Less than three years to the envisaged realization of targets of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a group of key stakeholders in Africa recently met in Cape Town, South Africa, to review the gains of the continent from the scheme.
At the two-day policy research seminar entitled, ‘Achieving the Development Goals (MDGs) in Africa,’ the Executive Director of Canadian Institute for Development Research and Strategic Studies on Africa, Montreal, Canada and Chief Executive Officer, Congolese Institute for Development Research, Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Prof. Mbaya Justin Kankwenda, was at the forefront of those who called for a new developmental initiative for African growth vision and future.
Kankwenda, a former Resident Representative, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and UN Resident Coordinator in Nigeria and Burkina Faso, presented the keynote address. He shocked participants at the seminar as he asserted that due to the manifest limitations and inadequacies of the MDGs, including the uneven achievements recorded in countries and regions of Africa, the continent must revisit the entire architecture of the agenda to reflect Africa’s experience and future.
In an interview with The Guardian’s BOLA OLAJUWON, he defended why he took such a drastic position despite being a former top official of the UN.
On his appraisal of current MDGs
WE are invited here by the Centre for Conflict Resolution to look at the MDGs as a global development agenda, progress that has been achieved in implementing this agenda – the MDGs development agenda and the strengths and weaknesses of this agenda as far as Africa is concerned as well as the failure and prospects at a time when the UN family and the international community is in the process of designing or looking at post-2015 agenda.
This morning when I was delivering the keynote address, my first point was very normal basic question. I asked, ‘if Africa were to achieve the seven MDGs – since the eighth is basically a goal for the donor community – can we frankly say that Africa then will become a developed country?’ Everybody in the room said no. Therefore, if our experience of MDGs, from the African perspective, concludes that achieving the MDGs does not transform Africa to become a developed country, I conclude we were not on the right track when it comes to building the Africa of tomorrow.
In building Africa of tomorrow, we need to have a vision and to define our dream for our continent, the certain transformation that it requires and to see how not only we can achieve the eight MDGs but redefine the MDGs to fit into such strategy to implement our vision, with the social transformation we need. So, my message this morning was not only to analyse the MDGs, how it came into Africa. Afterall, the UN has been doing a lot for Africa – championing a number of development initiatives for Africa. But this is a new shift which is not specifically designed for Africa but for developing world as a whole. We called it MDGs. We are certainly in the same boat, changing the name and changing the concept. But it is a way to get African leaders to believe that it is a common feature for the world. And this common feature is within the creed of globalisation system.
And they think that we can achieve these MDGs, which are about the social consequences of past and ongoing international policies. The eighth MDG questions this strategy. How can we then just address the consequences and not the root causes? So, Africa must first of all get out of that.
The other scenario is the process of looking at the post-2015 agenda. One is to keep maintaining the eighth MDGs the way they are, saying that for we in Africa the whole international community has invested so much in designing this MDGs, and that we need more time.
Since the continent or countries are making progress. If Africa is lagging behind, let us give them time to achieve them. We hope that they will achieve it. The second scenario is to reformulate the MDGs, taking into account the new international context. Let us reform the MDGs to have the MDGs-plus. That also means that we do not address the root causes of our problems. So, we continue to access the social consequences. We may even come out with not eighth MDGs but with 10th MGDs. Even with that too, we are not out of our situations. I then said no. Since everybody agreed that we might not achieve the eighth MDGs even the 10th MDGs, we just continue to address the social consequences not the causes.
The third scenario is not to maintain or reformulate but to revise the whole architecture. And I have been preaching this morning for this third scenario. If the MDGS is only dealing with the social consequences but not necessarily the root causes, first let us design the Africa of our dream. NEPAD has been a way of telling donors let us build a new partnership. But a new partnership around what? What kind of dream for Africa. That is not in the NEPAD. Let us come up with other institution to build our vision of Africa of tomorrow. Not only through the way we want it to become, but also interms of its voice, its place on the international chessboard. What Africa do we want to be? Let us think on that, not as leaders but in a consensual way. In a consensual approach with all the development partners, that include the civil society. It should be part of the process, the dream of this Africa’s future. With the private sector, let us sit together and think. But to achieve this, we need leaders who can listen to us, who can sit with us. Who can give us a voice to say something? The decision-makers too have to listen to us. They have to associate with us. The new approach has to have an inclusive process. Secondly, to have a vision, a dream of Africa of tomorrow, what are the requirements, what are the prerequisite in terms of political, economic and social dimension of it?
Number three, how do we operationalise that? Who are the actors, who can be associated with? It is not just going to be a dream, hoping that this will happen with the support of some goodwill from donors. It is only on that basis that we have to address the root causes.
Therefore, the way the MDGs are designed now, we are just somewhere ahead and we are not touching the root causes.
On how idea of globalisation destroys Africa
Globalisation is not only an idea, it is the current situation. The world economy is under the leadership of some big countries and transnational companies. It has been like that during the colonial period. Now, it is a reality. We are involved. We have embarked on this new ship. Liberal globalisation, which is not the liberal one. The market-led liberalsation. We have embarked on this ship and then, our leaders thought it is the right way. Not only they think, but they are the driving force for the liberalisation. Our leaders are tied and are ready to tie, to accept our country and economy through this. We need to stop one day and to say look, where are we coming from? What are we aiming at? We need one day to stop and question the ship and the direction. And those leading forces are the kingmakers – all of them get positions in one way or the other. So, they don’t question the way Africa has boarded on the ship and they don’t question the direction of the ship.
Therefore, African media, social movement think-tanks and other forces – political, economic and socio-cultural forces – have to stop one day and say, ‘look where are we going? Where are we coming from? What lessons have we learnt from where we are coming from? Are we really on the right track?’ Taking into consideration our dreams of what we want to become on the world chessboard. Our people’s expectations and their hopes. Let us question that. Our leaders have not been able to do that. Because they are people who are products of some external kingmakers. Let us have genuine kingmakers.
We have another role to play. And this is to create a political developmental leadership that is committed to Africa, to its people. If Africa has to implement any vision which is a developmental one, it has not to maintain, not to reformulate, but to revise the whole MDGs architecture for the post-2015 global development Agenda. Not only to say it, but to come up with concrete proposals. We are ready to do it with the CCR and other African development think-tanks, we can get together. Not necessarily through a meeting, but we can get together through different ways.”
Originally published in the Guardian Nigeria on 26th August, 2013