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Opinions of Friday, 13 July 2007

Columnist: Ananseblog/

African UniGov now

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- Inspired visions and sophisticated analysis aren’t necessary in developing a continental market economy?

“African Union Chair and Ghanaian leader John Kufuor said the gathering [of African Heads of State attending the Ninth Ordinary Session of the African Union in Accra] had not produced winners and losers. They agreed to set up a committee to establish a road map and a time frame for a union government,” said BBC Online.

The Ananses will promptly get that African Union passport to resettle in Libya for dividends of a booming oil sector; or in the sunny Sahara and claim a piece of African land that might be exporting the sun’s energy to Europe in the near future; or to Mugabe’s Zimbabwe for a plot of ancestral land and till it with the hoe while watching the currency tumble like gravity pulling down on a piece of rock; or to the Niger Delta, or Darfur, or Bukavu, or to Mogadishu; or where is the best oasis for the Ananses to look for pasture?

If nothing, the Libya-led bloc for “African union government now,” has brought to the fore an urgent need to move away from the timidity that has characterized such a course, and to begin doing the hard thinking, mobilizing, and above all, African leaders earning public trust as the ones who would move us toward a continental government. It is not a mere road map that is necessary; the road network and bush paths must be dense, to enable the Ananses travel, see and pick the greenest pasture.

Suddenly, there was no President Mugabe of Zimbabwe but Governor Mugabe of the State of Zimbabwe; he immediately steps down because he does not want to be under President Africanus, reportedly fearing his own ghost. The famed Nigerian Senate has also lost its luster, becoming a mere state legislature while state governors are downgraded to local council heads. All personnel in the civil service across the continent have dropped to a stage lower than before the union. Now, internal conflict-prone areas held together by national security forces located in national capitals seem more distant from the Africanus capital police - the African high command, under chief marshal general senior African Baba OBJ.

That road map will recognize that Governments are made up of institutional networks and go on to list everything on earth that is known to affect quality of roads and maps; they would make Ama Sewaa, the secretary and lowest-paid clerk type away. That is the product. It ends there. Have you seen the NEPAD document? Have you seen any of the regional bloc frameworks? And, have you seen their impacts? The easiest thing for our leaders, if you dare them, is to produce some brilliant road map. They have access to elite consultants. That is why Ghanaian authorities and big dons think they can develop a nuclear power plant system – because the process is considered as far as Ama Sewaa typing the declaration and road map. “People, here’s the product,” Omanpanyin (head of state) would declare, like a little Moses; and the surrounding actors, the boys, would gain in their swagger. The essential issue is a demonstration that declarations and frameworks have purpose and meaning, enlist actors and enable them to act.

Africa does miss good leadership; we all yearn for the savior. The recent photos circulated by Email of victims in the June 29th rocket attacks in an assassination attempt on Ivorian Prime Minister Soro Guillaume at the Bouake airport in Cote d'Ivoire brought to desktops the barbarity associated with the quest for inspired and visionary leadership in Africa. Such callousness has been real for many Africans while the elites and warlords who inspire these brutalities chill in their secure enclaves. For those far from the battlefields in Africa, the photos carried the battlefield into their faces, from their PCs (in your face), revealing the nature of the brutality and its victims in the most horrid but factual state never before seen except those directly caught in it. Who will end this viciousness on the continent? Mandela is too frail to do it.

But, if you thought Africa needed such leadership for economic development, think again. Ananse has realized that except by faith, the continent should not await a savior of such prowess. But what we can do for ourselves? Take solace from John Kay who explained to a lay economist of Ananse’s kind why planning is not necessary in orchestrating a market economy (in his Financial Times column of Feb 28, 2006 under “Khrushchev, Crosland and the road to mediocrity.’ The Online version of Feb 27, 2006, ‘The centralised road to mediocrity’ is available at John Kay observed: “the common-sense belief that central co-ordination and direction, and the uniform implementation of best practice, are bound to improve performance remains ingrained despite the contrary evidence derived from the failures of planning in both government and business organizations around the globe. … Most decisions are wrong, and success comes not from the inspired visions of exceptional leaders, or prescience [insight] achieved through sophisticated analysis, but through small-scale experimentation that rapidly imitates success and acknowledges failure. This disciplined pluralism is the true genius of the market economy.” For Ananse, this means that our most solid answer, often, for Africa lagging behind – bad leadership – may have been overthrown in a bloodless coup d’état. So, let’s stop the whining about a lack of leadership, vision, and grand plans for our development and just grow our economies by trudging along with our head loads or in our sputtering tro-tro going to the promised land of USAfrica; we would get there, take possession of the best lands (with oil underneath and streams to water our animals who cannot drink oil) before the grand plans begin to take their first steps in all-wheel drives.

