By Jones N. Williams
Port-au-Prince, Haiti- January 4, 2021 — Several countries in Africa, by and large, have people, belief-systems, subcultures, traditions, and sectors that are homogenous. The continent is also endowed with untapped natural resources, favorable climatic conditions, environments, and a vast pool of talents that many of its countries could greatly benefit from. Also, the cost of living in Africa, compared to the rest of the world, is cheaper. Because of these factors and other reasons, governing African nations, I vehemently believe, should not be difficult if Africans in politics on the continent do the right thing.
Despite what has facilitated this conclusion, the fact remains that Africa and more countries in Africa stand and remain at a crossroads. The continent has the worse ratio and most damming count of abject poverty. According to a World Bank’s report, Accelerating Poverty Reduction in Africa, although “the share of Africans living in extreme poverty has fallen substantially—from 54% in 1990 to 41% in 2015—but due to high population growth during the same period, the number of poor people in Africa has increased from 278 million in 1990 to 413 million in 2015.” The World Bank further maintained that “If [the] circumstances remain the same, the poverty rate [in Africa] is expected to decline to 23% only, by 2030 and global poverty will become increasingly African, rising from 55% in 2015 to 90% in 2030.”
While I am not a fan of the underlying functions of multilateral institutions like the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and others for some philosophical and empirical reasons concerning development and humanitarian aid work in Africa, I share the World Bank’s view as obtained in its report. But that is not the point. The concern for deliberation herein is, why aren’t African nations doing better? Simply put: the answer is because Africans in politics on the continent are not doing the right thing.
To do the right thing means ensuring that, first and foremost, no one is and should be above the law; that public institutions [in African countries] should be above personal control, tribal and political loyalty and manipulations, and party affiliation. It also entails conducting free and fair elections of any kind, applying and upholding democratic principles and values as well as financial and monetary transparency and accountability, and forging public-private partnerships that facilitate economic growth, private sector development, and social advancement. It also means focusing heavily on the formulation and implementation of sound and relevant domestic policy and programs that benefit the people and countries at large. Above all, prioritizing domestic policy is central to a better Africa.
According to its interpretation, domestic policy is “administrative decisions that are directly related to all issues and activity within a nation’s borders. It differs from foreign policy, which refers to the ways a government advances its interests in world politics. A domestic policy covers a wide range of areas, including business, education, energy, healthcare, law enforcement, money and taxes, natural resources, social welfare, and personal rights and freedoms.”
To shape and implement domestic policies, a serious nation would, directly or indirectly, seek the input or consent of the people being governed. In democratic societies, the will of the people would have a much greater consideration and influence in the said domain. But this does not seem to be the case in most, if not all African nations.
While some other factors may play a significant role in determining domestic policy direction in any country, in a democracy such as those in the west, the formal design of domestic policy is chiefly the responsibility of elected leaders, lawmaking bodies, and specialized government agencies such as agencies that are responsible for the treasury, budget, and management, healthcare, education, labor, justice and law enforcement, agriculture, gender and children affairs, public works, trade, and commerce, to name a few. Many countries in Africa have and continue to fail in the domestic policy domain.
The effectiveness of any form of a domestic policy depends on the government bureaucracy (system of agencies) that is charged with putting laws and programs into action.
Using Mali, Nigeria, Liberia, South Sudan, South Africa, Guinea Bissau, and Zimbabwe, for instance, it is observed that, in most cases, bureaucracies in these countries act slowly or inefficiently, or are corrupt or fail to apply domestic policies as they were originally intended. Most African nations do not even have a framework for domestic policy. For those few African nations that attempt, they repeatedly fail or face challenges because their domestic policy programs do not incorporate the private sector and professional institutions such as the chambers of commerce [that represent the private sector on the continent], and the media. The media in Africa is essential because, from all practical stance, it is the space that distributes, and opine, information about domestic issues and influences the beliefs and opinions of the people in the African society.
In short, for African nations to govern well and for the people in African countries to prosper and have improved living standards, Africans in politics on the continent have to learn to do the right things.
About the Author:
Jones N. Williams is a Catholic educated public philosopher and an American trained public policy professional with competence in international development, strategic management, and labor market information and analysis. Over the past decade, his expertise has been in job creation policy, industry innovation, workforce development, business employment dynamics, institutional development, and governance. In addition to consulting for emerging markets countries and cutting-edge institutions, he has served in senior policy and management-level positions in the private, nonprofit, and government sectors in the west. He can be reached at [email protected].