Feedback from West and East Africa
The following “Challenges, Opportunities and Priority Actions” were highlighted by participants during the face-to-face consultations on 8 March 2010 in Abuja, Nigeria, and 18 March 2010 in Nairobi, Kenya.
- Africa is not on track in the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the gap between sub-Saharan Africa and rest of developing world is widening. The focus of the African Union (AU) has shifted to the attainable targets (21) and not the (8) goals. This position is not acceptable and civil society must insist on the achievement of the goals and for the G8 to keep their promises.
- Harmony across priorities must be achieved so that Africans agree on a common development agenda. However, before priorities can be determined, it is important to understand why the MDGs have been difficult to realize, identify popular positions and figure out the lessons that need to be learned in order to move forward.
- African countries continue to experience cyclical violence. Societies have still not developed adaptive strategies that can be used to ensure developments are sustained over time.
- Another problem in Africa is also the fact that the new elite rulers do not see themselves as public servants but business people. They have no sense of service to the people but are bent on using the state to pursue and further their business interest. The small ruling elite sits alongside a growing large mass of youth and their movements who feel disenfranchised and have lost confidence in their abilities to make things happen leading to apathy. This has resulted in a loss of the sense of nationalism in many African countries.
- Africans continue to view foreigners as the ones with answers to the problems facing the continent. Opinions of foreigners carry more weight across the continent. Africans have continued to look outwards for solutions to their problems.
- Civil society organisations (CSOs) hold the responsibility for mobilising the people and making them aware of their rights. CSOs also have a responsibility for localising the MDGs, and picking up where the government stops. CSOs’ priorities are largely defined by donor funding interests which are often not the same as the people’s priorities. In addition, the CSO voice in Africa is not unified. Consequently, CSOs are hardly in a position to define themselves as the voice of the African people.
- An African spirit is alive and resilient.
- There is large African Diaspora whose skills, financial resources and technology ‘bridges’ can be leveraged. So far the focus has been on their remittances. There is now need to pay greater attention to the skills and bridgeing role they can play.
- Massive natural resources (e.g. Africa has 22% of the world’s arable land, 7% of the world’s proven oil reserves, 6% of recoverable coal deposits and ample solar radiation, from the Sahel to the Kalahari, waiting to be tapped).
- Growth of market economy and sense of entrepreneurship, with a flourishing informal sector.
- Cyberspace is giving birth to a revolution among the young people in Africa. Groups and movements are being established through Facebook and blogs where young people in Africa are uniting and beginning to discuss the future of their respective countries and what needs to be done.
- Increased media freedom in Africa which has seen African media beginning to undertake critical evaluation of governments and their priorities in Africa.
- Increasing application of internal/local conflict resolution mechanisms in African societies that are experiencing conflicts for example the use of gacaca courts in Rwanda.
- Citizen agency and independent monitoring and feedback are regaining currency.
- Push for the indivisibility of MDGs and reneging on existing targets as outrageous; MDGs are already the floor, not the ceiling. It is impossible to target any lower without seriously undermining people’s rights.
- Give full support to the AU/NEPAD Plan of Action as a comprehensive list of the key sector priorities to put Africa on the path to rapid development. This calls for increased investment from multiple sources including aid, south-south cooperation and domestic resource mobilisation. However, this tacit support must come with a caveat that technical solutions, by themselves are necessary, but not sufficient for the realisation of both the Plan and the MDGs. The Plan should include a strategy for making it fully owned and driven by the African people and their social movements and civic associations.
- Basic service provision is a core function of the state. It has a duty to take from the rich and invest in services for the poor. Leaders should derive legitimacy from their ability to provide basic services/public goods such as education. Citizens have to hold governments accountable to their core service delivery functions.
- Citizens and their associations should redefine alliances to bring on board national assemblies, local governments and professional associations, academia and think tanks and elements of the international community such as philanthropic foundations and International NGOs. These should be engaged to find ways to more effectively support local development and to make governments focus on delivery of services to the poor. Civil society must devise strategies to penetrate African governance structures (at local, national, regional and continental levels) to make them work better for the people.
- The proliferation of IT, which supports near-instant citizen participation, must be exploited for effective civic mobilisation. Now, more than ever before, the need to build societal capacity where individuals and communities engage the state and provide independent feedback is critical. A strong civil society is vital for the realisation of Africa’s developmental aspirations encapsulated in such interventions as the MDGs and the AU/NEPAD Plan of Action. Conversely, weak civic engagement is detrimental to the realisation of both.
- It is difficult to bridge gaps and form alliances, when within government ministries people don’t talk to each other, as they are fighting for funding. There needs to be unity of government/renewal of public administration.
- All African governments should have long term National Development Plans and consistent policies which emphasise the creation of employment and value addition of raw materials and delivery of basic services.
- Donors should honor their commitments to Africa. They should also abide by the principles of the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness.
- Remove barriers to travel for African nationals across the continent. How can we speak with an African voice, when it is so difficult to travel to one another’s countries?
- Lastly Africa suffers from too much diagnosis. It is important to stop the diagnosis. A lot has already been done in Africa. The action is where the problem lies. Africans need to rethink their strategies for moving forward.