Africa is definitely trekking forward after the devastating effects of colonialism and there seems to be a deep passion among the emerging millennials to change the narrative about Africa… a deep need to elevate Africa to where it should be. A passion that hopefully will be put to use by outspoken pragmatic African leaders.
Sadly, what keeps Africa behind is not necessarily the ‘injustices’ committed against her, but it’s actually the mental state of her beloved children. For Africa to create her own path of celebration and narratives, there has got to be an overhaul in mentality and attitude, then hopefully, the leaders in place will be able to work towards the implementation of this 10 point action plan.
I hope that some day soon, political leaders across the continent will be checked by their ability to be able to implement this 10 Point Action plan.
1. African nations must get rid of visa restrictions across the 54 nations.
Sad to note is that Africa is one of the territories in the world with the greatest number of visa requirements, making travel within the continent quite difficult and expensive. This situation is even more restricted for Africans traveling within Africa, as compared to North Americans and Europeans. Consequently, such visa restrictions have ended up impacting things trade, tourism and businesses. Visa-free movement will be instrumental in boosting the economy of Africa and should be fronted by all leaders at the African Union. Visa-Free movement exists within the ECOWAS sub-region as well as in the East African Community (EAC). Check that your African political leader is vying for removal of visa restrictions.
Case study: Rwanda and Ghana, although I’ll focus on Rwanda this time. Rwanda is rising at a fast rate and part of this can be attributed to it having the continent’s most liberal migration policy. On January 1, 2013, Rwanda allowed entry-visas for all African citizens arriving at its borders. On top of that, Rwanda offers online visa requests and biometric border management through registration of facial image and finger prints. This has obviously led to an incredible rise in tourism from African countries, a considerable increase in trade with neighbouring countries like Democratic republic of Congo (DRC). In fact, an estimated 25,000 people cross each border point between Rwanda and the DRC every day at an average time of 30 seconds respectively for citizens and foreigners.
2. Strengthen Africa’s competitive advantage i.e. tourism and agriculture
Every pragmatic African leader ought to know the immense contribution of agriculture and tourism to Africa, and if they do not, they need to be booted out of that seat. According to World bank statistics, agriculture employs 65 percent of Africa’s labor force and accounts for 32 percent of gross domestic product; that’s pretty sobering considering that Africa houses about one billion people on the continent. African countries must work towards increasing their focus on promoting regional economic integration as a way to stimulate economic growth and expand local agricultural markets. In fact, Land and agricultural productivity must increase because African farm yields are among the lowest in the world and it should not be this way.
Tourism; this cannot be stressed hard enough. Africa is blessed with a vast resource of varying landscapes, natural resources and a rich cultural heritage which can enable her compete favourably on the global platform. However, as a continent, we need to improve visa regulations to expand tourism opportunities, transform business climates (get rid of red-tape, corruption), enhance security and pump up job creation. Dubai is a fantastic case study!
3. Make use of the sharing economy
In my opinion, the Sharing economy has always been existent in the traditional African societies; barter trade usually springs to mind. In the modern times, Sharing economy is a hybrid market model which refers to peer-to-peer-based sharing of access to goods and services usually coordinated through community-based online services (Business Dictionary). This hybrid market model is also sometimes referred to as shareconomy or collaborative consumption. Africa would benefit from such a model at regional, national and global collaboration in a wide range of structures and industries. Imagine South Africa sharing its excess capacity in clothes production with another country that does have clothes manufacturers in exchange for food. Through such a set up there would be expanded access to products, services and talent beyond one to one or singular ownership, into other nations.
4. Use Africa’s ethnic diversity as a strength
Technically, if you are born on the African continent, you are African by birth regardless of what your skin colour tone is. This in essence means Africans are the same because they share Africa in common. However, the colonialists’ scramble for Africa through the ‘divide and rule’ policy created a huge chasm in unity and those effects are still felt today as Africans tend to look for differences amongst each other instead of building a united front for the betterment of the continent. Every ethnicity, nation, age group or skill set has something beneficial to contribute and looking to learn from each other as well supporting each other in all spheres of development as Africans will spur the continent way ahead. Let the ethnic diversity be a point of celebration and not a cause of division.
5. Pick an African language to unify the continent
It’s quite funny that the two most widely spoken official languages on the African continent are foreign languages. There’s English which is spoken by about 700 million people on the African continent followed by Arabic which is about 100 million people. Some of the most widely spoken African languages in a continent ( which boasts of over 2000 languages) include; zulu- over 10 million people, amharic-18.7 million people, Igbo – about 24 million people, Yoruba – 30 million people, Oromo – 30 million people, Hausa – 50 million people and Swahili. My focus will be to front Swahili as it is currently spoken by over 150 million people in the continent (This number includes both native speakers and others that pick it up as a second or third language).
Case Study: Swahili is becoming a very popular African language, taught in many leading academic institutions in Africa, Europe, America and Asia. It also features in many documentaries, movies and songs internationally. Kiswahili is also a subject of study in reputable universities like Harvard,the University of Pennsylvania, Stanford, Yale, Princeton and many others. It’s thought that probably about a hundred institutions teach Swahili in USA without including areas like Poland, India, London, Mexico, Canada, Germany, Russia, Japan amongst others.
Need I say more? My dream is to see African leaders front an African language as a tool of unity in the African continent.
