A CALL TO LEADERSHIP: The role of Africans in the Development Agenda
Harold Wolpe Memorial Lecture: 30 November 2006 Shepstone 1, Howard College CampusUniversity of KwaZulu-Natal .
By Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane, Archbishop of Cape Town, Founder and President – African Monitor
With my Comments in indigo font
It is a great privilege and distinctive honour that I have been invited to deliver an address on “A call to leadership : the role of Africans in the development Agenda’ – a subject I feel very passionate about. As weall know, Africa is a great continent. It is the cradle of humanity. Africa is a continent of opportunity that has very rich mineral wealth. Africans are the most hopeful people in the world. Yet millions of her people go hungry every day; millions die each year because of diseases that are preventable. One often asks the question why. So many factors have colluded that have had an adverse effect to Africa’s growth and development. Chief among them was colonialism……a) Colonial ruleColonialism with its legacy of slavery, economic expropriation and racially divisive tendencies. We know that colonial rule and its legacy in the continent was more devastating than some of the worst natural disasters such as famine, floods, etc. We do not need rocket scientists to tell us that colonial rule in Africa was particularly focused on exploiting and extracting the continent's natural resources. Infrastructure was built to exploit and extract copper, timber, oil, gold, etc from the continent. It is partly because of this system ofextraction and exploitation that infrastructure in the continent is severely limited and unable to contribute to equitable development that benefits all. I will not spend time going into Gallagher and Robinson’s (1953) argument that beyond economic exploitation and political domination, colonialism was also about humanitarianism. To argue that is to argue that the husband who beats up his wife daily is doing it forher sake. It is a fallacy, at best. In fact, studies such as those done by Bertochi and Genova (1996), and Young (1994) prove that Africa’s development crises can be directly traced to European colonial rule. Butwe all know this, ladies and gentlemen. This is why we stand proud to remember people like Nkwameh Nkrumah of Ghana, Seako Toure of Guinea, Namdi Azikiwe of Nigeria, Julius Nyerere of Tanzania and Patrice Lumumba of The Congo, to mention a few, who ushered in the era of independence in the 1960s.b) IndependenceFollowing colonial rule came independence, which marked an important historical milestone in the development and growth of Africa. It symbolized the awakening of the continent and its people to fight forwhat was theirs, and claim back ownership of their destinies. As Wordsworth, referring to the Renaissance period, wrote: ‘Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, but to be young was the very heaven’. In its editorial on the 4th January 1960, the Rand Daily Mail wrote: ‘The sixties opened in an atmosphere of expectations, of heightened awareness of pending change. In a few years’ time Africans will be governing the greater part of the African Continent. This will be a decade of great change for the world and for Africa. Can we in SouthAfrica hope to escape the implications?’ The winds of change to which the British Prime Minister, HaroldMacmillan, referred in his speech to the South African Parliament in 1960 finally reached South Africa more than 30 years later. During this era, we can still see in the history books remnants of the tendency for others to speak on behalf of Africans about Africa and its development. In this category, I want to distinguish three role players.
The notion of independence of African states is an illusion. Africans have been deluded into thinking that by fighting and later negotiating for independence, they have truly become independent. There is an economic school of thought that claims that following the economic and human losses incurred by the colonialists at the beginning of independence struggles, the colonialists had a quiet rethink based on economic benefits of granting or not granting “independence” to African states. And BINGO: the smart think-tank boys came up with the theory that colonialists would gain more economically by giving “independence” to African states, but maintaining a strangle-hold on them. They argued that Africans themselves would open the doors for huge economic profits to their erstwhile colonisers. And are they not right? Two examples:
In exchange for independence after a failed effort of Charles De Gaulle (5th republic) the French made its former colonies sign agreements that France has first priority over existing and undiscovered-yet resources in these countries, and also that French companies have first priority for all public businesses in these countries. No one ever talked about it until Laurent Gbagbo came to power and decided to not to go along with this “Independence agreement.” And see, the French (like they did for Sekou Toure of Guinea, and the British did for Kwame Nkrumah) are taking the rug off his feet. Everyone says everything about the problem in Cote d’Ivoire except the root problem.
