CONVERSATIONS WITH MAWERE
"Invest in the change you want to see"
- Mutumwa Mawere -
Africa 2012 – When minds meet – In the long run
Posted on June 19th 2012
When we take the time to think about the future of Africa, what lies ahead? Whose future is it, anyway?
It must be fairly obvious that the future must have a beginning. A future that we want must necessarily be a future that we have invested in and yet too often we expect the future to be the business of others.
The citizens, who elect to offer themselves for public service, end up being burdened with the obligation of occupying their minds with the questions and challenges that ought to be addressed in order to secure a future that delivers the promise of a better life to the majority.
It was the later John Maynard Keynes, the British Economist, who observed that "The long run is a misleading guide to current affairs. In the long run we are all dead."
Indeed in the long run we are all dead and what remains will be memories of the actions and not slogans that we chose to deploy in the interests of advancing our own lives.
There is and ought to be a link between effort and outcome but increasingly we expect extraordinary outcomes to come from little or no action but more significantly that the future will be better for Africans merely from leveraging God's resources.
The Gross National Product of any nation has to reflect the output of each and every citizen and, therefore, a nation of lazy people, for instance, will produce outcomes that reflect the input.
What kind of future do we want? The future is a product of our own actions. There is nothing inevitable in life and this alone must inform how we respond to the challenges of today.
A secure and significant future for Africans ought to be a consequence of the choices and actions of Africans and not the product of the conspiracies that we often associate with the causes of the underdevelopment of Africa.
I was part of a conversation yesterday involving white and black non-state business actors and a question was raised as to why white South Africans whose standard of living has improved significantly during the post-apartheid era have chosen to turn their backs of politics.
It was observed that the ANC-led government has been good to the very people who were opposed to it and yet after 18 years in power it would appear that its defenders remain the people who have yet to witness the prosperity that democracy promised.
An interesting observation was made that white South Africans were as much victims of the apartheid propaganda as they are of the sloganeering and propaganda that has characterised the post-apartheid era.
The space for black and white South Africans to get connected and know each other has not been created and the fault was placed on lack of leadership.
Discussions focussed on the leadership question. It was pointed out that white South Africans have no problem being led by black state actors only if they have intellectual value to add.
In response, it was pointed out that why should black state actors be subjected to different standards from what was in place during apartheid.
It was observed that black leaders must possess the intellectual gravitas to govern and it is and ought to be their responsibility to think about the future.
The experiences in other African states were highlighted where the people for whom the future has meaning because they have something to lose took the decision to work outside the framework in which the majority were locked by virtue of history and other factors.
While empowerment programs may have their own limitations and inherent contradictory incentives, the influence of the history of current choices and actions cannot be understated.
We are a product of history and yet the future will not change merely because we devote more time to discussing about how ugly and painful it was.
What would and should be helpful is that we change the context and context of our discussions to deal with the kind of institutional and human issues and challenges that have to be addressed in order to unleash the imagination, creativity and innovation of Africans.
A future that will place the majority of Africans in the economic mainstream necessarily calls for a change of direction.
Africa is rising and the few countries that are turning the corner have done so because of a realisation that a shared future in which all role players are respected is necessary.
The lack of collaboration between state and non-state actors has implications on building an inclusive and cohesive future.
It is easy to trust someone to drive the process of change and renewal but the destination will only reflect the choices made by the drivers.
If one ends up in a ditch, there would be no one to blame for it is the responsibility of all who care about a secure and prosperous future to think and act in a manner that produces the wealth required to confer on the actors the freedom to make the choices that human beings need to make in life for it to be worth living.
The majority of Africans still find themselves outside the bus in which the economic minority play.
The business of the state ought to be the facilitation and creation of an environment in which actors acting in their self interest can add value to their lives and yet the encroachment of the state and its actors on the business of life and business has to be of concern to ll including the state actors themselves whose eloquence in defining the African condition has failed to produce the kind of outcomes that independence promised.
The journeys that Sudan and Ghana have travelled since independence have created destinations that we all know to suggest that the long term that began on independence could have been better defined than the outcomes we see.
The first children of post-colonial Africa ought to have been the points of inspiration for the continent and yet the country with a significant white population is today the source of economic inspiration.
So when the issue of values is raised we have to confront it head on. What kind of values should inform Africa's path? Political actors gain popular support by being against something and not standing for something.
Africa inherited an administrative and constitutional order that has its own rules and predictable outcomes. Such outcomes are possible when the recipe is followed to the letter.
The business of picking and choosing will not help Africa's cause. If a better life as defined in a Eurocentric sense is what we should have in Africa then one has to start by placing the obligation on all role actors to make it happen.
The relationship between state and non-state actors has to change in the short-term if the prospect of a better life for all is to be realised in the long term.
State actors need the support and collaboration of non-state actors in as much as the market needs contracting parties.
We often end up talking at each other and not talking to each other.
State actors believe that they have the answers in as much non state actors believe that they alone have the wisdom to make things happen.
It is only when we realise that mortal human beings can never be trusted to think beyond their circumstances that we will appreciate the need for collaboration.
Even the most successful business has to be a consequence of the voluntary decisions and actions of the people from whom revenues are collected in exchange of goods and services.
The most successful human endeavours acquire the status only because they serve the interests of the living.
In conclusion, therefore, it is important that actions of today be anchored on serving the interests of the living of today for it is and should be common sense that what is good for human beings today has a better chance of being good in the long term.
The nature and character of the long term is created today by our actions and not the rhetoric that we are made to consume daily by those that undermine the future by controlling the present.