Achieving SDGs through sport – Episode 8
The garden of Bangui
Dr. Gilles Klein, 21 November 2017
Last Monday, we followed the commitment of two young people, a girl and a boy, who were born, live and want to stay in Africa by developing their professional activities. By their initiatives, the crushing of cereals in Chad for one and the manufacture of jerseys in Togo for the other, they show that they are much more than young people trying to improve, with strength and conviction, their conditions of daily life. I called them young SDG entrepreneurs - Sustainable Development Goals - and SDP entrepreneurs - Sport for development and peace -.
Supported by appropriate microfinance, they become true ambassadors for sustainable development, the achievement of universal goals and the 2030 United Nations program transforming the world. My travels in Africa have persuaded me that this transformation will have to start at the local level and microenterprise. This is why, in my view, Zoumki and Yaovi are authentic accelerators of development on African soil. This land needs this kind of initiative to cross the road of the informal economy and develop the micro-economic fabric of still underdeveloped countries. But their road will be long. I discovered the path that opens to them, under an arbor, at the edge of a garden in Bangui, thanks to one of those brokers of ideas who, in a short time, offers you a clear vision of a decisive question. In this case, it was the sustainable development of Africa, more generally of the less developed countries. The very one that is the stake of the universal objectives of the United Nations and the 2030 program. From the garden of Bangui I have in mind a kind of two way mirror, like that of one of the Harry Potter heroes. In Africa, there will be no economic development without peacekeeping. Conversely, there will be no lasting peace without sustainable development. Today, a long way from international meetings, it is on a visit of this garden and the sharing of the lessons that I learned that I invite you to.
Like many of my travels in Africa I obviously hold memories of a fascinating nature. On the sidelines of professional missions, I felt a great emotion flying over Kilimanjaro. The emotion is quickly tinged with concern, seeing over the years the disappearance of the snow cap that covers this summit called "sparkling mountain" by Maasai shepherds. I was able to approach within a few meters the last giraffes of West Africa, in the province of Kouré, in Niger. I had to wait patiently for one of the rare elephants of Burkina Faso, in the park W, trapped in the meanders of the Niger River. I spent a lot of time observing the power of the Congo River at the Stanley pool, between Kinshasa and Brazzaville, the vivacity of canoe pilots on the Ubangi rapids, the colonies of cattle herons on the sand banks of the Chari river. I shuddered while listening to our Burundian friends recount the story of Gustave, a crocodile nearly eight meters long, predator of lacustrine artisanal fishermen. I dreaded the sharp teeth of hippos on Lake Tanganyika.
Yet the most memorable memory of African nature comes from a Garden of Eden, a kind of earthly paradise. With a colleague, we were waiting to be received by a President of the Republic to propose a public-private partnership for the electrification of the capital and the development of agriculture. It was planned to devote part of the investment to the reconstruction of the national sports institute, in very bad shape, like that of Conakry. The project seemed beneficial to both parties. However, Africa teaches you day after day, that there is a long way to go. The more you are impatient, sometimes agitated for some, the more this continent leads you inexorably to the thickness of time and the necessary humility, two dispositions forged by its visitors. Patient we have been. We waited a week, without ever being received. As we came to understand later, this President probably had emergencies other than electricity, agriculture and sport to deal with. To wait for the hypothetical hearing, we were received by a close adviser of this high dignitary whose house was lined with a vegetable garden. Finally, the wait had consequences as pleasant as instructive.
It was a garden with this African land, whose colors range from pale ochres to the most intense reds. A garden that forgot the aridity of the Sahel to reveal the luxuriance of Central Africa. A vegetable garden in the Central African Republic, in Bangui, where everything flourished throughout the year due to generous sunshine and constant humidity. Just for the pleasure of it, let's stay for a moment in this domesticated nature of Central Africa. The garden of our host was the pantry of the family and its guests, to which the cook came to stock up. For him, the vegetable garden was a kind of permanent Sunday market at home. For the guests, each meal was a feast for both taste and health. I remember these tastes of vegetables - eggplant, banana, sweet potato, yam - but also fruits - banana, mango, pineapple, papaya, guava -. Some lunches were embellished with sporophorous mushrooms, of which the Bantu sell the daily harvest, along the roads or in the markets, while the Pygmies consume it in full.
So we were in Bangui, in mid-September 2012. Politically, it was a month after the creation of the Seleka, a coalition of political parties and rebel forces to the President of the Central African Republic and we expected he would grant us a hearing. Made up of Chadian, Libyan and Sudanese mercenaries, the coalition was of Muslim faith in a country whose population is 80% Christian. The situation was explosive, the skirmishes and conflicts between the two parties were no less. Concern continued to rise in the capital between September 2012 and Friday, March 22, 2013, when the rebels forced the last lock of the African forces north of Bangui. Determined to bring an end to the current President, the rebels of the Seleka, in a few weeks, had dissolved on the capital forcing him to flee his country. We realized afterwards that the President had other things to worry about than the electrification of the capital, the manufacture of biofertilizers and sport for youth. For an African president, sustainable peace is the first condition for sustainable development, the well-being of the people and ultimately youth sport.
