The 26th Ordinary Session of the African Union Assembly came to a conclusion last week with few resolutions and many questions left unanswered on the most pressing issues facing the continent.
The Summit aptly declared 2016 the “African Year of Human Rights with Particular Focus on the Rights of Women”. Even though progress is still required, celebrating human rights in the course of the year on the continent will be more about creating opportunities to consolidate on the gains made in this area over the years. Granting particular attention to specific integral areas like the rights of women will go a long way in deepening the human rights culture on the continent and is therefore a commendable theme. As much as headlines go however, this was as much as consensus and conclusiveness went at the end of the Summit.
Dialogue Over Intervention in Burundi
Prior to the Summit, there was a lot of expectation on what the decision of the AU would be on the situation in Burundi. This was heightened by Burundi’s forthright dismissal of plans by the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) to deploy Peacekeeping troops to the country which was announced in December. The slow but steady deterioration of the situation in Burundi is one that has lingered and this Summit provided the AU an opportunity to take a decisive step towards ending the crisis before it plunges the country into another civil war.
But this was not the case. The Summit ended with AU leaders effectively shelving the planned deployment of peacekeeping troops to the country, electing instead to send a delegation to try and negotiate peace. This is perhaps in the hope that the AU would succeed were regional leaders in East Africa have failed. Nkurunziza’s stance so far since the issue of his intention to run for a third term ignited protests in the country, makes it difficult to be hopeful on the prospects of negotiated peace in Burundi, without some form of external pressure; one that the AU appears quite uncertain of applying at the moment.
Consensus in Call for Withdrawal from ICC
The most interesting headline following the conclusion of the Summit was that of the consideration of a mass withdrawal by African countries from the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC). South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma announced that his country was reviewing its participation in the Rome State, whilst his Kenyan counterpart Uhuru Kenyatta claimed that he has been “distracted from the duty to serve” by the constant harassment of his government by the ICC. But the debate on the perceived persecution of African countries by the ICC is a long-standing one and looking at the facts, there are justifiable grounds for African leaders to be concerned. Since its establishment in 2002, about 23 cases across nine countries have been brought before the ICC, with eight of those being African countries, including Sudan and Libya who are non-member states. In the past, leaders like Paul Kagame of Rwanda have referred to the ICC as a fraudulent institution and Jean Ping, a former Chairman of the African Union Commission was quoted as having questioned why countries like Argentina, Myanmar and even Iraq have not had leaders brought before the ICC.
It would appear that the spotting resentment towards the ICC by African leaders is moving towards a consensus that will have quite revealing ramifications for the work of the ICC considering Africa with 34 states is the continent with the highest number of signatories. This situation must however be interpreted with caution. Apart from Kenya which voted to withdraw from the ICC in 2013 and South Africa that has commenced the process of withdrawing shortly after the Summit last week, most countries who are signatories to the Rome Statute are yet to take any serious step towards withdrawal and even when they do, the process would take a couple of years to conclude. It also remains to be seen how many leaders will be willing and able to maintain their stand when external forces start exerting pressure.
Are there any Positives?
Many persons including the exiled leader of the opposition FRODEBU party in Burundi Jean Minani expressed disappointment at the decision of the AU not to send peacekeeping troops to Burundi at the end of the summit. He claimed that the action of the AU amounted to turning their backs on the people of Burundi whilst the government of President Pierre Nkurunziza continues with the systemic persecution of the opposition in the country.
However, the decision of the AU to first explore dialogue as a means of ending the crisis is one that must be commended, albeit to an extent. Considering the history of disastrous military interventions in countries in various parts of the world at different times, it does make some sense for the AU to show caution in situations like this. Interventions should indeed be employed only as a last resort. The recent successful efforts by West African leaders to negotiate a peaceful transition in Burkina Faso provide reasons to be optimistic about the decision of the AU to explore dialogue as a solution to the situation in Burundi. Hopefully the high-level delegation of leaders from Mauritania, South Africa, Senegal, Gabon and Ethiopia can prevail on Nkurunziza’s government to respect the sovereignty of his people in the same way as the AU has shown respect for the sovereignty of Burundi.
In the following months and years, it will become more apparent if African countries are really serious about withdrawing from the ICC. Whether or not they do, the fact that the issue is now on the front burner of discourses emerging from an AU summit must be considered a positive development overall. But the rhetoric and the discourse is only a start; one that is long overdue.
So often leaders, activists and academics alike have cried foul about the unfairness, insensitivity and inappropriateness of western-driven solutions for problems facing African countries, without proffering viable alternatives. With respect to the ICC and the prosecution of leaders and individuals who commit war crimes and crimes against humanity, reference has often being made to efforts to establish an African Court of Justice and Human and Peoples’ Rights as an alternative to the ICC. But operationalising this court is still a distant possibility and the current legal framework for its establishment has some drawbacks that mean it might not provide a comprehensive lasting alternative to the ICC.
The 26th AU Summit has indeed raised many questions, rather than providing many answers. Afrocentrics can however celebrate the fact that some important questions are now being posed, the answers to which will have important ramifications for the pride and people of the continent.
By Matthew Ayibakuro
In case anyone missed it, Gabon’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang who plays his club football as a striker for Borussia Dortmund in Germany won this year’s CAF African Footballer of the Year Award; deservedly so too. But unfortunately the headlines following the award ceremony were all about the runner-up, Ivory Coast’s Yaya Toure.
In expressing his anger at loosing out on the award which would have been his fifth consecutive CAF African Footballer of the Year Award, Toure resorted to using words and expressions that should be a cause of concern for anyone interested in the perennial controversial issue of portraying the most appropriate image of the continent of Africa and the ramifications of such portrayal.
“Sad”, “lamentable”, “indecent” and “pathetic” were just some of the words Toure used to express his feelings about loosing out on the award. But there was more. According to him, “This is what makes the shame of Africa. To behave in this way is indecent! But what can we do? We Africans, we do not show that Africa is important to us”.
