This past Friday was the penultimate day of a virtual continental conference where young Africans dialogued on most matters liberal. This is an exciting annual jamboree of incisive intellectual discourse on how liberalism transforms African lives to a state of undisputable individual happiness, through free market induced prosperity. As expected, I made a presentation on why, if so, democracy has failed in Africa. For me, really, it is a case of why African nationalists have utterly failed democracy.
Our brand – African that is – of democracy catapults into positions of critical political governance a bunch of heartless cowboys with no morsel of interest in advancing the cause of national prosperity. The very reason I insist it is a failure of those we elect into office. How is it that the electoral system, or even the so-called ‘democratic, multi-party constitutions’ produce dysfunctional, autocratic despots in the first place? Is it a failure of the system or we Africans just cannot implement what we commit ourselves to?
Young Africans may understand my point this way. The Nokia 2010 I adored in 1998, even if I so desire, is no longer compatible with the 5G operational 2020-tech zone.
The answer lies in innovation. Listen carefully, or rather read in between the lines as self-righteous, self-entitled narcissist African despots speak. “This whole nonsense that democracy fails in Africa is propagated by holier-than-thou imperialists who want to impose Western-type democracy on us.” Put in another way, African despots want us to believe that by merely being elected with a ‘majority’ every five years – never mind how perverted and captured the electoral process is – the free world should just accept them as ‘democratically elected leaders of Africa’.
I am not going to waste your valuable Sunday time with semantic or ideological buffoonery. My interest revolves around what role young Africans have in re-defining the essence of African democracy. Let me put it this way, the ‘democracy’ that Kwame Nkrumah, Julius Nyerere, Kenneth Kaunda, Samora Machel, Kamuzu Banda, Nelson Mandela, Jomo Kenyatta, Thomas Sankara, Seretse Khama, Sam Nunjoma, Robert Mugabe, even Emmerson Mnangagwa, and Paul Kagame (have) had in mind is akin to obsolete software.
Young Africans may understand my point this way. The Nokia 2010 I adored in 1998, even if I so desire, is no longer compatible with the 5G operational 2020-tech zone. This equally applies to my beloved red, 140Y Datsun I bragged of at that time. Obsolete. Archaic.
Thus it is with political governance systems – even liberal democracy – a must need to innovate from generation to generation. Funny enough, nationalist African despots are the first to settle for the latest presidential limos from Germany, yet comfortable with obsolete constitutional systems that produce disputed outcomes and telescopic presidential terms. This anomaly presents a great opportunity for young Africans to initiate governance start-ups – democratic e-Techs that define new frontiers of freedom. The ‘intel inside’, the motherboard is already predefined. No need to agonize over key components. The consensus is around one of the most important elements of human existence, the principle of individual freedom.
Rejoice Ngwenya is the director of Coalition for Market and Liberal Solutions. He writes from Ruwa, Zimbabwe.