In the concluding paragraph of his account of the deadly Liberian civil war, the late Polish writer, Ryszard Kapuscinski, noted:

“I also saw a naked man, walking with a Kalashnikov over his shoulder. People stepped out of his way, avoided him. He was probably a madman.  A madman with a Kalashnikov”.

Every time I read this paragraph, I often find myself wondering beyond its literal description and engaging more with its metaphoric meaning. In this respect, my mind zooms into the policy planning and implementation plane in Africa. Any keen observer of governance in Africa will readily agree that those that drive our policies continue to fail us miserably. Public analysts (e.g. Pius Adesanmi​) have argued for some sort of cranium examination for those we have entrusted with managing statecraft  in Africa. Others have been so frustrated to the extent of even suggesting that all public office holders must make an oath of allegiance to the African gods, since it is believed that these gods are swift in action.

When one observes the texture and tone of policies emanating from politicians across this continent, the need for suggesting drastic corrective measures becomes a natural point. From local to the national levels, from Cape to Cairo, one has come to the conclusion that many of our public officials are “madmen with a Kalashnikov”. Be it through their grandiose, unsustainable projects, unwillingness to vacate office and thus willing to sacrifice the lives and properties of their citizens in such quest, unimaginable thievery from the national treasury, butchering of anything that smells like opposition, and the deliberate enactment of iatrogenic public policies, the state of mind of our public officials continue to become a central focus of discussion.

Comedians across this continent are having a field day as these politicians continue to provide them with outlandish materials. Intellectuals are exasperated and confounded. Some intellectuals see no point in condemning these malfeasances and have decided to become part of the tragic-comedic governance space. For some of these intellectuals, we ordinary citizens are expected to cheer and dance as these madmen with Kalashnikov decide on our fates. We are told that these madmen are fighting “imperialism” or that they are ideologues who have our best interests at heart. When you point out the inconsistencies or nonsensical angle of their point, you are shouted down as a “counterrevolutionary”, “neocolonialist” etc.

When confronted with a madman wielding a Kalashnikov, the natural instinct is to avoid or flee the scene. The reality is that such madman will open fire and mow down anything in and outside of its path. Society is endangered, public safety becomes a big concern, and as such, efforts must be made to subdue the madman and remove the Kalashnikov from his grip. So the question is this: For how long shall we continue to cheer and tolerate madmen wielding Kalashnikov?

You can follow the writer on twitter @babsfagbayibo

According to a recent news report, Botswana’s minister of foreign affairs and international cooperation, Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi, expressed her country’s reservation to the African Union proposal on free movement of persons. She noted that “it is a good initiative but has a lot of implications because for some nations it can be a gateway to exploit the gains of other countries such as ours”. She further remarked that “we are yet to consult the nation on matters of security with regards to the free movement of goods and people, so that Botswana does not become a trespassing route for criminal activities.”

The minister’s statement raises a number of key questions, chief of which is the extent to which African states are prepared to sacrifice for greater and common good. The idea of free movement of persons and goods across African boundaries remain a thorny issue and the lack of an implementable framework continues to defy all rational understanding. Africa is the continent with the highest use of visas, with African citizens requiring visas to visit 60% of African countries. In a speech delivered at the opening of one of his cement plants in Ethiopia, Aliko Dangote, Africa’s richest person, lamented the negative impact of restrictive visa policies on trade and investment. He noted that “only 14 out of our 54 African countries (Seychelles, Mali, Uganda, Cape Verde, Togo, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Mauritania, Rwanda, Burundi, Comoros, Madagascar, Somalia and Senegal) offer visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to citizens of all African countries”.

The road to achieving Agenda 2063 goal of “abolishment of visa requirements for all African citizens by all African countries by 2018” is not looking too promising considering the continued attachment to the restrictive and “Afrophobic” immigration policies of many African states. In assessing Botswana’s position, the question that comes to mind is whether or not such stance is good or bad for African integration. Beyond the moral assessment of such position, I think it is more beneficial to adopt a more pragmatic lens of analysis.

What this implies is the need to understand that express or implied reservations to integration policies are not necessarily indicative of the separation between “saints and sinners”. They are in essence “blessings in disguise” as they afford us the opportunity of considering other alternatives. One alternative that is at the heart of this piece is the idea of “moving ahead differently”.