6. Invest in the private sectors; Take care of African entrepreneurs
The two points mentioned above are closely related to each other because African entrepreneurs are part of the private sector. In actual sense, Africa has not done well in looking after her own. African entrepreneurs or traders or business folk are limited in their endeavours by difficulties in accessing finance and by the bureaucracy (not forgetting the high levels of bribery and corruption). For a continent that wants to eradicate poverty, entrepreneurs should be at the fore-front of any country’s investment interests. The leaders should create a conducive environment for business and entrepreneurship because this is what creates jobs and uplifts the economy. African leaders must find ways to make it easier for investments in their countries by both local and international people without any bias.
Case study: Mauritius takes the number one position as the best country to do business in Africa and is followed by Rwanda according to CNN (Peter Guest, 2016). Mauritius – 6 days to start a business, 81 days to get the electricity in and 14 days to register the property. Rwanda – 5.5 days to start a business, 34 days to get the electricity in and 32 days to register property.
This is not ‘Greek’ and is simple to implement once pragmatic African leaders work towards building a solid environment for business and economic growth. The reason NIC’s (Newly Industrialised Countries) like Thailand, Malaysia and India are way ahead of many African countries is because of the deliberate boost in the private sector.
7. Overhaul of the colonial centred education systems
The overhaul of colonial centred education systems sounds very drastic but it’s the only way colonialism retreated and therefore is the only way the education systems left behind will be modified to benefit the African child. Dr. Molefi K. Asante believes that African people must become the centre of their human experience rather than the object of that human experience. Prof. Mahmood Mamdani of Uganda, argues in his article entitled ‘Politics and Class Formation in Uganda’, that the missionary education was designed as a tool of control, not one of empowerment.
The education system in many parts of Africa today exhibits a well drafted system that represses local knowledge, promotes inequalities through unfair access, and has helped create a mindset of ‘blind loyalty’ rather than open the mind to new ways of thinking and solving problems in the community (NewAfrican, 2015). Take an example of many schools in my home town that punish children severely for speaking their mother tongues during recess, children are still forced to cram facts about the great lakes region in USA and many other Eurocentric ideologies that are not relevant to many of these African children. The present education system in Africa is the old philosophical approach that embodies a master-to-servant relationship where the master defines what is acceptable. The system that exists today was designed to serve the economic interests of the colonisers and it still does. Every leader that rises up in Africa should be tasked to start the process to reform and modify the education system to benefit the Africans in Africa.
8. Demand for recognition and ‘say’ on international bodies or a full boycott
Prime Minister Pakalitha Bethuel Mosisili of Lesotho raised the issue of UN Security Council reform, calling for the Council to be more transparent, inclusive and for democratic needs to be echoed with even more vigour and clarity. To quote , “A Security Council, that has the voice of Africa and other marginalized regions in the Permanent Category, will increasingly acquire legitimacy and unconditional acceptance of its decisions.” (The UN general debate of the General Assembly’s seventieth session, October 2015)
That plea alone by the African leaders goes to show that Africa seems to have a silent voice on many international and global bodies. This should not be so regardless of her lagging behind in the ‘monetary sense’. A look at some of the trade agreements between African countries and the more developed countries show that in actual sense, they are not in favour of Africa or even open to Africa enjoying free trade across their borders. Every African leader should be very vocal in sensitising the masses about these global imbalances as well as adopting pragmatic solutions to this hurdle. There’s no need to be a part of something that does not have Africa’s best interest at heart.
9. Create your own path; Celebrate Africa on your own platforms
“Dear @BET, the reason why I didn’t come is because you give our awards backstage! You have no respect for our hard work and achievements.” was a tweet by Fuse ODG a nominee at the BET awards 2015.
That’s the reason why Africa needs to create her own path. This is probably something that will not happen overnight but Africa has got to start somewhere. We have got to take it upon ourselves to create platforms that celebrate the African diversity, Culture and Arts. This can also stretch into banking systems, democratic systems, ideologies and so forth. I applaud the efforts of the Kora Awards, The Saville Foundation, African Global businesses like Dangote and Econet but we still have a long way to go. This brings to mind the story of Bill Powell, a black American, who was denied entry into a public golf course. He enjoyed playing golf so much that it fueled his desire to build a golf course where he could be allowed to play. It was the first black owned golf course in America and it was open to all regardless of your social status or skin colour tone. So as Africans, we need to put our leaders to task! They ought to front platforms that celebrate Africa.
10. Strive to create an African currency backed by real gold
There are other regions in the world that are vying for unity through the use of a single currency like the introduction of the Euro in Europe. This of course is not an easy thing to implement and will call for unified efforts right from the banks to the monetary bodies to governments to work out and implement buffers that create a workable transition as well as protect from incidences like what happened with Greece.
The first step towards our cohesive economy would be a unified monetary zone, with, initially, an agreed common parity for our currencies. – Kwame Nkrumah. 1963 Organisation of African Unity (OAU now known as AU) Speech at Addis Ababa.
The economic benefit of a single African currency backed by real gold include: reduced transaction costs, less risk in investments and trade, increased transparency and increased competition in trade. There’s no harm in dreaming that one day, Africa will have a single african currency backed by real gold! And the leader to spearhead that could be you!
I believe that all African Leaders should depict the desire to implement policies for the benefit of the African people, now and in the years to come!