How will Africans achieve a more prosperous and peaceful continent in 50 years' time?
This is what the African Union (AU) Commission chairperson, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, says she wants to find out from the AU's Agenda 2063 project.
This week the organisation launched a new website, dedicated to getting ordinary Africans to participate in developing the draft blueprint that will be presented to African heads of state at their next summit meeting in January next year.
Change of focus
Agenda 2063 is a collaboration between the AU, the African Development Bank and the United Nations Commission for Africa. It confirms what analysts have been seeing since Dlamini-Zuma took over at the AU in October last year, namely a shift of direction by the AU from a focus on peace building to socioeconomic development.
It also highlights an increasing focus on home-grown solutions for Africa, as opposed to those that were imposed on Africa in the past by international financial institutions or former colonial powers.
To promote debate about the project, Dlamini-Zuma has held a series of meetings around Africa, largely focused on issues such as youth development, ensuring more participation of women in decision-making and in the economy, infrastructure financing and intra-African trade.
The idea of "Africa's own Millennium Development Goals" was born in the run-up to the 50th celebrations of the formation of the Organisation of African Unity, now the AU, in May this year. It was felt that a strategy was needed to make sure Africans don't find themselves in 50 years' time still poorer than the rest of the world.
Speaking from Addis Ababa following the launch of the website on Tuesday, Mandla Madonsela, director of strategic planning at the AU, said governance and peace issues will still be important as a necessary prerequisite for development, but the focus is on "improving the quality of life of Africa's citizens".
"We are looking at the socioeconomic transformation agenda and how we can sustain growth to alleviate poverty," he said. "Africa has been growing at an average of 5% but the poverty levels are still not going down as much as one would expect."
Rallying around Agenda 2063 could be a way for Dlamini-Zuma to market the work of the AU and to forge greater unity among member states, as well as within the organisation she has to run.
Since taking over the reins at the AU, she has been accused of not spending enough time in Addis Ababa and criticised for appointing a large team of South Africans around her to run the show, leaving AU old-timers, especially Francophones, out in the cold.
However, teaming up with the African Development Bank president, Donald Kaberuka, to promote economic development could pay off.
The bank is a key partner in Agenda 2063. It is, for example, spearheading the Africa 50 Fund, discussed at a meeting between Dlamini-Zuma, Kaberuka and Carlos Lopes, executive secretary of the United Nations Commission for Africa, at the bank's headquarters in Tunis at the end of July.
At the meeting, Dlamini-Zuma said: "Despite progress recorded, we continue to face immense challenges: structural underdevelopment and dependency; huge backlogs in infrastructure, basic services and human resource development; and the need to build people-centred, inclusive and developmental public and private cultures and institutions."
She said the Agenda 2063 plan would draw from existing frameworks and strategies developed over "50 years of experience".
Many questions still remain about, for example, what benchmarks, if any, should be set for Africa to achieve by 2063? How will success be measured?
Although there is an increasing acceptance in Africa that high growth rates do not necessarily mean prosperity for all the continent's citizens, this still remains one of the main yardsticks used by African decision-makers to measure progress.
Buy-in from the heads of state will also be crucial to get the commission's ideas followed through.
Though Dlamini-Zuma can count on the support of President Jacob Zuma and many other Southern African heads of state, others, like Zambia's President Michael Sata, resist what they believe to be too much interference by the AU in their internal affairs.