Editorial: I’m African, that’s where it begins

Editorial: I’m African, that’s where it begins

In this Africa in Fact edition dedicated to culture, Fred Khumalo paraphrases our mutual friend Mondli Makhanya who, in the midst of a debate with a right-of-centre interlocutor, asserted that, “I am a South African and that’s where it ends”. Much as this position is apt within a national discourse on identity politics, if we zoom out to the continent, Africanness has to be our departure point; for in one simple sense, culture is the outwardly radiating manifestation of our being in the world.

To elaborate, Max, a cab driver in DC who hails from Ghana, shares the following insight, “African culture teaches us from the earliest days to have respect for other people; you would think that with money and technology we would be happy and content but we have lost that culture. There is no respect for other people.” Culture often portrays more than a colourful aesthetic or funky tone, instead promoting a value base to what we represent, what we do, and who we are in the world. Hence the lament when culture loses its charge.

As our readers will appreciate from our zesty cover, however, the manifestation of culture on the African continent, as we have presented it, is all-embracing and flies effortlessly across the spectrum from food to fashion, soccer to the sounds of Afrobeat, religion to the Congolese rumba and beyond. Challenges may abound, but it’s an exciting time to be African.

Recent work events confirm the current fuss over all things African. At the Africa Transformation Forum in Accra, dazzling shades of Kente cloth were proudly worn by overseas delegates, while a more recent event at Ikoyi in St James, London, verified the hype associated with this West African inspired menu of plantains, jollof rice, efo, suya and other culinary treats, with cuisine fit for a lady and a lord; literally. South African wines are increasingly fêted in North America, as confirmed by Cape Classic wines recently wining a prestigious award in the US.

In short, there is increasing traction for Africa’s cultural sharing and export. With this comes the tension of protecting local intellectual property rights and balancing this with an expanding global market of incremental consumers. Nicky B highlights this in a poignant piece on African music, with respect to songs such as Wimoweh and Soul Makossa. Charmain Naidoo picks up on the issue of cultural contestation in her presentation on African fashion, while Anna Trapido suggests that on the foodie savoir-faire front, pitted against the EU’s 837 Geographical Indicator (GI) protected goods, Africa has only four. These inequalities are palpable.

Yet, as Andrew Panton recognises, in Africa the beat goes on, at least in the DRC where music sustains society. And it is not only melodies, food and fashion that take to the stage; African film is a niche market in the industry that holds much potential for development. Verónica Pamoukaghlián tells us that Nigeria and South Africa contribute $1 billion to the continent’s annual GDP. Whereas the former’s production dwarfs the latter’s, in box office revenue the southerners pull in 7.5 times as much, at $90 million.

Analytically, the very notion of culture, which John Kakonge engages in detail in his piece, needs to be retraced back to its beginnings and this necessitates some attention to history. This, coupled to the mantra that “Africa is not a country”, leads Luke Mulunda to suggest that we refer to “cultures of Africa” instead of “African culture” to promote an appreciation of the diversity and magnitude of the phenomena at hand.

Taking history at its broadest reach, we present an article by Delme Cupido on the plight of Africa’s “first peoples” with notable challenges and significant advances to recognise their human dignity before focusing more specifically on the San in Zimbabwe in a provocative piece by Owen Gagare that exposes their difficulties. Keeping with the theme of migrant peoples, Ini Ekott dives into the lives of Fulani pastoralists who since time immemorial have been nomadic and who now face major adaptive pressure in an existential threat to their culture.

In terms of concomitant diversity, we see Khumalo’s “Afropolitan” squaring off with so-called “white” Africans, who are, according to Kevin Bloom, still in the process of negotiating the identity of their Africanness. Meanwhile, Terence Corrigan and Vaughan Dutton find no evidence of a consistent religion-governance nexus, which flies somewhat in the face of intuition given the significance of faith-based traditions proselytised onto the continent and their cultural richness.

Ronak Gopaldas unpacks the “reverse flow” migration of sporting Africans onto the terroir of old colonial masters, with reference to France’s recent victory in the FIFA World Cup, using this as an exemplification of the outflux of some of Africa’s best and brightest human and cultural capital. Tom Osanjo provides the flipside of this coin, discussing the success of ex-pat sports stars back in their home countries, such as footballer Dennis Oliech from Kenya.

After all, our African identity is only the beginning, the rest is what we choose to retain, create, inspire. In January, the world lost one of its most talented sons, the late, great, Hugh Ramapolo Masekela. I still remember him turning to me during a live performance of The Boy’s Doin’ It in England, pointing and belting out “and this Durban boy’s doing it here in Cambridge”. I felt proud of being African and proud of the funky Africa Bra’ Hugh was representing on the global stage. In the face of adversity, racism and inequality, those warm, colourful, cultural strains of Africa streamed out sweetly through his lyrical trumpet on that cold, frosty, northern night. “Africa’s century is only just beginning,” I thought to myself, as I smiled infectiously.

