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Africa 2011 – Working on my plan

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As we continue a conversation on what kind of Africa we want to see, we are compelled to reflect on the true meaning and construction of citizenship.

A view, rightly or wrongly, is held that birth confers certain rights to human beings over the resources and the land occupied.

Rarely do conversations include the obligations of citizenship and how such obligations can be best discharged in the interests of human progress.

In the battle against poverty, an assumption must be made that each living human being has a plan to improve his or her negotiating powers in the economic sphere.

In explaining poverty, one must acknowledge that although the reasons are many and complex, the person who is generally described as poor is one that has limited or no negotiating power in the market place.

Generally, the rich are privileged and free to make choices and not necessarily to live a better life. They can get the conveniences of life, but they cannot buy life.

In life, they can get what the market offers and the poor are constructively excluded from participating in the market.

The voices of the poor are not ordinarily heard and this has consequences. The powerful political elites create careers in the name and voice of the poor.

Both the politically powerful and the poor often do not trust the economically powerful although economic power is a consequence of service.
In as much as the rich have a plan, the poor also have their own plans.

The only difference is that the poor generally find themselves at the bottom of the opportunity mountain, but there is nothing that can stop a poor person from climbing the mountain in a free society.

If we accept the proposition that each person has a plan, it is important that we appreciate the power of the human spirit and what is required to inspire people to climb the mountain.

Can the state and its actors substitute the need for individuals to work on their plans?

Experience has shown that in societies where state actors assume powers to plan the future for ordinary citizens, poverty is not easily reduced.

Effort in human civilisation normally produces outcomes.

There are some who through inheritance and marriage acquire wealth, but to maintain and sustain it requires effort.

If human effort is required and necessary then it means that we have to invest in creating the kind of conditions that can best capture the human spirit and imagination.

Even the most powerful people have their own plans for survival and yet there exists a notion that the burden to alleviate poverty must be placed solely on the wealthy and powerful.

I should like to believe that any society in which one person expects another to enhance his/her market power as a working model to advance human progress will never live up to its promise.

At the individual, household, community, national and continental levels, we all want the future to be predictable and prosperous.

As individuals, it would be great if out of the efforts and plans of others, prosperity can be assured.
A society in which citizens look up to state actors to lead the charge against poverty and to be custodians of the future is doomed to failure.

However, the chaotic life of human beings and the unpredictable nature of the journey of life suggest that if individuals are left to their own devices they will primarily promote and protect their own interests.

The post-colonial experience has produced some absurd arrangements where citizens expect and generally look up to state actors to improve their negotiating power in the market place.

Most of the state actors have shown that ultimately they have their own personal and family plans that confer to them advantages that are ordinarily not available to the poor.

Until recently, the embattled Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, who wrote and spoke extensively about the need to create a classless society in which the governed have a say in the choices made by the governors, would not have wanted people to know his own plan.

Such a plan has now been exposed as the worst form of hypocrisy in which state resources were invested in the so-called imperialist West and not in Africa and, more significantly, his family was privileged to live a first-class existence in a relatively impoverished nation.

What will not change in Libya, for instance, is the fact that the new rulers will no doubt work on their plans in the name of addressing the excesses of Gaddafi’s rule. The poor will remain exposed to limited or no choices unless they work on their own plans.

Many of the plans of individuals revolve around the people they know. To the extent that even the people at the apex of the human chain have no capacity of knowing what the next person is thinking, one must take the view that each person has his or her own plans.

Even in a household of husband and wife, it is rare that plans are shared openly and transparently.
I have learnt to accept that the human mind is the most difficult to read, but what is clear is that each and every human being would want a better life on earth.

How can a better life be achieved? What is the role of the state and its arms in human development and progress?

It is my submission that a better life for all can best be achieved if the foundational principles are generally understood that it is impossible to strengthen the weak by weakening the strong and, more significantly, that the poor are endowed with the same spirit as any other human being.

There are some who believe that in climbing the mountain of opportunity they can do so on the back of others.

If, for example, we place a burden on state actors to resolve human problems we must be alive to the consequences.

Such consequences are generally misunderstood in that many people believe that the state is endowed with real resources and its actors can and should be responsible for allocating such resources.

God has generally been generous with resources. There are poor societies that have been privileged to have in their midst rich mineral resources, not forgetting the land and climate.

It is easy for people to assume the role of God by premising their future prospects on God’s creation and not on their effort.

If God wanted a specific generation to leverage his resources to benefit a certain class of people, he would have done so easily in his plan.

What then was God’s intention in granting mineral rights without testing the means to convert such resources into wealth?

We have to think about this issue as we develop our own plans to make good on God’s promise.

By depositing resources of value in Africa, God’s plan must have been that we would use our minds to address the challenge and opportunity.

Regrettably, we have chosen to play politics rather than engage carefully with key questions that have to be addressed if the hidden treasure is to have a role in changing the lives of African people.

We are reminded that those who conquered us yesterday had a plan and to some extent they did manage to create the kind of civilisation that they wanted to be part of.

In working on our plans, we must ask the question whether the national plans that have been written truly reflect the aggregate of the plans that are resident in the minds of each and every citizen of competent age.

The future belongs to all who choose to build it and should, therefore, never be surrendered to anyone.

Mutumwa Mawere is a businessman based in South Africa. He writes in his personal capacity.

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