Elusive Ambitions (African Independence Book 1)

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Search the FT Search. World Show more World. US Show more US. Companies Show more Companies. Markets Show more Markets. Opinion Show more Opinion. Personal Finance Show more Personal Finance. It resisted the temptation to unwisely expand university education — up until the late nineties there was not even the alternative route of private university education in Singapore — and instead worked hard to make TVET attractive and closely linked to labour market needs. It was only when the economy was ready to move into its present knowledge economy phase that university access was expanded.

The Singapore Management University SMU and the Singapore University of Technology and Design SUTD were established in and respectively, and more recently, under pressure from the electorate, the government has agreed to increase the university participation rate from the current 27 per cent to 40 per cent by It has insisted that graduates from these new institutions will have employable skills; internships will be a key feature in the design of programmes at SIM University and the Singapore Institute of Technology.

The ability to coordinate policies across ministries gives policy and implementation a coherence lacking in other countries. There is both a strong reform imperative at work in the school system and on-going development of worker training through initiatives such as the Workforce Development Agency. One is that the dominant focus on economic growth and the yoking of the education system to serve manpower needs has meant that both policy makers and citizens adopt an instrumental view of education, notwithstanding rhetoric and calls for holistic education.

The curricula emphasis on languages, science, and mathematics has meant a neglect of the humanities. The system is regarded as having become obsessed with certification and parents invest large sums in private tuition. Competition to get into the top schools, programmes in universities, and polytechnics is intense. The KBE rewards twenty-first century competencies such as creativity, resilience, entrepreneurship, and communication skills; the present performance orientation is ill suited to meet the needs of such an economy.

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In pursuit of economic growth, it allowed for the liberal import of labour at both ends of the skills continuum in the last two decades. Schemes like Workfare are designed to address voter dissatisfaction, given that the government is resisting adopting a minimum wage policy. The links between certification, skills, and employment are fraying and are going to require more innovative policy responses. Voters are now asking what ends economic growth should serve.

Singapore succeeded by recognising vulnerabilities, challenges, and opportunities. It built strong institutions and professionalized its civil service. It made quality and cost effectiveness key principles and avoided, where it could, populist measures. Singapore will have to successfully change the culture and ethos of its education system, finding a balance between rigour and standards and innovation and creativity; it needs a less performance-oriented system.

It will need to ensure the continuing relevance of ITE skills preparation to knowledge economy developments and requirements; and worker skill training can only succeed if employers are able to fairly reward workers and can take advantage of new worker skills and dispositions. Much has been achieved in Singapore but much more remains to be done. The reality of competition spurred a focus on economic growth, which could not be sustainably achieved without investment in human capital. Policy innovation and implementation capacity requires a professionalized civil service.

A close linking of education institutions to economic growth trends and skill requirements in the labour market is essential to keep training relevant. And the government and employers need to share in worker skill development. Acemoglu, D. Agrawal, S. Almeida, R. Behrman and D. Almeida, J. Robalino eds. The right skills for the job? Rethinking training policies for workers Washington, D.

Baer, W. Birdsall, N. Brunello, G. Chang, H. Department of Statistics c Key household income trends, Singapore: Department of Statistics. Dobbs, R. Eichengreen, B. Park and K. Felipe, J. Abdon and U. Kumar Tracking the middle-income trap: What is it, who is in it, and why? Fong, P. Hnatkovska, V. Loayza Volatility and growth Washington D. Ho, D. International Labour Organization Conclusions on skills for improved productivity, employment growth and development Geneva: International Labour Office. Jankowsa, A. Nagengast and J.

Jansen, M. Johanson, R. Katzenstein, P. Kuruvilla, S. Erickson and A. Means, G. Polaski, S. Prime, P. Saner, R. Seng, L. Goh, B.

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Fredriksen and J. Tan eds. Seong, D. Wade, R. Yue, C. Kumar , Perea , Shin , De Paola Lanz , Fukuyama , In the end, the imperatives of postcolonial development would supply the justificatory and legitimating rhetoric for retaining and enforcing the most authoritarian aspects of the colonial legal order. Thus, what would change about the colonial state was not its structure or machinery of control, but its assigned mission and ideological underpinnings. Africa's postcolonial rulers believed that by changing its orientation and purpose and Africanizing its personnel, in short by relegitimizing it, that it was possible to use the selfsame colonial state to accomplish the purposes of the postcolonial project.

