NO DOUBT, one can comfortably say that brand ‘Africa’ is positioning itself nicely across the spectrum, in more ways than one. To mention an outstanding one in particular; is the recent appointment of Ms Amina Mohammed to the United Nations; as the global body’s deputy secretary-general.
The appointment is, of course, arguably, a feather in the cap for Nigeria, and overall the entire continent. It is refreshing, depending on your perspective, to witness global leadership count on Africa’s competence and expertise. It is also imperative to consider that our continent is capable, and always has been, at least in my view.
As I often advocate on my social media platforms, ‘#AfricaIsGreat’, when we celebrate such movements into high ranking roles coming from our backyard, to participate at a global level and engage the global competitive edge narrative, we are really hoping the influence will be solid.
It’s a good thing, not because we are at the mercy of any Western spell or validation, but simply because we are capable and deserving, and should be able to speak for ourselves. We cannot, proudly, uplift a rhetoric that suggests that this kind of greatness is somewhat a display of favour, or a massive shock to Africa’s system, and at the same time be the very same people that rally behind Ngugi wa’ Thiongo’s very key gospel of ‘decolonizing the mind’.
A colonized mind is exactly the one that truly believes in the heart of hearts that ‘their very own people, in their very own yard’ hold no capacity. And as a result, they are deserving of sabotage and continuous bottlenecks created to work against them.
That alone is not just an insult to Africa, but its future generations too, particularly those resting on ideologies of the great Africans who molded various thought leadership, during the most politically tense and volatile eras, and those currently functioning within the premise of the pieces Thomas Sankara, Samora Machel, Robert Sobukwe and many others built for our various societies. Such people should not be sidelined, because they remind us of what was left for us to do: taking the baton from the greatest of the greatests.
I always tell my friends, at least those who care to listen, that, ‘guys, its okay to have an opinion’. Of course it is. But please, ‘don’t allow that opinion to remain a thought process that merely disempowers our people, and the continent, and hardly brings up any creative solution to the table to help us move Africa forward’.
This is why it’s so critical to teach our youngsters that their voice matters, and that it holds a place in the shaping of the future of their very own societies and beyond. It’s not enough for them to just learn and understand the context of our historical legacy. Somehow, they need to be able to draw a clear line ‘independently’ and also gather links between the 1994 hopelessness encountered by Rwanda; the political emancipation South Africa embraced in 1994; the end of consecutive military rule and dysfunctional bureaucracy in Nigeria; the emergence of Kwame Nkrumah’s efforts for Ghana’s independence and the unfortunate rot Vasco Da Gama left in Mozambique.
At some stage in our lives as Africans, especially young one’s aspiring into leadership in any segment, we must begin to take ownership of our growth as a people for ourselves and those less able to stand for themselves. The light must dawn in our minds that foreign business corporations like Facebook cannot just come to Africa guised as wanting to develop the continent, when actually they merely are trying to get to understand Africa as a market.
It can’t be right that we only matter, provided we are a market. When will Africa be a market to itself? And Yes! One day, very soon, we are going to have a very frank discussion about leadership. For now, though, we need to consider that, many of our sister countries, still have a lot of work to do regarding fundamental legislations.
Good governance is central to the sanity of Africa’s sustenance. I’m reminded of former Tanzanian president Julius Nyerere’s disastrous policies on good governance, that he himself tested unchallenged, on his entire nation especially when it comes to agriculture. Why is it that we do not challenge our leaders to the extreme, when they put the livelihood of the people at stake? We, the people, hold more power.
In 1998, Nyerere had the stamina to continue to engrave his thoughts on good governance on a paper he wrote, transcribed by Ayanda Madyibi, in which he highlighted the following: “The definition of good governance for Africa is different from that of rich countries, he further mentions that the key to government effectiveness and its ability to lead nations lie in a combination of three elements, first the closeness to its people, and its responsiveness to their needs and demands.
Secondly, its ability to coordinate and bring into a democratic balance the many functional and often competing sectional institutions, which groups of people have created to serve their particular interests and lastly; the efficiency of institutions (official and unofficial) by means of which its decisions are made known and implemented throughout the country”. I’ll allow you to do the philosophical maths and digest his notions and its results at your own discretion.
So, yes, putting Africa on the global map is great. But we need more focus on being able to bring forth environmental, economic and social concerns of the people at the same time, at the frontline of the global agenda driven by African leaders sitting on a global stage, without compromising Africa’s humane fibre and leaving it to the dictation and complete control of the West.
We need actions that assist Africa, and not those that further deprive it of its power. We urge our leaders to be absolutely deliberate in their doing on global stages. Surely, that won’t kill anyone or bring the global agenda to a stand-still. Africa just needs to grow greatness and sustain it. We need it.
In the so called uselessness that is the African Union, as many people refer to it, and have branded it over time, possibly because of the constant disappointment they keep witnessing from the continental body as a beacon of Africa’s voice, do we blame them for referring to it as such? We cannot complain forever and ever though. It’s only fitting for our leaders to not misuse the support of the people; but to instead prove us wrong and claim back the first prize spot in the hearts of Africans by putting the continent’s interests first and uplifting the lives of ordinary people beyond policies; safeguarding the African lives in their own continent. Otherwise, occupying platforms and operating at global level will mean very little to the progress we need to make as a continent.
Africa is different, and carries collective unique history: rich in culture, society and communities holding intense spiritual power. The Western report of Africa cannot be the only one that matters. We must rise gloriously to characterize our economic and social strength.
This, by the way, starts with small acts of mental paradigm shifts. We really need to unlock the manner in which we see ourselves in relation to the larger world. We need to change how we relate with each other, and speak about each other, in the presence and absence of others. Otherwise, we are so doomed, it’s not even funny.
Jabulile Buthelezi is a journalist, author and activist