Opinion piece by Mohau Bosiu
The miracle of Africa’s renaissance in the 21st century must be realised.
There’s something to be said for starting something, and finishing it. To see to it that it is complete, not subverted. There is joy in achievement, chasing, pursuing your prey and holding it captive; coming full circle.
In the mystical story about the genesis of mankind, in the beginning of time, the Creator looks at his gigantic canvas; void and formless, dense with darkness. The spirit of the artful master craftsman; our Creator, was deeply immersed, contemplating the uncharted landscapes and studying the waters. Each day the Creator thoughtfully crafted a new invention, beautiful and purposeful, and in the last day the Creator saw the good of his work, and rested. The work of the Creator was a complete miracle.
What he had created was good and pleasing to his eyes. He revelled in it, he was content. In today’s world of high speed, intricate, multiple designs marked by varying social inequalities perhaps the truest measure of great craftsmanship is the extent that one’s creation and ideas can add some value, tangible and intangible, to social progress and human development.
In the context of inclusive and sustainable development, one must in the first instance impress that as a people we pursue such developments, aided by new modern technologies, to fulfill the critically important objective of improving the human condition. Making people’s lives better. Restoring their dignity and making sure they have adequate supply and access to resources that help them meet their basic human needs. We must therefore ingrain in the social fibre the principle expressed in the slogan - People First!
With the rapid improvements and myriad modern day technologies, the world has and is moving on; the points at which we connect have also expanded. However, as others move in line with these technological advances, others are being left behind. And many professionals in the communication field have discussed and analysed this, especially the topic 'the digital divide'.
As a people, we must be vigilant and guard against the perverse, and at times, wilfully blind tendencies that continue to entrench social divides through the use of new digital technologies.
When we adopt new technology, we should also engage distributive skills transference programmes because one of the challenges we still face on the continent is illiteracy. Usually, when a machine is employed to deliver a service previously performed by human beings, the end result is job losses for ordinary people. A diametrically opposed outcome to inclusive and sustainable development.
Such outcomes are inconsistent with the vision of the people of Africa, as espoused in the African Union’s Agenda 2063. Aspiration number 6 of the Agenda 2063 recognises that the development of Africa should be people-driven, ‘relying on the potential of African people, especially its women and youth, and caring for children.’
As such, I’d suggest that the motive forces of Agenda 2063 are young people and women. They should never, therefore, be confined, in the words of one great African patriot ‘to a ghetto, patronisingly described as "the most disadvantaged", and shoved into one basket containing the women, the youth and people with disabilities.’
To ensure that these, the motive forces of Africa’s renaissance, are the key drivers of modernisation and development of industries, we must open up university networks for information sharing among young African graduates and undergraduates - aiming to influence government policy, as well as product research and development in the corporate sector.
Rural women and youth should have access to affordable and fair financial resources for fruitful and long term investments. Children in schools, especially rural schools, must be the beneficiaries of improved access to information and communication technologies (ICTs).
These motive forces of Africa’s renaissance have a significant role to play in contributing positively to innovation and entrepreneurship throughout the creative tapestry of Africa. They should therefore be accorded opportunities for employment, access to education, skills and technology, as well as adequate health-care services.
To achieve these continental goals, so that in the end the people’s aspirations and potential find expression in what our nation states - through their governments - do, we must engage in a palpable process to do away with the addiction and dependence on foreign aid, by building state capacity and enhancing domestic savings, to feed the children of Africa from what Africa produces.
Accordingly, this requires that we defeat the demons embedded in our societies: corrupt leadership, rampant and rapacious illicit financial flows, tribal conflicts, youth marginalisation, women and children abuse - all of which continue to flourish, in the main, because of weaknesses in leadership. As Africans, we should and we must cease to be the wretched of the earth, in perpetuity.
To see to it that the miracle of Africa’s renaissance in the 21st century is realised, we need the nourishment of fresh and collective thinking, coherent solutions, connected enterprises and clarity in forecasting our future bearings, as a people.
A recent example is how one of our universities in South Africa, the Walter Sisulu University, has twinned the efforts of its faculty of sciences’ medical department with the regional government department of health, to give students real life exposure of what they’re learning on text, marrying that with the practical realities of their immediate communities (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21483333). Due to their significant advances, they have been visited by the University of Lagos, Nigeria, and others to learn from their problem-based learning model.
If we are to see more of such laudable development efforts, we have to ensure that there is a harmonious relationship between people and their leadership in regional and national governments.
The objectives of our leadership in government must emanate from the mandate given by ordinary people; the point is that the collectivity of our cabinet ministers must comprise a capable, modern and agile crop of people who have the vibrancy and expertise to serve and oversee the complex management of international and regional needs. Along with competency skills, we need a leadership with strong ethical fibre.
Like the artful Creator who was immersed in studying his gigantic canvas and the uncharted landscapes, our people who assume leadership positions must therefore be in touch and well versed in understanding what is to be done to address the needs of the people - so we can stay on course in achieving Africa’s renaissance project.
In this regard, I’d therefore like to quote the African patriot to whom I earlier referred, the then Executive Deputy President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, in 1998, said: ‘The time has come that we call a halt to the seemingly socially approved deification of the acquisition of material wealth and the abuse of state power to impoverish the people and deny our Continent the possibility to achieve sustainable economic development.
Africa cannot renew herself where its upper echelons are a mere parasite on the rest of society, enjoying a self-endowed mandate to use their political power and define the uses of such power such that its exercise ensures that our Continent reproduces itself as the periphery of the world economy, poor, underdeveloped and incapable of development.’ (http://www.dirco.gov.za/docs/speeches/1998/mbek0409.htm)
Written by Mohau Bosiu, a thought leader and communication alumnus of the Tshwane University of Technology. He writes independently.