By adopting a pragmatic prism of understanding, we will come to the realisation that not all 54 AU member states are willing and able to move at the same pace or at the same time. The social, political, and economic situation of each country will determine how and when it should adopt and/or implement integrative goals and agendas. For example, one will only be engaging in whimsical thoughts if a country embroiled in civil conflict is also expected to effectively implement regional instruments on trade, democratic governance or immigration. In the same vein, to expect Zimbabwe or Equatorial Guinea or Ethiopia to comply with regional standards on democracy and good governance will be akin to preparing for snowfall in Lagos. The same countries may, however, be in a better position to implement regional instruments on trade and investment.

It is, therefore, fundamental that we start to experiment with policies and praxes that prioritise readiness and willingness of each or group of member state(s). This is by no means a call for the fragmentation of the goal of African unity. The salient ideal of uniting the peoples and countries of Africa remain a priority but we must also understand that the road towards it may not always be a single lane. As the Yoruba saying goes, ona kan o wo oja (no one road leads to the market), the same applies to achieving integrative goals. This understanding is imperative as it gives us the opportunity to press ahead without wasting valuable time on waiting for others to make up their minds. The ones that are willing but not able to move ahead must be given genuine and quality assistance to catch up. As we move towards concretising African integration, or to put it in the language of the moment “achieving Agenda 2063”, we must open our minds to creative and innovative ideas. Moving ahead differently is one such.

You can follow the writer on twitter @babsfagbayibo or Facebook https://www.facebook.com/babs.fagbayibo

“Baba Baba!” shouted Youjobless Graduate, the 22 year old son of Mr Graduate, a citizen of Mugabwe. How did the meeting at the AFRIMINION go?

“They just can’t seem to have enough of Him!” his father screamed angrily. “They told us that they supported democracy, and that they would ‘Promote the holding of regular free and fair elections to institutionalize legitimate authority of representative government as well as democratic change of governments’ Citizen participation was the order of the day”, he further yelled.

“What’s with the anger love?” said Mrs Graduate, in a sweet soothing voice as she swaggered into their middle class lounge.

“Baby!” said Mr Graduate, “AFRIMINION has gone to the dogs. Do you remember in June 2011, when we were invited to go to Unequatorial Guineafowl?”

“Oh yes love” said Mrs Graduate.  “How can I forget that place? The 52 luxury presidential villas, the conference hall, a landing strip, artificial beach, luxury hotel and the county’s first 18-hole golf course”, she stated with excitement.

“Babes!” interrupted Mr Graduate, “you seem to recall the luxuries offered by Teodoroever Obiinga President, the 72 year old god, the supreme authority over men and things”.

“Honey that is blasphemy! How dare you call him the country’s god!” bellowed Mrs Graduate.

“Hahahahahaha I did not say that, in 2003 the state-owned radio conferred him with such divinity” Mr Graduate responded.

“So it was a mockery of Christianity”  suggested Mrs Graduate.

“No Mom, he has been in power for 36 years” said Youjobless. He continued, “I am actually shocked that he spent $830 million in preparation for the conference, yet the average income of the people in Equatorial Guinea is below $1 a day”.

The father added, “It’s not only that. The theme of the summit was ‘Accelerating Youth Empowerment for Sustainable Development.’ Yet education spending in Unequatorial Guineafowl was approximately US$200 million in 2008”.

“So Baba, did the AFRIMINION elect Teodoroever Obiinga President as its chairperson this year?” Youjobless asked.

“No my son” said the father as his eyes got teary. “Teodoroever Obiinga President was a chairperson in 2011 and 2012. This year it adopted Roboto Mugwabe as its chairperson”.

“Wasn’t he president before you and mom met? Way before I was born in the now defunct Warare General hospital?” asked Youjobless.

Before Mr Gradute could answer the barrage of questions from Youjobless, he leaned towards the table for his Samsung S5 (which costs a trillion Mugabwean Dollars).

At first glance, Mr Graduate could not believe his eyes and so he decided to pass the phone to his wife.

“You job less!” shouted his wife.

