By: Professor Alhagi Manta Drammeh (Fellow Higher Education Academy FHEA and Fellow Royal Society of Arts, FRSA UK)
As a young student in Asia attending a seminar 20 years ago, I was struck by a statement of my colleague who said that Africa is a giant. A participant in the attendance taunted that Africa is a sleeping giant. This has made me interested to know the political and socio-cultural complexities of Africa. Recently, someone asked me why Africa is poor as if Africa was one village or country. African leaders have a lot of image making to do. The world media is bombarded with negative reporting on Africa. What is shown on out tv screens is poverty, hunger, drought, ignorance, starvation and barbarity unfortunately. Africa is the richest continent but at the same time the poorest. What a contradiction!
What we are witnessing in Africa today is both inspiring and encouraging. It has shattered the myth that Africa is doomed to failure and stagnation. Africa, I think is going through a silent revolutionary transformation from the East to the West and from the South to the North of the Continent. Some refer to this positive change as the African renaissance meaning the continent will surmount the challenges it is currently faced with, and achieve scientific, economic, technological and cultural renewal. This is first and foremost contingent on good leadership ready to be inclusive and open to divergent opinions. It is heartening to note that recently positive changes have taken place so far as leadership is concerned in some parts of Africa. With the coming to power in Senegal, Maître Aboulie Wade of Senegal initiated positive changes politically, economically and legally. This was following a fair and free in which he won against Abdou Diouf. Now President Mackey Salle is consolidating those efforts by his predecessors internally and externally. Internally, President Salle has embarked upon building the Senegalese physical and human infrastructures in order mordernise Senegal an attract foreign investors. Externally, Salle is making efforts to forge bilateral relations with new allies in Africa, Europe and beyond. His international standing is becoming increasingly recognized. We hope Salle will continue his reform agenda and should always tray to have a national consensus around his policies. In 2016 the Gambians were able to end 22 years of dictatorship and tyranny. This has created a goodwill and momentum for the Gambia if capitalised on, the country can be on the path of recovery, rehabilitation and healing. With good governance and financial development, the Gambia can easily move forward and end the self-imposed isolation of the former regime. I hope the new government under Barrow will create an enabling environment for investment. There is a need to restructure the civil service and bring back sanity and probity into the system, as well as discipline. Mali, Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone and Liberia to name only a few are all experiencing form democraitisation and nation-building after years of stagnation and civil strife. They have learnt that countries do not progress based on tribalism and ethno-linguistic lines. They have realised that war is a zero-sum game. There is no winner in wars. All are losers. Negotiation and conversation are the way forward. This pragmatic realistaion is transforming Africa positively. Nigeria the powerhouse of west Africa if not Africa is witnessing positive changes in both the economy and governance. With this transformation, Africa should not allow dictatorship again. The voice of the voiceless should be heard. The momentum in the Gambia has continue by ensuring that the collation agenda is not forgotten. The Government should embark upon its reform agenda and ensure that there is genuinely separation of powers. Let there be divergent views and constructive criticism. We hope that the President Mr. Barro will surround himself with able advisors regardless of political persuasions and ethnic backgrounds. No doubt, the new administration should tap into Gambian talents for the nation-building. I believe that with determination and commitment the Gambia can be transformed remarkably.