Let academia clean up our political mess

This week, the courts slammed brakes on disgraced former South African president Jacob Zuma from contesting. Mr Zuma isn’t embarrassed by his past.

A sense of anti-climax hangs over Africa as it fights off self-inflicted problems. It’s a curious case of a people sabotaging their own success.  

Decades into independence, the top-down rule by the elite club has failed. It’s horrendous that the political scene is marred by greed and complacency. Of the world’s 28 poorest countries, 27 are in sub-Saharan Africa where the rich 10 per cent control 56 per cent of the income. But like putting lipstick on a pig, we pretend to be just fine.

This week, the courts slammed brakes on disgraced former South African president Jacob Zuma from contesting. Mr Zuma isn’t embarrassed by his past. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, a failed mutiny has added fire to a crisis waiting to detonate.

Meanwhile, the continent boasts the worst rights abusers. From Uganda, Cameroon to Equatorial Guinea, they have not only overstayed their welcome but also appointed family to key State positions. And, elections mean nothing to them. You know them.

Countries like Burkina Faso, Cameroon, South Sudan, Chad, Mali, Sudan, Nigeria, Burundi, and Ethiopia have recently witnessed severe human displacements, not forgetting Somalia.

Africa must rewrite its history. Let it make a fresh attempt at sound progress by all means. Since the political class has failed us, perhaps it’s time for an academia-led push for change.

This is why it is refreshing to see top minds gather for the 2024 Oxford-Africa forum at the University of Oxford, in the United Kingdom, to discuss Africa’s future.

Convened by the Oxford University Africa Society which I am a member, the forum started on Friday bringing together policymakers, academics, business leaders and students. Kenya’s Raila Odinga and former South African judge Kate O’Regan are among the speakers.

Themed ‘Charting Africa’s path forward: A journey of possibilities,’ the summit rally continental collective action. Mr Godwin Obaseki, Executive Governor of Nigeria’s Edo State, will speak on unlocking Africa’s potential through Public-Private Partnerships.

These discussions emphasize the untapped potential of our rich resources and talents, which can drive our prosperity. Thus far, it’s important that academic institutions pursue many more forums where Africans can turn challenges into opportunities.

Higher learning institutions should now assert their authority as key drivers of innovation. Let them tell off leaders sleeping on the job. They can collaborate with Africa’s emergent youth and civil society to hold politicians accountable. They must not spare the rod and spoil the child.

An issue that begs attention is brain drain, with the African Union saying 70,000 professionals exit Africa yearly. This exodus exacerbates the continent’s struggles, as young talents seek opportunities in the EU nations and US seen as lands of milk and honey.

We lose hundreds of youths annually who go to Europe to seek greener opportunities. The Mediterranean crossing is the deadliest route for migrants on record.

To stem this tide, universities must lead the charge for African governments to invest in viable systems—establishing good hospitals, schools, and universities, providing security, creating jobs, and ensuring food security. They must stem needless rural to urban migrations.

The optimism reflected in South African playwright Mbongeni Ngema’s 1992 song ‘Freedom is Coming’ resonates today. Change is coming someday, and it is through academia’s leadership.

Citadels of higher learning must seek new energies as architects of a new Africa that will foster environments where innovation thrives, rights are protected, leaders are accountable, and every citizen can realise their potential within their homeland.

It’s time to drive transformation through intellectual rigour and the intersection of technology with sectors like health, agriculture and manufacturing. We must rise from the ashes of political doom to achieve the prosperity we deserve.

The writer is a communications practitioner.

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