By Dr.Patience Rwimigisa
The Chief Guest
Fellow Pan Africanists
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is with great pleasure to stand before you today and with great humility, I wish to thank the organizers of the Pan African Global Awards 2018 for identifying me to be one of the recipients. This came as a surprise to me because I was not aware that my efforts to make a humble contribution to advancement of mankind were being closely watched from the perspective of the Pan African spirit. Thank you so much! My scholarly works and public service career were shaped by the contemporary agricultural development challenges facing the African continent. The following key fundamental questions remain unresolved but they also served me as a source of motivation and inspiration to find lasting solutions:
- Why has science failed to transform African Agriculture?
- Why is it that countries with greatest agricultural potential are the ones on the verge of hunger, malnutrition and starvation?
- Why the micro-economic environment for smallholder farmers appear uniform across Sub-Sahara Africa irrespective of levels of economic development?
- How did Africa move from net exporter to net importer of food?
- Why are most African economies perpetually in crisis?
It is common knowledge that we cannot talk about African economic transformation without making reference to agriculture. Most of you may be aware that Africa had more favorable economic conditions at independence than most South East Asia. But within four decades after independence, while most East Asian countries had economic miracles, Africa slipped to lower end of economic ladder to become a home of human suffering. .
Scholars like Van de Walle, Samuel Agonda Ochola, Dambisa Moyo and Muhamood Mamdan have provided elaborate explanations from the political economy perspective. They contend that contrary to their African counterparts, the leadership in South East Asia, had enabled most of its citizens to dispense with the notion of being the victims and to embrace the principles that Asians were no less superior than their colonial conquerors or anybody else. They cultivated new positive images about themselves, aroused nationalism, self respect, hard work and a strong rejection of being lorded over. The African leadership on the other hand reinforced negative self images created for them by colonial powers. This perpetuated the stereotype that Africans were by nature incompetent, dishonest, thieves, corrupt and by definition dependent.
The failure to exploit the people’s ingenuity led to the strait forward copying of the Anglo-Saxon models of economic development which created economic and social chaos. The habit to consume anything propagated by the West and their institutions without returning to African roots resulted in economic indigestion and paralysis. It is this blind obedience and acceptance that constitutes the intellectual betrayal for which African leadership and intelligentsia must take the blame, because they denigrate their cultural roots and treat the rural folk as worthless.
The scholars further contend that the current economic challenges are partly due to inability of African governments to undertake thorough policy reforms. Most states in Africa combine weak capacities and discipline with a fair amount of autonomy to make economic policy decisions, largely due to the weakness of organized pressure groups that would hold the state more accountable. Donor Aid has been used as substitute for private capital and has provided support to African governments to survive economic crisis while minimizing policy change.
My argument is that the failure of African governments to invest and institutionalize science in policy decision making processes undermined their capacity to use scientific evidence to foster policy change. As a result Africans remain in the periphery of scientific innovations. This partly explains why in spite of experiencing steady economic growth over the last decade, there is less evidence of economic transformation. The critical mass of scientists required to cause transformation is limited on the continent. According to UNESCO 40% of graduates from tertiary institutions must be in scientific disciplines to cause transformation. Yet in most African countries this is less than 10%. The capacity to conduct scientific research is inadequate as research infrastructure and human resources remain limited. For example, there are less than 10,000 PhDs in agricultural sciences working on the continent with the majority teaching at Universities. A continent whose economy is largely agro-based. This state of affairs conditions our scientists to be incline more to technology adoption that innovation. This trend must be reversed to put Africa on course of economic prosperity and claim its position in the 21st Century.
I wish to conclude by acknowledging the support I received from a multitude of people along this long journey culminating into this recognition. First and foremost to my wife Pamela Rwamigisa and my children Perepetua, Theopista, Regina and Paul who have provided the family comfort and sacrificed to ensure I remain in good state of mind; the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries that has permitted me to exercise intellectual freedom in execution of my duties as well as the necessary financial support; the United States Agency for International Development that contributed financial support to my academic pursuits and continues to support development of enabling environment for MAAIF to realize its vision and mission; Makerere University for mentoring me into a true African scholar; International Food Policy Research Institute and University of Hohenheim, German for supporting my PhD research work. I am greatly indebted to Prof. Regina Birner, Prof. Margaret Mangheni, Prof. William Riviera, Prof. Arseni Semana, Dr. Jock Anderson and Dr. Prossy Isubikalu for all the support received during my academic career.
Long Live Uganda, Long Live Pan-African Pyramid, Long Live Africa and Long Live Pan-Africanism!
For God and My Country!