Why This is All Disturbing
Firstly, it must be stated that there is nothing wrong in expressing your feelings about not winning an award. Any rational competitive person in Toure’s shoes should be expected to state their disappointment and work harder to win the next. We have seen Messi and Ronaldo, whom Toure himself referred to in his infamous interview, do that in the last decade or so with the Ballon d’Or. However the manner in which Toure has gone about expressing himself leaves a lot to be desired.
At a sporting level, Toure’s words show an absolute lack of respect for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang who won the award, Andre Ayew of Ghana who came third behind Toure and all other African professional footballers. To assume that he is most deserving of the award for a fifth year in a row and failing to recognise the talent and efforts of his peers smacks of a repulsive lack of humility and sportsmanship that has no place in the beautiful game of football.
But if this was all of it, then I would not have spent precious time writing a piece on this issue. After all, this is a player who in May 2014 at the age of 31 ridiculously created a lot of fuss about leaving his club, Manchester City for the failure of the club to mark his birthday “sufficiently”, and only recently took out time to hit out at “disgusting” critics or “beasts” who question his performance this season. To say that he could have acted otherwise in these situations is probably subject to debate; one that I am not inclined to engaging in here and now.
Ramifications of Toure’s Words in the Bigger Picture
His latest interview however appears to suggest that Yaya Toure is either unaware of his position as an ambassador firstly for the people of Ivory Coast and for the continent of Africa in the bigger picture, or he has simply chosen to ignore it. Or perhaps, he just does not understand the ramifications of his words and actions. Whatever the case, to use his failure to win a personal award to cast aspersion on a whole continent is simply inexcusable.
The power of the game of football to promote peace, unity, development and other positives in society is well established. In fact Yaya Toure himself is a Global Ambassador for the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), with a particular focus on protecting endangered species like elephants on the continent. However by stating in his interview, and in the third-person too, that “Yaya will look after himself, and let Africa look after itself”, he displays a palpable hypocrisy as an ambassador working for a positive cause in the continent.
His words reiterate the regrettable trend of celebrities and wealthy people using their fame and position to display an ill-informed and displaced concern for the ‘exoticness” of the continent of Africa without the slightest understanding of its people, its history, its successes and real challenges. Only this time it was coming from someone who is African!
Changing the wrong perception of Africa is a challenge that is as serious as any: one that some would argue is over-flogged and yet quite saddening when confronted by. Even now, it is an unbelievably usual occurrence to meet youths from Europe and other parts of the world whose only knowledge of the continent of Africa is about famine and wars and diseases like Malaria and Ebola. The challenge is real but progress is being made. Changing this wrong perception and portrayal is pivotal and this is where global stars like Yaya Toure can be most instrumental.
Alas, at a time when the footballing world is trying to get its head around the corruption scandal rocking FIFA, Toure’s decides to extol “even FIFA” with all its “history of corruption” over the process of awarding the African Footballer of the Year. As I noted earlier, whether Toure’s claims in his outburst are justified or not is secondary, a person in his position should not be the one assisting to smoulder further the image of Africa as if dealign with the ignorance of many in the West and the prejudices of the media is not difficult enough already.
What Being an Ambassador for Africa Entails
Instead of being concerned with crying foul over a personal award, I reckon his time and resources will be best utilised in making a positive impact in his country and possibly beyond. If confused, he can get inspiration and insights from his countryman, Didier Drogba who used his position as footballer to bring peace to a country at war and continues to do wonderful things in Ivory Coast and beyond in confronting the real challenges faced on the continent.
In some way, we are all ambassadors of our individual countries and of Africa. Whilst we progressively confront our challenges, we owe it to ourselves to project a positive image of our homeland at a time when headlines are more receptive of the bad than the good.
Yaya Toure claims that he has often being told that he “shouldn’t worry too much about Africa, because Africa will be the first to let you down”. Well, I am not sure who he is talking to and what continent his informants are from. But anyone who is enlightened would realise that there is hardly a continent flowing with milk and honey these days. I hope that when the dust settles, he would come to the realize how much he has let Africa down.
By Matthew Ayibakuro
The election of a new president in Burkina Faso on Tuesday is one of those rare occasions when describing a situation as ‘historic’ can be considered a disservice, albeit not a misdescription.
There are many reasons why the recent polls in the country should be considered significant. After all, this is the first time in almost 30 years that long-serving leader Blaise Compaore is neither leader nor candidate leading up to an electoral process.
For a country whose political history has been dominated by coups and countercoups more than anything else, the election of a civilian president with no military background or ties is something not many countries with a similar history can boast of. In fact, not even supposed regional leaders like Nigeria can compare in this regard, with the latter having elected two former military dictators since its return to democratic rule in 1999, including the current president Gen Muhammadu Buhari.
Another factor for which this country should be proud is the fact that, by the account of most observers, the election was considered largely free and fair. Burkina faso has taken a step further the progress made in recent times by countries in the West African region in terms of eliminating irregularities, fraud and violence during elections, occasioning a change in the headlines in the process.
Most significantly, successful transition from the Blaise Compaore era to a new democratic leadership in the last one year is an enviable testimonial to the courage, determination and maturity of the Burkinabe people. Not many gave the transition process a chance, especially in the light of the failed coup attempt in September, which threatened to derail the process.
The handling of the Burkina Faso situation provides a valuable model – a precedent for other countries in Africa for solving its internal problems and more so for the few still dealing with leaders who have perpetuated or are attempting to perpetuate themselves in office. Whilst there are so many individuals and organisations who deserve praise for their role in recent political developments in the country, three factors are worth pointing out.
Three Salient Factors in the Burkina Faso Transition Process
The first is the resilience of the people, and especially the youth population in their protests against the leadership of Blaise Compaore. For long, underserving leaders of African countries have succeeded in suppressing opposition to their actions and their leadership. In most cases, protests against such leadership have often resulted in more oppressive policies until the opposition has been quashed. In a few other unfortunate situations, the opposition has ended up taking to arms, with the inevitable outcome being civil war. But the people of Burkina Faso showed determination and maturity in standing up, not just against the leadership of Campaore, but also against the attempt by some military officers to steal the mandate of the people in September.