At the end of that summer of 2012, I did not just enjoy vegetable production. I was going to learn in what way and how the sustainability of development is the obvious condition for the sustainability of peace. At the edge of this garden, my host taught me the conditions for lasting peace and sustainable development in Africa. His lessons were far from anecdotal as his experience was, and remains, as respectable as it is valiant. An experience as an economist specialized in rural development, a director at the African Development Bank, and a Prime minister, gave his remarks a particular consistency. Today I cannot evoke or think about my action for the African youth of the twenty-first century without referring to these lessons transmitted at the edge of the garden of Bangui. In short, sustainable peace and development are the conditions for Africa's future and the serenity of Zoumki and Yaovi, their children and grandchildren. From conversations in Bangui, I was retaining six lessons.
The first lesson is obvious: peace first! If the Sahel is the land of all dangers, Sub-Saharan Africa often remains a powder keg. For the children of Africa, there will be no conflict between the factions and the other factions of the conflict. But for my interlocutor, the resolution of religious questions is a condition of lasting peace. It would be a kind of lure that satisfies analysts whose argument lacks rigor and depth. It is an artifice that conceals the lack of sustainable development and the persistent poverty of the people.
The second joins the UN project: priority to development provided it is sustainable! In the Bangui talks, the major issue was not peacekeeping, thanks to these military or police actions undertaken by the United Nations and its Department of Peacekeeping Operations in response to a regional crisis. It is more the guarantee of the sustainability of peace that was at the center of Bangui's conversations. In the Central African Republic or in other countries of sub-Saharan Africa, peace can only be sustained if sustainable development is triggered. In a way, there is no lasting peace without sustainable development, without education and training, without jobs for youth, without health and well-being for African children. The observation was worth all the more for sports education or the development of sports activities. For the messenger of Bangui, there is no sustainable development without an integral approach that addresses all dimensions of the individual. Sport is not excluded because it is part of the culture and has the function of stabilizing populations.
The third lesson is the second of the universal goals: sustainable development means eradicating hunger. In developing countries, the process of ensuring the sustainability of development is well known: agricultural development, rural development, energy supply, development of communication channels and therefore job creation in all these sectors. These five projects are the pillars of sustainable development, but also the conditions for the stabilization of populations, therefore the cornerstones of a lasting peace. By agricultural development, our interlocutor did not think over mechanization by the delivery of tractors from Asia or the USA. More simply, it is about opening microfinance services that provide a set of financial products to people excluded from the traditional or formal financial system. I thought of these ladies, bent in the gardens behind the Cathedral of Bangui, busy growing or harvesting mangos, shea nuts, gum arabic, bananas, shallots, potatoes or tomatoes. A small nest egg would encourage their grouping and incorporation into a horticultural society.
But then, why does development not accelerate? Here's the fourth lesson: reliance on financial institutions does not promote sustainable development. Again and again, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, most African states are not in a position to launch such a process. They remain dependent on the global economy, the influence of the global North on the global South. They are subject to the support of the major international financial institutions set up after the Bretton Woods agreements that outlined the international financial system in 1944. In a nutshell, when the International Monetary Fund (IMF) assists the operations of the states, for example, in public service financing, the World Bank (WB) finances major infrastructure projects, such as the construction of a dam. The Bretton Woods organizations control states and seek to avoid debt outside their control.
Therefore, governments in the Global South are urged to follow the rules imposed by the global North. Conditional and demanding assistance which can lead to a halt in recruitment of civil servants or the dismissal of some of them, for reasons of economies. The restrictions required can lead to serious social unrest. In Africa, the white years are characterized by an absence of teachers at school for a large part of a school year. They are due to the non-payment of public teachers leading to an invalidation of school and university courses. At the edge of this garden, I realized that the help of the North was double-edged.
This control of the North over the South leads to the fifth lesson of sustainable development: from Africa, the model of the twentieth century is no longer suitable. For our interlocutor in Bangui, there is a loophole in the system of financial institutions in the North. "They shoot themselves in the foot," he remarked. Indeed, while seeking to reduce the debt, they continue to indebt the country by concessional loans. These are low-rate loans, but loans nonetheless. Are these loans just an opportunity to maintain dependency? Many African economists think strongly about it. In this logic, the development of the economic fabric that leads to the creation of jobs, remains a minor point, even forgotten by these large financial organizations. For my guest, the independence of Africa must go through the development of this micro-economic fabric, helping the ladies of the cathedral, the young people of CONFEJES and all the others.
Which model should be retained? The answer lies in the sixth lesson of sustainable development: priority to the micro-economy! Seen from the South, sustainable development will necessarily involve the mobilization of funds likely to encourage the financing of economic projects, ranging from micro-projects to macro-projects: agricultural development, electrification, town sanitation, land use planning, construction of administrative or sports infrastructure, development of communication routes. These projects will lead to the creation of SMEs and SMIs and will provide support for professional projects of women's groups, the launch of microfinance campaigns for young people, as well as the promotion of sports initiatives.
As if the gardener of the house of Bangui became a horticulturist, enlarged the garden, hired young people to grow his horticultural business. As if Zoumki became a business manager at the head of several millet mills. As if Yaovi, became a producer of sports equipment in partnership with large transnational firms. At meals in Bangui, I forged the conviction that it is high time to create the conditions for sustainable development in Africa. The sports industry must play its part. Microfinance is an essential tool for manufacturing SDG and SDP entrepreneurs. All must do it! Because in the twenty-first century, sustainable development will be the obvious condition for the resolution of migration crises that take the Zoumki and Yaovi’s children on wandering paths.
Next: Monday 27 November 2017 – The Zoumki and Yaovi’s children