Africa’s academia challenged on governance, development
African academicians must confront the continent’s challenges in democracy, good governance and development, key speakers stressed on Thursday at the start of the three-day international conference on democracy and good governance, held at Parliament buildings.
The conference brings together MPs, academics and others, to share ideas on the African perspective of democracy and governance, as Rwanda gears to celebrate its 50th independence day – on July 1, and the 18 years after the 1994 liberation struggle which stopped the Genocide against the Tutsi.
Parallel sessions are underway to discuss matters such as citizenship and nation building, election management in Africa and contribution by the continent’s Diaspora on development and the media.
“Knowledge is an important driver of development. That’s why the role and responsibility of academic intellectuals on the continent are heavy and we need to be up to the task,” said Prof. Anastase Shyaka, CEO of Rwanda Governance Board.
The Speaker of the Lower Chamber of Parliament, Rose Mukantabana, said some African countries had made progress in terms of governance and democracy, but urged the session to seriously consider why despite its abundant natural resource base, the continent lags behind in development.
She stressed that even as countries are now celebrating independence, there is need to analyse the issue of “Africans’ capacity to meet their own needs.”
“Africa is said to be a rich continent, with a huge quantity of natural resources. On the other hand, African countries and the people of Africa are the poorest in the world. Why such a contradiction? Why have African countries benefited from international aid in the past 50 years?”
“We must think about it and address it in an appropriate way in order to prepare a better future for our children and grand children,” the Speaker said, noting that the current era of globalization – with crises of all kinds – require efficient governance to meet the ever increasing aspirations.
Dr. Chika Anne Ezeanya, a Nigerian academic, emphasized that there was nothing constitutionally corrupt about Africa’s pre-colonial society.
“In pre-colonial Africa, corruption was unheard of, almost. Talking about eradicating corruption in Africa is not an outside-in approach,” Dr. Ezeanya said, noting that it was not about finding solutions from the west.
“It is about rediscovering our lost values. Something on this continent that was lost somewhere. And that’s what we need to get back. It will be a lot easier if we have an understanding that something was lost and find out how we can regain what we had, than to sit, and stare and look at ourselves as failures, as Africans”.
She blamed Africa’s present demise on “the oppressive colonial bureaucracy” which resulted into the continent’s misplaced priorities as “the whole value system was truncated”.
However, she urged the continent’s academia to take responsibility, now – know what happened and try to change it, for the continent’s benefit.
The remedy, towards a renaissance, she noted, involves four critical features: restoration of indigenous values and institutions; fostering religion as a nation building institution; promoting the African nation state in addition to fixing formal, informal and non-formal education.
Dr. Ezeanya lamented how it is hard to find “home grown curricula and text books” in African schools.
“We hardly find home grown text books and curriculum based on African experiences to address the African situation,” she said.
She rejected the notion that embracing the restoration of “our remarkable” indigenous values such as the Abunzi (mediators), Gacaca, and Imihigo (performance contracts) was tantamount to backwardness.
“Indigenous knowledge is not traditional knowledge. What is traditional is static and stays where it is. Indigenous evolves with technology. It uses the home-grown resources in order to build, and I am very proud of Rwanda. You are doing so well in this area even though there is room for improvement, of course. When you think of Imihigo, abunzi, the Gacaca systems, and even social organizations like in Umudugudu (community settlements),it is really very remarkable, and other African countries must learn”.
Scoffing at the ideas taught to African children – in history books written by Europeans – Dr. Ezeanya noted that while pre-colonial Africa emphasized character, loyalty to the community and the state, as well as hard work, colonial Africa was characterized by the destruction of indigenous values, forced labour and taxation, as well as oppressive colonial bureaucracies.
Dr. Chika Ezeanya holds a Ph.D. in African Development and Policy Studies from Howard University in Washington D.C and is a Ryoichi Sasakawa Young Leaders Fellow.
She has worked as a consultant for the World Bank on several projects in Washington D.C., Nigeria and in Rwanda, mostly in the areas of agriculture and education.
Other high profile speakers will include Prof. Kenneth Paul Tan, an Associate Professor at the National University of Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.
Contact email: kames.karuhanga[at]newtimes.co.rw