On 27 September 2019, I had the opportunity to share my opinion and vision on the key issues that will drive the debate on Africa’s development during a conference organized by Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs under the theme: “Rethinking Development in Africa“.
I address covered the following areas: Africa’s transitions versus policies; governance versus policies; global uncertainties versus Africa’s uncertainties, and; reflections on rethinking development.
It is not prudent to continue to view ‘development’ in traditional paradigms, considering that ‘development’ itself requires new thinking in order for real transformation to take place, given the present conditions.
In fact, the critical transitions that are taking place on the continent include demographic, technological, natural systems, climate change, governance systems as well as human development transitions. None of these transitions can be dealt with independently, and moreover, the transitions make it difficult for youths in the development space, who already predominantly have a negative perception on the delivery of policymakers. Therefore, policymakers need to understand these transitions fully and prepare adequately.
Power relations have changed fundamentally, meaning governance systems are inadequate, which cannot be changed in a top down manner. Therefore, the inadequacy of governance systems makes power irrelevant, as it has been shown recently in several countries on the continent. There is therefore a shift in power from centralised power to more local governance systems and local communities.
Furthermore, governance could strengthen its credibility with renewed and innovative forms of governance as is the case of a country such as Botswana, which has inclusivity as a strong trait in its governance system. Inclusivity is therefore an absolute and essential component in rethinking development unlike was the case years ago.
With regards global uncertainties and Africa’s uncertainties, it was observed that aid, which was a strong component in Africa’s development agendas, is now disappearing, with the role of the multilateral system being questioned. In addition, an agenda on global sustainable development that must be applied by all countries shows that Africa is lagging behind.
However, Africa is now looking at its own regional and internal markets through the African Continental Free Trade Area, meaning that even at the current time of global uncertainty, a great opportunity for Africa exists. The fragmentation of African countries necessitates that the continent implements regional solutions for national challenges, and the strengthening of regional and internal markets to restore credibility of national governments.
Some of Africa’s uncertainties include the fact that in the next eight years or so, most of the incumbent African presidents will no longer be here, paving the way for new leaders who will emerge out of democratic processes. Therefore, the youth will have a stronger role to play in the continent’s new political administrations. However, the uncertainty is whether the new leaders will emerge through sound democratic foundations or through populist solutions, or even whether they will emerge out of an increased level of conflicting scenarios.
In conclusion, I reflected on rethinking development, stating that the best way to include youths in Africa’s development framework, Agenda 2063, is to let them be a part of its design and implementation.
A change of paradigm is there needed in the co-production of public policies. Africa will need to reinvent its governance systems with the empowering of local communities and implementation of regional solutions. In addition, the way people identify with development policy, is the extent to which they feel that their dignity is being upheld. Moreover, rethinking development also means rethinking justice systems.
Belinda Archibong, Assistant Professor of Economics at Columbia University, a discussant at the address, commented that Africa does not really need to develop on aid, but more on trade. She also noted that another critical area is in the closure of the youth participation gap in governance systems.
Akbar Noman, Adjunct Associate Professor of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University, also a discussant said, “The importance of the transitions highlighted by Dr Mayaki, especially the one on demographics, projecting what will be needed in the labour force and its nexus with climate change, is important in answering the question on the generation of employment.”
Here you will find the full video of the « Rethinking Development in Africa » conference at Columbia University | SIPA on Friday, September 27 in New York