As many countries on the African continent strive to build sound democratic systems, it appears there are many hurdles to get over, arising out of socio-economic and political structures.
It has been argued that the lack of democratic governance affects development which in turn impacts negatively on the continent’s desire to move away from its current woes.
A Ghanaian proverb has it that the one who cuts the path may not know how crooked it is, which introduces the benefit of sometimes allowing scrutiny from outside.
So, when Riva Levinson, an American, mounts the platform to deliver the two-day 2019 Aggrey-Fraser-Guggisberg Memorial Lecture series from March 21-22, 2019 at the University of Ghana’s Great Hall on the theme: The Future of Democracy in Africa, it will be interesting to see what lenses she will be using to look at the continent and hear what her forecast will be.
The Aggrey-Fraser-Guggisberg Memorial Lectures is a major event on the academic calendar of the University of Ghana.
The 2019 lectures will be the 39th since the lecture series was instituted in 1957 to commemorate the contribution made by James Kwegyir Aggrey, Alexander G. Fraser and Gordon Guggisberg to the founding of Achimota College, now Achimota School; and more generally, to the advancement of education and particularly higher education in Ghana.
So far, 38 distinguished persons from Africa, Europe, Asia and North America have contributed to academic discourse through the flagship annual lecture series.
Forty years ago, the first Nigerian Vice Chancellor of the University of Ibadan mounted the distinguished Aggrey-Fraser-Guggisberg Memorial Lectures platform in 1979 to deliver on the theme: Factors in West African History.
Six years later, Togolese-born politician and diplomat Edem Kodjo, who was Secretary-General of the Organisation of African Unity from 1978-1983, delivered on the theme: “Africa Today”.
It is interesting to note that when Africans mount this distinguished platform, their thoughts are always on the continent, be it problems, challenges, solutions or sometimes posing rhetorical questions.
In 1990, K.K. Dadzie, an international diplomat, chose to focus on the theme: The Outlook for Development in the 1990s; Lameck Kazembe Hazal Goma, spoke on the theme: The Hard Road to the Transformation of Africa in 1991; Ali A. Mazrui delivered his lecture on the theme: Nkrumah’s Legacy and Africa’s Triple Heritage: The Shadow of Globalisation and Counter-Terrorism in 2002.
Ghana’s Jubilee year
In Ghana’s Jubilee year, Paul Boateng delivered a brilliant lecture on the theme: The Black Star Rising – Some Challenges for Ghana and Africa in the 21st century to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Ghana’s independence.
Africa: Beyond Recovery was the theme chosen by Thandika Mkwandawire of the London School of Economics in 2013.
Kandeh Yumkella, an agricultural economist, politician and former United Nations Under-Secretary-General, chose to be optimistic when he delivered on the theme: Africa: A Continent of Hope, Opportunity and Transformation (2017), followed in 2018 by Harvard-based academic, Emmanuel K. Akyeampong, who delivered a brilliant lecture on the theme: Nkrumah and the Making of the Ghanaian Nation-State.
One can be certain that the 2019 Aggrey-Fraser-Guggisberg Memorial Lectures will once again be an illuminating discourse as Riva Levinson, a political and business strategist, whose passion lies in sub-Saharan Africa, mounts the platform.
Day one of the lecture will focus on the topic: Democracy’s Keepers: The Rise of the Activist Generation in Africa.
Levinson argues that in recent years, civil society has proven to be an important, if not the most important, check and support for good governance in Africa.
She suggests that the activist generation and its contingent organisations and movements have perhaps become the greatest pressure in strengthening demographic institutions and checking corruption.
Levinson’s second lecture will look at Power from the Margins: Opening up African Political Systems to Women, Youth and other Disrupters.
Projecting that more than half of the world’s population growth will occur in Africa between now and 2050, thus making the continent the fastest growing region of the world, she asserts that African economies are not projected to keep pace with the rising population.
She will attempt to expound on this assertion by drawing on case studies from recent elections in Liberia, Ghana and Nigeria to drive home the argument that these groups, which she describes as political outsiders, are key to the future of the continent’s democracies.
As is the custom, the university will confer an honorary degree on the distinguished lecturer at a Special Congregation immediately following the second day of the lecture on March 22, 2019.
The author, a Deputy Registrar at the University of Ghana, is currently the Director of Public Affairs.