Alain Tschudin
Executive Director

ALAIN TSCHUDIN is Executive Director of Good Governance Africa. He is a registered psychologist with Ph.D.s in Psychology and in Ethics. He was a Swiss Academy Post-doctoral Fellow at Cambridge and oversaw the Conflict Transformation & Peace Studies Programme at UKZN for several years. He has broad research and community engagement interests and has worked for various universities in Africa and Europe, with the European Commission, with local and international NGOs, as CEO of a leadership development agency, and as lead consultant for Save the Children and UNICEF, most recently as Child Protection Assessment Coordinator for Northern Syria. Alain has an adjunct association with the International Centre of Non-violence (ICON) and the Peacebuilding Programme at the Durban University of Technology.
Ghana’s cities must be robust and governance friendly

Ghana’s cities must be robust and governance friendly

“Young men and women form a group and decide to live in the slums where no one can control their lives. Through our work, I have come across many who come from good homes but have decided to live in a slum so that the family will not control their chosen lifestyles. In these areas they have the freedom to smoke, drink, and engage in drug pushing and all the things that their families will frown on.”

“A couple of us moved here because nobody talks evil about you here. You can wear any dress you like, keep any hairstyle and nobody will talk about. Here they accept everybody no matter what your choices are. The pressure from our families and neighbours made like uncomfortable for us so moving here has brought some relief.”

The above are few of the responses from respondents in a research commissioned by Good Governance Africa on the topic, TOWARDS MAKING GHANA’S CITIES RESILIENT: THE CHALLENGES OF GOOD GOVERNANCE OF SLUM DWELLERS.”

Speaking on the side-lines of a validation workshop held in Takoradi, the Municipal Chief Executive Officer of Sekondi – Takoradi Municipal Assembly, Mr. K.K Sam bemoaned the challenges the various identified slums within the municipality pose to the development agenda of the assembly. To him, there is a dysfunctional relationship between slum dwellers and city authorities and it makes it very difficult for state agencies to implement certain projects which fall within the enclave of these slums.

All over the world, slums have shared characteristics such as, overcrowding, poor quality housing, inadequate access to potable water, poor sanitation and lack of socio-economic infrastructure like schools, hospitals, public places and access roads, high rate of crime, unemployment, urban decay, drug addiction, mental illness, malnutrition, diseases and poverty among others.

Good Governance Africa is calling for resilient cities which are capable of providing almost all the above listed to resident to enhance decent living standards. To achieve this, it takes a multi-sectoral effort devoid of any political influence and at the workshop, the Ghana Police Service represented by ACP Duuti Tuaruka, Divisional Police Commander pledged his support together with Ghana National Fire Service, National Disaster Management Organization and other agencies.

The research sort to document and assess the implications/effects of slums and informal settlements on the economy of Ghana in the areas of social, economic, environmental, security and political development. It further seeks to develop robust strategies and policy recommendations to manage slums and informal settlements and prevent their occurrence.

GGA-West Africa is an independent and non-partisan research and advocacy organization that works to improve government performance on the continent by strengthening institutions and building consensus through research, capacity building, sensitization programmes and orientations.


Young politicians aiming high

Young politicians aiming high

Bogolo Kenewendo illustration: Valentina Manente, based on Black Panther © Marvel Studios 2018

Youth – people between the ages of 15 and 35, according to the definition used by the African Union’s Youth Charter – make up more than 35% of Africa’s total population. But in elected legislatures in countries such as Ghana, Uganda and Nigeria they remain under-represented.

In Uganda – where five seats are reserved for youth representatives in a parliament that has grown to include 431 members – just under 15% of those elected in 2016 were born in 1980 or later, while less than 1% were aged under 25.

In Ghana, where greater youth representation and participation has been observed in recent elections, change, as in Uganda, appears to be occurring, but slowly, according to a 2016 article in the Daily Monitor, a Ugandan news outlet. The average age of MPs in Ghana’s parliament who were elected in 2016 is 48 years; the median age of the country’s population is 20.4 years, according to a study this year by the Westminster Foundation.

In Nigeria, nearly 70% of the population is estimated to be under the age of 35, according to Nigerian journalist Orji Sunday, writing for online publication African Arguments – yet people in this age category are nowhere to be seen in the corridors of power. Today, the youngest member of the national parliament is 43.

One major barrier to entry facing aspiring young politicians in some countries is legislation that places minimum age requirements for elected office. This is not the case in Uganda, where the age threshold to stand for office is 18 – the same as the voting age. But in Nigeria, you must be 40 to stand for the presidency, 35 to become a state governor and 30 to contest for a seat in the House of Representatives. All of this existing legislation excludes 18-30 year olds, who have the right to vote in elections, but are barred from any participation in seeking election to political office.