Credit for this should go partly to the strong civil society in the country, which is the second factor worth pointing out. Whilst the civil society in most African countries have ended up playing the tune of foreign financiers without making much practical impact on the ground, the civil society in Burkina Faso showed good organisation in coordinating support against a leader that was backed by a western colonial power for decades and still was until the moment he fled from the country. They also remained vigilant and active throughout the transition process up until and after election day. It is intriguing to imagine how leadership and electoral processes in most countries on the continent would be so different with such strong and organised civil society.
The role ECOWAS in the recent events in Burkina Faso must also be commended. Leaders of the regional body did not just act when the military tried imposing itself on the people flowing the demise of Campaore’s leadership, they acted swiftly. This was significantly different from the rather lackadaisical approach adopted by their counterparts in East Africa during the recent and perhaps best described as, ongoing leadership crisis in Burundi. The presidents of the regional countries of Ghana, Nigeria and Senegal took the time to go to the Ouagadougou to demand for a swift return to civilian rule and to ensure that a reasonable arrangement was in place to ensure a peaceful transition. This candid and swift move sent a clear message to the army. It is left to imagination what might have resulted otherwise.
At a time when the outcomes of the popular protests that heralded the Arab Spring have been rather variegated and disappointing in most countries, the story of Burkina Faso, at least in the immediate, is one that should be celebrated, highlighted and emulated.
There are many challenges confronting Roch Marc Christian Kabore, the newly elected president. Issues of job creation for the teeming youth population, access to education, healthcare and infrastructural development dominated the campaigns, in addition to the rather unanimous promise of change which was manifest in the circumstances.
In the bigger picture however, Kabore will do himself and the Burkinabe much good by consolidating on the gains made by the recent political events in the country. The history of the country suggests that efforts need to be made in reforming the army and redefining its place in the affairs of Burkina Faso. This is important to avoid another coup headline in the country in the near future.
Constitutional and legal challenges also lie ahead. Whilst the decision to ban the former ruling party of Blaise Compaore from having any presidential candidate in the recently concluded elections might have appeared expedient and appeared generally accepted. Democratic governance and the rule of law cannot thrive on the long run in a society where fundamental human rights like the right to vote and be voted for are curtailed, irrespective of the justifications. What is done with regard to these issues will be the true test of the much-celebrated change in Burkina Faso.
Going by the actions of the people in recent events, it is fair to say that these challenges are not insurmountable. There are so many reasons to be optimistic, not just for Burkina Faso, but for the evolution of democratic governance in countries in Africa.
So, over to you, the people of Rwanda, Republic of Congo, Uganda and of course, Burundi!
In the last 15 years, so much has been said, done and undone about the notorious Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). They are the eight goals globally agreed upon in the year 2000, with the target year of achievement being 2015. In less than two months therefore, it will be time to say goodbye to the MDG rhetoric and say hello to a new global agenda for development: the Sustainable Development Goals.
What exactly is the difference between the MDGs and SDGs? How significant is this transition and will it matter to the development needs of a continent like Africa?
THE MDGs: So Close, Yet So Far
The MDGs agreed upon by all member states of the United Nations in 2000 to be achieved by 2015 included eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality and empowering women, reducing child mortality, improving maternal health, combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, ensuring environmental sustainability, and developing a global partnership for development.
The final 2015 report of the United Nations on the attainment of MDGs notes that ‘unprecedented efforts have resulted in profound achievements’ but points to the fact that ‘despite many successes, the poorest and most vulnerable people are being left behind’.
Expressed in simpler terms, progress made towards attainment of MDGs is best described as variegated, so say the least. There is an appreciable level of disparity in the levels of achievement of the different goals, but more important is the practical ramifications of reported successes. For instance, the UN report notes that primary school net enrolment rate – a major indicator of MDG 2 on achieving universal primary education – in developing regions of the world reached 91 per cent in 2015, up from 83 per cent in 2000. Specific mention is made of Sub-Saharan Africa having the best record of improvement in this respect, having achieved a 20 percentage point increase in net enrolment rate from 2000 to 2015, compared to just 8 percentage points in the preceding decade.
Whilst progress of this nature is being celebrated and probably should be, what it does not tell is the fact that a sizeable number of countries in the Sub-Saharan Africa have primary school completion rate below 60 per cent. An African Development Bank report notes that, as of 2014 almost 22 per cent of the region’s primary age children are out of school, a third of primary school students drop out without acquiring minimum basic competencies in mathematics and reading, whilst the skills and quality content of the education systems in most countries remain questionable.
Without denying the credit due the global community in terms of the celebrated success of the MDGs, caution and reflection, rather than outright celebration is probably the best way to go. The fact is that, only a couple of targets under the MDGs, such as increase in official development assistance and access to piped drinking water was somewhat achieved. All other targets were either narrowly missed or missed by a considerable margin by 2015.
THE Era of the SDGs
But all that is old story now, 2015 is almost gone and it will soon be the era of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These new set of universal goals is expected to be achieved by UN members in the next 15 years. Unlike the 8 MGS, this time around the list is made up of 17 broad goals, which I recommend you go through, if you have the time to do so.
Within the 17 goals are a further 169 targets to operationalise the broad goals. Advocates point out that unlike the MDGs, SDGs are a product of wide consultation involving a working group with membership from 70 countries, alongside global thematic conversations and door-to-door surveys. If all goes according to plan, the attainment of these goals will herald the end of global poverty by 2030.
But things like this hardly go to plan. The goals are already being criticized for being too broad and it is not difficult to see why. The unwieldy nature of the wording of these goals makes them difficult to understand, especially for those for whom they are created. It would appear that the need to achieve some form of global consensus for the goals have overshadowed the practical implications of the goals themselves. It is intriguing to see how the measuring of all 169 targets will go.
If the conference held in Addis Ababa in July on the financing of the SDGs is anything to go by, it is difficult to see what difference the transition or transposition of MDGs with SDGs will make any difference. This is because, even though the goals have increased, there was no commiserate commitment to increase funding for the SDGs. The best result from the conference was a mere ‘recommitment’ to the rather stale UN target for developed countries to spend 0.7 per cent of their GNI on aid, which was set more than 40 years ago.
