Meeting Obama and Delivering on Africa´s Promise

Dignity Day Founders‘‘In a world where it seems no-one agrees on anything, a world where politics divides, religion divides, and race and even cultural borders seem to divide, dignity is something that everyone can agree on."
– Global Dignity Day founders (HRH Crown Prince Haakon, John Hope Bryant and Prof. Pekka Himanen)

On Saturday, on his first day of visit to South Africa, United States President Barack Obama participated in a town hall meeting with the Young African Leaders Initiative at the University of Johannesburg in Soweto.

Obama in town meeting in South AfricaOne message from Obama came across very clear. He  told us “If the dignity of the individual is upheld across Africa, I believe Americans will be more free as well”.

Listening to President Obama speak to Africa’s future leaders and touching on aspects of delivering on Africa’s promise in this century as well as the importance and value of a strong Africa I was left feeling that if there is one promise we are to deliver, it has to be on the issue of human dignity to the people of this continent.

Surely, human dignity is the foundation upon which all facets of human progress ought to be measured? Social justice, equity and economic advancement are all requisite to functional societies, where dignity, ethics and respect preside.

Delivering of Africas promiseIn May this year, I attended a meeting with the 23rd World Economic Forum on Africa in Cape Town, under the theme “Delivering on Africa’s Promise” (click on the image on the right to download the forums report). The meeting convened over 1,000 regional and global leaders from business, government and civil society from over 80 countries to debate how best to deepen the continent’s integration agenda and renew commitment to a sustainable path of growth and development.

Sub-Saharan Africa continues its transformative journey from a developing continent to a key hub of global growth. According to the World Bank, almost half of Africa’s countries have attained middle-income status.

At the same time, the continent’s positive outlook is threatened by fluctuating commodity prices, rising inequality and youth unemployment.

Nelson Mandela SquareOn the eve of South Africa commemorating 20 years since joining other African nations in achieving democracy, what aspects of past 20 years can we be proud of and look forward to ‘celebrating’ in 2015? What can we South Africans highlight as key contributions made over the past 20 years to ‘Delivering on Africa’s Promise’.

In other words, how has South Africa, being the continents most advanced economy, contributed to or impeded in the process of advancing the realization of macro-economic growth in Africa, relative to the poignant statement – ‘Delivering on Africa’s Promise’?

Nkosazana_Dlamini-ZumaHave achievements like the appointment of former Minister of Home Affairs and Foreign Affairs Nkosazana Clarice Dlamini-Zuma to African Union representative, South Africa´s Social Security Chair within the UN, hosting the 2010 FIFA World Cup among those responsibilities bestowed upon this young African democracy, within the past decade, meant South Africa appears to be supporting the delivery of Africa’s promise?

The economic growth and individual GDP indicators provides measures and barometers of economic growth factors noted in Africa relative to other emerging markets and against global standards.

Africas promiseHowever, it is crucial that we apply our minds to the intricacies of what and how we define ‘growth’ in an African context.

In South Africa economic transformation is a fundamental measure and indicator of growth or the lack thereof, relative to our unique historic hegemonic paradigm predicated on minority economic, political, social and psychological rule.

Delivering on ‘Africa’s Promise’ in my view will require among other things, strategic segmentation and analysis in terms of identifying the local, vertically orientated requirements for growth; levels of unemployment, local policy, health care, education and so on, versus the horizontal, globally comparable factors across Africa – leadership, accountability, safety and security – dignity and equity.

Mandla group photoMore Africans need to take ownership of the process of pre-defining the strategic and operational cross sector and policy conditions tantamount to both vertical and horizontal ‘growth’ over time.

Whilst it remains a bourgeoning land mass based on its natural resource (including solar & wind energy resources) and cheap labour – the notion of delivery of ‘Africa’s Promise’ can only become genuinely palatable when and if, African Politicians and business leaders themselves agree, prioritize and ensure the ‘promise’ is first and foremost restoring, human dignity, social cohesion and justice. These issues should predominate the agenda, discourse and experience of African nation states in the 21st century.

1 comment

  1. Just re-read this Mandla … touches me in all the right places. In fact, it mimics, in so many ways, the education given to me by my late mother. Of her many statements, one that sticks with me to this day is: “One judges a nation on how they treat their elderly.”
    This statement is but a sample of the many ethical, dignity-driving ethics she drove in society, for everyone, in spite of her very Afrikaans / rural up-bringing.
    I like the undercurrent of your blog … that of waking up to human-ness as a key success factor to progress. Without the latter, again to your alludement, what, really is progress? How else can one measure it.
    All good Brother…

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