In the speech delivered on May 25, 2020 (World Africa Day), by the Chairperson of the African Union Commission to mark the 57th Anniversary of the union, His Excellency, Moussa Faki Mahamat stated that “There is an urgent need for Africa to develop new forms of resilience in a world in which multilateralism is sorely tested. Africa must stop expecting solutions from others. Africa should no longer be satisfied with the role of never-ending reservoir for some and dumping ground for others”. The concept of ‘African Renaissance’ which describes the shared vision for the resurgence of Africa was articulated by formal South African President, Thabo Mbeki in 1997 to comprise; social cohesion, democracy, economic rebuilding and growth and the establishment of Africa as a significant player in geo-political affairs. In this article, I discuss how I would chart a novel path to African renaissance and liberation if I were in charge of this great continent.
Rewriting the African Narrative The emancipation of Africa must begin with the restoration of its true history, identity, values and heritage. Over the years, the great continent of Africa has suffered several misrepresentations by other people of the world with such words as the “dark continent”, “shithole”, “resource cursed” etc. These misleading narratives have long impacted the psychology of Africans, leading to snail paced response towards transformation and development of Africa. The single story of a dark continent imposed on Africa by the whites is the reason most young Africans want to elope from the land of milk and honey under the delusion that the continent is inferior, uncivilized and uninhabitable.
Marcus Gravey, a renowned Pan-Africanist once said that, “a people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots”. While the Europeans and Americans pride in the knowledge of their history, the Africans, especially the young people know very little about their history. “Until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter”, this was the assertion of the famous legendary writer, Chinua Achebe in 1994. It is abysmal that an average African child is like the boy described in Oswald Mtshali’s famous poem “Boy on a swing” silently asking “Where did I come from?” with no one giving him a fair response. African renaissance cannot be achieved until we give sound response to the following questions: Who are Africans? Where are we coming from? What had and is happening to us? Where are we going? And who do we want to be? These are pertinent questions I would seek to answer as an African leader. Unfortunately, in Africa, only very few foundational schools – primary and secondary, teach their students African history whereas that ought to be a compulsory and not an elective subject of learning in our foundational schools. The citizenship education and general studies course taught in our universities is too shallow to equip our graduates with the correct facts to rewrite the African narrative.
The mass media which is a viable tool for rewriting the African narrative has failed to aggressively market the African identity to challenge the ones imposed by the west. As a leader, I would reengineer our mass media to tell the African story correctly to our people and the rest of the world. Our media must glorify the beauty of our ethnic and religious diversity, and raise confidence in our local manufacturing industries. Our movie industries which is saturated by young people have over the years depicted “black” a negative colour. The devil in African movies are usually painted black albeit in reality he might just be white. There is a scarcity of movies that depict the true culture and value system of African people, majority of what we have in circulation nowadays are movies depicting violent crime scenes and erotic sights which in no way promotes the African values of integrity, selflessness and unity. We denigrate our own culture and celebrate that of the west because we have been forced to believe that African masquerade is evil but Santa Claus is good and our traditional weddings are formality while the white wedding is the holy matrimony.
The black woman too has been assigned a negative value. Little wonder, most manufacturers of cosmetics and graphic designers use images of white women to advertise products meant for black women. This obviously has led our young women into unnecessary beauty pursuits such as bleaching their skin to look like the whites, forgetting that black is beautiful. Today, we have all kinds of hair for women replacing our natural African hairstyles ranging from Brazilian hair, pig hair, dog hair, horse hair, goat hair, blonde hair, brunette hair amongst others. Our young men have replaced native wears with all sorts of attires like crazy jeans, and dog chains. For this trend to change, I would develop programs that will encourage our people to resist the urge to yield to negative external influences that does not promote Africa’s identity and culture. We must take pride in Africa’s unique cultures and values. There is no doubt that raising confidence level among Africans will result to sustainable rebirth of Africa’s unique identity to the entire world. Thus, I would focus on systematically changing the value system of my people. I would start by reminding Africans that Africa is a great continent, richly endowed and not cursed; a continent with a rich history, a great heritage and a warm people. This would go a long way in stirring a sense of pride in Africans, the kind of pride that propels people to make a commitment to serve and develop their father land.
Rethinking Africa’s Path to Economic Liberation
There is a need for Africa to chart a novel path to its greatness. African renaissance is a forward-thinking, creative and responsive ideology that fosters Africa’s renewal. Hence, it is an ideology founded on a proper understanding of Africa’s current challenges from within and outside the continent. My goal therefore would be to redesign the artificial Africa created by colonial holocausts to now reflect ‘The Africa We Want’ (African Union Agenda 2063). Our food dependence and insecurity must now be unacceptable. As a leader, I would in clarity, boldly design an innovative approach to economic liberation that is inward looking rather than outward looking. Patrick Lumumba, the director of Kenya school of law rightly asserted that “African problems require African solutions”.