“Yes Mom” answered Youjobless.

“No, not you” his mother responded.

“Your father has been discharged from his duties because he failed to assist Roboto Mugwabe when he tripped”.

You can follow the writer on twitter @stacychembe or Facbook at https://www.facebook.com/amastacy?fref=ts

African_unity_eeee0101

At the very definitive elitist, upper crust spectrum of African politics, there is no mantra as alluring, seductive and manipulatable as “Africa’s solution to African problems”. In its theoretical conception, it easily lends itself to the need to recapture our traditional knowledge systems and apply them to problems. Be it in its political, legal, social and economic dimensions, we are urged to tap into our cultural “tool box” and find the appropriate instrument for solving our issues. But in its applicative dimension, one begins to see deep levels of contradictions, betrayals and policy somersaults by those that are supposed to be the guardians and technicians of this ideology. The so called “African solutions” have played out in shameful and destructive fashions, that anytime I hear this mantra, what easily comes to mind is the inverse: “African problems for African solutions”. This statement aptly captures the iatrogenic application of this mantra to situations requiring serious attention.

Barbara Tuchman, the late American historian, in her book, “The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam”, provides a statement that succinctly explain my position about the application of “African solution to African problems” She noted: “Wooden-headedness the source of self-deception … consists in assessing a situation in terms of preconceived fixed notions while ignoring or rejecting any contrary signs”. The substitution of workable and truly beneficial solutions for wrong-headed, selfish motives continues to define the approach to this mantra. Over the years, African leaders have perfected the art of organised hypocrisy as the answer to solving malignant issues of bad governance, insecurity, economic underdevelopment and regional disintegration. At some point, the contrived idea of “Government of National Unity” became the quick fix solution to protecting a leader who has rigged out the opposition. Knowing fully well that this contradicts justice and further entrenches bad governance, African leaders engage in this act of unenlightened self-interest, and shout from the roof top that they have actually applied African solution to the problems on the ground. This to me is the application of African problem to an issue that requires a true African solution. In this regard, it is an African problem since it is essentially devised by our so called African leaders.

Another example is the laughable gathering of African leaders at summit after summit to ratify the donorisation of the integration process. Few months ago, African leaders at the African Union summit in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, ratified the AU budget which indicates that 54 African countries will only contribute a paltry 28% of the budget, with external partners (European Union, China, etc.) contributing the remaining 72%. As Thomas Sankara rightly pointed out, “he who feeds you controls you”, and this situation undercuts the issue of legitimacy and ownership of the process of African integration. While external support is not necessarily a bad thing, it should be minimised to the extent that such support does not grant donors the “divine” right of interference.

The lack of active commitment to finding lasting solutions to serious issues is another concern. African leaders act as if the constant regurgitation of this mantra will automatically fix the problems. At critical periods when action is required to implement many of the projects that were birthed within the rhetoric of “African solution to African problems”, governments suddenly develop amnesia and lethargic feet. Some revert to neo-colonial logic (a la Françafrique), others foster or reinforce xenophobic measures, and the rest simply act as if they signed the agreement in a narcoleptic state. “Africa must unite”, they scream, yet they know it is only mouth deep, a position they have no idea of implementing.

The above scenarios are not exhaustive, I am sure readers can add more examples to the broad picture I have painted here. The narrative of “African solution to African problems” is one that will adapt to different contexts and situations, and will have to be applied on a case-by-case basis. There are situations where this mantra has been applied in a positive manner, for example in relation to issues of conflict resolution, financial and human resources assistance, and regional security. However, the non-application in fundamental circumstances and the resultant festering of the problems on the ground has to be fully addressed.

The first step is the acknowledgement of the true situation, a position that wrongly refers to the problems as solutions. The true “African solution to African problems” posits a milieu that matches conception and application of shared values and norms, eliminates inconsistencies, and places Africans at the core of any processes central to their development. As the late Nigerian political economist, Claude Ake, once noted, “Development has to begin by taking people and their culture as they are, not as they might be, and proceeding from there to define the problems and strategies for development”. Only then can we really affirm that we have applied “African solutions to African problems”.

