Corruption is the ‘Engine to Anti-Democratic Environment in Africa’, Says Liberia’s VP Jewel Taylor
Kigali, Rwanda – Liberia’s Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor says evidence after evidence across Africa confirms that corruption is the engine to an anti-democratic environment, characterized by lack of trust, uncertainty, unpredictability, declining moral values and disrespect for constitutional institutions and authority.
Speaking at the 2019 Sustainable Development Goals(SDG’s) Implementation in Africa meeting at the Kigali Convention Center in Rwanda at the weekend, VP Taylor said there is no other way to consider the new paradigms needed to solve critical issues unless countries build the necessary governance platforms , which then forms the basis for the critical evaluation of how to implement the new paradigm shifts needed for the proper combination needed to finance and achieve the SDG’s.
“Sadly, evidence from across Africa confirms that corruption is the engine to an anti-democratic environment, characterized by lack of trust, uncertainty, unpredictability, declining moral values and disrespect for constitutional institutions and authority.”Jewel Howard Taylor, Vice President, Republic of Liberia
The SDGs range from poverty eradication, assuring food security, health and wellbeing, clean water and sanitation, gender equality, fighting climate change, good quality education and reduction of inequality.
The VP’s comments in Kigali was her first public appearance since the controversy surrounding her failure to receive the petition from organizers of the June 7 protest in Monrovia.
The conference was organized by the Centre for Sustainable Development Goals in Africa, which is also based in Rwanda’s capital, Kigali. The three-day event was to launch a report on progress of the SDGs, after three years.
VP Taylor recognize the efforts of President George Manneh Weah, who is a member of the Board of SDG Africa clothed with the responsibility to open the first West African SDG Center this year. A project, she says the Weah-led government is assiduously working on. “Please accept HIS apology for being unable to be here today. His Excellency has asked me to represent him at this Forum.”
Turning Tragedies into Successes
During her speech, in the presence of President Paul Kagame, VP Taylor paid homage to East African nation for turning its tragedy of war into success. “As a Pan Africanist, my heart skips a beat every time the name RWANDA is mentioned. For it is a glaring reminder, that all African Nations have the same capacity to turn stories of tragedies into successes and muster the political will to transform their Nations for the betterment of All their people,” the Liberian VP said.
VP Taylor said if this is done, there should be no more long or sad stories about the “woes of Africa and whether or not the continent’s abundant resources are a blessing or a curse. Instead, she averred, there should be more and more success stories which show the unlimited possibilities firstly of our great African heritage and secondly, the commitment of national leaders to leave that which has been given to us better than the way it was given.
Added VP Taylor: “If only each of us can manifest this simple truism, in every sphere of our National lives, the topic for our discussion would indeed be different.”
“So long as we in Africa understand that it is within our power to achieve these goals, we are going to be fine. It is not going to happen by accident. We have to do the right things, and find the money to pay for it, including investing in national statistics agencies.”Paul Kagama, President of Rwanda
The Liberian VP prayed that those who have been privileged to stand in positions of trust, would begin in earnest to use their vantage points, political will and unlimited resources located in every African Nation for the transformation needed to change the lives of our people for the better. “Keeping in mind that they deserve no less than the best. So that sooner, rather than later, each African Nation will be viewed as the WORLD views success stories like Rwanda, Ghana and Botswana; thus, making it imperative for those nations who are lagging behind to strive to improve the living condition of their people and fulfill their long-awaited hopes and aspirations.”
VP Taylor said since 2000, Africa has made a lot of progress but more needs to be done as many countries across the continent are still far behind in their commitment to working to achieve the MDG’s and subsequently the SDG’s. “As a result, across the Continent there is dire poverty, a sense of hopelessness, despair amongst the youth, huge levels of illiteracy and mortality due to poorly functioning health and education systems; and to make things worse, most African Nations are unable to feed their people. It is this prevailing situation and the urgent need to begin to do something about it, which brings us here.”
Thankfully, she stated that the passion behind the drive of the SDG’s is to see “THE LEAVE NO ONE BEHIND POLICY “ become a reality with full-fledged results materializing in the quality of lives of People not just in a few places; but across our Continent . “What makes this program a life line and one of the best options for National Governance Systems, is that the SDGs emphasize not just the opportunities to lift people to a better standard of living, but it also provides opportunities for prosperity.”
Sadly, VP Taylor continued, at the current pace of development, African Nations remain at a high risk of being unable to realizing these aspirations. “Especially when one considers that Africa is a youthful continent – with 40% of the population below the age of 15 years and approximately 33 million babies born every year. Further still, Africa remains the only region without demographic transition and as a result limits social economic transformation on a greater scale. This scenario shows that population growth will continue to undermine Social economic progression as reflected in the stagnation of the SDG results.”