In 2016, YIAGA, a civil society advocacy organisation, took on the challenge of reducing this barrier to entry in politics for Nigerian youth. The organisation’s call for greater youth participation manifested in a “Not Too Young To Run’” campaign, which has garnered significant support on social media platforms in the country, and also made some progress in altering the legal environment, which largely excludes young people. The “Not Too Young To Run” Bill proposed that age restrictions for candidates for the presidency and state governorships be dropped to 30 and to 25 for those aiming for the House of Representatives, and was approved by the National Assembly and 35 of Nigeria’s 36 states. On May 31 this year, President Muhammadu Buhari signed the Bill into law, opening up Nigerian politics to a younger cohort of representatives in elections scheduled for February 2019.

A second major obstacle is the costs involved in competing in electoral politics. Studies carried out by the Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD) in Ghana, Uganda and Nigeria have sought to quantify some of these costs. In Ghana in 2016, aspiring members of parliament spent, on average, $85,000 to secure a party’s nomination during the primaries and to contest for the constituency seat. In Uganda, in the same year, parliamentarians quoted outlays ranging from $43,000 to $143,000.

In Nigeria, people seeking to be elected to either house of the bicameral national assembly in 2015 estimated spending a staggeringly high $500,000 to ensure victory. In the words of one aspiring politician: “It got to a point during the campaign that I decided not to keep records any longer so that I didn’t get discouraged.”

“At every stage in our politics a whole lot of money is involved, both at the local and national level,” says Chikodiri Nwangwu, a lecturer in political science at the University of Nigeria. Most young people who would be interested in a political career are recent graduates, and unemployed or underemployed, he says, adding, “(Many) barely get three square meals a day.” The high cost of politics discourages youth from actively taking part in the decision-making process, as well as vying for electoral positions.

Some 65% of respondents to a WFD survey of political aspirants in Ghana agreed that young people are excluded from the outset because they are unable to mobilise the financial resources required. On average, candidates under 30 spent some 48% less than others during the December 2016 election, according to the report.

The challenge of fundraising, particularly for party primaries, which are often highly contentious, appears to be even more acute for young women, who often do not have access to the social networks or personal finance to self-fund campaigns that men do. In more rural areas, social norms are also a constraint.

Nonetheless, young people are beginning to make inroads into formal politics. In 2012 Proscovia Oromait won a by-election to become an MP in Uganda aged just 20, succeeding her father in the role. In 2016, a 23-year-old law student, Francisca Oteng Mensah, made history by becoming Ghana’s youngest elected member of parliament.

However, her father is an international businessman, so she was not financially constrained. In Nigeria, the handful of younger politicians who do get elected into office tend to come from wealthy backgrounds. In Kenya’s 2017 election, John Paul Mwirigi, a 23-year-old student, campaigned on a shoestring budget, using classic door-to-door campaigning. Relying on social rather than financial capital, and combined with growing disillusionment with the political class, he was elected. But these examples are few and far between.

Political apathy among youth across the continent is on the rise, according to a 2016 Afrobarometer study of 16 African countries. It found that just 65% of people between 18 and 35 voted in their respective countries’ last national election, as compared to 79% of citizens older than 35. Young people are even less engaged in civic activities such as attending community meetings or contacting political or community leaders. Such apathy has built up in response to decades of government corruption and failed leadership.

Something similar is clearly also behind young people’s self-perpetuating disillusionment with, and detachment from, electoral politics. Youth might get more engaged if they saw politics as a space that is open to them, but changing that perception requires getting them into political office in the first place. There is also no guarantee that a younger generation of politicians will offer improved accountability and governance when in office.

During a 2016 interview with the Daily Monitor, Nicholas Opiyo, a prominent human rights lawyer in Uganda, stressed the need for better balance, arguing that while it was “good to see more youth elected MPs … experience and knowledge also comes with age”.

It must be said that age is certainly not a quality in short supply when looking at the leadership in Nigeria, Uganda and Ghana. The average age of the president in these three nations is 74, while the median age of their populations ranges between 15.5 years and 20.4 years. This is not to say that only young people can represent youth, or that greater youth participation in politics would necessarily improve civic accountability and government policy in the short term. But it is critical that young people be enabled and encouraged to take a more active interest in politics across the continent. Improving access to the political system, by breaking down legal and financial barriers, would be just one part of that. Doing so would give the voices of the continent’s young people an opportunity to be better heard, and perhaps a chance to start shaping their own futures.

Jamie Hitchen is a researcher at the Africa Research Institute in London. He holds an MA in history from University of Edinburgh and an MSc in African politics from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). He is interested in how informal structures leverage political power and has worked on these themes in Uganda, Ghana and Sierra Leone. He has written for the Daily Maverick, World Politics Review and Africa is a Country.



Living on the frontline

Living on the frontline

Anti-eviction protests in the Otodo Gbame community in Lagos, Nigeria during 2016. Photo: Justice and Empowerment Initiative

Development efforts by local authorities in a bid to deal with urbanisation have increased incidences of forced evictions, sometimes with deadly consequences