BLOG| To live the African dream is to achieve the global goals on sustainable development

Aug 1, 2016

Woman working in the field in South Sudan.

By Frederick Mugisha 

When a young citizen of the African continent hears of the American Dream, he or she wonders whether there is such a thing as the African Dream. This young person could be from any part of the continent. He or she could be from South Sudan, which continues to experience conflict; or from Botswana, which is a middle income country; or from Nigeria, which is the largest economy on the continent; or Libya, struggling to get back on its feet.

The young citizen is right to wonder. An African Dream does exist, I see one major difference. While the American Dream has been lived – by citizens, government, the private sector, non-state actors, and development partners – with much vigor transferring it from generation to generation, we cannot say the same for the African Dream. At least not in equal measure and not yet in our lifetimes.

I want to share with you what I have come to understand as the African Dream. It arises out of the vision of “an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena.”

When Africa provides a common position on the global goals for Sustainable Development, it is a dynamic force in the global arena. When Africa issues an African Passport – as was launched at the 27th African Summit in Kigali, Rwanda on 17th July 2016, it is enabling the citizens of the continent to integrate. These are examples of how the African governments continue to live, and are enabling others to live, the African Dream.

When the private sector works across the continent to connect citizens, it empowers citizens through gainful work directly as well as indirectly – and they in turn can live and enable others to live the African Dream. Examples that come to mind are the banks (e.g. Standard Bank, Bank of Africa), airlines (e.g. Kenya, Ethiopia, South Africa, and Rwanda) and telephone companies (e.g. MTN, Airtel).

When citizens work outside of their own countries in the continent and those that advance the pan-African agenda year-in-year-out irrespective of whether they are Africans, they live and enable others to live the African Dream.

When partners in development empower citizens and help build resilient nations, they live and enable others to live the African Dream. When these institutions and partners provide solutions to challenges of funding, communication, or knowledge, they live and enable others to live the African Dream.

That is the way I have come to understand the pursuit of the African Dream, even if it may not be articulated as such. Each one – citizen, government, private sector, non-state actors, and partners in development -- is able to live and enable others to live the African Dream, if they so choose to devote their energy to productive pursuits.

So the question is, how is it possible that when you live the African Dream, you help achieve the global goals on Sustainable Development? It is because the global goals on sustainable development are about transforming our world to make it a better place for everyone. When you do your part and achieve your own African Dream, and your fellow citizens of other continents do theirs, then the global goals are as good as achieved.

Frederick Mugisha works with the United Nations Development Programme in the Regional Bureau for Africa as an Economics Advisor.

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