Further on the economic benefit of granting independence to African states, I will cite a recent example:
Britain took away far more money from sub-Saharan Africa than it gave in aid and debt relief last year, despite pledges to help the region, the charity, Christian Aid claimed in a report. In all, it took away £27 billion from Africa. In the 12 months since an annual Group of Eight (G8) summit in Scotland last July, the British economy gained a net profit of more than £11 billion ($20.3 billion) from the region, Christian Aid said. The charity calculated that almost £17 billion flowed from Britain to sub-Saharan Africa in the past year, including donations, remittances from salaries earned by Africans in Britain and foreign direct investment. At the same time, more than £27 billion went in the opposite direction, thanks to debt repayments, profits made by British companies in Africa and imports of British goods and capital flight.
This is about financial capital flight. Do you think Britain ever made so much from Africa during colonial rule? No, when one takes into consideration the costs of running overseas administrative offices, problems with the locals etc.
Christian Aid estimates that Africa has lost $272 billion in the past 20 years from being forced to promote trade liberalisation as the price for receiving World Bank loans and debt relief.
And Human Capital flight? Here is an example that I cited in my most recent book “In the Embrace of Fear” –
It is claimed that in the US alone, “African immigrants are the highest educated class in the range of all immigrants….there are over 640’000 African professionals in the US; over 360’000 of them hold PhDs; 120’000 of them (from Nigeria, Ghana, Sudan and Uganda) are medical doctors. The rest are professionals in various fields – from the head of research for the US Space Agency, NASA, to the highest paid material science professors…..”
Now, didn’t the smart boys who drummed up the whole idea get it right?
Poor African leaders (with the exception of Kwame Nkrumah, Sekou Toure, Patrice Lumumba and Samora Machel), drunk on their “independence” did not see through this ruse and forge alliances not only to undo this plan, but also to create solid foundations for African development. They played into the hands of their former oppressors as was foreseen by the smart think-tankers. (see their OAU charter of 1963).
Firstly we see the former colonial powers garnering together in attempts presumably to fix their mistakes and assist in the regeneration of their former colonies.
Fix their mistakes? I beg to disagree. Hear Mark Curtis in The Guardian (September 2005):
“The G8 agreed to increase aid from rich countries by $48 billion a year by 2010. When Tony Blair announced this to parliament, he said that "in addition... we agreed to cancel 100 per cent of the multilateral debts" of the most indebted countries. He also stated that aid would come with no conditions attached. These were big claims, all of which can now be shown to be false.
First, in recent evidence to the Treasury committee, Gordon Brown made the astonishing admission that the aid increase includes money put aside for debt relief. So the funds rich countries devote to writing off poor countries' debts will be counted as aid……. Blair's assertion that aid will come with no conditions is contradicted by Hilary Benn, his development secretary, who told a parliamentary committee on July 19 that "around half" of World Bank aid programmes have privatisation conditions. Recent research by the NGO network Eurodad shows that conditions attached to World Bank aid are rising. Benin, for example, now has to meet 130 conditions to qualify for aid, compared with 58 in the previous agreement.. ….. Yet in the G8 press conference Blair refuted the suggestion that privatisation would be a condition for aid.”
What the good archbishop has misconstrued as “fixing their mistakes” is another ruse. It is a mopping-up operation of all the assets that accidentally got in the hands of the so-called independent African states during “independence” and those that they managed to acquire with the sweat and blood of the common man post-“independence” . After burying poor Africans in deep holes of debt and taking away the ladder, the so-called good Samaritans now hide behind the curtain of “Aid” to completely disendow and disenfranchise the African. It is a classical case of social darwinization strategy, in which Africans will be (and are being) led by the nose to the bottom of humanity ladder and encouraged to stay there…..maybe forever.
If we continue to use the metaphor of a battered wife – I dislike this metaphor. I tend to think that metaphors and analogies are a reflection of the subconscious. The good archbishop should have found a better example to use.
imagine her lying in bed with broken ribs and bleeding wounds while the same inflictor of pain nurses her back to health! In all fairness, one would have to be careful not to dismiss completely the efforts of thecolonial power’s post colonial rule, as some good came out of it. However, it is necessary to look retrospectively with a critical eye and acknowledge that there were instances where we should have simply cut all ties in order to prevent further exploitation and continued dependence, and claim back our dignity.
