Click here for highlights of what we have done about some of these challenges. An analysis of the challenges facing Africa over the years reveals a major perennial problem. Seemingly economic in nature, the locus of the perennial problem that besets Africa is that of governance. An examination of issues related to the extractive industries, trade agreements, land grabs, capital flight, corporate tax evasions, human trafficking, mass migrations, the endemic conflicts and other things that deprive Africans of their dignity as God’s children can be anchored on problem of governance, hence my thesis: “The economic and development problem of Africa is a problem of governance.”
Africa: Impoverished By Wealth
Africa is perhaps the richest piece of land on earth, given its natural resources, rich fertile land, precious minerals and its bio-diversity. Yet majority of Africans live in abject poverty conditions. Why? Basically, it is the failure of government in the promotion of the common good, resource distribution, lack of transparency and accountability and independent judiciary system that works for all. Analysts who anchor the problem of poverty and development in Africa strictly on the economic sphere are missing something fundamental to the causes of poverty and underdevelopment. Numerous programs such as the structural adjustment programs (SAP), privatization, currency devaluations, and trade liberalization that have the economy as their primary focus have not only failed to alleviate the problems but have worsened the fortunes of many Africans, making them poorer today than they were before these programs were initiated.
Governance and the role of citizens
An essential component of good governance is the promotion of the common good and protection of its citizens. Leaders must seek the good of all their citizens in formulating policies and applying laws. Both laws and leaders must be transparent and accountable to enable robust civil society participation in the governing process. They must uphold the principles of subsidiarity, that is, governments must not arrogate to themselves the functions of a lower body. An over centralized federal government undermines the democratic principle.
True politics is a local affair
Former US Speaker of the House, Tip O’Neil aptly noted that “All politics is local.” African governments have failed to understand this. Politics in modern Africa is centralized in the hands of a few, and the majority of citizens are alienated from the process of governance and from their governments who privatize the state and act with impunity. Leaders in countries with active citizenry are less likely to act with impunity.
Foreign Aid and Interference
Foreign aid on Africa impact on Africa is mostly negative. They have strong strings attached in favor of the donors. Corporations contracting foreign aid make hundreds of millions of dollars, dodge taxes, and expatriate the money abroad. Foreign aid facilitate corruption, entrench “strong men” and create dependency. In general the donors do not conduct feasibility study for the viability of the projects and local communities are not consulted in the transaction. Some donors work in cahoots with the political elite to siphon the money out of the country in various ways including inflations of contracts, phony projects and direct theft of funds.
Africa and the global market
Africa’s participation in the global market is reduced mainly raw material exports (crude oil, minerals, and other primary products) whose value are tied to speculation by the stock markets, making Africa’s economy unstable and subject to the “national interest” of international trading partners . African leaders continue to implement programs that serve the interest of these partners to the detriment of their citizens. A systemic change is needed to reverse this situation. This can be achieved by engaging citizens in shaping a future that promotes the common good, one that benefits them.
Just Governance Project – Rationale
An institution that is sustained over many generations with no major interruption takes on a life of its own and acquires a “sacred” status. The likelihood that it will persist regardless of the personnel or the challenges it faces becomes high. American political institutions continue to weather the economic and political storms regardless of their leaders.
African countries, especially those in the sub-Saharan region are not only a hodgepodge of ethnic communities merged together for colonial economic convenience; most lack a national spirit and have not had the chance to develop and sustain strong governance institutions across generations. The transformation and sustained development of African countries will be achieved by engaging peoples at the grassroots in their social, political and economic environment and enabling them to work for the common good.
Partnership With the Church
AFJN’s just governance project in partnership with the church in Africa, aims to promote a sustained education at the grassroots that is grounded in the Gospel and Catholic Social Teaching to cultivate a culture of good citizenship, on rights and responsibilities in building a just society. The church with a vast network of committed personnel, tested institutions equipped to educate, conscientize and mobilize the public is vital to the success of this project.
by Aniedi Okure, OP