By Matthew Ayibakuro
It has been just over three weeks since South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma survived an impeachment vote in the country’s National Assembly. This followed the ruling of the Constitutional Court that he had violated the constitution by failing to repay public money spent on his private residence in Nkandla.
Like David Cameron surviving calls for his resignation following the Panama Papers scandal in the British parliament, it was safe to reckon that Zuma might have survived this. That was until yesterday, when the country’s High Court declared that he should be charged with 783 counts of alleged corruption, fraud and racketeering in connection with a £4.4 billion arms deal signed when Zuma was deputy president in 1999. The charges were dropped by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) just weeks before the 2009 election in which Jacob Zuma emerged president.
Whilst awaiting the decision of the NPA on whether or not to reinstate the charges following the decision of the High Court, it is important to highlight yet another significant lesson to be learnt from the Jacob Zuma corruption case, and indeed the anti-corruption regime in South Africa.
Constitutional Institutions and Principles are Pivotal
Following the relative success stories of Singapore’s Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) and the more prominent Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) in Hong Kong, the model mechanism for dealing with corruption in the last couple of decades has been the establishment of specialised anti-corruption agencies charged with fighting corruption in their various countries. The United Nation Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) makes the establishment of such specialised anti-corruption agencies obligatory for state parties in Articles 6 and 36 of the Convention.
In response to this, anti-corruption institutions have cropped up in unprecedented numbers in countries all over the continent, albeit to to obvious limited effect. The establishment of these institutions has been important in creating the impression that these countries are taking specific action against corruption, whilst simultaneously fulfilling the expectations of international donors, institutions and partners. The reality on the ground has however shown that these institutions have achieved very little in terms of dealing with corruption. Even countries like Nigeria that have done one better by creating multiple institutions in this regard has shown little signs of significantly reducing corruption.
After years of relative failures, possible explanations proffered include the lack of attention for local circumstances in promoting this global model of institutions, the inadequacy of requisite infrastructure, deficit in capability of anti-corruption personnel and more importantly political interference in the work of these institutions.
The issue of political interference has featured prominently in most countries, prompting the cliche call for political will in the fight against corruption. The Executive branch in particular has been known to use these institutions to witch-hunt political opponents whilst simultaneously shielding their corrupt supporters from prosecution. In most countries, the performance of anti-corruption institutions has become only as long as the foot of the head of the Executive.
More than anything else, this shows that dealing with corruption goes beyond just the establishment of specialised anti-corruption institutions. It requires other supporting democratic institutions and frameworks without which these institutions cannot operate successfully. And for any country that is really serious about dealing with corruption, these institutions and their independence in particular should be constitutionally guaranteed. Issues like the appointment and tenure of members of these institutions and their financing need to be guaranteed in the constitution to give these institutions any chance of operating independently and successfully.
The South Africa Model
South Africa provides a good model in this regard. Chapter 9 of the Constitution establishes not only the office of the Public Prosecutor, but also for other important state institutions to support constitutional democracy like the Human Rights Commission, the Commission for Gender Equality and the office of the Auditor-General.
Considering the broad range of desperate steps taken by Jacob Zuma to shield himself in the light of the Nkandla scandal, it is difficult to see how the Public Prosecutor would have pursued the case against the President as she did without the all-important backing provided by the constitution. Recent efforts by the Senate in Nigeria to amend the Code of Conduct Act for the specific purpose of assisting the Senate President in an ongoing corruption case shows just how vulnerable these institutions are to political manipulation and restates the importance of providing constitutional backing for anti-corruption institutions and efforts generally.
In the face of overwhelming emphasis on institutions in the fight against corruption and in the overall pursuance of good governance, experience has shown the futility in expecting corrupt politicians and political systems to create independent and effective transparency and accountability institutions. Perhaps the emphasis should de-emphasise seeking political will to fight corruption and rather concentrate on insulating these institutions from any form of influence from political will in the first place, at least until the point when the political systems in most countries are entrenched in positive values and therefore dependable.
Providing constitutional backing for these institutions might not, by itself, provide a final solution to the challenge of dealing with corruption, but it will at least give the widely-spreading anti-corruption institutions a fighting chance against entrenched grand corruption prevalent in most countries.