The paramountcy of development on the agenda of postcolonial Africa was affirmed by the world community when the period from to , coinciding with the emergence of sovereign states in Africa, was declared the first UN Development Decade. The trade-off, nevertheless, was said to be justified by necessity. In time, however, development and freedom would be conflated, but freedom—for Africa's postcolonial elites—was not the negative freedom associated with liberal constitutionalism.

The case for development, as articulated by Africa's nationalist elites, had become, in effect, a case against constitutionalism. Furthermore, insofar as it entailed imposing procedural and substantive restraints on the government's freedom of action, constitutionalism was, according to its detractors, a needless retardant of Africa's development ambitions. Law in Africa, it was argued, needed to be an accelerator, not a brake, to national development goals.

Indeed, the notion that the African managers of the newly sovereign, specifically African state could or should be restrained constitutionally in their exercise of power whereas previous European colonialists had not been was deemed a contemptuous insult. Nationalist mythology and historiography had invested these leaders with messianic attributes for their role in wrestling sovereign statehood from the jaws of European colonialism.

As a result, this generation of African leaders, as well as the freedom-fighter comrades of later years who led liberation movements to independence in Mozambique, Angola, Guinea-Bissau, Zimbabwe, and Namibia, came to possess, in their own right, a large reservoir of unrivalled legitimacy with which to underwrite their postcolonial projects. In a nutshell, constitutionalism in Africa in the early decades following the end of colonialism faced a massive deficit of legitimacy.

Africa's postcolonial rulers chose to create sources of legitimacy not in constitutions or democratic elections but in supraconstitutional and suprademocratic welfarist projects tied to the pressing material concerns of the people. All other institutions and constituencies with potential countervailing power within postcolonial society and the state, including, notably, parliament, the ruling party, the courts, trade unions, chiefs, and universities, were to defer—and, indeed, became subordinated—to the superior will of the putative philosopher-king. In the early years, the postcolonial project recorded some important gains in social welfare, notably in the areas of public education and health, and particularly in countries like Tanzania and Ghana.

As the s drew to a close, the verdict on thirty-something years of authoritarian rule, the outlines of which were already evident by the mids, was finally out, and it was an unmitigated indictment of the postcolonial state, its managers and their projects. The political dimension of the crisis was also manifest in institutional decay, widespread abuses of civil liberties, escalating crime and lawlessness, inefficient and unresponsive bureaucracies, runaway corruption and rent seeking, growing communal rifts, and political instability.

For all but a tiny section of its citizenry, the postcolonial state had become a predatory state, exacting obedience and obligation but giving back little in return. The state was not liberating and protective of its citizens, no matter what its propaganda claimed: on the contrary, its gross effect was constricting and exploitative, or else it simply failed to operate in any social sense at all. The ensuing civil wars eventually led to state collapse, giving rise in the s and s to the phenomenon of failed or warlord states in parts of Africa.

In the rest of Africa, where state capacity, however diminished, continued to hold, beleaguered incumbents came under external and internal pressure to change course. The austerity measures introduced in the name of structural adjustment reforms resulted, predictably, in massive layoffs and unemployment, sharp cuts in public services, and increases in the market prices of consumer goods and services.

Urban riots and street protests by influential constituencies ensued. Politically, then, structural adjustment, somewhat paradoxically, compounded the crisis of legitimacy, especially as it overtly transferred control of domestic economic policy and management to external actors. Regime opponents and a newly emboldened civil society seized the moment by mobilizing the growing domestic discontent into popular demand for regime change or else for a restoration of legitimacy through the introduction of democratic and constitutional reforms.

Contemporaneous events in the wider international environment also signaled to Africa's rulers that the postcolonial authoritarian project was in a stage of arguably terminal crisis. African state and civil society actors alike did not fail to notice the revolutionary and dramatic endings of totalitarian regimes in Eastern and Central Europe, as well as the capitulation of the apartheid oligarchy in South Africa evidenced by the release of Nelson Mandela in Africa's authoritarian elites paid heed. By the mids the political landscape of Africa had undergone remarkable change.