IF Not MDGs or SDGs, Then What?
There is little controversy that the world has changed reasonably since the MDGs were first agreed upon in the year 2000. It would however be patronising to consider this change as drastic or to attribute it wholly to MDG programme. In the same vein, it would be mistaken for the developing world in particular, to put their hopes of ending poverty or development generally on the SDGs.
There are many global issues that need to be addressed side-by-side the pursuance of SDG goals. It is no news that climate change affects the poor more than anyone else, so events in Paris in the next couple of weeks, in terms of candid commitments by western countries at the climate change conference will prove pivotal.
The injustice of the world trading system under the WTO to developing countries continues and the lacklustre commitment at the global level to fight tax evasion and transnational corruption are just a few of the issues which will continue to significantly impact development.
Without resolving these, no Porsche-sounding three letter words will really end global poverty and lead to sustainable development. Developing countries must avoid the temptation of being carried away by flamboyant global initiatives and understand where their priorities should lie.
By Matthew Ayibakuro
It is almost impossible to go through any material on development in Africa without coming across the word corruption. Hardly any speech on development of countries in Africa would come to an end without the mention of the “C” word. It is the go-to word, the toast of academics, analysts, practitioners, politicians, anyone really. In fact, irrespective of the country or sector you are interested in on the continent, when asked what the major challenge is, you cannot go wrong by starting your answer with the almighty “C” word. Anything else comes after the big “C”.
However in a continent where most countries multi-ethnic and are still grappling with achieving sustainable economic growth in an unfair global trading system, maintaining political stability, confronting terrorism and other security challenges and dealing with social inequities, amongst others, is corruption the only impediment to development in countries in Africa? In fact, is it even the major challenge?
The current state of the discourse on the subject or corruption in Africa is a demonstration of how the narrative of a subject can so easily be refashioned and redirected with reckless abandon. Until the famous speech of the then president of the World Bank, James Wolfensohn in 1996 when he referred to the cancer of corruption as a major barrier to development which had to be dealt with urgently, corruption was considered one of the many challenges to development. As far back as 1988, the Africa Leadership Forum identified some of these challenges to include capacity building, food security, efficiency of trade investments, regional and sub-regional economic integration, food security, inequality and poverty.
Post-1996, following Wolfensohn’s speech at the annual general meeting of the World bank, the Bank and other financial institutions have led the way in making corruption the major focus of development efforts. Budgets for good governance-related development assistance has burgeoned at an alarming rate. Everyone else has followed and there are no signs of this narrative and therefore focus dwindling anytime soon.
Elections in most countries in Africa are growingly becoming about corruption and little more else. The most recent presidential elections in Nigeria provides a perfect example with the opposition candidate Gen. Muhammadu Buhari essentially riding to power on the promise of eradicating corruption. Very few appeared to have taken note that the election was held at a time when the economy of Nigeria was in dire straits following the slump in oil prices, the value of its currency was also in free-fall and its economic prospects for the rest of the year, at least, looked uncertain. All these challenges were however overshadowed by the issue of corruption. That Nigerians elected Buhari is yet another indication of the popular belief that the end of corruption would automatically translate to development. The economic woes of the country remain and four months after the election, there are no indications in terms of policy to steer the country to economic safety.
It would be foolhardy to deny the importance of fighting corruption in countries in Africa. However, doing so at the expense of most other pivotal issues challenging development on the continent might prove to be even more costly than corruption itself on the long run. The challenges identified by the Africa Leadership Forum referred to above remain relevant and visible today on the continent as they were decades ago, and whereas fighting corruption is intrinsically linked to solving some of them, most others have little or nothing to do with the corruption. Questions are being raised on whether some African countries have even successfully shaken off their colonial legacies and how this might be impacting on their development. More global issues impeding development of countries on the continent like the unfair imbalance in the multilateral trading system under the WTO also continue to impede meaningful economic growth.
The majority of people who prioritize the fight against corruption appear caught up in the challenge of deciphering the myth and the reality about the prevalence of corruption on the continent. Between the consistent headlines and sleek research findings of organisations like Transparency International, it is hard to criticise their conviction.
But it is time for African countries to recognise the fact that achieving sustainable development and having a chance of catching up with the rest of the world in terms of development goes beyond just fighting corruption. Ignoring the many other equally vital issues would be at the peril of countries on the continent. Those who succeed in eradicating, or at least minimising corruption, might just wake up to the fact that corruption was probably just a little more than a needle in a haystack in this prodigious field of development.
By Matthew Ayibakuro
When Jim O’Neill coined the term “BRIC” in 2001, many would not have foreseen the word becoming anything beyond a witty-sounding macro economic term destined to be cited in academic papers and make conference speakers sound erudite. However about a decade and a half later, the countries comprised in the acronym – Brazil, Russia, India and China – now referred to as BRICS following the inclusion of South Africa in 2010 have seized the opportunity provided by the coinage of the term to pursue their individual and collective economic and political objectives.
The numbers reveal why the BRICS are important enough to occasion O’Neill’s prediction that they would become the economic powers of the 21st Century. Between them, these countries boast 42 percent of the world’s population, 26 percent of its’s land territory and 27 percent of global GDP. The potential economic benefits of cooperation amongst these countries are enormous, not just for the BRICS, but also for the global economy. In this respect, the agreement by the BRICS to create a New Development Bank following their summit in Brazil in 2014 was of significant note for developing and developed countries alike. There are also political implications of cooperation amongst BRICS. Two out of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council – Russia and China – are BRICS countries and the group has engaged in the discussion of issues like the Libyan crisis and issues relating to the Iran nuclear situation at its summits.
But what about Africa? How should countries on the continent act and react to the emergence and policies of the BRICS? Should they even be concerned at all?
Perhaps, the starting point should be considering the position and role of the only African country in the group. Since joining the group in 2010, South Africa has significantly grown the size of its bilateral trade with other BRICS countries, with China leading the way. This is however attributable to South Africa’s membership of the group and not a result of a particular policy on development cooperation with an African country or countries by the BRICS.
