AU 50th Anniversary:Transparency vital to improving Africa’s progress

Posted on May 22, 2013 10:16 pm

Branded as hopeless over a decade ago by the Economist magazine, African has come a long way. Openness and transparency in governing processes can counteract questionable decision-making but unfortunately that rarely happens in Africa. This weekend the continent political establishment will be in Addis Ababa to mark the 50th anniversary of African Union formerly known as Organization of African union. Despite the promising indicators, corruption, misuse of funds, and dirty political business links are some of the bottlenecks holding back the continent. Those lucky to have been to Africa, knows all too well that independent newspapers always run corruption news and are all well documented at every level of government and other institutions. Dirty dealings have shamed many African institutions and political parties like Africa National Congress in South Africa.

There are clear ways of tackling endemic and deep-rooted problems that continues to drag the continent development agenda. African countries are young and evolving democracies that will continue to experience the growing pains of building democratic societies and developing good governance practices. One of the most important qualities of African countries is a free media bearing in mind the merciless repression it has endured in countries like Somalia, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Zimbabwe to mention a few. In countries like Kenya, Zambia, South Africa Uganda, Tanzania where the media freedom is well enjoyed, the vibrant media publications often uncovers tales of corruption. Though far from perfect, institutions and societies have come a long way in this continent. Dishonesty and lack of transparency in governance has led to so many African’s loss of trust in government and the public sector that largely remain the main source of employment across the continent.

In countries like Australia and Finland, openness has promoted accountability and efficiency in government, and most importantly has built trust between the government and the people, giving Finns and Australians the tools and information to hold government to account but such remains a dream for many Africans. Any country in need of achieving first world status, openness and transparency are critical for a 21st century democracy to function and society to thrive. African governments and public sector need to conduct business in a manner that enables them to supply the public with as much information as possible about their decisions, and the processes that lead to them. Public must have clear, accurate and updated information about laws and regulations in their respective countries. Public engagement and dialogue is a key strength of a modern democracy, improving effectiveness and responsiveness and personally I find fundamental to African governments keeping tabs with the people. Africans must play part in decision making process, give their feedback on legislation, voice their concerns over issues and shape policies that will drive the continent’s development agenda this century.

Africa has a socially engaged and media-savvy population on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube are part of everyday life as South Africans and Kenyans have proved. Government institutions, generating public interest is easy, but using social media platforms effectively is the challenge. Openness will not only help improve the economies of African countries but will also threaten entrenched norms of corruption as well as shady business and government practices that have dogged the continent for the past fifty years. African Union should therefore encourage open government that reduces corruption, improves efficiency and increases responsiveness and can improve African’s everyday lives. Happy 50th anniversary Africa!

Contador Harrison