The Asantehene Otumfuo Osei Tutu II has expressed an optimistic view of Africa’s ability to overcome obstacles that lead to better democratic outcomes and engineer economic transformation of the continent. The democratic change of Governments through “constitutional means of which election is the means and not the end, has created a big space for peace and security of nations.”
He told an audience that included Members of both Houses of the British Parliament, the diplomatic community, faculty of universities and a select number of Ghanaians that included former President of that country, John Agyekum Kufuor at Westminster, London as he spoke on the topic, Africa’s Democratic Path and the Search for Economic Transformation. He explained that stability and planning for development predicated by 16 presidential and parliamentary elections in Africa alone this year is an encouraging step of consolidating peace.
Whilst expressing some optimism citing development data from Africa’s own think tanks which he said have come of age as seen in their input leading to policy enrichment, outreach programmes and sensitization, safe-guarding electoral processes with the emergence of reforms in telecommunication and associated multi-media, he spoke of how they have created a knowledge-based economy that did not exist in many parts of Africa two decades ago.
These benefits and new ways, he explained, should however lead to adjustment in thinking and a strategy of less dependence on multi-donor budget support and financing of electoral reforms and institutions as they are not permanent fixtures. The growing into middle income economies have come with withdrawal of subsidies on these and the uncertainty of shocks in the global economy itself.
Though the journey to development is on course, the challenges could be daunting as he dwelt on the dangers that South Sudan finds itself. The Asantehene also referred to infractions of politicians and their surrogates whether in Kenya where some members of their Parliament had to be arrested by the police for ethnic incitement or in Ghana where radio presenters threatened murder on the Lady Chief Justice and some Members of the judiciary.
Lord Paul Boateng of the House of Lords and of Ghanaian descent praised the Asantehene for his traditional leadership which fits finely into modernity and in particular his focus on education and agriculture. Both have served Africa well in the past without which many elite individuals including him (as a beneficiary of the Cocoa board scholarship) would not be where they were today. Unfortunately, he said, Africa’s agriculture is suffering from all fronts a situation which affects millions of dependants.
The event was also a literary fanfare which saw the launch of two books- May Their Shadows Never Shrink- Wole Soyinka and the Oxford Professorship of Poetry edited by Ivor Agyeman-Duah, a Ghanaian author and Lucy Newlyn, a professor of English Language and Literature at the University of Oxford and All the Good Things Around Us- An Anthology of African Short Stories edited by Agyeman-Duah and which was described by Dr. Augustus Casely-Hayford the British cultural historian who launched them as brewed in centuries of traditional creativity which brings together “some of our most eloquent and able voices….the imaginations to capture this moment of critical cultural shift…..”
Agyeman-Duah who described the Asantehene Otumfuo Osei Tutu II and the Nigerian Nobel Laureate Prof. Wole Soyinka (who was the Guest of Honour) as Keeper of Heritage and our Cultural Antiphonist respectively, spoke about the relevance of better economic choices in both the creation and consumption of literary arts in Africa.
Hon. Diane Abbott, Shadow Secretary of Health and MP for North Hackney and Stoke Newington who chaired the event spoke about cultural knowledge and understanding especially literature which leads to identity confidence and better economic diagnosis.
Prof. Soyinka disclosed to the audience that all is not lost in Africa notwithstanding challenges of nation-building and difficult economic situation some of which lead to violence.
He spoke about the current violence in the Delta region of Nigeria and the blowing of oil installation by some militants as an example of such economic frustration and a feeling of inequality with people who suffer most from the effect of extractive economies.
An international observatory post of which he would be involved have had preliminary discussions with President Buhuari and the leadership of the militants and that further consultation with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, Some members of the British Parliament, the Asantehene, Osei Tutu II would be pursued as an international mediation effort to help bring peace to the afflicted region..
It is some of these issues and conditions, Prof. Soyinka explained which unfortunately serve as themes on contemporary literary production in Nigeria and parts.