Like I noted in my last blog, it would appear that in this case too, countries in Africa are content playing a passive role, rather than taking proactive steps to seize the opportunity provided by the BRIC countries as an emerging alternative to the established global economic order that has failed perennially to genuinely promote growth on the continent.
Two decades after the formation of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and about 15 years after the much-celebrated Doha round of negotiations, it is crystal clear that the WTO has failed woefully to achieve the purposes for its formation, at least on the part of developing countries. The unfair imbalance in world trade that prompted anti-globalisation protests that culminated in the formation of the WTO, amongst other measures remain entrenched and continue to perpetuate a global trade system which completely sidelines developing countries in favour of the economic and political interests of global powers.
In the light of this, it would be expected that countries in Africa would embrace, without prompting, any alternative system, like that provided by the BRICS to further their development goals. It is curious to find that African leaders like President Buhari of Nigeria attended the G7 summit in Germany with a sizeable delegation to ‘solicit the sympathy’ of leaders there, whereas there was hardly even negligible media coverage of the BRICS summit which took place in Russia just a few weeks later.
No matter how much aid is given to African countries or what piecemeal trade incentives are included in bilateral trade deals between countries on the continent and globals powers like EU countries and the US, without fundamental changes to the global economic system, no significant development that has the potential to breach the massive gulf between developing and developed countries can be achieved.
Although, the BRICS are not looking at expanding their membership anytime soon, countries in Africa should be willing and ready to participate in such expansion when it does happen. In the meantime, they should look to take advantage of the BRICS New Development Bank when it becomes fully operational.
Also, in addition to the prospects for trade and development cooperation, countries in Africa can learn valuable lessons and gain insights from the fact that some of the BRICS countries, with China being the most outstanding case, have achieved unprecedented levels of growth by adopting alternative models of development, distinct from the predominant liberal economy model promoted and thrust upon African countries by the west with negligible results over the years.
A central theme of Paul Collier’s book, The Bottom Billion discusses how most countries in Africa were left behind by the boat of development that was responsible for the growth of most erstwhile poor countries especially in Asia decades ago. The fact remains that every couple of decades, major economic events around the globe occur which have the potential of tilting the world economy in favour of certain regions or countries with particular attributes. These may ostentatious events like a recession or subtle like the witty naming of a group of countries as BRICS or MINT by a clairvoyant economist.
Taking advantage of these situations require good use of intellect, foresight and proactive action, and in the current state of global relations, countries in Africa must be ready to take advantage of such situations to stand any chance of achieving development that will lifts it population out of poverty.
BETWEEN BUHARI’S WISH LIST AND KENYATTA’S RALLYING CALL: WHAT IS THE STRATEGY OF AFRICAN COUNTRIES ON AID?
By Matthew Ayibakuro
Last month Germany hosted the meeting of the Group of Seven countries, often referred to as the G7 Summit. These countries consider themselves the most powerful industrialised countries in the World. It used to be group of eight of course, but Russia is suspended. The merits of this group in world order and its legacy remains debatable; a debate that I do not wish to engage in at the moment. But every now and then, certain countries are invited to dine with this group of the high and mighty. This year Nigeria was was one of the fortunate chosen ones.
Of course Nigeria had to consider itself one of the charmed ones going to the G7 Summit, especially at this point in time. After all, it is the newest darling of the democracy-crazy west. The country had just concluded general elections where the ruling party had been toppled by an opposition party that had not only won the elections, but did so with a campaign strategy shaped by western consultants. These G7 countries could not have wished for a better scenario. Even before his inauguration, President Buhari was the guest of David Cameron to Downing Street, where the Nigerian leader promised, amongst other things, to do all he could to secure his country’s borders, thereby ensuring that Britain would not have to deal with the infestation of African migrants to Europe. This is very crucial to Cameron’s commitment to limit migration to Britain at all costs.
And by the way, that is apart from the fact that he remains very committed to aiding development in Nigeria and Africa in general. Britain is one of only a handful of countries that fulfils the target of spending 0.7% of its gross national income on aid every year. So, in the same vein, shortly after the inauguration of President Buhari, the British Secretary for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Philip Hammond who was in Abuja for the ceremony, told the President that they were ‘waiting for his list’ of things he needs help with at the G7 summit. Helping in this way is better, certainly more convenient. Why deal with a problem on anyone’s terms when you can do it on your terms? That would be irrational, stupid even.
Buhari’s Wish List and Kenyatta’s Rallying Call
Thus, the expression of the President of Nigeria going to the G7 summit with a “wish list” was born. I found it amusingly theatric the first time I read about the wish list. It reminded me of a scene from Mario Puzo’s The Godfather. I could almost visualise the G7 leaders seated around a table like Don Corleone and then President Buhari walks in expectant and respectful. He would then speak in low tones about how he needed this for that and that for this. He would explain how this person was the hindrance and that situation was the problem. The G7 leaders would nod with empathy and say words like, “We will help you. Just make sure you do not do this and that. It is bad for the business of the family and our partners”. Buhari agrees and everyone comes out with smiling faces for the cameras. Back in Nigeria, Buhari extols the ‘tremendous sympathy’ of the G7 for the region.
I wonder what faces they would have had on when just a couple of days later, Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta made a rallying call for African leaders to give up aid, as “the future of our continent cannot be left to the good graces of outside interests”. This contrast of opinions and approach from leaders of two of the biggest countries on the continent tells a bigger story. Between Buhari’s wish list for help and Kenyatta’s rallying call for an end to aid, one wonders what exactly is the strategy of African leaders for aid, and if there is even one at all?
What is the Strategy of African Countries on Aid?
There is a large amount of literature on development assistance. There are those who call for an end to aid like Kenyatta. Others criticise the practice of conditionality that accompanies aid, whilst yet others who support conditionality, go further to argue that the conditions are often the wrong ones or that they are not monitored or implemented properly. The one homogenous feature of all these opinions is the fact that they all talk about the strategy of donor institutions and countries. There is little or no talk about the strategy of recipient countries. Surely it is time for this to change.
