Towards the great African promise

MAY 25 is Africa Day. This is the day we, the people of the great continent of Africa celebrate the day when the then Organisation of African Unity (OAU), the precursor to the African Union (AU), was formed in 1963.

Africa Day is a day we solemnly acknowledge the progress that we, as Africans, have made, while reflecting upon the common challenges we face as we venture into the exciting future.

Those in the struggles, hazards and pains of all manner and sort are worthy remembering in our prayers. Of course, not forgetting those who either don’t sleep or go to sleep hungry across the continent.

Just yesteryear, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the African Union with the theme “Year of Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance”.

With the latest electoral skulduggery and shenanigans on the African continent, electoral politics make Africa a big circus if not an embarrassment.

The AU occupies that cardinal place to spearhead the continent’s renewal and renaissance process, aimed at making a break with a past that has been characterised by political instability, stinking corruption, deadening poverty and unprecedented underdevelopment.

On this day, many African countries celebrate the hard-fought achievement of freedom and independence. As we commemorate Africa day through formal gatherings, panel discussions, street marches, great speeches by political and social leaders, special university lectures and rallies, we need to pause and reflect in order to give a fuller meaning to this historic day.

To punctuate this day with befitting tribute, we must unpack what Africa’s challenge and solution thereof is.

To sculpture solutions to Africa’s challenges, it is vital to locate what the problem of Africa is. The problem with Africa is principally a problem/crisis of governance and leadership. The crisis articulates itself in the failure of Africa’s leaders to rise up to the rectitude of accountability and yardstick of probity. The inability to think beyond subsistence and clientalism.

We have the twin evils of prebendalism (Big men syndrome) and neo-patrimonialism (corrupt kleptocracy). A parasitic elite in charge of rent seeking and racketeering activities for personal aggrandisement to the detriment of the common good and common citizen.

The story of strong men as opposed to strong institutions tells a story of African leadership from Cape to Cairo and East to the West of our great continent.

Africa is burdened by disease and poverty. The poverty in Africa is the poverty of leadership. The scarcity on our continent is the scarcity of vision and love.

But who is and what is Africa?

In my view, Africa is beyond just mere geographic expression of the map called Africa. It is an embodiment and articulation of the great aspirations of all those who live in it. It is an idea of self-determination, free politics, a refinement of our culture and pursuit of happiness.

Sadly, the great people of Africa have been unwitting consumers of raw deals on account of betrayal by those in leadership positions entrusted with the authorship of a template of happiness and prosperity for the continent.

The tale of the barbaric terrorism on the continent courtesy of the new rulers is an antithesis to the Africa, our founding fathers ever imagined and sculpted.

When the avalanche of problems far outweigh the supply of solutions, then leadership is in deficit. This is our story in Africa! Africa’s biggest problem is Africa. And Africa’s best answer is African.

Propelled by the human urge to be free, our fore-comrades carrying the liberation obligation and burden upon their shoulders, felt duty bound to institute a liberation effort.

The Africa of today is self-evidently the sum total of and a creature of liberation politics. A product of blood, sweat and toil of the gallant sons and daughters of the soil. A job well done indeed! We are indebted to generations past and we shall forever cherish the heroic feat. We salute and celebrate you.

We, however, now need to move the continent from the hands of liberators to the hands of democrats. Yes, from the mindset of just mere liberation to the mindset of both total liberation, transformation and full democracy.

Armed with a rich heritage and well-decorated history we owe it to those before and after us to do the best for most. Further, appreciating and acknowledging that the liberation culture is not necessarily a democratic culture, we need to build a superstructure of democracy on the base and foundation of liberation.

We have heard and seen liberators but now is the time for democrats, mordenisers and transformers to stand up and be counted to rescue our mother continent from the jaws of tyranny, hopelessness, barbarism and backwardness.

We owe it to our past heroes and posterity to protect and crusade the ideals of social justice, an abiding culture of human rights and a gratifying social order.

As we honour the traditions and legacy of our predecessors, we need a generation that thinks beyond their time. Visionaries in the mould of Kwameh Nkrumah, Marcus Garvey, Joshua Nkomo, Herbert Chitepo and Julias Nyerere to mention but a few. A generation that inspires innovation and the unleashing of the fullest potential of our best talents.

We must move beyond lip service pan Africanism and begin to act pan African. 50 years on, we have not moved much to transform our way of life. Most of the citizens of Africa are Africans who are either British or American. Very soon maybe an African Chinese. We seem to admire Western civilisation forgetting that our own African civilisation is perfect and superb upon development.

Pan Africanism is broader than the narrative foisted upon us. It is regrettable that many African comrades want to parochially confine and define Pan Africanism to and for themselves.

Africa should be the home to great sport, arts and entertainment. Africa deserves to be the portal of great entrepreneurship and world-class business. We ought to be a reservoir of great schools, universities and hospitals.

With our great natural resources and mines, we need great minds to build great industries and factories. We must create profit our of the great climate we have, the great soils, flora and fauna. We also have great people — the population dividend.

We also need to build strong political and economic institutions to mobilise and energise our collective skills for the profit of this and future generations. The United States of Africa is a good starting point. We need a vast African market to stimulate investment and mobilise our capital base.

We must induce the dawn of democracy. We have to make Africa and with it, Zimbabwe, a better place. We have to build millions of homes, millions more people have access to water and electricity, quality education and better healthcare. What I call the pillars of civilisation. We have to create jobs, provide social grants, safety nets to the poor and create new opportunities. We need to keep on improving people’s lives and opening up opportunities and possibilities. Africa, it is possible as it is opportune! The future is our past. The future should be both revolutionary and legendary.

Going forward, as countries and a continent, we need:

  • A rethink of our macro-economic management approaches to deal with structural distortions in our economies
  •  A developmental State and a conducive business and investment environment.
  • Strong democratic governments with strong arms of the State entailing craft competency and craft literacy in both the components of the selectorate (securocracy and bureaucracy).
  • Strong institutions reflecting oversight roles by strong Parliaments, Judiciary, vibrant and free Press, active civil society, strong and organised labour unions, thriving business, supported academics and the church.
  • Infrastructure investment into roads, electricity, water and communication constituting the very oxygen of growth and development.
  • We need a radical agrarian reform much broader and deeper than but not replacing land reform.
  • Migrate from subsistence to a commercial farming mindset. Farming and agriculture for business and surplus as opposed to just for consumption and food security.
  • Decent job and decent pay.
  •  A Focus on entrepreneurship as opposed to employment seeking.
  • A focus on consumer facing industries with an emphasis on technologies, skills and innovation.
  • Developmental focus on youth and women of Africa to harness the population dividend.
  • The target for SMEs should go beyond expanding tax base but to capacitate small industries.
  • Value addition to our raw materials. Africa is exporting foreign currency in addition to raw materials.
  • Africa should protect its borders from the influx of poor quality products.
  •  Climate change and human security issues to be related to poverty.

We have a duty to do the best for the rest. Each generation carries a mandate in perpetuity and succession, one to the other, for the great advancement of humankind. That is the whole essence and full import of human existence and a generational mandate. The struggle for a better society is our struggle. We hold our positions and roles in trust for future generations.

We are marching to the great African Promise.

A new Africa in our lifetime.

It is possible! Let’s do it. Let’s get the job done!

 Nelson Chamisa is opposition MDC Alliance leader. He writes in his personal capacity.

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