By Matthew Ayibakuro
Without a doubt, the biggest news out of the African continent in last couple of days is the decision of South Africa’s Constitutional Court, declaring that the President Jacob Zuma violated the constitution by failing to repay public money spent on his private residence in Nkandla. The lavish improvements which Zuma must now pay for in the coming months include a swimming pool, amphitheatre, visitor centre, cattle enclosure and chicken run, amounting to over $15 million.
With the opposition now calling for the impeachment of Zuma following the decision of the Constitutional Court, it is safe to say that the story of this scandal which has dragged on for some time is not over yet. In the meantime, for those interested in issues of governance, it is imperative to highlight some very significant issues and lessons for the much talked about fight against corruption in South Africa and indeed other countries in the continent. A comparative analysis of the framework for anti-corruption in Nigeria and South Africa shall highlight these issues.
Independence of Anti-Corruption Authorities -Appointment and Removal
The headlines for the decision in Zuma’s case has been mostly about the Constitutional Court and rightly so. The bold decision of the court re-emphasizes the strategic nature of its role in democratic societies. However, the role of the Public Prosecutor should be getting as much or even more acclaim. The Court itself emphasized this point when it noted that the public prosecutor is “the embodiment of a biblical David that the public is, who fights the most powerful and well-resourced Goliath, that impropriety and corruption by government officials are“. This metaphor could not be any more apt considering this case was against the president of the country. Rare as this case is, it is no coincidence considering the independence of the office of the public prosecutor guaranteed under the constitutional and legal framework in South Africa.
Under Article 193 of the South African Constitution, the appointment of the public prosecutor is made by the president on the recommendation of the National Assembly. The latter is required to only recommend persons nominated by a committee of the Assembly proportionally composed of members of all parties represented in the Assembly and approved by 60 percent members. Based on Article 194, The Public Prosecutor can also only be removed on a finding by a committee of the National Assembly establishing grounds of misconduct, incapacity or incompetence. The National Assembly is then required to adopt a resolution supported by at least two thirds of members calling for the removal from office of the public prosecutor.
By comparison, the heads of the two strategic anti-corruption bodies in Nigeria -the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) – are simply required to be appointed by the President subject to confirmation by Senate. On removal, whilst an address supported by two thirds majority of the Senate is required for the president to remove the head of the ICPC, the head of the EFCC can solely be removed by the president for inability to discharge the functions of his office or for misconduct or if the president is satisfied that it is in the interest of the Commission or the public that he be so removed.
Why This Matters?
In the course of the Nkandla scandal, President Zuma utilized every possible political office and tool that owes him allegiance including the Minister of Police and Parliament, where his party the ANC holds a majority, to exonerate himself. And he probably would have succeeded, but for the courage and persistence of the public prosecutor. The fact that the president plays a rather peripheral role in her appointment and removal offered her the requisite security and therefore independence to carry out her duties without fear of removal or being influenced.
This is a far cry from the situation in Nigeria where the President plays a dominant role in the appointment and removal of heads of anti-corruption authorities and therefore displays very obvious and over-bearing influence over their activities. The fact that prospective and serving presidents in Nigeria have over the years made themselves spokesmen for anti-corruption agencies by promising to prosecute certain individuals or investigate certain issues makes a whole mockery of anti-corruption efforts. In countries that deal with systemic corruption, especially within the executive, the best a chief executive can and should be required to do is guarantee the independence of anti-corruption authorities and allow them do their work.
It may be argued that irrespective of the procedure for appointment and removal of heads of antic-corruption bodies, such individuals can still demonstrate seriousness in investigating and prosecuting corrupt officials and institutions once appointed. While this may be true, it leaves open the question of the fairness and impartiality with which they carry out their functions. This is a question that continues to bedevil the actions of anti-corruption authorities and the overall anti-corruption regime in Nigeria. Even the much acclaimed efforts of Nuhu Ribadu who was head of the EFCC under President Obasanjo were later ridiculed by claims of overwhelming influence by the President leading to selective prosecution of public officials.
