobalt, which are all essential for modern technologies. In addition, a number of countries, such as Niger, have uranium deposits, which are essential for the peaceful uses of nuclear technology, including in agriculture and health. The oil and gas industry in Africa are also modernising, coupled with significant production output expected in 2024 from major players on the continents such as Angola, Nigeria, Gabon, Mozambique, Libya and Equatorial Guinea expecting to benefit from higher oil prices.


However, structural challenges will also characterise Africa’s economic forecast for 2024 and beyond. Foremost among these are inadequate private sector financing inflows, high levels of debt, infrastructure deficiencies, unemployment, inequality, rising food prices and high levels of poverty in a number of countries. These challenges are compounded by high levels of debt which some of the countries are experiencing, such as Ghana, Zambia, Ethiopia and Egypt. Consequently, debt distress and addressing it will be prominent within the African economic architecture in 2024.


Whilst the continent will experience positive economic growth, the challenges that remain would need to be tackled. For instance, infrastructure capacity needs to be addressed in order to unleash the potential for further growth. This relates to port, rail and air connectivity, telecommunications, digital technology upscaling. The need to beneficiate and localise the processing of the continent’s mineral resources remains paramount and the inability to implement this aspect in many countries on the continent hampers the potential to derive much needed revenue. In this regard inward investment, and private-public sector partnerships are essential. The problem of illicit financial flows out of the continent also remains an obstacle.


As Africa continues to be on an upward trajectory of economic growth, harnessing self-reliance while maximising the benefits emanating from global economic partnerships will be crucial. The deceleration in the growth prospects of China in 2024 will entail Africa expanding its range of exports and imports with China, beyond commodities, automotive products and agricultural products. However, this will not negatively impact on the depth of economic relations.


Another important factor relates to how Africa can mitigate against the impact of Climate Change on the economic prospects of the region. Significant investment is needed in 2024, in line with the commitments made by the developed countries in funding the Green Energy Transition. Added to this aspect is the need to capacity the continent’s disaster management capacities to deal with emergencies. The massive floods in Libya and the earthquake in Morocco in 2023, and the humanitarian response that was needed, brought these challenges to the fore.


South Africa should continue to play a key role in the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area. South Africa, as the biggest and most Industrialised economy on the continent, should utilise its capacity to foster more regional economic cooperation and integration. The Southern African Development Community (SADC) provides a conduit and a launch-pad for enhanced cooperation.


Through economic diplomacy initiatives and given the wide reach and presence of South Africa’s major companies on the African Continent, South Africa is well placed not only to grow its own economy and investment portfolio, but will intrinsically share technology, skills and expertise in many fields. In this regard, leading in such areas as financial services, telecommunications, manufacturing, mining, green energy will assist in propelling continental growth. The BRICS Development Bank provides an opportunity for the funding support that is necessary for the rolling out of development projects. Closer collaboration with the African Development Bank will also enhance partnerships.


The long-term people-centred AU Agenda 2063 recognises the critical role of science, technology and innovation, as universal enablers for addressing poverty and inequalities; diseases; climate change impact; food and nutrition security, digitisation, health; disease prevention, environmental conservation, migration.


Education as a key interlocutor


The AU theme of the Year 2024 is Educating an Africa fit for the 21st century: building resilient education systems for increased access to inclusive, qualitative, lifelong, and relevant learning for Africa.


The theme was launched during the African Union Assembly in February 2024 held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Furthermore, the Heads of State and Government used the launch of the theme to underscore the importance of a resilient and quality education system in the realisation of the economic growth and development of the Continent.


The right to education is protected by a collection of international, regional and national legislation, but most specifically by Articles 13 and 14 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The Committee on the Rights of the Child states that education should reflect a balance between promoting the physical, mental, spiritual and emotional aspects and the intellectual, social and practical dimensions of education. The right to education has been described as an empowerment right or a gateway right. Consequently, the right should enable the educated to take control of her life and contribute to the development of her state.


In South Africa, this might involve decolonising freedom itself. The rights that come with freedom such as the right of association should not be used as tools to perpetuate coloniality and stall decolonisation. To decolonise, as Franz Fanon has taught us, is to practice humanism as opposed to talking about humanism. Fanon made this point in his reflections on colonial relations, that Western Man talks about humanism (human rights, human dignity etc.) and yet perpetuates anti-humanist projects (such as colonialism and neo-colonialism) around the world. The temptation for those who suffered (and continue to suffer) the injustices of colonialism is to seek revenge but to decolonise is to move away from the logic of coloniality that designates others as ontologically and epistemologically inferior. It is to embrace humanity in its diversity.


