I am glad to be here for the launch of this partnership between the African Presidential Leadership Center and the University of Mpumalanga.
As you may know , I was an African-leader- in residence at the African Presidential Center in Boston. One of the things Charles I talked about when I was in Boston was about the possibility of such a Center being launched on the continent of Africa. I am glad that day has finally come.
Now that the Southern African region is covered, let me go on record, and say I look forward to us launching such a Center in Kenya to cover the East African region.
My residency provided many rich opportunities to engage with young people, not only in Boston but all across America. It was an opportunity to not only meet Americans, but also Africans in the Diaspora. It was also an opportunity to reflect on Africa from outside, looking in.
Each occasion was a unique and special opportunity. The opportunity to learn first hand about the dreams and aspirations of the next generation was something I found profoundly meaningful. Likewise, to be able to share with those next generational leaders how their aspirations are anchored in my generation’s hopes and dreams for them was something they found of value as well. Just as my generation built on the foundation of leaders like Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, Jomo Kenyatta, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere and Kwame Nkrumah, among others.
The next generation of leaders will build, and should build on the expanded foundation laid by my generation. That is as it should be. This Center, and those that will come later, will ensure that generational continuity.
The center comes at a moment of great promise and equally great promise. On the promise side, the Continent is reaping the democracy dividend that has resulted in six of the world’s ten fastest-growing countries being in Africa. This is monumental leap considering that from 1974 through the mid-1990s, Africa’s growth was negative, reaching negative 1.5 percent in 1990-94.
On the peril side, Africa is beginning to send mixed signals on democracy and governance, with our march to democracy increasingly getting fragile and contestable.
We have seen bright spots with regard to democratization emerge in Nigeria, Ghana and Ivory Coast among a few other formerly troubled nations. We are proud of their progress and pray for their success in the hope that they can pull up the rest of the Continent.
But as Nigeria, Ivory Coast and Ghana rise, some neighbours are embroiled in old troubles. In March 2012, Mali underwent a military coup. Although Mali is back from the brink, it is not yet the country that was once listed among those spearheading Africa’s renaissance.
In 2014, Blaise Compaoré was forced out after 27 years at the helm of Burkina Faso through a citizen’s protest dubbed Balai Citoyen (Citizen’s Broom). Kenya erupted in 2007.
Many countries are revising their constitutions to remove presidential term limits with the quests for extensions often couched in a language that portrays a leader’s desire for more time in office as a response to popular demands. The spectre of presidents for life looms large again as we set up this centre. The more reason I believe Africa needs this centre. In the 21st Century, Africa needs to nurture strong institutions, not strong men.
I see this centre playing that role.
Madame Vice Chancellor and my brother Charles, this collaboration is therefore critically important and I am glad to be here today for this historic occasion. I look forward to participating in the Center’s programs in the years to come and, as I said earlier, I look forward to inaugurating a similar Center in the East African region. Let me extend a personal invitation for all of you to join us when we do.
Thanks for inviting me for this launch event.