HomeLocal‘Africa has to confront its demons’

‘Africa has to confront its demons’

Former Industry minister Nkosana Moyo says Africans must create platforms where they discuss and find solutions to problems facing the continent.

Moyo (NM), who is also the leader of the opposition Alliance for the People’s Agenda, told Alpha Media Holdings chairman Trevor Ncube (TN) on the platform In Conversation with Trevor, that most of the time Africans get invited to discuss their own problems by outsiders.

In this second part of the wide-ranging interview, Moyo spoke about his work on the continent and his motivation to create a pan-African institution based in South Africa.

Below are excerpts from the interview.

TN: You have worked on the continent in finance. Non-executive director of Nisela Capital, Old Mutual PLC, Commercial Bank of Rwanda.

You have worked in Uganda, Nigeria, and are a patron of Nepad.

When you look at the continent, what is your view of entrepreneurship and it’s role of business?

Are we at a place where we can move the needle using entrepreneurs and financing of business? Where are we, what is your assessment of that space?

NM: Can I suggest, Trevor, we start in a different place?

TN: Sure, absolutely.

NM: There is, I think, a gap between the role of the public sector and the role of the private sector.

The environment in which the private sector operates will either be facilitative or quite poisonous or toxic depending on what the public sector does in any environment.

The public sector is responsible for creating what in economics is called public goods.

An enabling environment infrastructure which society as a whole can tap into, different entrepreneurs can tap into.

Entrepreneurs have got a much narrower responsibility; they will tend either to be managers, general private sector or either managers or entrepreneurs managing their own entity or managing public-listed companies or companies that are owned by a subset of the society, not all of it.

Their objectives reflect that narrowness, either, entrepreneur me and my family or a group of us as friends come together and do something, we expect our CEO to perform according to what our interests are.


The public goods are the responsibility of the public sector.

So in my opinion the achievements of the private sector on its own are limited by that very architecture.

Also remember that the role of competition in the private sector can actually be quite damaging if there is no referee. It is almost like if we are to borrow from team sports, when teams are left to fight it out they need a referee virtually all the time.

Private and public sector roles are similar.

The public sector is responsible for public goods as well as being a referee for these other competitors to do what they have to do, but they need somebody to make sure that they are playing within the rules, they are not going beyond that.

The evidence is there everywhere, even at the level of the Olympics, where contestation is concerned, where competition is concerned the human being defaults to the typical English expression “all is fair in war and love”.

You need a regulator, you need a referee.

So private sector, huge contribution acknowledged; but can they do it on their own, without the enabling role regulation facilitation of the public sector? My answer is no.

TN: Interesting. Moving on to you, one of your big projects right now. The founder of the Mandela Institute of Development Studies (MINDS).

You are now a member of the advisory board. Share with us rather your thinking behind MINDS. What is the vision? You are 70-years-old now, let us say when you are 80-years-old, what will success look like for you as far as MINDS is concerned?

NM: Again it is a journey, a journey, hahaha, like the politics. I am not a short-termist person.

Where does the MINDS journey start from?

I have been associated with the World Economic Forum for decades literally, and my observation was that we as Africans are always being invited onto platforms, which are having conversations about things which are very peripheral to our situation.

TN: Not our agenda.

NM: Not our agenda. We as a people have appeared to have failed to create a platform where we can have what I call internal conversations.

You know as a family man, there are certain conversations you have in your family, which as soon as I walk through the door you will keep quiet, but it does not mean that those conversations have got no element that can be taken to the outside.

All it means is the foundation, however, is an internal conversation.

It is necessary before you then position yourself, how to engage with the broader society.

A very similar analogy applies in my opinion to nations and to regions.

If Africa does not quickly come to a place where we can almost like confront our own ‘devils’ if you like, or ‘demons’, as a family when we walk out onto a public platform, i.e, more global, we actually naturally become defensive about certain things and we never give ourselves an opportunity.

TN: To deal with them.

NM: To deal with these things internally.

As every family will do, there are certain conversations which we just will not have out there, we will get defensive.

The way we have positioned ourselves is to always have the external conversation minus the internal conversation.

So how we are now programming ourselves is literally a defensive mode because that is the mode we are now operating in.

However, that defensive mode totally disempowers you in terms of finding solutions for your real challenges.

If you do not have the internal conversation where you can lay bare what the challenges are, you cannot expect to formulate solutions for them, where are we doing that?

Where are our conversations to confront our own reality so that we can formulate the solutions to these problems?

The defensive nature is normal natural and it will always be there, everybody does it.

We have deprived ourselves of the possibility of a clarity of strategic thinking internally and finding the right solutions for ourselves.

So we are always operating in that space.

TN: So MINDS is creating?

NM: MINDS is an attempt to form exactly this issue.

There are certain strategic conversations that do not belong there, they can never happen there. They belong here, let us get on with it and make sure that this happens.

TN: How are you doing this?

NM: Trying to engage the stakeholders. As a result, what we have done is that MINDS to some extent the name is a bit of a misnomer.

The Mandela Institute For Development Studies, the ’S’, I think actually and I had this debate with the board and we will continue to have it.

I think the ’S’ should be Strategies and not Studies. It is formulation of strategies on how to deal with certain challenges that the African continent has, as a result how we have structured MINDS activities as a continuous engagement with certain stakeholders we have identified, the largest of who are the young people on the continent.

As you know the demographic tells you if you are going to come up with proposals of solutions to current challenges without engaging the youth, then you are not being serious.

So we are engaging with the youth, for the youth to hopefully be persuaded again to take ownership as opposed to almost like refusing to understand that the solutions will come out of their own aspirations.

The architecture of what needs to be done ought to be a result of their ability to conceptualise what future they want.

I say to young people, if you take your mind 20 years from now and say to yourself “I have got two levels at which I operate: firstly, my country, and secondly my continent and hopefully you understand the importance of that lesson.

Even say to yourself 20 years from now what would I like these two things to look like?

What would I like my country to look like and what would I like my continent to look like?

That is not an easy exercise.

If you force yourself to conceptualise, crystallise that, then what you do is say okay let me compare this 20-year vision to where I am today, what does today look like compared to that?

TN: And what is my role?

NM: Yes exactly. It is part of the component. How do I go from here to there?

What kind of partnerships do I need? What kind of leadership do I need?

You realise that these questions help you now to configure today in preparation for starting the journey that takes you there.

Unless you do both these things, it is going to be very difficult to do anything because you will just be wallowing around wandering around, if you do not know where you want to go any road will lead you there.

Recent Posts

Stories you will enjoy

Recommended reading