The guiding principle – which I expressed in previous articles – is still valid: each African country should develop innovative solutions depending on its needs and its expectations.
The principle itself is quite easy. Therefore, it is quite astonishing that lots of innovators, consultants and researchers stay anchored to the idea of solving the 54 African countries’ problems by using western strategies and innovations.
Why not trying and do the opposite? MPESA wins because it has been created in Africa, to fulfil local needs. In a different context, it would be useless, but in Africa we can find it inside millions of citizens’ mobile phones.
I thought of a sustainable plan for the future, thinking about six steps and a premise.
Let’s start from the premise: if we want to face the future with awareness, we can’t ignore the political crux. When dealing with it, we’d better start by dispelling one of the most common believes: the ones having the power embody the worst human characteristics, while civil society is a helpless victim of them. In facts, politicians in charge are a product of the society electing them. If political class is corrupted, it is probable that illegality is perceived as a habit by social context, so much that people haven’t raised their voice to change things. Similarly, if politics is inefficient, it maybe reflects the society it rules.
Another as much common as wrong thing, is generalization: it is too easy to talk about African politics, without considering that the continent is made of 54 different countries, with different governments, religions and cultures.
We’d better surrender to diversity and try to find some similarities among the continent’s democratic countries, avoiding, for the moment, regimes and dictatorships, which characterize 10 in 54 countries. From a political and a cultural point of view, maybe the thing bringing African countries together is the strong presence of tribes and their decisions about national matters.
In Africa when people vote and choose one of the candidates, they are affected more by ethnic or religious belongings than by political programmes. The things they have in common are micro-nations and tribes. For this reason, candidates don’t do their best when putting forward innovative goals and social politics which could be useful for the community they are going to rule.
They don’t need to use contents, instead they use the values of the tribe they belong to.
It is difficult to understand whether they are going to destroy this brake, even if some positive examples are starting to emerge in some countries, such as Ghana, South Africa, Kenya. The sensation is that young people are moving. “Pole pole”, that is “very slowly”, but with determination.
Beyond these signals, the African breakthrough will occur only if political platform is changed by people who could face all present emergencies: lack of social services, impossibility to access medical cares, inexistent retirements pensions, lack of public housing, slums being at the mercy of future demographic pressures.
If from the present political spectrum some skilled personalities, able to fulfil these basic needs – providing budgets useful to social development and development politics making taxation possible – emerge, Africa will be able to change its image and to get rid of that poverty everyone attributes to it.
From a European point of view, a socialist movement would be welcomed by the continent, avoiding making the same mistake of importing political superstructure from western countries, taking for granted that it could be right for local context. 141
In this moment, the road is still uncertain, and the future is in young people’s hands. I hope that they will understand this historical moment and will be able to form and vote new leaders living up to their tasks.