Challenges and opportunities (final series)
At Independence many of the African leaders were inadequately educated or trained to manage modern states. Nor was the relevant information available or easily accessible to them. With information technology the succeeding generation of leaders has ample opportunities to obtain the quality and quantity of information they need or want.
These young leaders are also living in a world that has had four decades of experience in development co-operation, in which the notions of partnership, networking and collaboration are the acceptable methodologies of getting things done.
The 1990s brought unprecedented hopes for worldwide political co-operation in the face of global development challenges. Profound changes took place in the 1980s in the world’s political structure, perceptions, economic relations, ethics, demographic and ecological balances in other areas; do these changes present threats to or new opportunities for human progress?
Do they bring with them fresh impetus to foster global development co-operation similar to that of the three successful decades of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s … decades of notable improvements in human conditions?
Or will these changes once again push aside the great enterprises of development co-operation, as in the case of the 1980?
The succeeding generation of African leaders is faced with six major challenges. The freedom and ability of the individual to pursue his/her own interests, and the confidence to express one’s views and question those in power are critical to both democratic and development processes.
The challenge is: given Africa’s notion of the community and traditional preference for consensus, how to promote individual freedom in order to release the productive energies and creative talents without posing a threat to the fabric of the social cohesion, or encouraging destructive individualism and alienation.
Two, utilization of the global market forces to promote growth and sustainable human development beneficial to all the people and not only the multinationals and the few fortunate African elite.
Three, the creation of an environment that will promote the co-operation between the different generations of leaders and facilitate the recruitment and succession of leadership.
Four, the promotion of the culture of constitutionalism, accountability and transparency. Five, democratic principles are universal but their manifestations depend on specific historical experience and social foundations.
The sustainability of good governance depends on not only the observation of constitutionalism but also deference to the peoples cultures, norms and traditions.
The challenge is the identification of the appropriate African norms and traditions that could be grounded with the universal democratic principles. The long rule by single parties and military juntas in Africa have unfortunately misrepresented the role of politics and misinterpreted the responsibilities of government in civilized societies.
Single party dictators resorted to intrigues, regimentation, manipulations and coercion in support of what came to be known as the politics of nation building and economic development.
The military dictators dissolved political parties, banned politics and banished politicians in the name of cleansing society of bad politics and corrupt politicians. They all used governments to achieve their objectives, and a lot of these objectives were not for the public good.
Consequently politics and government have acquired bad names and mystics of their own. This is particularly the case with the young generation of Africans who have grown up during the periods of single party and military rule.
To many of them politics is an exciting and dangerous game in which one could get hurt or killed; as well as a means by which one could acquire popularity, fame and fortune.
And governments are perceived either as benevolent providers and protectors or as malevolent destroyers of life and property, hopes and aspirations.
Africa continues to be in deep economic and political problems with the night-mare scenarios, predicted by the ECA early in the 1980s, threatening many African countries as the 21st century progresses.
Africa has been suffering from brain drain as well as drained brains. Globalization has enabled those talented Africans with marketable skills and experience to immigrate to the richer countries, thus creating brain drain in their own countries where they are most needed. And those who remain for patriotic or other reasons suffer from drained-brains.
They are overworked in their own jobs; and because they have to supplement their domestic budgets to make ends they have to take extra jobs.
They are thus compelled to suffer from drained brains!! Whether due to lack of jobs or personal insecurity at home or expectations of better life in the richer countries many Africans flee their countries.
This has created a sad and somewhat pathetic situation where an African feels proud to be a citizen of a non-African country, and is willing to defend it with his life.
But the proper roles of politics and government in human societies are quite different from those projected by the first generation of African leaders. It is politics that has guided the human kind from the lowest levels of economic and social existence to affluence and sophisticated civilizations.
Politics has enabled human beings to find solutions to their conflicts and the best mutually acceptable means by which they could earn their living, protect lives and property and improve their standards of living.
And government was one of the means by which human beings used to achieve their collective objectives In reality government is a group of individuals who manage on behalf of the people the various public institutions and bodies that are responsible for the governance and economic management of the country.
In the course of the last four decades the role of government has undergone considerable transformations. Just as there is good governance and bad governance there is likewise good and bad politics.
The sixth challenge for the succeeding generation of leaders is the promotion of good politics and the reinvention of government appropriate to the new African conditions and global realities.
They must create an enabling environment that would reassure those with talents, skills, experience and entrepreneurship to remain within their countries, and attract those who have left to return to Africa with their enhanced skills and experiences.