Governance: Our Vessel through Unchartered Waters

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Africa stands as a giant with its richness in variable aspects. A beauty to behold! But, do the citizens of the soil see it, in its full potential? Governance is the oil that runs development engines. Can we comfortably say that our African engines are well oiled?

By Noreen Nthiga

 Governance is widely described as structures and processes that are designed to ensure accountability, transparency, responsiveness, rule of law, stability, equity and inclusiveness, empowerment, and broad-based participation.

It is successfully delivered through participatory and democratic, global, well-defined, corporate, environmental and e-mediums. Governance is multi-faceted, but what stands and remains, is that it starts and ends with the will of the people and the efforts of the representatives (in this case, organizations and businesses). More often than not, when development records are laid out by progressive countries, regions and business entities, the differential issue at hand that stands out is “proper/ good governance”.

There is an undercurrent that pushes the waves of governance, and this is the will and voices of the people. Every election year, we see politicians trooping back to the citizens, offering dreams of prosperity – beseeching and prodding. Why? Because, citizens are the most important currency to their political and personal achievements. Then, why is it so that thereafter, the citizens forget the all-important power of their voices, proceeding to delegate all matters progression to the leaders-elect and only come back to complain when delivery is not achieved? This is where the ball drops.

These voices can only be articulated through defined organisations and collective entities. That is where the real action is centered; these are the representatives of the citizens.We live in the days when we are constantly aware of our tomorrow being endangered by climate change, food security, economic turbulence, energy transitions and global health pandemics. Organisations and governments have strongly taken up the responsibility of pushing for Environmental, Sustainability and Governance (ESG) changes towards a resolve to the above. And, this is well-applauded. However, for there to be tractable changes, both old and new or large or small, need to start adopting a collaborative value approach.

The adage we move faster and further together has never rung as true as it does today, shared beliefs, goals, resources and systems’ approaches need to be included in how we strategically move forward and circumvent these pertinent issues. The beauty about it is that most are aligned and in agreement that ESG plays a critical role. However, those working in silos are duplicating or getting minimal results; delaying impact. This definitely needs to change.

Our catalytic actions need to be intentional, as we steer our businesses, organisations and governments. Let us remain close to the regional and global goals, such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that we signed up for. Agreed, what works for Europe may not work for Africa, what works for Egypt may not work for South Africa and what works for Organisation A may not work for Organisation B, but we need to customise and localise them to better suit our individualised requirements. Impeccable governance should not be a dream that we hold close to our hearts. It is the realistic bare-minimum. This is the medium that will sail our boats through the unchartered waters that we currently face, getting us safe and dry at the shores. We need to uphold this collectively; practicing intentionality.

The author, Noreen Nthiga is an Organisation Development and Policy Specialist based in the Executive Office of the President of Kenya.