I advise the archbishop to read the OAU charter, Kwame Nkrumah’s call for African unity. It was African leaders under the tutelage of the colonizers who undermined all efforts at claiming back any dignity.
The second category of role players during independence, speaking on behalf of Africans about Africa, was the international community, represented by multilateral institutions. The incredible effort put behind pushing a structural adjustment agenda that further diminished the capacity of African countries to grow and develop is astounding, even today. Again in this instance, Africans listened to others telling them what was good for their own economies. Many have argued this to be expanded exploitation and imperialism.The last set of role players who determined to speak on behalf of Africans is a curious group. They are the number of Africans who rose up at the time of independence to lead their people astray and exploit resources for personal economic gain. Our mistake was to assume that because they were Africans, they would fight the cause of Africa. These Africans dared to speak from a point of legitimacy, when in fact they were no different from the exploiters of the colonial legacy who had nothing but greed in their hearts.
All African leaders (with the exception of Kwame Nkrumah, Samora Machel, Thomas Sankara, Sekou Toure before his demonisation by the French, and Patrice Lumumba) stand guilty here. From Mansa Kan Kan Mussa of the ancient Mali Empire to Joseph Kabila, the most recently “elected” African president. The history of Africa is a history of betrayal by its leaders – from the first contact with the Arabs in 8th century through 2006 AD. Judas’ descendants probably migrated south of the sands. Among many other things, these leaders stand guilty of the following charges:
- they are photographic negatives of the colonisers.
- their interest was and is to occupy the seats vacated by the colonisers
- they have criminally kept intact all the oppressive institutions of the colonisers
- they use the same or similar oppressive laws inherited from the colonisers to govern
- they continue with oppression of the masses as the colonisers did.
- they behave themselves as the colonisers before them did.
- they have no other reference of behaviour or governance except what they learnt from the colonisers.
The other set of factors that has contributed to the stagnation of growth and development in our continent is coups d’etat, civil wars, dictatorships and interstate wars. Moeletsi Mbeki puts it this way: ‘…violent political conflicts accelerated the flight of skills and capital, fuelling the downward spiral in the quantity and quality ofsocial services provided in most African countries.’To illustrate his point, Mbeki makes a comparison between Ghana and Korea in his article published in the Cape Times last week. ‘In the 1950s and 1960s, Ghana was way ahead of Korea in terms of incomes and exports per capita but from the early 1970s Korea overtook Ghana and streaked ahead at such a pace that today Korea’s per capita income is 20 times Ghana’s.’Mbeki writes that the World Bank summarized this state of affairs thus: ‘Korea’s exports per capita overtook Ghana’s in 1972, and its income level surpassed Ghana’s four years later. Between 1965 and 1995, Korea’sexports increased 400 times in current dollars. Meanwhile Ghana’s increased only by four times, and real earning per capita fell to a fraction of their earlier value.’c) Development actorsIn the context of independence and democratisation during the last decades we have noticed an increasing rise in the contributions made by Africa’s development partners to Africa’s development. Hundreds ofmillions of rands have been spent in Aid to Africa again to develop the continent. And of course for years these millions were accompanied by prescriptions of where the monies could be spent, how they could bespent and over what period. Again, in these instances others continued to speak on behalf of Africans about Africa’s development.To qualify this statement, I must add that I have noticed that there is a wind of change blowing throughout the development community in recent years. There is a growing recognition that development cannot happenwithout the people who are its beneficiaries. I would even go a step further and say that development must be led by the people who will be its beneficiaries.Going back to my initial thesis then, we must ask ourselves a few difficult questions to explain why the tendency for others to speak on behalf of Africans about Africa has persisted from generation togeneration since colonial rule and slavery.
1. What has been the motivation of others to speak for us and participate so heavily in our affairs?
2. Why have we Africans allowed others to speak for us and determine our future?
3. What is the cost of letting others speak for us when we can speak for ourselves? Instead of answering these questions myself, ladies and gentlemen, I will refrain from doing so to give you an opportunity to ponder on them. I would not want to be seen to be speaking on your behalf!
I will advise the good archbishop to read “In the Embrace of Fear” – Fear as a determinant factor of underdevelopment in sub-Sahara Africa. All the answers to his questions are there.