In reality, there was a first person in Accra-Tema who built a kiosk into the compound wall to sell minerals or soda. Then the neighbor saw it was a good thing and imitated; soon, it became a standard feature of Accra-Tema housing architecture. You see, no inspired vision of grandeur scale like a national development strategy that, “all new homes must have kiosks,” and enforced with zeal. Japan saw the success of the West, imitated; Singapore followed; Malaysia saw it was good and followed; South Korea also followed in the paths of regional neighbors, but North Korea buried its head in the sand, refused to look and its people are sent food aid; China is the doer now and India too. It was no grandiose plan enacted one day saying “The Pacific and Asia shall be developed together.”

Two or more countries can develop a set of rationale for calling themselves USAfrica; if they show that they are a worthy club in talk and deed, others would join, based on certain criteria and grade point, say, “must score 70 percent or more in USAfrica test to be administered by the African Peer Review Mechanism or APRM.” When the club of two or more starts to grow and there are signs it will be sustained, the neighbors would join, perhaps all occurring under some watchful standards of APRM or some zealot who tells us honestly if everyone is adhering to standards for co-development. Therefore, Africans today should not count on United States of Africa saving Darfur or enabling household securities in the next generation at least. It sounded so far fetched that civil society groups would be gathering in Northern Ghana, discussing an African Union Government while we are told it is the most deprived area of Ghana. When do they think USAfrica project would come to their aid? These NGOs and CSOs and OOs should get their hands dirty: making mud to help rural women put up walls around their compounds, with kiosks, so that they can sell minerals as a proven way to household income security.

But who can deny the need for Africa to unionize or co-develop? Yet, are we the same - in the overt and covet means by which we are governed? African countries that claim to have a free media environment can’t all boast they don’t intimidate journalists and nouveau-journalists by threatening them with criminal justice codes for writing, speaking, appearing or distributing their own writings to others to supplement their meager incomes in this pluralistic information society while big man corruption is unpunished; some people are not even allowed to partake in the basic electioneering process and selection of national leaders; some are still not one nation so that their gubernatorial lines and officials would not be easily agreed – for example, who speaks for Darfur in agreeing to join or opt out of the Union? Here’s one suggestion for the APRM people when considering standards by which countries gain entry into the USAfrica project: Countries, which have hard successive democratic elections should carry greater voice than those that have had the same governments for years. Deduct two points for each 100,000 people using bucket-toilets; one point deduction for those who use pit latrines; etc. In the end, we would identify countries that should join the union and those that must be assisted to qualify so they don’t lower standards. We need to translate our emotions for one-citizenship into tangible measures of a nation and verify that we can agree on common values for co-development, including responsibilities and accountability. Not that a handful of NGOs should answer the question, “how are you doing – whether in terms of political, economic, social or pocket issues?” on behalf of Donkorkromeans; Kwamekrom and others must make their own determinations of national performance in delivering according to those values. What are the strategies and institutions for the USAfrica project? Who will implement them – the group that could not implement NEPAD? Yet, with what uniformity the assessment of nations under the APRM process? In South Africa, brochures were available advising citizens about the process and their role, how they could participate, and urging them to talk to their local representatives. How did civil society, communities and citizens participate in the Ghanaian assessment? Are lessons learned improving the measurement unit? What are the implications of non-compliance with the APRM-recommended remedial actions?

