The social compact Africa needs to thrive

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

The Africa Continental Free Trade area is more than a trade agreement, it is a game-changer that will transpose the steady Africa’s GDP from good to great. It, however, requires the united effort and social cohesion from all citizens of the continent.

Managing diversity will be the glue that African Nations will have to stock up on in 2020, as the work is well cut out for us to improve the culture of respect for all human rights. A social compact we need has to transcend beyond the needs of organised formations in business, labour and civil society. It has to inspire better active positive citizenry from all citizens in the continent. Managing diversity has to be embraced as the fundamental basic by all who take up leadership positions in societies.

The appreciation for democracy will be more meaningful to all Africans if it has a firm solidarity to close the gaps on inequality and exhibit the ability to destroy the cultural norms that still perpetuate sexism, racism, xenophobia. The miss management of diverse rich cultures that bind us together has to be reversed collectively.

The World Economic Forum in Davos meeting this year discussed how the world leaders have to regain trust and bring about the systemic change needed to restore our world to a sustainable path, suggesting that we adopt stakeholder-based approach capitalism that rewards inclusive growth and focuses the power of our financial markets on long-term investing.

For Africa, the envisaged plan to implement the Africa Continental Free Trade area in July this year will be a strong catalyst to achieve the sustainable development goals in the continent faster.

The incoming Chairperson of the African Union, President Cyril Ramaphosa has a long history in leading and managing diversity in South Africa. In 1987 as the Secretary-General of the National Union of Mineworkers, Ramaphosa received the Olof Palme prize in Stockholm for his leadership in the struggle for human rights and dignity. Other Laureates include Mr Kofi Anna from Ghana and Dr Denis Mukwege from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

President Ramaphosa’s leadership should be able to create political and financial momentum to achieve the empowerment of women and young women in line with the 12 identified critical areas of concerns outlined in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.

Yes, South Africa’s policy of 50 per cent inclusion of women in senior management portfolios and decision-making areas has started to gain momentum. Cindy Bezuidenhout, the lead analyst at Lightstone Property, says female buyers have been steadily increasing since 2016, noticeably overtaking the male and married couple markets in Johannesburg.

It is imperative for Africa’s future that the adoption of policies and enforceable legislation for the promotion of gender equality is infused within the key performance areas for the Intra Africa trade to thrive.

The South African National Development Plan vision 2030 that President Ramaphosa also championed advocates strongly for a social contract to contribute substantially to providing the political, economic and social conditions for our long-term development.

In the State of the Nation Address last year, President Ramaphosa shared with the nation his dream of a new Smart City with skyscrapers, schools and universities, factories built on sustainability principles and his understanding of the future of work. This dream will be a game-changer that young people of Africa should start preparing themselves to influence and participate in.

It is potentially a legacy in the making we could all benefit from, its genesis persuades us to start to re-imagining trade in Africa, re-imagine the Africa Brand we all can grow together, the Africa we all want.

As the co-chair of the International Labour Organisation on the future of work, President Ramaphosa is well-positioned to influence leaders to activate such dreams and start to invest in the skills needed for the future. The world is charging forward with the focus on the industries such as Advanced Manufacturing, Aerospace, Aviation, Travel and Tourism, Financial Services, Media, Mining, oil and gas.

However, all these trade agreements, industrial focus areas and dreams will not be materialised if Africans fail to have a strong social compact that is inclusive, respectful of human rights and is united for the future for a prosperous Africa and a better world.

I am hopeful that President Ramaphosa as the Chair of African Union will declare 2020 as the year of Ubuntu in Africa, and make his chairship to be about Ubuntu. This ancient African philosophy means far more than the English translation of I am because you are or humanity towards others, it is truly a belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity. Its essence is in the productive human relations, it is in the respectful relations with the environment we live with and the honest governance of men. The spirituality of Ubuntu saved us from Apartheid before and emancipated us to a constitutional democracy we all cherish.

This means improving our attitudes towards free movement of Africans in the continent, it means celebrating the other genders, instilling open mindedness in conversations in those ACFTA negotiations boardrooms and keeping with the ideals of the founding fathers of the AU central to our government service delivery programmes from Nyanga East to Addis Ababa. These are not my highly opinionated words but the teachings of Mildred Holo, the woman in the crowd of the United Democratic Front that defeated the Apartheid system. A leader whose concern was not to merely fight the unjust regime but to restore our humanity and to became Abantu eluntwini and be sincere to the future we want.

Ayanda Holo writes as Director: International Media Relations at the GCIS.

*This article appeared in the Daily Post, Nigeria on 10 February 2020