Advancing human security in Africa under the spotlight at recent TICAD 8 side-event

TICAD 8 side event

September 26, 2022
Photo: UNDP Africa

As Africa grapples with a series of overlapping crises, including the protracted economic crisis exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the impact of the ongoing war in Ukraine on food security, and the unabated effects of climate change, safeguarding livelihoods and dignity across the continent were highlighted during a side-event ahead of the 8th Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD 8), held in Tunisia from 27-28 August 2022.

Examining survey data by Afrobarometer, a non-partisan research network, on “Revisiting Human Security in Africa in the post COVID-19 era”, an expert panel agreed that people's safety, livelihoods and dignity should be the overarching aim of all global collaborations and partnerships that support the continent’s development agenda.

Mr. Ryuichi Kato, Vice-President of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), emphasised that the Agency supports the concept of human security, which embraces the protection of an individual, community and society at large and supports the wellbeing of citizens.

Under the human security concept, JICA will continue to cooperate with the people and governments of African countries, as well as with the international community. Our joint efforts can enhance Africa’s resilience in the long-term,” said Mr Kato.

Acknowledging JICA and Afrobarometer for their continued commitment to supporting African countries and the global community to recover from the recent global shocks, Ms. Ahunna Eziakonwa, UNDP Regional Director for Africa, called attention to the need for concerted global efforts in addressing the emerging complex challenges.

According to UNDP, these exogenous shocks threaten to undermine decades of development gains and increase multidimensional vulnerabilities. In Africa, like elsewhere, these shocks have weakened economic growth, increased inequalities, hampered productivity and raised security challenges.

The continent’s average GDP growth rate declined for the first time in almost 30 years and its Human Development Index declined. In addition, most African countries are experiencing high debt burden, slow economic recovery, shrinking fiscal space and low resource mobilisation. Over 50 million Africans have been pushed back into extreme poverty, 168 million are food insecure, and 100 million can no longer afford sustainable energy options.

However, Ms. Eziakonwa was convinced that Africa is at a strategic and critical juncture, and this was an opportunity to reset and re-assess its human security, and provide a collaborative, coordinated response to development challenges and threats. She added that any responses should leverage on the combined capacities of state institutions, civil society actors, the private sector and local communities.

Unpacking and conceptualising effective and sustainable solutions to current and anticipated crises is precisely where the human security concept and approach can prove most relevant, as it has great potential for improving our understanding on how interconnected threats across various dimensions are endangering people and communities, while also aiding in identifying solutions that will protect the most vulnerable in the society.”

In line with JICA’s efforts to identify various threats to human security, address challenges and implement sustainable solutions, Afrobarometer surveyed six countries at various stages of development (Angola, Gabon, Kenya, Namibia, Nigeria and Tunisia) and assessed how interconnected threats across various dimensions are endangering people and communities.

Shedding light on the survey and its findings, Dr. Guy Lamb, of Stellenbosch University in South Africa, said that the survey set out to determine how people were coping with threats to human security, the modalities of securing their own safety, the availability of protective mechanisms, and the measures required to enhance human security in Africa.

On the question about how citizens in all six countries are felt about the direction in which their countries were going, a fairly large feeling is that people are feeling quite insecure,” said Dr. Lamb.

The survey highlighted the significant impact of the pandemic on human security, especially through job losses and income-generating activities. Additionally, it showed low levels of optimism about governments’ preparedness to respond to future health emergencies, and that women were at risk of intimate partner violence while children were susceptible to violence at home.

Afrobarometer recommended that human security frameworks should be significantly incorporated into the analysis of human development.

In support of this proposition, Professor Yoichi Mine from the Graduate School of Global Studies at Doshisha University emphasised that, “Besides providing a framework for a holistic assessment of security, a successful human security approach must create opportunities for feedback, allowing ordinary people to periodically share their views, experiences, and evaluations on the various dimensions of human security. In this context, Afrobarometer offers ordinary Africans a platform to give feedback to governments, policymakers and development stakeholders.” In addition, he stressed that, “Continent-wide, it will be important for us to analyse why differences of opinion arise between countries, regions, and groups, taking into account possible discrepancies between people’s subjective perceptions and objective conditions. Donors should respect African agency.”

The Minister of Local Government in Malawi, Professor Blessings Chinsinga, reiterated that the findings were not surprising and were consistent with the state of human security on the continent. He commended Afrobarometer for including the voices of ordinary Africans, an aspect that could help policymakers to understand the nuances of the underlying dynamics of human insecurity at a practical level.

Because the results revolve around the voices of the public, it supports the idea of moving away from traditional notions of human security and gives governments a tangible basis for policy intervention and to reflect on the interplay between the internal and external factors precipitating human insecurity on the continent,” said Professor Chinsinga.

On the roles of continental bodies like the African Union (AU) and sub-regional bodies in addressing and reversing these concerns and sentiments, Dr. Sheila Tamara Shawa, Senior Technical and Partnership Specialist at the AU Commission, reported that her organisation could support the development of public policies that promote human security and delivery concrete solutions to development challenges.

For example, if we address the aspect of climate change and promote awareness in our communities, we know this will then impact on food security and nutrition and promote a healthy continent and population who will be able to respond and fight off diseases,” she said.

Dr. Shawa further stated that ensuring public awareness of existing policies could be instrumental in alleviating the overall sense of despair and negative sentiments about the roles and efforts of governments.

Given the renewed attention to human security, JICA, UNDP and the AU agreed that there is an urgent need to discuss the relevance of human security in Africa, and how it can be implemented to inform recovery and resilience-building strategies.

Mr. Koji Makino, Director General for the JICA Ogata Research Institute, said that considering the current complex threats in the world as downside risks to SDGs, now is the right time to implement human security actions.

Mr. Makino stressed an urgent need for a multisectoral approach to the current threats and called for strengthened partnerships among governments, civil society groups, business and the international community in order to build resilient societies where people are free of fear and want, and can live with dignity. He also regarded three transformations of Creating Shared Value, DX and global governance as the innovative approaches to promote human security practice.

Regarding the nexus between a renewed human security concept and the capacity of African countries to leverage the continent’s immense natural resources for sustainable development, Dr. Raymond Gilpin, Chief Economist at UNDP Africa, pointed out that stakeholders and partners first needed to understand and appreciate the adverse effects of weakening multilateralism on their ability to influence human security across the world.

He further underscored the need for key stakeholders to focus on agency, trust and coordination, while articulating on the modalities for providing social protection, empowering all aspects and segments of the society, and building the kind of solidarity that allows African countries to scale up in terms of ambition, rather than interventions.

Scale up when it comes to ambition in terms of what development means, what sustainable transition means, and what a green energy transition means for Africa. That solidarity is very important in scaling up in those two important senses,” emphasised Dr. Gilpin.

The panellists agreed that a dignified and fulfilling life for Africans that is free from fear and want cannot be attained if any of these dimensions (economic, political, community, personal, health, food and environment) of security are lacking.

A recent UNDP report (New threats to human security in the Anthropocene, 2022) and another by JICA Ogata Research Institute (Human Security Today, 2022) reinforce and provide additional context and rationale for why a human security approach is more indispensable than ever.