Stop Using Africa To Score Points On Social Issue Debates
Africa is too often used as a blunt weapon to score points in debates about hopeless poverty or desperate need. Many countries have learned from their past mistakes and are now facing tremendous new opportunities. Yet much of this has gone unnoticed.
In most developing countries, and especially in Western Africa, the issues of global governance, climate change and the environment are topics that never get discussed in most social circles even though they have direct effects on us. From the corner shops of Bamako, Mali; to the slums of Kibera, Kenya, to the farming villages of Nouakchott, Mauritania and the oil producing states of Northern Nigeria there’s a pressing need for such discussions to be started among all kinds of people.
Question: Who should be responsible for these initiatives?
I believe the first answer that comes to mind will be the government – only you and I are the government. So what are we waiting for? How long are we going to rely on the government to start such projects for us?
Before starting this post, I took a cue from Ulrike Reinhard’s latest article: The Greater WE which focuses on global governance issues. In response to the question: If governments don’t succeed, should civil society take action and propose its own solutions?
I answer: YES.
Even though civil society is composed of voluntary social organizations and institutions, I believe they are also part of the government of any country. The state, market and civil society together constitute the entirety of a society, and the relationships between these components determine the character of a society and its structure.
I’ve come to realize that there’s no better definition for Global Governance than Wikipedia’s “the complex of formal and informal institutions, mechanisms, relationships, and processes between and among states, markets, citizens and organizations, both inter- and non-governmental, through which collective interests on the global plane are articulated, rights and obligations are established, and differences are mediated.”
On a recent trip from Ghana’s capital, Accra, back to Takoradi, I sat on the bus next to a Canadian exchange student who happened to be reading “Emerging Africa: How Seventeen Countries Are Leading The Way.” I became interested and decided to take a peep while she had a nap.
The book moves in a new direction in recognizing the important differences between Africa’s up-and-coming countries, the oil-exporters (where progress has been uneven and volatile), and the others (where there has been little progress) instead of treating sub-Saharan Africa as one colossal entity.
The book touched my heart in talking about those important changes happening across Africa which I myself have seen in some parts on my various trips.. The countries discussed in the book are Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Ethiopia, Ghana, Lesotho, Mali Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, São Tomé and Principe, Seychelles, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia. In these 17 countries, the five fundamental and sustained breakthroughs given below are making old assumptions increasingly untenable:
- More democratic and accountable governments;
- More sensible economic policies;
- The end of the debt crisis and changing relationships with donors;
- The spread of new technologies; and
- The emergence of a new generation of policymakers, activists, and business leaders.
How long will African leaders be hearing the language of protests and demonstrations and not the calls of their people for development? What actions are you willing to take to promote development in your own environment?