In recent terms, there is a general impression that there is another scramble for Africa; principally for its resources, but also for its potential and opportunities. Unlike the previous scramble for Africa, the history of which is best forgotten but never will be, this time it is not just the Europeans. The East in the form of China in particularly is increasing its presence and prominence in Africa. It professes to have an agenda different from that of the West in terms of aid and general development cooperation. It does not care about the much publicised and berated issue of conditionality. It will deal with African countries without necessarily telling the various governments what to do, as the Europeans and Bretton Woods Institutions have since the 1980s.
The important thing is that the Europeans apparently know what they want from their dealings with African countries on aid or otherwise. The Chinese also do. The question then is, do African governments know what they want? What is their strategy generally in dealing with donors. Do they have one in dealing with China? Have they had one in dealing with Western donors over the years? If so, has this strategy being reviewed in the light of the relatively recent involvement of China in the equation? In what ways are the governments of countries in Africa planning to leverage the new scramble to deal with Africa for its benefit?
It would appear that in 2015, as it was decades ago, most African leaders are still content playing the role of passive aid recipients, without necessarily being proactive on the issue of development assistance. They appear to be just lying there with open arms, beneath the decision table, collecting what crumbs that fall to them, totally unperturbed about the implications of the decisions taken at the table before aid is given; the strategies, the motives, the significance.
Making the Most of the Moment
The new scramble for Africa is an obvious testament to the opportunities that the potential of the continent provides. But it is also an opportunity for governments of countries on the continent to become active in deciding its fate in dealings with willing development partners. With leaders like Buhari taking a list of demands for help to the G7, I can only wonder how many leaders in the continent understand the strategic nature of this moment in the history of the continent.
It may sound fashionable to show an understanding of the basis of western aid, no doubt endearing to be critical of it. But I reckon it is now time for African countries to put all that aside and become proactive in dictating the terms upon which it would cooperate for development with the West.
Whilst doing this as individual countries might yield reasonable results, no doubt a continent-wide effort is required. The African Union needs to take the lead in this regard. It needs to put together its own set of conditions under which donors should be required to deal with the continent in a way that benefits the countries in the continent, not just conditions that the donors consider beneficial to the continent and/or themselves. Such strategic policy document should serve as a framework within which individual countries may then negotiate the terms of development assistance agreements.
By Matthew Ayibakuro
It is just over one week since the conclusion of the Oxford Africa Conference, 2015. As always, it was a gathering worth attending in its own right. With political leaders, top academics, entrepreneurs, consultants, students, NGOs, entertainers and innovators all in attendance, the Conference ex-rayed developments in Africa from the widest range of perspectives possible, within the context of the theme: “A Continent on the Move: People, Politics and Business Across Borders”.
As would be expected from a gathering of this nature, plenaries and panels discussed various thought-provoking subjects that appealed to different sections of attendees. One of such plenary sessions was themed Africapitalism and Entrepreneurship as a Catalyst for the Development of Africa”. As I listened to Tony O. Elumelu, a Nigerian entrepreneur and philanthropist articulate the idea of Africapitalism and its implications for development in Africa, it was easy to see how strategic this ideology could be for development in the continent.
AFRICAPITALISM – CONCEPTION AND COMPONENTS
Africapitalism refers to an economic policy which posits that the private sector in Africa has the power to transform the continent through long-term investments, creating both economic prosperity and social wealth. This is premised on the belief that the private sector has the potential to solve the many lingering development challenges of Africa more effectively than public sector-led action, international development assistance or philanthropy.
In the last decade or so, much has been made of the “rising Africa”. There is another rush for opportunities and prominence in Africa. China is providing finance and is involved in infrastructural projects all over the continent. Europe is trying to restructure its strategy for the continent, and Obama and the Americans even had a summit last year specifically to discuss trade and investment, or perhaps, to ensure that they were not left out of the rising Africa.
Whilst globalisation and business sense entails that Africa must trade and cooperate with other continents and countries on a wide range of issues, there is probably no better way to show that the continent is indeed rising than for Africans to finally take the driving seat for their development. This is an idea that has been mused for a long time, but there has hardly been any concept or ideology that has comprehensively grasped its operationalisation until now.
Entrepreneurship and innovation is already flourishing on the continent. Multinational corporations are beginning to emerge with the likes of Dangote and Elumelu himself leading the way. Africapitalism, properly articulated, can provide a rallying ideology around which private-led development by Africans can flourish.
AFRICAPITALISM – SIGNIFICANCE
There are two reasons why the concept of Africapitalism is and will be important for development on the continent: the rational and the emotional. On the rational part, the perennial failure of the public sector to drive development in Africa means it is only rational to consider the private sector as a viable alternative. By now, I am sure that the world and Africans themselves are tired of complaining about the failure and/or inability of leaders from all parts of the continent to engender meaningful development in their various countries, despite the wealth of resources in most of these countries. Bad governance and corruption appear insurmountable.
Philanthropy and international development assistance has also failed to make any reasonable impact on the continent. Thus, over time, a lot of Africans have grown increasingly suspect of aid, western aid in particular. It is therefore just about the right timing for the private sector to take over the drive for development in Africa. Africapitalism succinct captures this mood.
And talking about moods, the second aspect of the importance of Africapitalism has to do with it’s potential to unleash an emotional drive amongst Africans to take control of their development. In the same way that the ideology of Pan-Africanism built solidarity amongst Africans so many years ago, Africapitalism could be the next concept that, not only unites Africans, but inspires the continent to finally realise its long-acclaimed potential. I certainly felt that way as I listened to Tony Elumelu at the debating chamber of the famous Oxford Union.
ARE THERE CONCERNS?
It would amount to overselling the idea not to recognise the concerns that must be taken into account in pursuing Africapitalism. For all its popularity, capitalism has always had its detractors. It is often said that private sector-led development might lead to growth without development. Concerns of inequality and irresponsible practices occasioned by capitalism has led to the emergence of concepts like corporate social responsibility, shared value and inclusive growth. Hence, the ideology of Africapitalism must make paramount the components of creating social wealth and social enterprise.