Africa’s land, forests, rich fauna, and inland waterways hold the necessary resources to meet the needs of its people. Singapore is an example of a nation that utilized the resources at their disposal to attain economic freedom. In 1965, shortly after most African countries gained independence, Singapore was liberated from the yolk of colonialism and started an amazing era of development and transformation. They had little or no natural resources at their disposal but took advantage of their location, a selfless intellectual government with an unfeigned scorn for mediocrity and corruption coupled with a free trade system to transform into a regional financial hub. As an African leader, I would end looking somewhere else for solutions and start looking for solutions internally. If Africa needs any aid, the most urgent one is to get rid of the neo-colonial chain called ‘International Aid’ that shackles its people, creates and maintains the beggar mentality. I would ensure the mobilization of domestic resources to increase internally generated revenue for development. Most African countries need a strategic restructuring of their tax collection system to eliminate porosity to tax evasion and capital flight. Generally, tax collection per capita is relatively low in Africa, and so providing social infrastructure have been a herculean task for the government. To overcome this challenge, Winnie
Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam International recommends that “African leaders have to wake up and tax those who have the money.” Also, I would devise strategies to ensure optimum compliance to tax policies as well as ensuring that there is only one active agency at each tier of government that collects tax to avoid multiple taxation which has been a problem for decades.
Furthermore, for Africa to achieve inclusive economic development, I would place focus on boosting our Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and also promote innovation and enterprise by establishing community-based institutions like village polytechnics that teach skills such as tailoring and hair making amongst others. This would go a long way in ensuring that both formally skilled and informally skilled persons are carried along. “Made in Africa” goods must be made to become appealing to Africans. Most Africans especially elites prefer foreign goods and services to local ones and continually patronize foreign companies at the detriment of our local industries. I would design strict policies, and enforcement restricting citizens from patronizing foreign products and services where the equivalence of such exist in African markets. This would further boost confidence in local manufacturers and as well
improve the standard of production as the rich will have no option but to invest in these businesses and bring them up to the standard they want.
The drawback to infrastructural development in Africa is the inadequacy of government resources to cover the continents infrastructure deficit. Therefore, the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) model is one of the ‘golden bullets’ which I would use to tackle infrastructural financing problem. Nations like India, Philippines and Malaysia among others have reduced their infrastructural deficit through PPPs. Adopting a good PPP model has enormous benefits to both government and the private sector. It will enable government build a commercial approach to infrastructural development and enable private sector maximize profit and increase their technical and managerial efficiency. Evidently, mono resource dependence has been the major obstacle to economic diversification in Africa. For instance, the Nigerian economy has been at the mercy of global oil prices for decades. When oil price rises, the economy rises and when the price goes down, the nation falls into recession. Economic diversification shall therefore top my agenda. The recent adoption of the African Continental Free Trade Area (ACFTA) which aims to create a single market structure in Africa, offers African countries the opportunity to grow their local industries. I would equip our manufacturing sectors to own and control these processes to increase opportunity for employment and value chains. This would ultimately improve our capacity to convert “Made in Africa” products into finished and well-packaged goods. Henceforth, we shall not wait for China, U.S.A, France and allies to establish chocolate factories for us.
Promoting Youth Leadership and Innovation It was Late Kofi Annan, one-time Secretary General of the United Nations who rightly said that “young people should be at the forefront of global change and innovation. Empowered, they canbe key agents for development and peace. If, however, they are left on society’s margins, all of uswill be impoverished.” Noteworthy, the recent appointment of the 23 years old Hon. Emma Theophelus as deputy ICT minister of Namibia making her the youngest minister in Africa is a welcomed development and should be emulated by every other African country. I would take into cognizance the fact that the whole world is watching how we calibrate the potentials of our youth; how we encourage women inclusion to play key roles in policies and leaderships; how we harness and invest in educating our young people; how we support the vulnerable particularly displaced people and refugees, and how we leverage in improving skills and entrepreneurial
ideas of young people into social-economic innovation, alternative solutions and productivity.
I believe that this is the right time for Africa’s liberation. Africans are desirous of a prosperous continent and this can be greatly achieved by rewriting the narratives, rethinking our path to economic liberation and promoting youth leadership and innovation in the continent. Africans are responsible for Africa and our renaissance is guaranteed already!