Experts discuss African leadership

Masana Ndinga-Kanga at the Africa Day symposium.

Social economic justice must be prioritised if South Africa is to achieve social cohesion.

That was one of the key messages that come out of UCT’s Africa Month Public Symposium, held at the Baxter Theatre on Friday May 10.

Among other things, it looked at the role of young African leaders in Pan-Africanism, regional integration, transformation, shared African values, the free movement of people, as well as youth and business innovation in the fourth industrial revolution.

Masana Ndinga-Kanga, from international non-profit organisation Civicus, said the country could not have social cohesion without social economic justice.

“This is where the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) went wrong – it viewed social cohesion as a means by which social economic justice can be achieved,” she said.

“South Africa is the number one lesson of the failures of the transformative agenda,” she said.

Ms Ndinga-Kanga said she believed in Pan-Africanism – the belief that people of African descent have common interests and should be unified.

UCT alumni and founder of Makeka Design Lab, Mokena Makeka, posed the question: “What is it that makes us African?”

He said: “This is a very difficult question – is African merely an accident of where you were born or is it actually a political decision. If you talk about a Pan-African citizenry, surely it must be greater than something of colour?”

Mr Makeka said it was easy to fall back into what we know – the rubric of nationalism, because of our inability to answer the question. “Nationalism is dangerous, at best, and, at its worst, it’s possibly the worst thing we as Africans can have.”

It was up to the youth of today and future generations to re-imagine and redefine what it meant to be African, he said.

“There are a lot of assumptions of what it means, and this needs to be challenged. Previous political leaders took this in a very literal way,” said Mr Makeka.

The symposium included speakers and leaders from across the continent and UCT such as Professor Eddy Maloka, CEO of the African Peer Review Mechanism and UCT’s president of Convocation; Rendani Mamphiswana, member of the Presidential Commission on the Fourth Industrial Revolution; and Dr Siphokazi Magadla, senior lecturer at Rhodes University.

Several events will take place at UCT in the run-up to Africa Day, held this Saturday May 25 to mark the founding of the Organisation of African Unity in 1963, which became the African Union in July 2002.

UCT vice-chancellor Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng said that while UCT was a melting pot of cultures with a diverse student body, it needed to be more representative of the country.

“We don’t only want to be best in Africa, but best for Africa by doing excellent research with impact for the benefit of Africa and Africans. We are also part of a country with one of the most unequal human populations. This vantage point elevates the importance of our university in researching questions that are critical to the development of the continent in a wide array of fields such as marine sciences, astronomy, biodiversity, climate change, and poverty and inequality,” she said.