Here is a curious article by Ronak Gopaldas on ThisIsSierraLeone.com arguing that Africa needs technocrats in the lead rather than politicians; as if one can do without the other!
In my view, the clarion call should be for African politicians to encourage and work with technocrats especially in the field of public policy. Technocrats should be utilised to the full rather than marginalise, isolate or even keep them away.
To do so, African politicians must recognize that we are no longer in the enclaved societies and economies of the ’70s and ’80s. We are part of the global economy. A phenomenon that in itself is different from the past, both as an abstract concept and as a reality. We are at the same time in the centre and at the periphery.
While in the past, we could plod on with a series of bad policies or actions with hardly anyone noticing, nowadays false steps have repercussions that are both direct and indirect on our economies and on those who have invested in us. At the same time we are in the periphery where decisions affecting our short-term prospects or long-term hopes are made by investors, policy makers etc whose motives have nothing to do with our plight.
We therefore need to constantly scan the global environment for threats and opportunities that could have an impact on our illusionary far-away societies. We also need to keep a close watch internally for policy incoherence and other dangers that could lead us away from our goals.
This complex world is not always appreciated or understood by politicians, some still continue to think only in terms of the narrow confines of the political borders of our countries. Adopting unilateral decisions that fail to take into account damaging experiences elsewhere -or even legal repercussions- will come back to haunt – and sometimes rapidly so. Politicians need to begin to see technocrats not in terms of party loyalists, but in terms of specialists with a stake in their countries irrespective of party affiliation; specialists who can unravel the complex knots of the international economy and help avoid missteps…
In Sierra Leone, we took a first step two years ago to accept a goal that would guide politicians, technocrats and all citizens. The bold measures envisaged at the Sierra Leone Conference, some of which are already being implemented, require strong support from technocrats. At the same time, politicians must be there to provide the leadership, while accepting that they alone cannot make sustained progress without the technocrats. Mauritius, Rwanda and others are blazing the way, and in the last few years, Nigeria seems to be waking up. Now that Sierra Leone can boast two or more years of record level growth rates, we cannot afford to remain far behind.
Both technocrats and politicians need each other now more than ever. Perhaps that Planning Commission idea should be resuscitated?