The Development Imperative for a new Future of Governance in Africa

Sep 29, 2017

The foundation on which we can build any transformative governance initiative in Africa must proceed from a starting point of a shared and collective vision of society.

At a time when elections and constitutional change is emerging as one of the acceptable models of ensuring peaceful political alternation in Africa, winners-take-all system of electoral democracy continue to be one of the largest hindrances to political and economic transformation of Africa.

Beyond political engineered hurdles to the growth and progress of transformative governance in Africa, changes in the State of the State in Africa, institutional permutations, decline in internally generated revenue and discontent with the performance of current peace and security architecture in maintaining continental stability presents new challenges that continue to hinder the achievement of the sustainable development goals and overall transformation of Africa’s economies. 

To address these issues, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in partnership with International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA) organized a two-day High-Level Policy Dialogue on ‘The Future of Governance in Africa: Is a new concept of governance the key to accelerating the prosperity agenda?’, that took place in Ghana’s capital Accra during 29 – 30 September 2017.

FutureofGovernanceThe attraction of the event was the panel discussions by eperts in Governance issues, including the above which had former President of Malawi H.E. Joyce Banda.

Chaperoned by Her Excellency Dr. Joyce Banda, Former President of Malawi, and Rt. Hon. Prof. Aaron Mike Oquaye, Speaker of Parliament, Ghana, the policy dialogue provided a platform for civil society, independent experts, scholars, practitioners, policy-makers, academics and representatives from bilateral, multilateral, regional and sub-regional organizations to reflect and identify opportunities to deliver sustainable development in Africa. The dialogue identified the following four key issues for further deliberation and strategy development on trends, challenges, opportunities and prospects to accelerate the prosperity agenda in the continent:

a.            The place of accountable and responsive leadership to deliver aspiration of citizens.

b.            Building capable, efficient and effective institutions

c.            Enhancing a social contract between government and the governed – to foster inclusiveness and participation of citizens – that addresses state society disconnect

d.            The role of innovation and technology to enhance inclusiveness and accountability.

The dialogue comes at a time when the continent is experiencing challenges including growing inequality, high youth, increasing violent extremism and urbanization. Africa is experiencing a period of exception economic performance and growing GDP per capita, which however has not translated into higher human development for all. The challenge therefore, is how to make this economic growth translate into higher human development. Given the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) broadly, and Goal 16 specifically, it is vital to consider now how best to reorient – where necessary – and accelerate the democratic governance agenda.

“Much of the continent is still struggling to achieve sustainable democratic norms along with general economic prosperity. At the center of this contestation in models is the argument that for Africa, democracy and liberalism do not necessarily go together, as they do in the West. It is just as likely for a democracy to produce an illiberal system as it is to produce a liberal one, especially throughout much of the Africa. In whatever way you choose to look at this current models in Africa, what is evidence and as indicated by Mo. Ibrahim, is that, there is a crisis of leadership and governance in Africa, and we must face it,” said UNDP Regional Service Centre for Africa Director, Lamin Manneh. 

The foundation on which we can build any transformative governance initiative in Africa must proceed from a starting point of a shared and collective vision of society, the participants highlighted. It was also agreed that democratic progress will happen if we place deliberate policy measures and targeted investments to make growth not just fast, but also inclusive and sustainable, active, effective, honest, and fair governance at all levels holds the solution to this challenge.

The dialogue closed with a call for further action and implementation of ideas generated during the discussion by all stakeholders. This includes:

  • To facilitate intergenerational dialogues and national conversations among political actors across Africa on strategies and opportunities for sharing political power, peacelessness and resources that enhance inclusive participation of minorities, citizens, women and youth.
  • To enhance the integrity of electoral systems in Africa that looks and addresses political inclusiveness beyond elections being events but processes that do not end with an election cycle and importantly as tools to enhance dialogue, civic engagement and accountability of leaders. 
  • To develop and/or consolidate a programme and initiative on transformative and responsive leadership in Africa in collaboration with the African Union and the RECs.
  • To provide technical support and advisory to African countries to embrace and adopt e-governance and enhance accountability and capacity of citizens to track performance and compliance with international regional and national norms and commitments on governance such as monitoring and accountability dashboards.

Following the dialogue, a new conceptual framework for developing a sequential and incremental democratic governance Road Map for Transformative Governance in Africa, built upon African realities and responding to African needs will be developed. This will be used as a basis for elaborating a theory of change regarding how to deepen democratic governance transformation in Africa. The Roadmap will prioritize and focus on Safety and rule of law; Participation and human rights – especially of marginalized groups such as women and youth; Sustainable economic opportunity; and Human development.

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