The state of infrastructure in the continent poses a threat to the success of Africapitalism, especially with respect to power, education and transport. This is an area that should ordinarily fall to the role of government in providing an enabling environment for businesses to thrive. But failing this, entrepreneurs need to consider investing as much in infrastructure as in any other part of the economy. Admittedly, infrastructure projects require mammoth capital investment. However, businesses can engage in smaller-scale infrastructure projects, whose benefits, when aggregated, can have as much impact as the traditional large-scale infrastructure projects.
Whilst I am sure many would prefer to leave the public sector and its failures behind as the continent looks forward to this drive for private-sector led development espoused by Africapitalism, this is practically impossible. Government must play its inexorable role of providing an enabling environment – regulatory, institutional, infrastructural and otherwise. Indeed no entity can play the role of checking the inevitable excesses of unbridled capitalism like government can, and it must live up to the task of steadying the ship of development as it is propelled on by the private sector. For political leaders in Africa, simply carrying out the basic job of governance properly will no doubt be a good start.
WHY ALL THIS MATTERS
It is estimated that by 2050, the population of Africa will more than double from the current 1.1 billion to 2.4 billion people, with the population of Nigerian alone expected to surpass that of the US. By then there would be about 1 billion Africans of working class age with over 50% of people living in cities and consumers in Africa spending almost 2 trillion dollars. Currently, 60% of the world’s total amount of uncultivated arable land is located in Africa with more than 52 cities on the continent have a population of at least 1 million each.
These are statistics that tell of the challenges that will confront the continent in the near future. But more importantly they tell of the enormous opportunities that the continent provides for businesses in particular. Until recently, these are statistics that governments, development organisations and businesses outside Africa would look at keenly in formulating strategies to access the continent for profit, relevance or otherwise ‘help’ the continent.
Understanding and putting into operation Africapitalism provides an ideology and drive for Africans themselves to harness and take advantage of the enormous potential of the continent to achieve long-overdue development, through private sector-led enterprise. It might just be the next Pan-Africanism.
By Matthew Ayibakuro
It would seem that relative stability has returned to Burundi after days of uncertainty on the leadership of the country and weeks of protests and violence over President Pierre Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term in office. Majority of the alleged coup leaders are in custody and have already appeared before a prosecutor, whilst the leader of the coup, Godefroid Niyombare, a general and ex-intelligence chief, is said to be still at large.
A couple of days ago, President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya asked his counterpart Nkurunziza to postpone the presidential election due next month, to create a conducive environment, but to ensure that the vote be held within the current electoral cycle in the country, which comes to an end in late August. Nkurunziza is back in the country and back in charge; three members of his cabinet were promptly dismissed while soldiers have been deployed to ensure that the protests do not continue. Only time will tell if the fires set alight by the recent events have finally been quenched.
Meanwhile in a rather dramatic twist, Nkurunziza, in his first speech back in the country chose to speak only about the country being under attack from the Somali-based al-Qaeda-linked group al-Shabab. No words are spoken about the over 105,000 Burundians who have reportedly fled the country because of the crisis, or about the many lives lost in the process. Whether or not al-Shabab’s refutal of the claims of any impending attack against Burundi is believed or not, the fact that this was the principal message in his first appearance in the capital after the now-referred-to-as-attempted coup is a clear indication that the President does not grasp the magnitude and implications of the situation and his actions. Perhaps he just does not care.
Third Term-ism and Perpetual Leadership in Africa and Beyond: Reaction of the International Community
Perhaps, he believes he is in good company in the context of political leadership in Africa. After all, just last month, Togo’s Faure Gnassingbe and Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir were both re-elected as leaders of their respective countries. Whilst Faure is beginning his third term in office despite widespread protests, Bashir is a ‘veteran’ who has been in power since 1989. In fact, it is no news that there are similar long-serving leaders in Zimbabwe, Angola, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Cameroun Eritrea and Uganda.
This list could actually admit a few more countries and it is this profusion that probably emboldens leaders like Nkurunziza to believe they can get away with extending their tenures by any means necessary, including threatening supreme court judges into exile and shooting live ammunition at protesters. Outside Africa, countries like Iran, Cambodia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Iceland and Syria also boasts similarly long-serving leaders. It is indeed a global phenomenon.
In terms of the reaction of the international community to events like those in Burundi, the United Nations and the African Union, as expected, would usually release press statements condemning the coup attempt, whilst at the same time “urging” members states to respect their constitutions. And so they did. The leaders of the countries in question are often called by the Secretary General of the UN or some other “powerful” leader, and we are informed that they have been told basically the same message contained in the press statements, making you wonder what was the essence of the call in the first place. Beyond this, whether or not anything more is done by the international community falls to the grey realm of conspiracy theories on reasons why countries like the United States of America or organisations like NATO invades one country to topple a government, and not the other. This is a subject for another day.
The Rise of the Masses
In the last decade, and especially since 2011, the masses in various countries are beginning to stand up against leaders who display a propensity to perpetuate themselves in office. The unprecedented events of the Arab Spring provides the most palpable instances. However, as recent as last year, Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso was forced to resign his office as President after 27 years at the helm amid violent protests against his continued stay in power.
Whilst the masses play their role, it is time for the international community, and especially the United Nations and regional organisations to start lay out a clear strategy and approach towards leaders bent on perpetuating themselves in office. It makes no sense to condemn the actions of Pierre Nkurunziza in Burundi, while simultaneously asking Yoweri Museveni, who has ruled his country for 29 years, to intervene and help resolve the crisis in Burundi.
It is important for the UN and other regional bodies to establish unequivocally what the approach to this issue should be. There should either be clear condemnation of such leaders and actions to support same, or a straightforward acceptance of the situation on grounds of sovereignty or whatever makes sense. The approach of lukewarmness adopted over the years has borne little or no fruits in Africa and elsewhere.
ECOWAS Taking the Lead
Encouragingly, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has decided to take the lead on this as it pushes to consider a new clause that would prohibit presidents of members states from staying beyond two terms. If successful, this would be a welcome development that should be replicated in other regions of the continent, and indeed the UN, towards creating a lasting solution to the concern of self-perpetuating leaders.