You can follow the writer on twitter @babsfagbayibo or facebook https://www.facebook.com/babs.fagbayibo

 

ANGOLA-782fc

 

Although Nigeria’s Per Capita gross domestic product (GDP) is still far below that of South Africa, Nigeria’s recalculated economy of $510 billion as reported, is so far the biggest in Africa, which gives the West African nation continental bragging rights. But how many ordinary Nigerians are enjoying a fair share of the said $510 billion economy? However, Nigeria is not the only country in Africa with abundance of resources but whose majority citizens are living below the bread line.

On that note, allow me to look at a once conflict stricken country – Angola. This country, like Nigeria, is rich in mineral resources, and is said to be one of the promising future economic powerhouse in Africa due to its reported rapid growth. In 2011, the GDP was 3.9% and significantly improved to 7.9% in 2012, with expected 7.8% in 2014 (World Bank).

The 2013 Mo Ibrahim index of African Governance ranked Angola 40th for human development and 36th for sustainable economic opportunity out of 52 countries. However, the quality of health of Angolans since the end of the civil war has been said to have deteriorated due to little or no access to basic resources, a situation that undercuts the country’s potential. Life expectancy at birth is approximately 47 years; under-five child mortality rate is 1 in 5; infant mortality rate is 98 per 1 000 lives; diarrhoea and malaria are endemic due to lack of inadequate access to safe drinking water (World Health Organisation).
The burden of disease shows that 74% accounts for communicable diseases, maternal and perinatal conditions as well as nutritional deficiencies; whilst non-communicable diseases and injuries account for 17% and 9% respectively. For every 100 000 people, there are only 8 to 10 physicians available and 13 nurses per 10 000 people. The health finance per capita in total expenditure is approximately $131 with 2.5% of GDP, which is inadequate to provide sound health system to the citizens. Furthermore, general government, external and private sector expenditure on health is 5.3%, 3.7% and 19.7% respectively (Angola Health System Assessment 2010). Rich citizens travel abroad to seek medical attention while poor citizens have no choice but to utilize the insufficient health provisions. The fact that there are barriers that hinder Angola’s health performance indicates that the economic wealth contributes nothing towards citizen’s prosperity.

I strongly believe Angola has the potential to be the strongest member state in the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC). However, the inability of Angola to transform its economic potential to capital and human development, results in obstructive bearings. This needs to be addressed urgently because firstly, Angola has the potential and capacity to deal with this problem, and secondly, it is imperative for human dignity restoration, bearing in mind the country endured a long and brutal civil war. Like Thomas Sankara once said, “Dare to invent the future”, Angola is in that position to do so.
According to the 2013 Country Strategy Plan (CSP) of the Republic of Angola, the county is heavily dependent on the oil and gas sector; and broad economic and development strategies such as the public expenditure programme have been designed to encourage economic diversification, enhancement of service delivery and improvement of capacity and resilience. However, these efforts are not effectively assisting towards significant poverty reduction, social equity and development of quality life. Therefore, one is compelled to conclude that Angola has the ideal but unrealistic plans.

The SADC charter encourages regional cooperation and collaboration to promote the economic growth and development. Angola trades oil for example, majorly with China and Portugal, and less with regional member states. However, this trade relation with China and Portugal still has not borne desired economic benefits for Angola. Having said this, I believe that this oil rich country should do an inward reflection on this economic relation. The opening up of cooperation and trade with SADC member states would be beneficial not only for regional integration, but also for Angola and its fellow Lusophone countries. This will also enhance and grow the country’s foreign reserves.

Education and health are imperative for Angola in order to reduce poverty, as well as increasing human and economic development. In 2012, Angola had an opportunity to hold the one-year rotational presidency of SADC. During that period, the authorities contributed towards the approval of the preliminary list of regional priority projects and regional infrastructure plan. However, due to lack of cooperation from Angola, the plan failed to materialise. This scenario is evident enough to support the idea that Angola has the capacity and potential of becoming a regional economic giant, only if it increases its responsiveness to regional cooperation efforts and strategies.