Laundry List of Aspirations
She cited a glaring example, the poverty rate reduction over the past two decades has not translated to a reduction in the number of poor people on the continent. In order to change this trajectory, she said, African leaders must consider which priorities to prioritize. “The matrix contained in the SDG’s, gives a laundry list of what is the optimum aspiration. But it is clear, that in order to reach this optimum level, one must begin at areas most important first for survival. As a result, I hope you will consider the perspective of the African SDG program that the survival and prosperity of our people depend, firstly in agreeing that the basic needs which should form our priorities are health, education and agriculture.”
Once this decision is taken, she said, nations can begin considering ways to plan, finance and implement programs under these sectors which directly impact and improve the lives of our people. “Though all SDGs matter – some have stronger synergies, better tradeoffs and higher correlation with other goals. These areas are most directly related to SDGs 2, 3 and 4 and are identified as “game changing” and “key levers” for the rapid development necessary for SDG achievement and African transformation.”
She stressed the need for governments to restructure national budgets to reflect direct financing for SDG priorities; reduce recurrent expenditures and wasteful spending; and increase expenditure in relevant sector areas. This she said will create new funding for social protection measures that target disadvantaged groups ; and creates greater capacity to achieve SDG’s benchmarks.
Additionally, she added that governments must strengthen revenue administration thru better enforcement and policy regimes (e.g. revised tax regimes); creating avenues for increasing the revenue base thru ICT opportunities which would provide incentives for new and off grid businesses to come online; Creating avenues for investments in non- traditional business opportunities (ie. Agro-businesses, Culture and Tourism); Putting in place creative and innovative ways for the industrialization and processing of natural resources, thus diversifying economies, creating wealth and building new tax bases.
The VP explained that opening up the governance space for the inclusion of innovative youth driven ideas and capacities would create new cross cutting innovative solutions, programs and businesses, which provides inclusiveness and further increases the revenue base.
She also recommended support for inclusive social growth initiatives for the creation of small businesses which provide job opportunities targeting the youth and other disadvantaged groups. And providing funds for support to social programs, industrial action plans, promotion of agriculture and rural development, skills and training initiatives and investing in housing and municipal services which are aimed at building prosperity ,equity and broadening economic participation.
The Liberian VP pointed to statistics from the continent showing an enduring trend of a food insecurity paradox, with nearly 1 in 3 Africans at risk of starvation. Thus, she added, there is an increased vulnerability to the climatic and weather conditions, which were not previously a regular part of the African weather pattern, but is now becoming a regular phenomenon, such as El Niño related droughts. “To make things worse, agriculture production in Africa is centered on exports for foreign consumption and not food security which predominantly depend on rain-fed subsistence farming that is affected by unreliable, unpredictable and erratic rainfall patterns. Thus, leaving the continent under a persistent threat of hunger. Thus, making it difficult to achieve SDG priority two which is to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.”
Low Scores for Health, Education
VP Taylor lamented glaring similarities in the health and education sectors reporting very low scores, automatically manifesting into low life productivity and low life expectancy . This, she said, reflects a very disturbing paradox which if not arrested, will make the next several generations of Africans unable to survive or be adequately prepared to deal with the challenges they will face. “This paradox is that most African countries boast of more children being in school, the large numbers look great; but truthfully, a majority of those children unfortunately cannot read and write at expected levels because of the associated very poor quality of the educational system. So, while African Nations boast of their enrollment numbers, the quality and completion rates have stagnated or continue a downward trend. The situation is even worse for the girl child – who risks ending up as sex workers, child brides or being denied opportunities to go to school because the parents are unable to afford same.”
VP Taylor said the negative trend also exists in the health sector, where there are high rates of HIV/AIDS, Maternal Mortality, Regular Instances of Ebola and TB. “There are also high rates of death from MALARIA and other childhood diseases because most Africans do not seek health services because they simply cannot afford the point of service payments. To further compound this dire situation, most African Nations faced with difficult Per capita spending choices currently show a constant decline in allocations for education, health and agriculture. These facts show that Africa is off track on social inclusion goals, which make it unlikely that they will meet targeted goals by 2030.”
VP Taylor went on to stress the importance of financing in tackling some of the challenges. “As we consider solutions for these issues, let us note that it is no longer a secret that the financing needed for sustainable development goals in Africa remain far below the expected amount necessary to meet 2030 targets.”
Kagame: Self-Confidence Key
She said Africa’s current additional financial needs per annum are much lower than it receives collectively from both internal and external sources. “There is therefore a financing gap too large to fill, if left to the continent but relatively small when compared to available global resources. If one looks at Official development flows to Africa, they have either grown marginally, remained stagnant and in some instances have drastically declined. There is increased pressure on annual available allocations between funds for infrastructure development and much needed social development initiatives . Resulting in a steep decline in social sector spending and a reversal of the social inclusion progress.”
President Kagame said measuring Africa’s performance globally, is an advantage. “In my view, it is preferable for Africa to aim high, even it takes longer to get there than aim low, and congratulate ourselves for doing the minimum”.
The Rwandan President He sees self-confidence as one of the keys to success, “so long as we in Africa understand that it is within our power to achieve these goals, we are going to be fine”. He however added, “it is not going to happen by accident. We have to do the right things, and find the money to pay for it, including investing in national statistics agencies.”