A timetable for a return to multiparty politics was agreed between ruling governments and oppositionists. At the minimum, competitive democracy—and presumably constitutionalism, too—had finally earned credible billing on the agenda of the postcolonial state. The African chapter of the third wave of democratization is in its second decade. Overall, progress toward democracy and constitutionalism has been mixed and, in many respects, falls far short of impressive.

While states like Ghana, Benin, Mali, and Senegal have continued to build incrementally on the initial democratic openings, others have stagnated, and still others have regressed toward authoritarian rule or remained holdouts resisting reform. This uneven record, as well as postcolonial Africa's long-standing tradition of constitutions without constitutionalism, has prompted skeptics to query whether talk of a constitutionalism revival is warranted. Postcolonial Africa's early false start and its past failure to nurture a culture of constitutionalism indeed cast a pessimistic shadow on contemporary efforts.

Still, there are grounds to distinguish the current climate and developments from those of the past.


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Unlike the three decades before , the global political and intellectual discourse has shifted perceptibly against authoritarian and statist models of political and economic governance. In the African context, specifically, the influence of the new institutional economics has moved problems of governance, the rule of law, peace and security, bureaucratic corruption, and judicial performance to the forefront of current economic development discourses.

The denouement of the postcolonial authoritarian project in Africa has finally helped to lift from relative obscurity these two Africa counterexamples to the illiberal and messianic ideologies that held sway in the region from the s to the end of the s. In the current environment, then, it is not democracy or constitutionalism that stands in need of justification in Africa. In the light of the postcolonial record, it is authoritarianism and illiberalism that must carry the burden of persuasion as to their continued relevance and legitimacy.

The regional dimension of this normative shift is equally noteworthy. In , in a move regarded by many as signaling the arrival of a cadre of leaders committed to a new political and economic vision for Africa, the OAU was reconfigured as the African Union AU. Already, over twenty African governments have voluntarily agreed to submit to APRM, and participating states are expected to receive remedial support to address identified governance deficiencies.

Although the AU lacks the power to specify and enforce uniform standards of constitutional and democratic practice as a precondition for membership as the EU does, 72 its stated commitment to democracy and constitutionalism as new norms for the African region is a significant, if modest, step forward. In fact, the AU, acting in conjunction with the subregional Economic Community of West African States ECOWAS , was influential in reversing a de facto coup in Togo in 73 and also played an important role, again with and through its subregional partners, in the recent restoration of civil authority to the failed states of Liberia and Sierra Leone.

The passing from the African political scene of modern Africa's founding fathers represents another important milestone in the political evolution of African states, in light of the pioneering role that these historical figures played in the legitimation and implantation of authoritarianism in postcolonial Africa. Today's generation of African leaders must find its legitimacy, by and large, in an election under a democratic constitutional order.

Of the current generation of African leaders, perhaps only Uganda's Yoweri Museveni, who may be credited with rescuing post—Idi Amin Uganda from the brink of state collapse and restoring to the country a measure of steady progress, can draw on supraconstitutional political resources of the kind that the Nyereres and Nkrumahs once commanded. Yet even Museveni has not been able to resist or disregard sustained domestic pressure for constitutional and democratic reform.

In the case of the latter two, as well as most recently in Nigeria, domestic opposition successfully resisted attempts to amend the Constitution to allow for an additional term for the retiring president. The successful institution of presidential term limits in Africa is an immensely positive development for African constitutionalism. The prospect of a president returning to private life after the expiration of the maximum constitutional term, with its attendant loss of presidential immunity, should help discipline the use of power during a president's term in office, especially where alternation of power between rival political parties and, for that matter, postregime accountability, is a strong possibility.

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Yet another significant development on the African scene is the emergence of strong domestic constituencies for constitutionalism, notably the newly ascendant private media and civil society. The democratic openings of the late s and early s, in fact, owed much to the courageous leadership and civic-mindedness of religious bodies, professional associations, university students, and trade unions. These influential civil society organizations were instrumental, before opposition parties were legalized, in organizing and sustaining popular protests for regime change.


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In the post-transition period, too, African civil society has remained actively engaged as monitors and critics of state practice and behavior, recognizing, perhaps, that politics and governance are matters too important to be left in the exclusive care of the political class. African countries have witnessed remarkable growth in the number and caliber of NGOs, many of which are chartered to protect and promote respect for the rule of law, human rights, gender equality, environmental justice, and economic liberty.

