News Column

Getting Africa to Work

August 18, 2014

Dr. Mamphela Ramphele, a former Managing Director of the World Bank, believes Africa has to find a way of building on the enormous human, natural and mineral resources to become a vibrant continent.

Giving the keynote speech at the annual Bank of Uganda Joseph Mubiru Memorial Lecture last week, Ramphele said it is essential for African governments to break away from the vicious cycle of extractive dominance. Politics that define in and out groups into a virtuous one that leverages the huge human and intellectual potential to create successful sustainable development led by transparent accountable governments.

"The question is how one develops strategies that counter the prevailing dominance extractive economic and political institutional model? What triggers such a process of change in political culture? Who are the players to make it happen? The concept of citizenship has yet to take root in post-colonial Africa," she said.

Joseph Mubiru was the first black Governor the BOU.

She said citizens in most countries are treated as voting fodder for those in power to retain their positions regardless of their performance in government.

Ramphele who is also a political activist in South Africa, said the political process has turned into transactional relationships between citizens who are wooed to vote in exchange for some material good like food parcels, blankets; promises of jobs and other patronage.

"These are the hallmarks of extractive politics," she said.

She said, "Even the vote is reduced to a tradable good rather than a tool for citizens to use to hold those in power accountable by rewarding and punishing governments on the basis of their performance in promoting prosperity for all."

She said citizens as shareholders of their nations have a responsibility not only to themselves and their interests, but to future generations.

Dr. Ramphele said it is this trans-generational responsibility that defines mature citizenship in inclusive economic and political systems.

"Just as shareholders are inducted into their roles as custodians of the prosperity of the companies they own, so too should Africa invest more in civic education from the school level all the way to tertiary education," she said.

Dr. Ramphele said most mature democracies invest in such programs to great effect.

"History teaches us that although vicious cycles of extractive institutions are not easy to break, it can and has been done. At the heart of such a transformation process is the citizen as the actor in history.

"Post-colonial Africa has seen a marginalization of the best able and talented innovators from the economic and political institution building process because they are often seen as a threat to those in power," she said.

She said the unfortunate, though understandable reaction of these talented Africans, has been to quit and seek greener pastures elsewhere.

"The confluence of factors needed for change often presents itself at unexpected moments, but citizens who desire change must also be willing to take the risk to create the environment for change," she said.

"For example, teachers, business people, faith based leaders and other civic-minded people have many opportunities to raise the bar in their day to day engagements.

"Such engagements are particularly important with young people about what citizens should expect of their governments and public servants," Dr. Ramphele said.

"The Black Consciousness Movement in the 1970s paved the way for the coalition of students, trade unions, faith based leaders and civic associations to form the Mass Democratic Movement in the 1980-90s that ultimately challenged apartheid and forced a political settlement.

Dr. Ramphele said, "At the day's end, citizens have to be ready to fight for more inclusive economic and political institutions to open more doors to technological innovation and greater prosperity for all. Equality is better for everyone in society,"

While at the World Bank in Washington, Dr. Ramphele was charged witb the strategic positioning and operations of the World Bank Institute as well as the Vice-Presidency of External Affairs.

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Source: AllAfrica

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