It is difficult to envisage any circumstance where any of the numerous anti-corruption bodies in Nigeria will be able to hold a serving president of the country accountable for corruption under the current legal framework, and if we cannot guarantee that everyone is indeed equal before the law in this regard, then anti-corruption efforts in the country will continue in the realm of politics, instead of being about public resources, people, rights and development.
The first lesson from the Zuma case is therefore that granting independence to anti-corruption authorities is a prerequisite for any viable anti-corruption effort. It is time for Nigeria and other countries with similar legal frameworks to amend their laws accordingly.
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.
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 Tayo Farai
Cultures will naturally disperse. The world is a dynamic scene of cultural, technological and ideological interchange. This is not only true of our contemporary lifestyle but of history itself. Cultural exchange has been an integral part of human civilisation. Africa is no exception.
With Africa however, there is a mist or veil of colonialism which subtly, and in some cases brazenly distorts one’s view of African history and culture. It is a tragedy, this. I cannot even begin to fathom the extent of the damage, the seeds sown by some imperialist agents so many years ago have germinated and grown into the very fabric of our minds.
Of course we are products of western education, without which we would remain ignorant in today’s world. However, let us think outside the colonialism box. We might then perceive western education as the “invention” of the west, brought and benevolently bestowed upon us by the west. After all, they continually made it a point of labelling us “savages” as a result of their limited exposure to the African culture. We don’t hear or read of the accounts of proper interaction with African kingdoms by these western immigrants all those years ago, as often as we hear of their incidental contacts with a few isolated tribes.
Yes, the education thing. Simply tracing the origins of western civilisation from the little I know reveals a gradual cultural migration from the east through the Egyptian, Persian, Greek and Roman empires among many others. We hear of Plato, Socrates and all other lauded names of yore. We read about the scientific, artistic and technological achievements of these great people. Then we continue to follow the “progress” of civilisation through the west. From Leonardo da Vinci to Galileo. From the fabled King Arthur to Isaac Newton. From the establishment of Parliament to the industrial revolution. We are presented with a linear timeline of a specific history. But where is our own timeline as Africans in the midst of all this? Slavery? Colonialism? Wait a minute! How can Africa be an isolated continent?
Throughout the ages of civilisation, it is simply ridiculous to think that apart from the pyramids of Egypt, very little more is known of the timeline of Africa’s history. Like I said, the world has always been a dynamic scene of cultural, technological and ideological interchange. Several empires existed in Africa. Art, culture and technology was as vibrant as anywhere else in the world. The great wall of Benin, Sungbo’s Eredo; all great examples of a rich and glorious past. Do check them out. I certainly will!
Education is an integral pillar of any civilisation. As civilisation changed, forms of education followed suit. Obviously we know of wars and the expansion of empires. Some cultures were able to dominate others, thus imposing their systems on the subjugated. It is natural throughout human history. The educational system we have today is the product of centuries of cultural migration and interchange spanning several civilisations throughout history. It is not simply a linear progression through the west. The world is at a state of civilisation as opposed to being at some point on a western defined linear timescale.
It is unfortunate that the account of history we see today is through the veil of western imperialism. It is only natural that contemporary education has spread the world over. In Africa, it obviously came along with western culture. And all its baggage. Don’t get me wrong, every culture has its positive and negative aspects. I just don’t want us to be deceived into thinking we have been “saved” or “liberated” by the west. Absolute rubbish! What pains me most is the callous destruction and plundering of our artefacts those years ago by these so called liberators due to nothing other than selfish interest. Case in point (among several others), the Benin expedition.
Let us discard the notion that modern infrastructure was benevolently bestowed on us by colonialists, as if it was some gracious western gift. We built our infrastructure like everybody else. Unfortunately we are constantly painted a picture through which Africa is perceived to be at the receiving end of charitable technology. The African continent, like the American continent, like the European continent, like the Asian continent comprises individual nations and entities of hardworking people who continue to contribute and share knowledge for the advancement of humanity.
So where is my culture? Cultures will naturally disperse and mingle with other cultures. The world is dynamic. It is a beautiful thing. The English etiquette, Indian food, Chinese proverbs are all reflections of the creativity and rich history of the human spirit. We live in a world where social interaction is at our finger tips. My generation is of the post-colonial Nigeria. We are young and educated. As we explore the world and its ways, we imbibe different cultures and habits. I implore us to continually explore our own culture and history. For by so doing, we explore ourselves.
