It was indeed a remarkable message to African leaders in Switzerland the other day when business leaders gathered to tell them that they should henceforth place more premium on good governance than on economic models that have made the world’s second largest continent the poorest.
Good and decentralised governance, not economic models, according to the business and industry giants, would halt economic degeneration and create growth on the African continent.
In this connection, a plenary session of the Africa CEO Forum comprising Mo Ibrahim of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, Pierre Guislain (Africa Development Bank) and Abebe Aemro Selassie of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), blamed African governments for wrong priorities and the dwindling economic fortunes across the continent.
Such a forum, where more than a thousand chief executives of leading African organisations discussed sustainable solution to the economic misfortunes of the continent, should, of course, bring some pressure on the weak governments and corrupt leaders to embrace not only astute leadership but also prudent management of resources.
It is gratifying to note too that participants agreed that they learnt some essentials of good governance beyond academic definitions. Besides, there was no room for escapism and rhetorics on how to lead: China, for instance, has done quite well in economic management and development, despite a demonised political regime that is far from being democratic, according to the West. “We do need some democracy and some rules but we need to choose what to implement in Africa,” participants were told point blank.
It must also be good music to the ears of young Africans that their leaders were also told at the conference that education, health and infrastructure are critical governance issues that must be addressed by African governments not necessarily within the prism of models exposed by the so-called developed countries.
There are so many analysts and apologists who will forcefully argue that Africa is a late comer to the global economy, but African leaders at all levels should take advantage of global trends and platforms like the Africa CEO Forum to embrace what will work for Africa. In other words, they should not be entrapped by mistakes of other countries in North America and Europe. What is more, Mo Ibrahim and other world-class as well as remarkable non-governmental individuals, or worthy Africans should not be ignored in forging African models for good governance.
Mo Ibrahim had noted that transparency, for instance, should be much more important to African governments than any economic model. To the Sudanese philanthropist, “Africa is not a company; it is 54 countries.”
Indeed the continent with little or no template for others to follow should stop accepting models from less than altruistic institutions and, instead, insist on transparency, education and good governance as a basic model for Africa development. As it was agreed by most of the stakeholders in Africa at the Geneva conference, Africa does “not need new economic model”, but better governance that will “not deprive investors of opportunities.”
What, indeed, can be more symbolic of absence of good governance in Africa than the embarrassing dearth of winners of the Mo Ibrahim Prize of Achievement in African Leadership most times?
There was no winner in 2015 and 2016 for instance. The last time a winner emerged for the “African model of Nobel Prize” was in 2014 when President Hifikepunye Pohamba of Namibia was announced the winner.
The independent Prize Committee is chaired by Dr. Salim Ahmed Salim, a former Secretary General of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), (now African Union, AU). The candidates for the Ibrahim Prize are usually former African executive Heads of State or Government who have left their office during the last three calendar years, having been democratically elected and served their constitutionally mandated term. The Prize Committee meets on a regular basis to review eligible candidates.
Since its launch in 2006, the Ibrahim Prize has been awarded only four times and the Laureates are President Hifikepunye Pohamba of Namibia (2014), President Pedro Pires of Cape Verde (2011), President Festus Mogae of Botswana (2008), and President Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique (2007). Nelson Mandela was the inaugural Honorary Laureate in 2007.
This is a clear evidence that good governance is still a huge challenge in the second largest continent in the world where a peculiar democracy thrives to produce leaders who are dealers, most of whom are always changing constitutions and forcefully winning elections to remain in office for decades. Many of them have been tagged “thieves of state” instead of “heads of state”.
Seeking good governance, therefore, should override the search for such economic models that have made Africa the poorest continent on earth. And poor governance is a reproach that must be removed through a powerful weapon of global competitiveness called Good Governance in Africa (GGA).