2. Highlighting the Role Africans have played in the past.Before I go any further let me stress this point to avoid confusion and misunderstanding. My thesis is not that Africans have been sitting around while others were busy stewing and stirring the pot. I stand proudly here today as an African and name leaders who have shown us great courage, leadership, vision and action. About 40 years ago, the doyen of pan-Africanism, Dr Kwame Nkrumah, made an impassioned plea:‘Africa must unite or perish.’ This was in May 1963 when the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) signed the Charter for Unity in Addis Ababa. One of the key tenets of the OAU’s Charter remains as valid today as it was then – that African countries should ‘co-ordinate and intensify their co-operation and efforts to achieve a better life for the peoples of Africa’. There were interesting debates at various forums of Africa’s leadership at the time: whether we should opt for a giant, monolithic state of Africa or a United States of Africa.
Yes, Kwame Nkrumah said it, not only in 1963 in Addis, but again in 1965 during Accra summit and what happened? No one heeded him. Julius Nyerere would 27 years later admit that they were all afraid to lose their prestigious posts and their 21-gun salutes!!!
We have to note also that there were leaders like Mangaliso Sobukwe who came to the fore in the 60s. He identified the Pass Laws as being at the heart of the oppression of the black person. With the extension of the system to women he stated that ‘it might happen to my mother, my wife, my daughter. It is a situation we cannot tolerate any longer. The white man behaves as though he were an occupying power. In order to entrench their privileges, the whites have surrounded themselves with oppressive laws. We have no obligation to obey these laws.’ Later in the 70s leaders like Bantu Biko brought a message of hope in the midnight of despair I am proud to relate stories of ordinary people in communities who have stood high above their circumstances to instigate change in their own localities. I think of the woman in a village in the Eastern Cape who takes in children whose mother is lying in bed sick with the HI Virus. Or the community that starts a poultry farm to generate income for local children to go to school.I am proud to recognize African governments who have put programmes in place and channeled resources to ensure that people on the ground benefit from development. I recognize teachers, police, professionals,young people who are passionate about this continent, and who individually and collectively make a difference by waking up every morning to do their best. I even recognize and applaud those who are notfrom the continent, but who desire the best for the continent for no personal gain. These are friends of Africa who have spent resources and their time in dialogue with the continent planning, strategising andimplementing formidable programmes.All these amazing role players have worked hard and changed the direction of development in big and/or small ways.Today however I will not focus on this breed of people, as they are on the right track to enable the continent to reach its potential.I want to open a debate and facilitate discussion about those of us who have become complacent about Africa’s development. I want to speak to the legacy that has led the whole world to think that it is acceptableto think for Africans about Africa’s development. I want to call for action that will enable all of us to stand up and speak in one voice about Africa and its development.In every place in the world to which I have traveled, I have listened to impassioned debates about what Africa needs and what is wrong with the continent. These discussions often go beyond opinion, which all of us are entitled to. There is often a tone of self-righteousness and assumed ownership and power even in instances where ordinary citizens are talking about the continent.I want to argue today that enough has been said about what the donor should and must do. Enough has been said about what multi-lateral companies should and must do. Enough has been said about internationalbig business and investments. Even I have been known to call upon these actors to act in ways that are fair and just. These calls are on target and necessary at relevant forums.But today I am talking to you, fellow Africans. I talk to you as an African, and as an advocate for development that brings improvements to the lives of the people on the ground. I want to talk about what we as Africans should and must do to fast-track development in the continent. I want to expand on what kind of African will participate effectivelyand cause progressive change in the fight against poverty; the race towards the millennium development goals; and the challenges of racism, ethnicity, war and conflict.3. The role Africans must play in Africa’s Development AgendaI do not need to expand on why we need to act, and why we need to act now. Nearly 3 billion people in the world live in abject poverty, a majority of whom are on this continent. As we speak, a number of countries are engaged in some or other form of conflict within the continent. Levels of unemployment are continuing to increase; access to primary health care, education and municipal services is minimal; and the HIV epidemic is on the rise.The time for accelerated action is now.
Yes Sir. “Between Alpha and Omega is now….”
