Good governance are two words that have come to mean a lot these days. Personally it sparked my attention when President Obama used it as justification for his selection of Ghana in the recently concluded trip to the motherland.
Have these words come to mean something else? So what is it then that the “powers that be” namely the World Bank, western donor countries and all other ‘givers’ tout as necessary ingredients to attracting foreign investment and aid? Requisites for development.
Good Governance much like democracy, free trade, market liberalization, and not so many other words or phrases have meanings outside of the literal in 21C global politics.
It has been the bane of development in Africa both in terms of the Government’s efficiency in delivering based on the needs of the governed and as a tool or ‘conditionality’ imposed on us by our ‘development partners.’
This article focuses on the latter; the political definition that determines how much and what kind of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), trade and ‘aid’ we receive.
So what are we talking about? Well for starters, nobody needs to be taught or educated on the virtues of Good Governance.
The phrase, in the literal sense and its inherent components has always been part and parcel of democratization struggles throughout the world. Good is good, bad is bad, there are indeed grey areas especially when it comes to issues of governance but for the most part, people feel and know when they have responsive and accountable leadership within any socio-political environment.
We are talking about political doublespeak. Good Governance is now a science that can be measured and gauged based on empirical research- an index that breaks it down into six categories.
These are Voice and Accountability, Government Effectiveness, Rule of Law, Control of Corruption, Regulatory Quality, Political Stability and Absence of Violence.
This in my opinion, amounts to corporate boardroom prescriptions for real-life conditions; social factors notwithstanding. It is this notion of Good Governance that is theoretically frowned upon in Africa although we have to practically subscribe to it.
A recent study concluded that “the Bank’s faith in market mechanisms underestimates the significant challenges posed by institution- building and the need to protect the vulnerable.”
Conclusively it is important to separate Government and Governance. In as much as the ultimate responsibility of the nation and its people fall on the Government (beginning with the Executive); they alone are not the sole determinants of policy outcomes.
There are a number of behind the scenes actors that bear a lot of responsibility in the Africa we see today.
The dispensational challenges faced by Africans have forced us to change, more so our leaders.
We know that “poverty, hunger and bad governance cannot be eliminated without the democratization of policy making to the most local level possible…” Strong institutions as opposed to strongmen are in the offing (although you need strongmen to build strong institutions).
We are starting to demand fair and equitable business agreements and mutual responsibility as opposed to ‘aid’ and “fair trade” patronage.
We now urge the other side to change as well. These and such all fall within the Good Governance discussion.
The author is a Rwandan who has just returned from diaspora.