People like you are needed on this continent to take us to where we should be. Keep it up man!
During the last week of March, I had the opportunity to attend the 2010 Annual Conference of Ministers, organized jointly by the African Union (AU) and the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) in Lilongwe, Malawi. The theme of this year’s conference was "Promoting High-Level Sustainable Growth to Reduce Unemployment in Africa". Virtually all African countries, and civil society groups that have strong presence in the continent were represented at the meeting. Attending as observers were donor countries and multilateral institutions.
A number of things impressed me about the conference: the open, lively and real debate that took place among the participants; the progress that is being made in countries across Africa that we do not typically hear about; the strong partnership that exists between Africa’s biggest institutions - the AU, ECA, and AfDB (African Development Bank) and the important work that they do individually as well as collectively; and the resolve among African leaders to chart their own course of development. In his opening speech, the President of Malawi Dr. Bingu Wa Mutharika, who is also the current Chair of the African Union said, “African governments now must implement home-grown policies conceptualized, designed and owned by the African people. Such policies must be implemented, monitored, and evaluated by our own experts…”
We can be cynical about such declarations and engage in a debate about how African governments have failed to do that in the past, or we can be encouraged by the strong stance that leaders are taking and look for ways in which we can make our own contributions. As for President Mutharika, his government has definitely walked the talk by rejecting the recommendations of the international development institutions to cut subsidies to farmers. By implementing policies that they believed are right for them, i.e., by subsidizing poor farmers along with other policy measures, Malawi has transformed itself from a country that experienced one of the worst food crisis of recent times (during 2001-2003 about 30% of the population needed emergency food aid) to a food-secure nation in just a few years.
One of the things that I have noticed about African institutions, both national as well as international, is the lack of a strong communication strategy and a unit that can effectively implement it. Currently, there are many efforts in the continent to redress the impact of years of economic and political mismanagement. As Abdul Mohamed’s article, “Setting the Record Straight” shows us, intergovernmental institutions in Africa are working hard to establish peace and security in the continent. African universities are teeming with young, vibrant, inquisitive, and engaged students that are really concerned about their future and interested in becoming productive citizens. The quality of dialogue that takes place in the research institutions, cafes, and even homes of Africans across the continent is very impressive and very encouraging. So what is it that we need to do to keep this going and growing, and to ensure that there is an enabling environment for the free expression of ideas and their implementation?
In “Ideals and Commitment,” Dr. John Mulaa encourages us to hold on to our ideals and commitments and that these “should be the animating force of our existence, urging us to evaluate our actions and judge them on the basis of what we want Africa to be like.” Similarly, Leo Igwe argues that Africa needs to embark on a journey “Towards a New Enlightenment” which he says, “entails the promotion of universal ethical norms, universal education, universal human rights, and the secularisation and humanisation of all societies.”
Continuing our effort to launch a movement that will lead to the emancipation of our minds, we at Africa Unbound are in the process of organizing a major symposium that will bring together development practitioners, African policy makers, and everyday people from around the globe to hold discussions about what we need to do to establish peace, prosperity and freedom in Africa. I will send the invitation and details about the symposium (concept note, program, and other related material) to our members soon. If you are not currently a member, please join our community by filling out the registration form at our website.
We have to join hands and do what we can for our communities. The emphasis we put here at Africa Unbound is on the growth and expansion of the individual. It is through our own transformation that we can bring about positive change in the world. Let us continue to support one another in our unfoldment by sharing our stories, ideas, and methodologies for transformation. I do believe that all things are possible when we cultivate our intention to be good and do good in our world. As always, we would love to hear from you, so please stay in touch with us and continue to add your positive energy to this great idea we know as Africa Unbound, which is definitely taking root and growing!