Education in many African states is comparatively characterised by inadequate availability, accessibility, acceptability and adaptability of education. This educational incompatibility has led to a significant level of unemployment or underemployment, underdevelopment and ‘brain-drain’, as well as some erosion of languages and cultures.


The colonial experience reduced education to a tool of communication between the coloniser and the colonised. Emphasis on the individual and de-emphasis on community and culture resulted in ideological dissonance. Despite post-independence attempts to reverse this, vestiges of post coloniality in contemporary education remain and perpetuate a myth of inferiority of indigenous knowledge and methods.


Institutions like schools and universities represent a microcosm of society, and thus, the decolonisation of such institutions will begin the process of a much broader transformation that will eventually affect the whole of Africa and South Africa.


The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) identifies university leadership as a prioritised education policy around the world and has called for the development of university leadership frameworks that respond to current and future educational environments as countries (like South Africa) seek to adapt their education systems to the needs of a twenty-first century society. The OECD suggests that universities and schools must lay the foundation for lifelong learning while simultaneously dealing with new challenges such as changing demographic patterns, increased migration, changing knowledge markets, new technologies and rapidly developing fields of knowledge.


Under the impact of colonialism, neoliberalism and globalisation, education continues to produce a system in which student disengagement, inequality and social justice continues to take place.


Eurocentric epistemologies are still firmly entrenched in South African education institutions, and call for intellectual spaces to be decolonised, de-racialised, de-masculinised and de-gendered. Decolonising education calls for a Eurocentric consciousness to be disrupted, and notions of meritocracy within education and society that have privileged some, to be challenged. Decolonising theories and documents on social injustice, gives voice to subjugated knowledge, creates space for the voices of the silenced to be expressed and listened to, and challenges racism, colonialism and oppression and therefore has convergence with those who advocate for socially just leadership.


If we are to move education in South Africa forward, alternative ontological and epistemological ways of knowing must be centred, understood and practised.


For decolonisation to have a profound effect, the process of destroying the colonial pathogens that have kept the black mind chained must be instituted. Franz Fanon in 1952 wrote that ‘the juxtaposition of the black and white “races” has resulted in a massive psycho-existential complex’. His book, Black skin, white masks, ‘is meant to liberate the black man from the arsenal of complexes that germinated in the colonial situation’ – in other words, Fanon underscores the need for the black person to overcome the psychological or mental effects of colonialism. Decolonisation of higher education is about justice that addresses the epistemic violence of colonial knowledge and colonial thought’. Decolonisation is a project that many have rightly interpreted as an act of defiance against all Eurocentrism. This act of “defiance” is deconstruction itself’. It therefore matters little if one is labelled academically dissonant and dissident if Africa is locating or claiming its own indigenous or native centre for knowledge production and dissemination.


In his speech to the 1960 Pan-African Congress, Patrice Lumumba, the first indigenous leader of the Republic of the Congo, called for mental decolonisation, urging Africans to rediscover our most intimate selves and rid ourselves of mental attitudes and complexes and habits that colonisation trapped us in for centuries.


Dewey, a scholar of Utopianism; in his Pedagogic Creed of 1897 wrote: ‘The most formal and technical education in the world cannot safely depart from’ the general process by which individuals appropriate ‘the social consciousness of the race’; that is, learning as a feature of participation in social activities. The purpose of education (Dewey, 1934) was clear: functionalism was the main guiding principle. African society regarded education to an end, not as an end in itself. Education was generally intended for immediate induction into society and preparation for adulthood. African education emphasised social responsibility, job orientation, political participation, and spiritual and moral values. Children learnt by doing, and children and adolescents engaged in participatory ceremonies, rituals, imitation, recitation and demonstration.


The plurality of differences among peoples of diverse cultures makes it more challenges for institutions of higher learning in Africa to decolonise practices.




In conclusion, decolonisation, particularly in South African education ought to focus on dehumanising (creating conditions that ensure interracial co-existence and mutual respect), pluriversalising knowledge (creating conditions that ensure that all humans are recognised as producers of knowledge) and lastly de-racialisation of power (creating conditions that balance power dynamics in the University space and in society in general).


The African University ought to be conscious of the history of colonialism and how it has shaped knowledge production and power relations. All stakeholders in the education system, regardless of race ought to see decolonisation as an agenda that seeks to bring justice as opposed to vengeance.


This is what the forebears of the Organisation for African Unity envisaged, and this is what the African Union underpinned by declaring the 61st Africa Day to be a de-colonial interlocutor: Educating an Africa fit for the 21st century.


I thank you.




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