The question then is: “What needs to be in place in order for such acceleration to happen?”(a) Collective ownership:The need for collective ownership of Africa’s development agenda cannot be over-stated. It is time for Africans to stand up with one voice and collectively think about the continent, strategize about what works and speak effectively about what does not work. The dialogue needs to take place within countries, between countries, between sub-regions andwithin continental structures. I know that for South Africans it is difficult to understand the concept of inter-dependence and dialogue with the rest of the continent. Much of that is founded on the apartheid regime that ensured that even within our country we behaved as islands.This culture must change.It is encouraging to see that our own government is an active participant within SADC, the AU and in bilateral relationships withAfrican countries. Civil society is starting to organize collectively across the continent with several campaigns such as Make Poverty History, the Global Coalition Against Poverty and the Millennium Campaign.Collective ownership of the development agenda will inject a sense of urgency in each of us about what needs to be done, and what needs to stop. It will enable us to claim back the power to change our context both as individuals and as organization. Collective ownership dismisses the notion that development is the function of governments, and puts theresponsibility for well-being on the collective shoulders of the masses, civil society (including business and the academia), as well as governments. In my book, there are three essential pillars for effective development. These are government, the private sector and the broad church of civil society.(b) Overturning the Power balanceThe current landscape of Africa’s development does not give much confidence that Africans own the power to make decisions about their own development. Theoretically, and according to good development principles, Africans should be the determinants of their own destinies. We all agree on this. However, the political and economic systems of theworld are a bit more complicated than that.With the current economic systems, countries must rely on outside investors to help their economies grow; outside donors to spend on development; an unjust trade system to acquire economic wealth. Out of these variables, which should African people choose to have decision making powers on? I cannot name all of them, but here are a few thoughts:-African people should be able to make decisions about how they will spend Aid money contributed to their own countries. They should be able to identify spending gaps, such as infrastructure for water, sanitation, roads, and channel resources to where the greatest need is. Furthermore, they should be able to control what kinds of assistance comes into the country, and say NO to undesirable types of Aid. The same should apply to forms of debt relief, or loans accepted by our governments. Africans should be able to make their own decisions about economic policies. Thelist goes on. Without wanting to suggest violence, it is necessary for African people to adopt a level of arrogance in protecting their own welfare.At the level of the grassroots, ownership means the involvement of ordinary people in policy debates and law making policies that will affect their welfare, both at a country and regional level. It means creating spaces for politicians to listen to ordinary citizens, and allowing for free flow of information to inform citizens of crucial decisions and processes.Over-turning the power balance does not mean assuming that Africa doesnot need help. It does not imply carelessness either. It means being in a position to say what type of help will be accepted, when and how. Without this sense of power, collective ownership of the development agenda will not mean anything.(c) Broad Participation and inclusivityBroad participation and inclusivity is the logical outcome of collective ownership. When people believe that they have a responsibility to do something, as well as the power to make decisions, their participation becomes almost automatic. Attempts to increase participation therefore must start at the level of shifting misconceptions and giving power tothe people as it were.It is important to mention that broad participation must include harnessing the voices of Africans to become more visible in the international development agenda. There needs to be increased visibility of efforts by Africans already existing to impact positively on development. There also needs to be a strengthening of networks and collective efforts to speak effectively. This will ensure that among the plethora of actors speaking on Africa’s development, that Africans are the dominant voice.(d) Visionary LeadershipIf ever there was a time for visionary, creative, imaginative and dynamic leadership in Africa, it is now. We need a leadership that is accountable, a leadership that is driven by a deep desire for sustainable livelihoods for all its citizens and a leadership that guarantees and upholds fundamental human rights for everyone created in God’s image.We applaud the establishment of the African Union and its subsidiary bodies whose fundamental objectives are good governance, accountability and transparency.I believe that it is urgent that there be a meeting of minds of statespersons and other opinion-formers in Africa on the need to take the aspirations of Africans further. Political leaders should be looking beyond mere bilateral or regional economic agreements, to ambitious concordats, such as that which has seen the European Union flourish.The concept of an Economic Union of African States needs urgent support backed by research to ensure that it will benefit the greatest number of people. Such a Union would co-ordinate economic activity in the continent of Africa for the general well-being of its people. It would ensure inter alia that:
• Africa would never again be marginalized, thereby becoming the begging bowl of the world;
• Africa’s resources would never again be exploited;
• Africa would not become the dumping ground for environmentally repugnant refuse, such as nuclear waste; and
• Conditions exist for attracting investment capital from all parts of the globe into the continent of Africa.4. The African Monitor – a model for Africa’s participation in the Africa’s development agenda.