By Matthew Ayibakuro
The United States of Africa! A country with the landmass of China, The United States of America, India, Japan and all of Europe combined, with an Island perfectly shaped for the United Kingdom. Population, 1.111 billion. Its people speak English, French, Portuguese, Arabic and over 2,000 other languages. Its currency is the ‘afro’ and demonym, African. It has the highest GDP of any country in the world and the unprecedented growth rate of its economy shows no signs of slowing! I feel like I could go on and on with this.
But beyond the pageantry and sentimental feeling that the paragraph above evokes, is becoming a single country a workable and beneficial option for the continent of Africa? Akon surely thinks so. In an elaborate interview on Aljazeera a couple of weeks ago, the ‘American-born Senegalese’ artist and businessman stated his strong conviction in the idea of a ‘United States of Africa’. Although for the usual reasons, the headline that emerged from the interview was his statement that ‘America was never built for black people’. I found that insightful also, but that is a subject for another day.
Akon is surely not alone. The legendary reggae musician Bob Marley repeatedly echoed the idea of ‘one Africa’ in the lyrics of his songs and long before him, Marcus Garvey alluded to it in his celebrated poem, ‘Hail! United States of Africa’. In the first stanza, he writes:
- “Hail! United States of Africa-free
- Hail! Motherland most bright, divinely fair!
- State in perfect Sisterhood United,
- Born of truth; mighty thou shalt ever be.”
Although Garvey’s poem did not inspire the creation of the United States of Africa, it is however believed that his poem deeply influenced the birth of the Pan-Africanist movement and inspired the golden generation of Kwame Nkrume, Haile Selassie, Jomo Kenyatta, Patrice Lumumba and others.
In recent times, who can forget the entourage of the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi attending the African Union summit in 2009 as the ‘king of kings’ of Africa and rendering the lines, “I shall continue to insist that our sovereign countries work to achieve the United States of Africa”. The support of other leaders was rather variegated and the vision never came to fruition.
Perhaps I should say not yet, at least. At the Summit of the African Union (AU) and World African Diaspora Union (WADU) which held in Harlem in 2011, President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal again called for the ‘establishment of a United States of Africa by 2017”. The Accra Declaration of 2007 restates the commitment of the AU to “accelerate the economic and political integration of the African continent, including the formation of the union government for Africa with the ultimate objective of creating the United States of Africa” by 2025. So whilst the late Gaddafi did not live to see his vision come true, Akon might yet see his realised.
But not many agree with the idea of a United States of Africa. In fact some commentators refer to the idea as ‘wishful thinking’, and the comments on the video of Akon’s interview on youtube contain borderline opinions like, “United States of Africa is a retarded idea. Anyone with such thoughts should be locked up in a mental hospital”. Reading comments on stories on social media will always provide one or two of this kind, so no harm done.
The proposition stirs up many fundamental questions though – Is a United States of Africa feasible, and if so, is it imperative to the development of the countries and the peoples of Africa? What would be the official language and the currency? How would leaders be chosen? Does it make sense to hold a general election in the whole territory of the continent as it is today, to choose a single leader and a single parliament? What would be the ostensible benefits of having such single country and at what cost? Would the latter outweigh the former? In other words, does the strength of the peoples of Africa lie our diversity or in our uniformity? The answers are probably more convoluted that they first appear.
One further question worth considering is whether efforts at creating a single country in Africa would be more beneficial if directed towards strengthening the African Union (AU) and building on its gains. As a youth, I feel a bit ‘quagmired’ making this argument at a moment when the AU’s recent choice of leadership is, to state it as mildly as possible, most disparaging – a subject for another day.
However considering the reasonable achievements recorded by organisations established to achieve regional economic integration in different parts of the continent – ECOWAS, SADC and especially the EAC in the last fifteen years – the the replication of same at an Africa-wide level would appear a more feasible and rational path to tread for the time being than the pursuit of establishing a United States of Africa.
I can share the sentiments and enjoy the Pan-Africa feelings that the idea kindles in me, but beyond that I find very little rationale to pursue the idea further as imperative to the development of the countries and peoples of Africa at this moment.