Public-private partnerships are key to the sustained development of Africa. But here is another partnership framework, deserving of our full attention and investment, one that will improve good governance, productivity and efficiency.
We can no longer look at policy through the lenses of the model of governance of the early postcolonial days. It is no longer a small patrimonial elite that has the prerogative to think through a national vision for the people. Whereby in the previous top-down model, citizens were seen as passive consumers of the public services created and delivered by governments, co-production revalorizes citizens as key agents with the capacity to co-create policies. Public policy then becomes a shared responsibility, benefiting from the buy in of the people and leading towards better outcomes in the long run.
We will achieve so much more through this route. For example, NGOs will be more likely to participate in the execution of those policies that they have helped to shape. This paradigms shift needs to take place across the public and private sectors. While a number of private companies have shown a willingness to invest into Corporate Social Responsibility, they do not always consult the communities whose lives they wish to impact. This gap in communication, buy in, pertinence and engagement results in wasted opportunities for both parties.
Local financial partners and impact investors are also key actors in this revamped policy model. The South African Royal Bafokeng Holdings is a sovereign wealth fund and a community-based investment company whose growth uplifts and creates wealth for the Royal Bafokeng Nation, a 100,000 strong Setswana-speaking community. It is considered to be Africa’s most progressive community investment model, with total assets under management at approximately $4 billion (http://www.bafokeng.com). They are also driving diversified and sustainable economic activity by recruiting several manufacturing companies to expand the nation’s exports beyond raw materials and natural resources.
The solutions we bring and the opportunities we create must clearly draw from existing African assets. There is wisdom in working with the grain by involving influential and traditional institutions. Another such inspiring example is the Lebou Community in Senegal. Their traditional system has guaranteed the access of all members to existing resources while also overseeing conservation and sustainable development. Their collective management of natural and human resources is an African model to the rest of the continent and to the world.
We have recently seen the role of the Catholic Church as an agent in brokering political stability in DRC. In December 2016, when the political crisis broke out leading to the death of dozens of civilians, it was the Catholic Church that negotiated a successful and peaceful transition deal, saving the country from havoc. There is no reason why their voices should not be heard beyond politics in matters of investment and public policy.
There is room to go even further in this experiment of co-production of public policy. For it to be a truly innovative and creative space, we must quickly engage the youth as actors of their own lives and agents of the future. Across the world, the gap between the expectations of the youth and the delivery of policy makers is growing, but it is also one that provides an innovative platform, and the more so on the youngest continent of the planet.