Angola and South Africa had frosty relationship in the era of Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki, however, in October 2013, South Africa, under Jacob Zuma, met to discuss and agree on the Joint Commission for Cooperation. The South African Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane released a statement regarding the Joint Commission for economic, social and political cooperation between South African and Angola. This bilateral cooperation, according to the Foreign Affairs Minister of Angola, will involve the participation of South Africa in the reconstruction of the Angola’s infrastructure and economic development. It is in this regard that I believe that if the bilateral cooperation is taken seriously, Angola will strongly triumph against the criticism of relying heavily on its gas and oil sector.

The commission may see both countries promoting inclusive regional growth, and optimise the potential of Angola and South Africa to do business by cooperating in areas that will be beneficial to both countries and eventually SADC. This would also ensure that both regional powers within SADC are able to effectively champion regional integration and development in the region.

With South Africa being the only African nation in the G20 and BRICS, and Angola being Africa’s second-biggest oil producer, bilateral relations between these two states will result in economic and political ties soaring up to new heights.
Having said this, it will be interesting to see how the anticipated efforts towards cooperation will strengthen the region and bring about durable changes in Angola. More so, it will be of benefit to Angola to invest in its social development and access to basic services such as education and health through revitalisation programmes and initiatives.

The potential of an efficiently implemented bilateral investment agreement between South Africa and Angola cannot be understated. For Angola, it has the effect of reducing its dependence on oil revenue and also boosts investors’ confidence. This is particularly important considering that the ease of doing business in Angola in 2014 is ranked at 179 out of 189 countries according to World Bank.

Palesa Sekhejane is a Research Specialist in the Sustainable Development Division of the Africa Institute of South Africa. She writes in her personal capacity.

The American poet, Countee Cullen, in his famous poem, “Heritage”, quizzed, “What is Africa to me?” This loaded question continues to dominate the pattern of thought in both the diaspora and on the African continent. Answering this question will require a quantum of philosophical engagement, a matter that is outside the scope of this short piece. Rather, this piece is concerned with the intrinsic link between the national and the continental. In other words, I will premise my answer to Cullen’s question on the imperative of not sacrificing a continental consciousness on the altar of myopic nationalistic agenda. So, you are a South African, Nigerian or Tanzanian, good for you, but to what extent does this national badge make you a good and useful African?
To think national is simple. In fact that is what we do daily. We have been socialised into the colonial constructs we call states. We carry national passports and identity cards, eke out a living within these “states”, support the national team, mouth patriotic slogans, and even exhibit xenophobic tendencies against those who come from other post-colonies. National emblems and insignias continue to reinforce our national identities. So we are quick to operate on stereotypical views. We attribute habits and behaviours to people from other countries, and invariably think that we are better than them. This is us thinking national. Let me be clear, I am not saying that it is necessarily bad to think national; there are indeed positive elements to it. What I am trying to emphasise is that when we build our national inclination on negative, and sometime violent, paradigms, we incrementally destroy the basis of acting continental. How can you act continental when you allow yourself to be shaped by a nationalistic prism that detests the other? Our so called leaders have not been helpful in this regard. They gather in Addis Ababa, or wherever they have an African Union summit, annually to discuss the essence of acting continental, yet they fail to implement policies that stimulate and enhance a truly continental behaviour. For example no serious effort has been put into ensuring free movement of persons across the continent or strengthening the AU, a body that has the potential of enhancing and entrenching a continental behaviour.

Some would argue that the mere fact that we all consider ourselves as Africans is a strong indication that we are already acting continental. This is only true to the extent that it has laid some foundation of some sort. The fact that we refer to ourselves as Africans is only the beginning of the journey. It is in no manner the composite definition of “acting continental”. It is at the very best symptomatic. To act continental is broader and more substantive than just a mere consciousness of an African identity.

What then does it mean to act continental? To act continental begins with the burning passion to contribute to the measures that underline African unity. We are not all millionaires that can contribute to projects, but we can individually and collectively engage in advocacy measures. The reality of a state-centric global order means that a national identity cannot be easily discarded. Our national identity should be engaged through a continental prism. Put Africa first. Treat fellow Africans with respect and dignity. Some of us live in countries that have express and/or implied xenophobic policies; this should not be an excuse to get sucked into such system. Engage your governments on the need to eliminate such policies. Start or join organisations that advocate tolerance and respect for immigrants. Be part of projects which highlight not only an African identity but also the benefits of such identity. Emphasise on our common and shared values rather than reinforcing nonsensical stereotypes. Engage with the private sector on the need to fund continental structures and projects. Such structures could include online networks, funding transnational civic organisations, exchange programmes and internships in other African countries. If you are a scientist or innovator, invent products that are sub-regional and/or continental in outlook and implementation.