Let me spend a few minutes sharing with you what I think is a good model for increasing participation of Africans in Africa’s development.The African Monitor is an independent continental body set up to act as a catalyst to monitor development funding commitments, delivery and impact on the grassroots, and to bring strong additional African voices to the development agenda.Its premise is that Africans must speak for themselves and become more visible in the international development agenda. It believes that increased capacity of Africans – especially at grassroots level – to monitor development implementation will be an effective way of increasing collective ownership, power and participation of Africans intheir own development.o The African Monitor aims to systematically monitor development promises, by looking at the volume of commitments, timeliness, delivery results on the ground, quality of aid, and prioritization. Promises from both African governments and donor governments will be looked at.o It will also look at trade policies and business regulations, in order to analyze how these hinder or enhance the ability of African countries to deliver on development.o The AM will engage African governments and support their efforts to meet the MDG’s by 2015, by tracking progress, assisting in integrated policy making and facilitating increased stakeholder participation.o Also, the AM will measure the benefits of development programmes in Africa focusing on targeted sectors, in order to draw lessons from local communities about what works and what does not. The intention will be to listen to local voices and channel information through to decision makers at local, national and international level.The AM will not monitor just simply for the sake of it. It will monitor with the intention to effect change, to speed up the rate of delivery and increase the rate of effectiveness. The advocacy strategy of the AM will be spearheaded by a group of high level independent figures, drawn from the Continent and elsewhere – the Togona. Togona is a word fromMali, which means wisdom. Our ‘house of wisdom’ will be the ambassadors of African Monitor, lending their weight in support of local communities in their development aspirations and experiences. Besides Monitoring and Advocacy, the African Monitor will perform two other critical functions:-We will build networks of African voices across key stakeholder groups for stronger promotion of the development agenda at the grassroots. The intention will be to increase the dialogue between the different role players by hosting and participating in multi-stakeholder forums; as well as initiating and participating in processes that create spaces foran interface between two or more stakeholders. The AM will endeavour to create opportunities for grassroots participation as well as strengthen grassroots networks to enable such participation.The AM will also promote grassroots participation by galvanising African Voices to speak for Africa’s development. The chorus from these voices will strengthen the culture of accountability and increase transparency.These voices should complement the call for the kind of governance culture that can support a selfless approach to the utilisation of resources meant for the poor. The AM will also support communities todevelop programme monitoring skills as well as to develop the capacity to call for accountability from local authorities.The African Monitor is but one example of the kinds of initiatives Africans should be engaging with to accelerate the pace of development in the continent. Role players must be called to account on what they are doing, and its impact on the ground. Ordinary Africans are best placed to call for that accountability and ensure that what needs to happen happens.5. ConclusionI have submitted to you today that there is a need for a sense of urgency in implementing and participating in development. There is also a need to become bolder in our demand for delivery from ourselves as well as our development partners. I have argued that in that process, the grassroots have a significant role to play in the delivery through monitoring and advocacy. I hope that as we discuss we will think critically about what role we can carve out for ourselves as well as our organizations. I am sounding the alarm, calling to arms against poverty and domination to all those of you who will hear it.
Generally: A very good paper with valid proposals for moving the continent forward – contains many words from development-speak lexicon. Hear Steve Biko: the most important weapon in the hands of an oppressor is the mind of the oppressed. I say, let us begin our development by undoing the colonial legacy – the borders, the language barriers, and religions. Let our leaders get out of silly language schools of the oppressed like commonwealth, Francophonie, Lusofonia etc. LET THEM OVERCOME THEIR FEARS AND TEACH US TO OVERCOME ALL OUR FEARS TOO. WE NEED TO MOVE FROM BASIC EXISTENCE TO ESSENCE. And more importantly is a moral revolution in Africa – a need for all black Africans to have the ability to clearly distinguish evil from good (ref. African In the Mirror). When we are conscious of our responsibility to one another, then Africans will cease to become easy prey for plunderers. Paraphrasing Kwame Nkrumah: We must seek the kingdom of liberation of our minds from colonial fetters first, and all other good things will be added on thereafter.
Dakar, 5th December 2006.