Ponder: Which current African leader would you rather live under, beside your own national leadership today? Would former leaders of African countries be eligible to lead the union? Then OBJ has another shot at leadership. What about Mbeki who has steered that delicate middle-income economy? But he has not yet secured midtown Jo’burg or delivered modern toilets to rural citizens. Let’s compromise: we can’t even elect local representatives wisely, how shall we elect an Africanus Government? But what do you want from your government? Remember the dictum “inspired vision and sophisticated analysis aren’t necessary in developing a market economy,” so let’s base this leadership on the ground where we are meeting, not just issuing an “Accra Declaration,” but doing in making current African Union chair and host of nations the African Union now president – President Africanus I, John Kufour! That will be so fitting, considering his Ashanti background and royalty; after all, Ghana was the birthplace of the African Union movement earlier and now as well. So we in Kwamekrom sing loud: “Ayeekoo (well done) President Africanus.” Moreover, all the international acclaim Ghana has received under the leadership of Ayeekoo President can’t be based on false analysis; there must be some truth in them. The secret of Ghana’s success: The Government followed the John Kay dictum and has been hands-off in major developments: When the country needed to beef up its energy security, it was an indigenous leader who traveled to China (without support from the Ghanaian diplomatic corps in China, based on such claims in an earlier news item on Ghanaweb) leading to a Sino-Ghana power deal; when the country needed to increase households with access to clean drinking water and improved education, it was another indigenous leader who went to the World Bank president at the time and got the goods to Ghana through a Banko-Nana deal. To insure that people, not Government, delivered services for themselves, Government sends the President away very frequently so he doesn’t interfere with the DIYs (do it yourselves) spirit and puts up big billboards in view of the motorcade upon return, acknowledging this magnanimity – Ayeekoo AU Chairman. If this would be a trend of leadership in Ghana and across Africa, should Ghanaians borrow millions of dollars (USA currency, not USAfrica currency) to build a presidential villa that will be unoccupied or invest that money in a floating airship for the President’s travels?

But no, both Russia in the late 1950s and the United Kingdom in the 1960s – the times of Khrushchev’s agricultural plan and Crosland’s comprehensive education plan, respectively, that John Kay talked about – had their core infrastructure and policy objectives, regulatory environments, trained actors, and output chains in place; it was about fine-tuning strategies to maintain and grow, or hold and build in war-speak.

And Ananse saw the cabinet list for the USAfrica project: Kofi Annan is secretary of agriculture-designate; Alpha is education secretary. And like Khrushchev and Crosland, the secretaries quickly unfurled the continental sector plans: the Afro-Annan-agriculture plan, after his geography lessons at Mfantsipim College in the 1950’s and seeing the American Midwest Corn Belt face-to-face while at the UN, and lessons from previous salvation plans as in Sasakawa, Global 2000, etc; Alpha, education secretary, also had a comprehensive education plan, like Crosland; these plans, with lasi lasi (unproductive) workers who suck up to bosses, who then adjust production targets to indicate achievement of expectations amidst a screen concealing weak productivity, “the lurching fads … that go with centralized decision-making, assessment that is self-justifying, … and reluctant recognition of failure,” as John Kay would express. And the billboard went up, Ayekoo Khrushchevite-Croslander.

John Kay sums up the Khrushchev story: “As a young agricultural officer, [he] had supervised maize production. … later, as general secretary [of the Communist Party of the USSR], he visited the US, the luxuriant fields of the Midwest made an enduring impression. Maize, he thought, was the US economy’s backbone, and would also be the means by which the Soviet Union [will] catch up. Large tracts were converted to maize. The program was not a success,” thanks in part to reasons alluded to earlier.

The African agricultural environment is not homogeneous or simple; it is complicated by very varied soils, weather, pest types and populations, drought, inputs, crops, varieties and animal herds, value added products, taste, market access, assets, etc., these right down to the village level. However, whether cocoa or cotton, flowers or coffee however, the lowly rural farmer has kept non-oil African economies in gear, therefore some general policies can be developed. However, at current pace of institution building across Africa, those nomads who have agreed to start sedentary lives in the Sahel-Sahara, planting millet instead of following their herds, a change they agreed after drought repeatedly killed their assets (herds), the people in Northern Ghana who met to talk African Union Government, and the people of Kwamekrom an Gomoa should expect little tangible outputs from the Afro-Annan-Agriculture scheme in their own life times.

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

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