Do not allow the sluggishness and inaction of our political elites to limit your thoughts and action. Start, and hope that your action will inspire them to eventually move their clay feet. Even better still, be resolute in the conviction that your contribution(s) will culminate in something solid and substantial. Ours is a continent that requires serious attention, and it is your duty to kick-start and consolidate such approach. It is your duty to think national but act continental. Only through this can we realise the cherished dream of continental unity.

African integration remains the subject of a plethora of work. Both the positive and negative trends have been considerably analysed, and need no repetition. At the heart of these analyses are national governments and their primary responsibility to exercise the requisite political will for achieving integrative objectives. Suffice to say that national governments have performed below the par in this respect. This negative trend has fostered nuanced measures of realising the salient objectives of regional integration. Chief of this is the increasing attention paid to the private sector as a vector for achieving integrating objectives. According to a 2013 United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Report, “over the past decade, there has been an increase in private investment in infrastructure in sub-Saharan Africa from $3 billion in 1997 to $12 billion in 2009”. The report further added that although there has been a decline in private sector commitment to infrastructure projects, private sector investment in telecommunications continue to increase. It then recommended that governments should explore innovative means such as developing bankable projects, enacting investor-friendly legislation and regulations, ensuring political stability, and having a highly trained and experienced team to negotiate with the private sector.

A more crucial sub-text is the rising influence of African companies and entrepreneurs, particularly the volume of their investments across the continent. From South Africa to Nigeria, Kenya to Tanzania, African businesses continue to expand the tentacles of their investment, thereby creating more jobs and opportunities across the continent. According to a 2013 Report by Ernst & Young, South African investments have created an accumulated 46,000 jobs across the continent. The Nigerian billionaire, Aliko Dangote, is also increasing the volume of his investment across Africa. He recently unveiled a 4 year plan to invest $ 16 billion dollars in cement, petrochemical and agriculture across Africa. These are positive developments, and are redefining the trajectory and shape of integrative development (or what some have called “developmental regionalism”) in Africa.

However, a major issue is the fact that these private sector involvement in integrative development are largely uncoordinated, a factor that continue to limit the extent of their potency. Beyond declarations and resolutions by regional institutions on the importance of the private sector, there has to be a well thought-out, concerted business plan that essentially identifies and coordinates the involvement of African conglomerates in issues pertaining to integrative development. A major step is to design a business-like integrative development plan. Beyond the emotive “African brotherhood” conception of African integration, political elites should channel energy into creating a durable and stable space for the private sector to operate in the matrix of regional integration. Such plan should lay out the thresholds of private sector participation at national and transnational levels, including the modicum of ownership of projects. Formulation and implementation of policies on trade and investment should also stipulate the modus of private sector involvement. The overriding aim is to synergise governmental plans with that of the private sector in achieving the crucial objectives of regional integration.

Given the depth of inaction and quantum of failed promises by African governments on the issue of regional integration, one can safely say that the business of regional integration is too delicate and advanced to be left solely to governments. It is high time that the table of 54 is expanded, to include the MTNs, Dangotes, and the Standard Banks of Africa.

Twitter: @babsfagbayibo

Entrepreneurship

 

This piece was inspired by an article I read on this blog, titled “Another Reason Why Bottom-up Approach Should be the Norm in International Development”. The writer made an illustration of how he helped build a toilet in his home town in Burkina Faso. Using the “bottom-up approach”, he was actively involved in all the stages of the building of this toilet. He concluded by arguing that the adoption of a “bottom-up approach” by African governments will go a long way in ensuring the actualization of developmental projects.

In my own analysis, I am going to use the “bottom-up approach” to illustrate how the Nigerian textile industry should develop.

Now here is a personal story….