Not oblivious of the challenge inherent in implementing a clause like this in the context of international law, ECOWAS intends to adopt a new legal regime for Community Acts that will make all ECOWAS decisions immediately applicable and binding on member states and eliminate the need for parliamentary ratifications.
Whilst one awaits the outcome of initiatives like that of ECOWAS, there is no doubt that the most significant step towards putting a stop to perpetual leaders remains popular uprising. There is nothing that will prove as successful as the masses themselves rising against such leaders. It proved successful against Nigeria’s President Olusegun Obasanjo’s bid for a third term back in 2006/2007. It pushed Burkina Faso’s Blaise Compaore out of office in 2014, and considering the masses have remained on the streets even after the failed coup in Burundi, it is safe to say that the last has not been heard of that particular situation.
The power-drunk leaders in Africa are slowly but surely coming to the realization that ‘kangaroo’ referendums, manipulated constitutional amendments and intimidation of the judiciary would no longer be enough to secure a life presidency.
By Matthew Ayibakuro
The Historic 2015 Presidential Election in Nigeria has been hailed as the most free and fair election yet, that the country has witnessed since its return to democracy in 1999. Apart from the conduct of the election, the actions and reactions of the major contending political parties and especially of their presidential candidates have made headlines around the world. As expected, the encomiums have been pouring in from all over the world. But do these headlines tell the whole story about the just concluded elections in the most populous black country in the world? Is Nigeria, by the singular fact of this election, now a model of democracy in Africa? Has it now heaved out the many demons that have bedevilled its democracy up until this moment? Is Nigeria now strategically placed to achieve development through democratic governance?
The Significant Positives
It is beyond doubt that there are many positives to draw from the just concluded presidential election in Nigeria. It was freer and fairer than any previously conducted in the country. Despite the many challenges, the use of card readers and permanent voter cards during the election was itself a milestone which, if leveraged upon, provides a lot of promise for future elections in the country.
Perhaps the most positive development for which the 2015 presidential elections would be remembered is the phone call by the incumbent president, Goodluck Jonathan to the winner Muhammadu Buhari, conceding defeat and congratulating the latter, even before the results had been officially announced by the electoral body. This action was surprising as it was unprecedented in the electoral history of the country and indeed of the continent of Africa. It left the opposition shocked, and the supporters of the president overwhelmed. The ghosts of post-election violence that was predicted were immediately expelled even before they had a chance to surface. The country got the praise for it. Democracy got the medal, and in the midst of all this, it could easily be forgotten that this was the singular act of one man, not his party, or his supporters; I doubt if any of these groups would have approved. Whether or not the opposition would have done the same is anyone’s guess, but no harm done. The country is peaceful, and our ratings for democratic governance for 2015 would skyrocket when they are released, no doubt.
There are however many salient trends that emerged from the elections that have the potential of detracting rather than enhancing democratic governance in Nigeria; trends which should probably be making headlines too, or at least providing a cause of worry for Nigerians, and everyone else who is interested, or at least claims to be interested in strengthening democracy and achieving development in the country.
The Underlying Blindspots
A look at the above map showing the voting pattern by states in the country, show the deep lying divisions in Nigeria. These divisions are not based on progressive factors like performance of current and past governments or on levels of development in various parts of the country. They are rather drawn clearly on religious and ethnic lines. To deny this palpable fact would mean adhering to sheer hypocrisy. The muslim-dominated northern states voted en masse for Muhammadu Buhari who is a muslim, whilst the largely christian southern states did the same for Goodluck Jonathan, a christian. The BBC graphically portrayed the ethnic colouration of the election when it reported that the election was a tale of two hats: one representing the north, the other representing the south. It has not been this obvious for a long time. There were a few variations here and there, but these were way too insignificant in the context of strengthening democratic tenets in the country. The voting pattern makes vivid ethnic and religious lines that are deeply rooted in the history of the country’s unpleasant past; lines that are best forgotten in the best interest of everyone.
The UNESCO International Panel on Democracy and Development (IPDD) in 2002, highlighted a number of factors in its proceedings which aptly describe the concerns for democratic governance in Nigeria as revealed by the 2015 presidential elections in the country:
“A democratic society should be aware of three potential pitfalls. First, the domination of the majority does not constitute democracy. Minority groups deserve representation and without it, democratic governance is simply a tyranny of the majority. Second, minority political representation in and of itself does not guarantee harmony and in some cases can exacerbate problems. Finally, despite a need for cultural diversity in politics, minority status should not be the basis for access to power. That is, ethnicity, cultural and religious ties should not be prerequisites to political power”
The reality of the above truths, do not only define the just concluded election, but aptly describe the democratic culture of Nigeria from a broad perspective. It provides insights on how Goodluck Jonathan, a minority, became president of the country in the first place, and why he had to contend with many issues such as Boko Haram throughout the duration of his tenure.
In just over a month, the opposition party in Nigeria, the APC will officially become the ruling party. It promised change to Nigerians. The most significant and perhaps most challenging change it can deliver to Nigerians would be to change the democratic culture of the country. This is the only way it can consolidate on the gains that have been made so far in terms of entrenching democratic practices in the country. Democratic governance cannot thrive or be sustained along the path it is threading currently in Nigeria.
Although some may not agree with this, in my reckoning, it fell to the predisposition and strength of character of one leader to provide the framework which allowed the opposition in the country to thrive without harassment or intimidation, to ensure that free and fair elections take place, to concede defeat without compulsion, thereby saving the lives of many Nigerians and perhaps the very existence of democratic governance in Nigeria. In doing so, he allayed the fears of many, and made Nigeria a beacon of pride for democracy in Africa.
Post May 29, 2015, it would ultimately fall to yet another man to build on these milestones. Whatever his agenda is for anticorruption, for socio-economic development and the many other things that would foster development in the country, establishing a truly democratic culture in Nigeria has to be an objective as significant as any other. Until this is achieved, it is probably too early for Nigerians to start counting their blessings as a country.