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Let us change to a better unbreakable Nail for building a worthy Climate Resilient and socio-economically Viable Africa
Africa Day message – 2020
by Dr. Richard MUNANG
Today is a great day and as you already know 25th of May Marks Africa day and today is a momentous Africa day 2020. I would like to start off with an interesting African proverb framed as a question. And it goes thus - "if you are building a house and a nail breaks, do you stop building or do you change the nail?” I think we all know the answer – you change the nail for a better one. This is my message today – let us change to a better nail.
For over three months now, Africa, like the rest of the globe, has been in a crisis like no other in recent history. Schools, workplaces, places of worship, travel, recreation spots – all aspects of ordinary life and enterprises have all been curtailed. Am talking of the COVID-19 emergency, that is fomenting an economic fallout. An estimated 50% of all jobs in Africa are likely to be lost, income and enterprise opportunities could be extinguished pushing over 1.2 billion citizens, further up the vulnerability scale. This emergency, as bad as it is, only exacerbates an already precarious situation on the continent. Did you know that 257 million African citizens go to bed hungry every day?. Did you know that over 12 million youth join the labour market every year and compete with fewer jobs? Did you know that African economies are 20times less productive than competitors in the global space? Did you know that Climate change effects – manifested through extreme events like droughts & floods, threaten to shrink earnings in our economies by a massive 75%? Now you know.
The writing therefore is on the wall and what the continent need to urgently do right now is to apply the emergency brakes and make an about-turn from this path of unending vulnerability. We need to change the nail, by urgently divesting from the same old approaches that have failed for the past 60years. Approaches that have confined the continent, to the shackles of vulnerability. And all this, must start with a determination to rebuild stronger, to become competitive, to be inclusive, especially now so the continent is not cowed by future emergencies. For this, I have three key messages:
- First, externalising solutions is a non-starter. For the past 60years, Africa has not fully weaned itself from externalising solutions to her challenges. At the level of the citizenry, the government is looked at as the panacea of all solutions. At the level of administrators in government, “development partners” are seen at the panacea. And in the long run, no one takes personal responsibility. The COVID-19 emergency has been the latest stark reminder that this model of dependency is a failure. We have seen many continents focused on handling their own emergencies- providing multiple rounds of stimulus packages running into the trillions of dollars to buffer their own economies. While Africa needs an estimated $100billion in emergency response, at this hour of need, who is bailing out Africa “at this crunch time? Your guess is as good as mine. This is another blunt demonstration, of the urgent need to embrace the approach of local solutions to contextual challenges, because externalising solutions has proven time and again to be a non-starter.
- Second, Africa must rebuild leveraging on her strengths. A timeless Africa proverb reminds us, that “an orphaned calf licks its own back”. Africa must use what it has, to marshal her own climate resilient economic recovery and rise. What we know is that African economies hinge largely on the actions of the informal sector which cumulatively employs over 80% of her people. This sector has also been described as the “present and future” of work in Africa. Buffering informal sector players in the continent’s catalytic sectors, economically inclusive sectors, that engage most of our population – is the real panacea of transformation. Maximizing their productivity through value addition will be engaging most of our populations, in productive work.
- Third, is inculcating a mindset-change. Multiplier effect actions can only be driven by ordinary people like you and me. Everyone must develop an unborrowed vision which calls for a change in mindset that prioritizes developing solutions that create change in our communities as opposed to making money alone. This value system must be inculcated by everyone and these are the key tenets of Innovative Volunteerism. We must selflessly take personal responsibility for Africa’s development by seeing ourselves as the brick and mortar that will build Africa. The source of solutions. We must leverage the existing enabling policy and regulatory environment to get going down the solutions path and our operational successes will inform better policy refinements. And we have the tools. Our local cooperatives for instance, stand as timeless institutions of raising low-risk capital, and of accountability & traceability of actions. All it takes is for us to embrace selflessness and take the first step down this new road of personal responsibility for the continent.
Across the continent through Innovative Volunteerism, youth and the young at heart who believe in a worthy Africa are taking commendable steps down this path. From Nigeria, Benin, Togo Ghana in the west, to Cameroon, DRC at the centre, and Uganda & Kenya in the east, to Zimbabwe in the south, individuals just like you and me are standing up to be counted. They are applying their skills to convert waste to fuel briquettes and provide competitive, climate action enterprise solutions to clean cooking. By this, they are not only saving our mothers from indoor pollution but also reliving pressure off dependence on our forests for charcoal & firewood. Thus, preserving them.
Leveraging on Innovative Volunteerism, Youth are retooling their skills in fabricating solar dryers and decentralizing these solar dryers to farmers in local markets, to enable them to dehydrate and preserve their harvest and sell when demand peaks, has proven to increase their earnings up to 30times. With such better earnings, they afford better housing, transportation, medicare, education etc. And this spirals to create more income opportunities including in the formal sector. This is just a one-dimensional example, that can be extrapolated to demonstrate the multiplier effect across the entire economy, of strategically focusing on maximising productivity of informal sector actions, in the continent’s catalytic sectors.
These are just examples demonstrating that Africa’s transformation is not about complaining and blaming others always, but about looking at the mirror, and challenging the one you see to act. Africa’s transformation is about challenging yourself, to shun individualism, embrace selflessness and become a solutions provider leveraging what you have within your reach. This is the best, unbreakable nail for building a worthy climate resilient and socio-economically viable Africa.
Happy Africa Day!
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