Why Africa Needs to Urgently Apply “Emergency Brakes” Now

Why Africa Needs to Urgently Apply “Emergency Brakes” Now

Dr Richard MUNANG
Where you will sit when you are old shows where you stood in youth”. As we reflect on the Africa day 2020, that passed a few days ago, this African proverb reminds us, that Africa’s current predicament, is a result of past actions. The fruit of seeds sown in the past.

What are these seeds?
In the late 50s to early 60s, as the clamour for self-determined rule reached fever-pitch, our founding fathers – from West to East Africa, Central to Southern Africa – were joined ideologically in the struggle by timeless values and character. They espoused boldness, unshakable unity, dedication, fidelity to the liberation struggle for their people and selflessness. Their every move was governed by a laser-sharp focus and clarity of vision to win the independence of their nations and celebrate together as an independent continent. And just as “sticks in a bundle are unbreakable”, this unity of purpose was unstoppable, and the colonialists could not hold any more. This is how Africa won her independence – a unity of purpose around values and a noble course, glued together by selflessness. Had it not been for this, there is a high chance that the shackles of colonialism would have lingered on for much longer. Because of their class-acts of selflessness and vision, their memory, and legacy lives on till today. 

The ugly truths and broken dreams – the hideous side of post-independence Africa  

If you pick up one end of the stick you also pick up the other”. As it is known, this flash of brilliance and vision was soon extinguished in post-independence Africa. This is the other end of the stick, the unpleasant seeds that were planted by post-independence administrations- whose sour & bitter fruits, we are reaping and enduring increasingly in our present times. Suddenly, in a bizarre change of heart, as though bewitched, the champions of independence in nearly all countries turned hypocritical and those who remained true, were eliminated by their very own comrades of the independence struggle. With this, visions of thriving countries and a continent under African rule, were replaced by the bigoted spirit of hegemony and self-serving. Suddenly the populations that cheered them on in the liberation struggle, became a threat to be fought. Materialism and individualism became the priority goal replacing a collective vision that has once inspired an entire populace. Materialism became the ultimate means & end, replacing the sovereign & irreplaceable capital embodied in an empowered citizenry. This was the false start, the great fall, the beginning of the end of post-independence Africa, whose consequences we have endured for close to 60 years and still counting. Be it the shame of hunger where Africa has been unable to feed herself, such that in 60 years of independence, we still have over quarter a billon of African citizens going to bed hungry every day. Whether it is the indignity of poverty and unemployment where the region while blessed with the youngest population, stands unable to harness its youth potential to drive economic productivity. Whether it is the scorn of perennially carrying the label of being the most economically vulnerable region, and the endless list goes on and on. One who thinks in his or her right senses can only say these two words, Enough is Enough. Time has now come for Africans to urgently apply the emergency brakes on this path of negativity and marshal an about-turn up the glorious path of prosperity for ourselves and those yet to be born. This however must start with a determination by every citizen to exercise the root causes of this broken promise of independence – selfishness and individualism. This will ONLY be achievable through a renewed and changed mindset about which the following tenets are critical:
First, every citizen on the continent must look themselves in the mirror, reflect deeply and answer these two question – “what do I have to offer in solving the known challenges of the continent?” and “what can I do with what is accessible to me, to make lives of fellow citizens better?”. As citizens of Africa, time has come for each and every one of us develops an unborrowed vision, that ties in our skills, talents, and what we do and adapts these to come up with solutions that benefit communities. Then work selflessly with  the willing peers of complementary endowments to deliver these solutions affordably.

Second, the time of passing the buck is long overdue. Individual citizens must stop abdicating the responsibility for development to government alone. While the government of the day does hold the responsibility of creating a secure, predictable enabling regulatory & institutional environment for development, it is individual citizens whose responsibility it is to leverage whatever little or much there is of this enabling environment, to create lasting enterprise solutions that benefit communities. Not looking at self. Ordinary citizens are the custodians and executors of development policy. It is out of success stories of ordinary citizen solution heroics, that government policy and regulation can be adequately informed and recalibrated to enable acceleration & escalation of the practical, proven citizen driven solutions. Economies are built by the productivity of people, not elusive material, and natural resources. The decision to be a productive human being is a personal and voluntary one. 

Third, we must shun lethargy of thought. For 60years, the formula of dependency, of looking up to government as the panacea of all solutions has failed. It is time ordinary citizens come to the realisation that it is them who will build nations and the continent. The thought that somehow, queuing for a few hours, to vote in a preferred politician, who campaigned gruellingly, to a certain position somehow entitles one to whatever goodies they may be thinking is flawed. Politics is a career and ultimately, a politician will seek elective post to serve their interests and those of cronies who bank-roll their expensive campaigns. Ordinary citizens must therefore rise to the occasion, leverage the bare minimum in enabling environment that exits, use what is within their reach, forge selfless alliances and think, develop and deploy affordable, market driven solutions that touch many lives.

Fourth, we must shun greed. There is a word that has unfairly tarnished Africa, without any clarity in substantiation. Am talking of “corruption”. In most cases, what is categorised as corruption in Africa, could be called “lobbying” in some places and “facilitation” in others. What we really must be concerned with is the core issue here, which is greed. The foundational flaw is individualism, which breeds greed and gives birth to jealously to perpetuate this vicious cycle. How do we break this cycle? The connection between greed and mindset must be analysed and neutralised by a counter narrative. The key is to show that when more people benefit, then every individual, even the greedy ones, also stand to benefit more. And the only way we can have more people benefiting, is if they are empowered to be the sovereign capital of development. If they start seeing themselves as solutions providers, not dependents. The selflessness of ensuring more people are engaged in “baking a bigger cake” called the economy, using their skills, talents, ongoing work to devise solutions that benefit many people, is what will neutralise greed. People must transition from seeing value in benefiting alone and their immediate cycle, to seeing the greater value in communities and societies being empowered and benefitting. People must come to the realisation that in the long run, lasting success is only achieved when more people partake in it. That the most significant investment is an empowered human being as they will likewise co-guarantee an individual’s success – either as a source of markets, expertise etc. People must also come to the realisation that, real success is not in stuffed pockets, but in the number of lives touched. This is how the malignancy of greed can be neutralised.  

“A (witch) doctor who invoked a storm on his people cannot prevent his house from destruction”. In context, the spell of individualism cast by founding administrations across the continent have perpetuated through the generations, to the current millennial generation. Everywhere one looks, the “me first” mentality has banished Africa, to be a continent without keepers. A continent where citizens live like tenants, with none taking responsibility beyond thinking of speedy selfish gain. This is a path of destruction and the only way to stop the downward spiral is for every citizen to apply the emergency brakes on selfishness and develop an unborrowed vision aimed at touching many lives. To see themselves as personally responsible for Africa’s development instead of “passing the buck”. Yes, it is possible.       

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