I am currently a post-graduate student of cultural history, with particular emphasis on traditional fabrics and its critical importance to the Nigerian cultural context. This process has inspired my theoretical and practical interest, and in particular the way it relates to development. My usual answer(s) to complain about the worrying state of development in Nigeria is as follow: what are you doing/have done to improve the nation? Have you picked up your shovel/spade to fill the portholes in your community? In what way are you contributing to the alleviation of poverty? Do you create jobs or are you simply waiting for the government to create more jobs? In what way are you thinking beyond “oil money”?

With that rightly said, I will tell you what I have done. I am a seamstress – a job creator. I also see my academic study as a platform for contributing to the revival of the ailing textile and fabric industry in Nigeria. In other words, I combine both the theory and practice of the textile trade.

And here is my philosophy: development begins with the individual. If I want the Nigerian textile and culture industry to develop, I should be the starting point. So I made it a point to wear and use at least one thing made by me, and anything African. Don’t get me wrong, I still wear foreign products, especially the ones made in Asia, which is what I can afford. So, I am a step ahead, how about you?

I have read about the slim possibility of the Nigerian textile industry bouncing back due to the myriad of problems which funding alone cannot address. It is obvious that the Cotton-Textile-Garment (CTG) industry is faced with power issues, high cost of raw materials, smuggling (a consequence of Nigeria’s membership of World Trade Organisation), and other bilateral agreements which allow other countries to dump textile products in Nigeria at very cheap rate.  Despite all of these inadequacies, the sector holds strong potential due to its natural cotton endowments, large market size and legacy sector knowledge. Another major potential is the Nigerian population of over 167 million people – a formidable market for basic textiles and apparel related goods.

I imagine a nation where citizens fully embrace and wear indigenous textile products. This will not only create an identity, it will lead to more production and in turn foster employment. Statistics indicate that the cotton and garment industry once provided employment to the millions of Nigerians, generated 25% of the GDP and contributed 20% of corporate taxation revenue in Nigeria. The textile industry generated an annual turnover of $8.95 billion before its decline in the 90s. With serious dedication, it could generate more in the future.

Change starts with the individual. If one person, or a group of people, decides to be different and say for instance “I will only patronize what is being produced in my country” this change of interest will affect others, and eventually have a national spread. In effect, quality products will be manufactured, the interest in foreign products will dwindle, and more private individual and entities will invest in the sector.

I dream of an Africa where Ankara is worn as school uniform, where public servants wear their Adire, Kente, Guinea brocades and Aso-oke to the office. I dream of an Africa when lawyers, bankers and doctors will be clad in African attire, and we will be free from cultural-colonialism.

In conclusion, a “bottom up” approach to development should be a way of life, a process that begins at the individual level and cascades to a wider plane.

My Nigeria is your Nigeria. My Africa is your Africa.

 

Follow this writer on twitter @edmandaolade

mugabe

The Zimbabwean elections have come and gone. In a predictable, typical format: the incumbent swept the polls; the opposition party is crying foul; the AU and SADC both think that the election process was “free and fair”; and the international community adjudged the process as deeply flawed. While I really hoped for change in Zimbabwe, I was also aware of the reality of a system/structure that is blatantly skewed in favour of Mugabe. Mugabe’s continued rule is not so much about him as it is about the protection of the interests of ZANU-PF bigwigs and the securocrats. To think that these key players will allow a change, and usher in the possibility of them been sent to The Hague, is to engage in fantasy thoughts. The fact that regional bodies, and influential member states, are not necessarily prepared for a change of guard in Zimbabwe also emboldens Mugabe’s position.

Against this background, it is only pragmatic that we turn our attention away from the current charade and focus on a post-Mugabe Zimbabwe. Beyond the projections on whether or not Mugabe (or ZANU-PF) will structure an effective succession plan, it is pertinent to consider some of the questions that will have to be answered after the man is gone. These questions are essential for carving a new path for Zimbabwe, and restoring its strategic role within the region. Ordinarily, one would expect South Africa to have some sort of draft blueprint on a post-Mugabe Zimbabwe. This is essentially due to its strategic position as a regional hegemon, and also the country that will likely have to bear the consequences of a chaotic (and even a prosperous) post-Mugabe Zimbabwe. I will like to assume that a “classified” document exists, but until it is “de-classified”, I will highlight some of the key questions I consider pertinent. These include critical questions on

