The president of Africa Growth Solutions, Mr. Akwasi Opong-Fosu, has indicated that good governance and ethical leadership dexterities are engines for Africa to actualize its growth potential as a continent.
This year’s US-Africa Trade and Investment Conference was held in Miami, Florida, under the theme “The Diaspora: Accelerating US-Africa, Investment, and Technological Innovation.” Mr. Opong-Fosu, a renowned expert on governance and a former minister of state, disclosed that the connection between good governance, ethics, and free and fair elections is a key pointer that promotes trade, investment, and development in Africa.
Mr. Opong-Fosu expressed the hope that the conference would foster strong collaborations and encourage all stakeholders in sub-Saharan Africa to promote corporate governance and ethical leadership to build a more resilient economy so as to attract investors into the soil of Africa.
Speaking on the topic of ethics, elections, and good governance, he pointed out a number of measures to be undertaken to address the challenges that retard Africa’s progress, which include the equitable distribution of wealth, respect for human rights, the safety and protection of people and property, and more importantly, the accountability of institutions such as the judiciary and the electoral system.
This year’s US-Africa Trade and Investment Conference was held in Miami, Florida. The conference was an extraordinary platform for engaging dialogue, fostering cooperation, and exploring innovative strategies for advancing economic growth and sustainable development in Africa.
Read below what Mr. Akwasi Opong-Fosu said at the conference.
US-AFRICA TRADE AND INVESTMENT CONFERENCE AT THE DOUBLETREE HOTEL AND CONVENTION CENTER, MIAMI, FLORIDA
SESSION ON ETHICS, ELECTIONS, AND GOOD GOVERNANCE:
AKWASI OPONG-FOSU, PRESIDENT, AFRICA GROWTH SOLUTIONS, MAKES AN INITIAL STATEMENT
Let me first and foremost thank the Foundation for Democracy in Africa for the kind invitation extended to me to participate in this year’s US-Africa Trade and Investment Conference/Expo, dubbed AfriCANDO 2023. I understand that this is the 24th edition, and the theme, “The Diaspora: Accelerating US-Africa, Investment, and Technological Innovation,” comprises the following sessions:
• Special Purpose Investment Fund for Africa
• Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprise Development
• E-Commerce and Branding
• Technological Innovation, Manufacturing, and Industrialization
• The future is now for diasporan investment and engagement.
• Peace, Security, and Stability in Africa
• Ethics, Elections, and Good Governance
I dare say that the theme and the sessions that are derived from it are very relevant and appropriate for these times when Africa is striving to find ways of actualizing its growth potential as a continent.
It is therefore my pleasure and privilege to be given the opportunity to kick-start the conversation with this opening statement.
I begin by posing two key questions to stimulate our conversation.
• What is the connection between good governance, ethics, and elections?
• To what extent does good governance promote trade, investment, and development?
It is now axiomatic to say that good governance is conceptualized as the management of the interactions between state actors (elected representatives, bureaucrats, and technocrats) and non-state actors (civil society, private sector, media, academia, and citizens in their generality and individuality) in policy-making. Policies that are formulated as a result of these interactions are expected to lead to the following, among others:
a. the equitable distribution of wealth;
b. respect for human rights;
c. the safety and protection of the person and property; and
d. very importantly, the building of open, transparent, and accountable institutions such as the judiciary and electoral systems.
To sum it all up, it is fair to say that good governance is a sine qua non for the promotion of social and political stability, which is a necessary precondition for attracting investments that can ultimately lead to economic growth and sustainable development.
With the advent of representative democracy, in which the elected representatives of the people are given executive and legislative functions, elections have become the cornerstone of democracy, and how well they are conducted and get accepted by the people is central to effective democratic governance.
The importance of elections is that they are the process by which the people select their political leaders, who have oversight responsibility over non-political public servants, institutions, and policy-making. Importantly, therefore, elections can only fulfill this critical function if they are free, fair, and transparent. Compromised elections are a recipe for misgovernance.
Unregulated Funding of Political Parties: A Challenge to Free, Fair, and Transparent Elections—The Issue of Ethics in Governance
One major challenge to free, fair, and transparent elections, which ultimately poses the threat of undermining good governance, is the unregulated funding of political party activities, including campaigns. This is because such funding essentially introduces the issue of ethics (values, principles, and rules that guide behavior and institutions), or the lack of it, into elections.
As it is said, “he who pays the piper calls the tunes.” Party political funding therefore presents a situation in which party financiers stand in the position to determine the controlling minds of the political party they are funding and therefore ultimately the leaderships that the elected politicians appoint to head public or state institutions within the governance system, including even those institutions that should serve as arbiters and guard posts against mis-governance in the governance architecture.
Imagine a case example of country Z, where the only restriction imposed on political party funding is the prohibition of foreign-owned firms from sponsoring political party activities. A firm, XY Financial Services, sponsors a political party to win a presidential election and majority parliamentary seats to form a government. The founder and CEO and most of the staff are appointed to assume ministerial and other high-level positions in the financial sector of government machinery. This position is leveraged to the advantage of XY as transactional advisers in many government businesses in what has been described as unprecedented loan acquisitions and conflicts of interest that have crippled the country’s economy, which has become unattractive as an investment destination.
Again, since the financier holds the leverages of power within the political party and knows that his activities are likely to be put under the legal microscope and tested in the courts, the next line of action will be to ensure that the judiciary, which is the basis of law in the country, is either corrupted to his advantage orSince all appointments to the leadership of public or state institutions are made by politicians whose parties are funded by corrupt financiers, he will make sure that the leadership of such institutions is at his beck and call. Public and state institutions therefore lose their essence, and governance suffers.
Another major challenge to free, fair, and transparent elections is the inadequate or poor civic education of the people. Owing to this fact, the people are not easily able to see the linkage between the choices they make during the election of their representatives onto governance institutions and the conditions that their choices create for attracting trade and investment into their country and ultimately the development or lack thereof that can result therefrom.
Suggestions for resolving these problems:
The very first step is to undertake very serious civic education for the people. They should be educated in their rights and duties as citizens, the nature of the choices they have, and the possible effects of the choices available to them on the kind of development they can expect from any of the choices.
The state must make it a policy to organize free, fair, and transparent elections for the election of the people’s representatives. All efforts must be made to build ethical principles that support and promote the principles of freedom, fairness, transparency, and accountability into the very fabric of state and public institutions as well as political leadership. The attitude of “zero tolerance” for corruption and breaches of ethics and public morality should be cultivated, inculcated, and enforced. In this endeavor, the concept of whistleblowing should not only be encouraged but also inculcated in the people while structures are put in place to protect the identity and integrity of whistleblowers.
Legal and regulatory framework
There should be very clear laws, processes, and procedures on governance, as well as those regulating governance institutions. Such laws must be enforced, and there must be clearly stated penalties for breaches or non-compliance with laws, processes, and procedures.