With their growing importance and influence as sources of remittances and emergency funds for their home-based kin and of direct investment for their home economies, 80 African nationals and communities abroad are beginning to integrate themselves into the public discourse and decision making in their home countries. Common avenues for such civic engagement by Africa's diasporan communities include overseas NGOs and political party branches as well as Internet blogs and Web sites that are dedicated to daily news and commentary about developments at home.

Many of these Internet forums, which are regularly accessed by home-based journalists, politicians, and sections of the general public, have become virtual parliaments of sorts, producing opinion leaders and other critics whose views, broadcast through cyberspace, are routinely fed back into public debates back home.

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Through collective action and active lobbying of their home governments, some communities of Africans abroad have even managed to secure legislative and constitutional changes that allow nonresident citizens to vote in national elections at home. The recent rise of a diverse, independent, and aggressive media is a development of particular moment for the future of constitutionalism in Africa. Themselves a product and beneficiary of recent constitutional reforms, 83 Africa's fledgling private media have been among the most fearless defenders of the rights and liberties guaranteed by Africa's new or modified constitutions.

On the eve of the contemporary democratic transition, media pluralism and diversity did not exist in most African countries. Importantly, broadcast media were a state monopoly serving a regime's propaganda needs. The growth of private mass media free of content control by state elites and censors has been one of the most important outcomes of constitutional reforms in many African countries. In Ghana, for example, before constitutional government was restored in , a regime-controlled radio and television station held a three-decade-old monopoly on all broadcasting.

Today, thanks to robust constitutional guarantees of free media and free speech, including an independent national media commission established to preempt political censorship of programming content, Ghanaians enjoy unimpeded access to news, editorial opinion, and political commentary from an expansive array of independent media sources, including the Internet. Besides widely diverse print media, several private radio stations, numbering over fifty nationwide and covering all corners of the country, plus two private commercial TV stations and others accessible by cable , now operate freely in the country.

In the largest urban markets individual media operators boast significantly larger shares of the audience than the state broadcaster. Ghana's private media have played a major role in exposing scandal and malfeasance in public office and in subjecting politicians to daily scrutiny. And in recent elections, instant polling-site reporting of vote tallies by multiple freelance and private media correspondents have served as a critical, independent check on the integrity of national election administration, thereby lending greater legitimacy to officially declared results.

Constitutionalism then, far from being a luxury the poor cannot afford, is arguably more beneficial to the poor than it is to those with privileged access in the African political system. The results of recent elections in Africa underscore the growing value that African publics attach to guarantees of negative liberty. The NDC lost the ensuing elections, and voters cited a desire for greater freedom as their primary reason for preferring the rival party.

In the next December elections Ghanaians voted to retain the NPP, rewarding the incumbent government more for making good on its promises in the area of personal liberties and freedom than for any significant material accomplishment during its first four-year term. Africa's judiciaries, long considered marginal to the course of national events and politics, have also emerged from the current democratic and constitutional reforms with far greater prestige, authority, and confidence than they have ever enjoyed in the Africa's postcolonial history.

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Africa's newly revised constitutions grant designated national courts the authority to enforce constitutional guarantees, including, notably, rights provisions. While authoritarian-era courts served primarily as passive instruments of legitimation for the regime in power, 88 Africa's newly empowered courts are beginning to make constitutions and constitutional law matter.

A few examples from various national courts illustrate the point. In , the Constitutional Court of Benin 89 declared as an unconstitutional violation of freedom of association a decision of the Ministry of Interior that placed the ministry in charge of approving local development associations NGOs and also restricted to one the number of such NGOs that could legally operate in each district of the country. This new judicial assertiveness stands in sharp contrast to the heyday of the postcolonial authoritarian project, when judicial pronouncements in cases like Re Akoto 96 and Ex parte Matovu 97 voided all possibility of meaningful judicial restraint on presidential power.

It is a change in the politics of constitutionalism and, for that matter, in the politics and legitimacy of judicial review in Africa. Judged by their content, legitimacy, and impact, the constitutional reforms that have accompanied Africa's democratic transitions represent significant progress from the pre era. On the whole, progress toward constitutionalism has been relatively steady in those African states like Ghana, Benin, and Senegal, where legislative and presidential elections have produced regime turnover, an indication that incremental progress in electoral democracy enhances the prospects for constitutionalism.