  • justice versus peace (the prosecution of Mugabe acolytes, especially key securocrats and how this will affect peace and security);
  • the role of South Africa (on whether it could have played a more effective role in “managing” Mugabe);
  • strategies adopted by the opposition MDC, including its role in the government of national unity, and whether it is the best alternative;
  • the kind of role South Africa should play in rebuilding a post-Mugabe Zimbabwe;
  • the true story of the commitment of the United Kingdom to the land redistribution programme;
  • Any lessons for South Africa (especially on the management of its land redistribution programme);
  • the effect of the sanctions on Mugabe (especially whether or not these sanctions did more harm than good);
  • A holistic and objective assessment of the man (the good, the bad and the ugly kind of assessment), also the measure of support he got from the west in the 1980s, in spite of glaring human rights atrocities;
  • Serious questions on the planning and execution of the Gukurahundi massacres.

Some of these questions will not necessarily be fully answered, but giving them serious consideration will go a long way in putting issues in proper perspective. There is no gainsaying the fact that Zimbabwe is going through a most traumatic experience, one that requires major rehabilitation steps. The actual rehabilitation process can only begin after Mugabe is out of the picture. Only then can these questions get the desired attention and answers. But until then, nothing should stop us from thinking and planning for a prosperous and democratic post-Mugabe Zimbabwe.

You can follow this writer on twitter @BabsFagbayibo

The current political crisis in Egypt has once again pushed to the fore the complexity of democracy on the African continent. The truncation of the nascent democratic experiment in Egypt is not exactly a surprise. It is an open secret that the Egyptian army remains the dominant player in the political scene. The financial support it receives from the U.S. makes it a formidable force and also reinforces its strategic influence. This has also ensured the tacit condonation of the coup by the U.S. and its strategic ally, the E.U.

The AU as the primary regional organisation on the continent has rightly condemned the coup. In line with the objectives in its Constitutive Act, it has further suspended Egypt. Such bold move has rightly earned the AU praises. Now that the AU has spoken, the key question remains the substance of its action. Put differently, how influential is the AU in the matrix of the on-going crisis?

The sad reality is this: the AU remains the least of the problems of the Egyptian army. The organisation does not have the kind of influence needed to restore democracy in Egypt. Beyond the complex nature of the political landscape in Egypt, including the influence of the U.S., the AU lacks the institutional capacity to enforce its objectives on democratic governance. This is one of the organisation’s biggest problems, a situation I refer to as the “relevance deficiency syndrome”.

Member states have not demonstrated the necessary political will to strengthen the capacity of the AU to monitor and implement governance standards across the continent. Very few African countries are truly democratic. From Ethiopia to Rwanda, Equatorial Guinea to Zimbabwe, Uganda to Eritrea, democratic standards are routinely violated. Such violations have raised questions on legitimacy, especially regarding the manner in which the AU will, or should, respond to the removal dictators, and even democratically elected governments. Have the revolutions in Egypt (that toppled Mubarak and also Mursi) and Tunisia set precedents on what constitutes “legitimate overthrow”? Knowing full well that many of these leaders are beneficiaries of sham electoral processes and the fact that they engage in serious violations of human rights, will the AU give express and tacit support to a coordinated peoples’ revolution? These questions are not only relevant for the AU; they also underline the trends that are beginning to define democratic development across the globe. Democracies such as Brazil and Turkey have in recent time experienced sustained national protests, and more countries, both democratic and illiberal democracies, are likely to face similar situation.

The AU’s condemnation of the coup in Egypt should be seen in the context of its search for relevance. The logic is this: if the EU can assert its organisational authority within its regional sphere of influence, the AU should also be able to do the same within Africa. Such logic, however, falls flat on its face when the institutions designated to exercise authority lack any meaningful power(s). This only reinforces the bark-and-no-bite posture of the AU, and its pitiable quest for relevance. Through their express and tacit actions, member states have afflicted the AU with this serious “disease” – the “Relevance Deficiency Syndrome”. The antidote to this is empowering the organisation with the competence to be able to qualitatively assert itself – both in theory and practise.

You can follow the writer on twitter @babsfagbayibo