Of democracy and empowerment

Africa is sitting on a time bomb unless it creates its own jobs through the ingenuity, ability, and skill of its own people.
It is the job of African leaders to ensure that the millions of Africans who are willing to put in the work to improve their future have every opportunity to experiment, learn, adapt – and succeed.
African leaders must use this significant point in the continent’s history to guarantee that the entrepreneurial nimbleness, grit, and vigour of Africa’s citizens can be utilised to help lift the economies of Africa.
To craft its own jobs, Africa should focus on democracy and governance.
But democracy can only be based on empowerment for it to bear fruits.
In his book “A Fine Madness”, Mashingaidze Gomo says democracy cannot exist beyond the electoral process unless it is based on empowerment of people to give them a real economic voice and not just the electoral right to choose who among the elite, the most aggressive or the foreign sponsored has to dictate to them.
Gomo says: “It is not democracy to simply have peace and freedom of speech, movement and association … and to be employed by white people.
“It is not democracy to have the right to life and shelter and education and health when people do not have land on which to move and associate freely … Land on which to build homes … homes from which to build healthy, meaningful and confident lives.
“It is not democracy to have the right to life and yet not have land from which to draw the livelihood.
“It is not democracy to have choice and yet not be empowered to pursue the choices. Democracy must go beyond choice of government. It must be founded on economic empowerment of the majority.”
It is critical to note that African democracy should be defined by Africans. Again, African empowerment should be spearheaded by African leaders and the general citizenry for it to be meaningful.
Democratic process should work hand-in-hand with empowerment for Africa to solve its problems. Thus, African people should be empowered to pursue and realise the ideals of the democracy for which they vote.
Mashingaidze Gomo, in his book, also clearly states that: “Choices alone without empowerment undermine the decisions of a destitute majority and in postcolonial Africa, it compromises and subjects African people to the whims of an affluent white minority that has no loyalty to African causes.
“African people should be empowered to pursue and realise the ideals of the democracy for which they vote.”
In an interview with Africa Renewal, President James Michel of the Seychelles urged African countries to empower their citizens and invest in the welfare of Africans.
He said African leaders should be determined to give young people and professionals the chance to develop themselves and increase their knowledge.
“With a more educated population, there are greater demands for transparency. There is greater debate and exchange of ideas, and with these there is an increased sense of scrutiny.
“In a vibrant democracy where government actions are scrutinised by the public, we have to deliver and always look for ways to do better,” President Michel said.
Empowering Africans and believing in them, especially the young, will help a great deal since Africa is a huge continent waiting for new things to happen.
Commenting on empowering the African people, Maged Abdelaziz, the United Nations Special Advisor on Africa, says the continent must become more self-confident.
He said: “Africans enjoy no respect from other racial groups in the world. Therefore, they must strive at all costs to reclaim whatever dignity they have lost. They should prove their natural ability to be creative and live life on their own terms.”
Was it not Dr Carter G Woodson who said: “It does not matter who is in power … those who have not learned to do for themselves and have to depend solely on others never obtain any more rights or privileges in the end than they did in the beginning”?
To solve its problems, Africa needs to properly empower her sons and daughters without excuses and apologies. Laws need to be put into place now to ensure that Africans are economically in charge of their own destiny.
The African community must make use of the vast body of knowledge that has been contributed to the world by some of its best thinkers.
African countries must invest massive resources in African universities so that world class research can take place there.
Africa may be known as the continent of gold, oil, manganese, and diamonds, but our true wealth lies in its people, especially the young generation.
Only by unlocking the potential of this treasure – by giving Africans a chance to work or to create their own jobs – will we finally achieve the prosperity that our minerals have so far failed to bring to our continent.
A new power must be created and that power must not be split between racial, economic and political lines. It should be an African power unadulterated by Western interference and it should never die.


February 2013
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