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In particular, contemporary constitutional reforms in Africa have done little to change either the territorial vertical distribution of power within the postcolonial state or the functional horizontal allocation of sovereign power between the different institutions of the national government.

In this last section, we shall examine a few salient features of the old order that have survived the democratic transition of the late s and s. One defining characteristic of Africa's postcolonial project that has survived recent democratic and constitutional reforms is the consolidation or centralization of sovereign power in a unitary government. Even in countries such as Ghana and Uganda, where the federalism-versus-unitarism debate once drew a deep fault line within the founding generation, the federal idea has not been revived or revisited lately.

Nor have recent democratic and constitutional reforms in Africa done much to empower or transform local government. While there is an emerging consensus among Africa's policy-making elites that good governance must include meaningful devolution or decentralization of public power and initiative, Africa's new constitutions break no new ground in that regard.

While elected local councils are a widespread phenomenon in contemporary Africa, provincial and local authorities still exist, both legally and functionally, as administrative subdivisions of a unitary central government.

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Local administration , not local government , best describes the role played by local councils and officials within the African constitutional constellation. Moreover, with the notable exception of new democracies in southern Africa, where legislation has assigned sometimes ambiguous parallel roles and recognition to traditional kingship in local governance, constitutional change in much of contemporary Africa has failed generally to redress or reconsider, in any meaningful sense, the postcolonial exclusion of Africa's homegrown customary institutions from the formal structures of local representation and governance.

As before, Africa's newly emergent democracies have failed to emulate the successful example of Botswana, one of only two African countries with an unbroken record of postcolonial democracy, and one that has had a postcolonial policy of making selective use of traditional customary institutions at the basic or community level of its system of local administration. Given the African state's limited capacity to penetrate or reach deep down into rural society and the indispensability yet relative scarcity of legitimacy as a political resource in Africa, it seems short-sighted and counterproductive to continue to exclude from the formal structures of local government a homegrown institution that commands the habitual allegiance and obeisance of a significant population of Africans.

A persistent modern objection against traditional kingship is that it is an undemocratic institution and thus incompatible with contemporary democratic trends. But merely because an institution might suffer from a democratic deficit does not make it ineligible for a functional role in a constitutional democracy. Constitutional democracies everywhere routinely assign limited specialized functions to appropriately designed countermajoritarian institutions, chief among them constitutional courts and central banks.

At any rate, since kingship institutions in Africa have long ceased to exercise any essential elements of sovereign power, notably, the power to tax, to legislate policy, or to enforce criminal sanctions, the democratic objection to their functional participation in local government is grossly overstated.

Despite earlier attempts by postcolonial governments to marginalize traditional kingship or legislate it out of existence, the institution has proven exceptionally resilient and continues to command substantial organic and cultural legitimacy as well as mobilizing power within society. Contemporary constitutional policy in Africa, in glossing over the political and social realities of Africa's largely rural populations and retaining the same monolithic system of government based mainly on norms and models nominally familiar to the urban political class, thus reflects the same discredited urban bias that has characterized elite policy making in the postcolonial state.

The failure to rethink the unitary model or to redistribute power away from the central state means that the task of transforming African constitutionalism must be effected through a horizontal distribution of power among the constituent institutions of the central government. But here, too, the contemporary record is one of continuity rather than change. The recent flurry of constitution writing and rewriting in Africa is notable for its failure to alter the presidentialist character of Africa's constitutional politics.

The presidential form of government remains the unrivaled favorite of Africa's constitutional designers. While the latter comes with a system of checks and balances that includes a legislature with significant countervailing power, African presidentialism has historically dispensed with meaningful horizontal restraints on executive power. The recent introduction of multiparty elections and presidential term limits have helped to democratize access to presidential office in Africa's reforming states.

But the African president has emerged from the current round of constitutional revisions with its substantive powers relatively undiminished. Despite the restoration of multiparty competition, Africa's postauthoritarian parliaments have yet to emerge from the shadows of executive hegemony to which decades of military or presidentialist one-party rule have consigned them.