By Mwalimu George Ngwane*
The Cameroon government through the Ministry of Economy, Planning and Regional Development has published a 65-page lofty and laudable draft long term democratic development blueprint for Cameroon dubbed “Cameroun Vision 2035”.
Vision 2035 vindicates me of a political treatise I wrote in “The Post “ newspaper, Cameroon and CODESRIA bulletin, Senegal in 2004 titled “Cameroon’s democratic process-Vision 2020” for which I suffered administrative sanction. The underlying assumption of my political treatise was that multipartyism had failed in Cameroon not necessarily because it has proven to be a problematic model in Africa but primarily because the political elite in Cameroon had been unable to provide a vision of a future for Cameroonians and a realistic strategy for achieving it. The fundamental question that my treatise sought to address was “What will Cameroon look like in the year 2020?”
Five years after that treatise and barely five months ago since my administrative sanction was assuaged, the Cameroon government has produced a rich and ambitious document fashioned after the page-prints of Botswana Vision 2016, Nigeria Vision 2020, Lesotho Vision 2020, Rwanda Vision 2020, South Africa Vision 2020, Ghana Vision 2020, The Gambia Incorporated Vision 2020, Swaziland Vision 2022, Tanzania Development Vision 2025, Kenya Vision 2030 and Namibia Vision 2030. The main aim of these socio-economic and democratic stimulus visions in the various African countries is to cushion and even circumvent the anti-people Bretton Wood therapy and in its place provide an indigenous and autocentric democratic development entitlement that is domestic-driven and citizen-owned.
Vision 2016 conceived in 1966 has been “Botswana’s strategy to propel its socio-economic and political development into a competitive, winning and prosperous nation”. It is based on seven key goals. Gambia Vision 2020 conceived in 1996 “seeks to transform the Gambia into a dynamic middle income country over a 25 year period through six major activity areas”. Nigeria Vision 2020 launched in 2008 lays a roadmap which will make Nigeria “one of the 20 largest economies in the world able to consolidate its leadership role in Africa and establish itself as a significant player in the global economic and political arena”. Tanzania Vision 2025 conceived in 1995 aims at “achieving a high quality livelihood for its people, attain good governance through the rule of law and building a strong and resilient economy that can effectively withstand global competition”.
Cameroun Vision 2035 is built around five strategic pillars: the consolidation of democracy and national unity; economic growth and employment; population challenges; urban development; and finally governance. The mission statement of Vision 2035 is “to transform Cameroon within the next 25-30 years into a prosperous and democratic nation that is united in diversity”. To achieve this, Vision 2035 has been divided into three Phases. Phase 1 (2010-2019) dwells on modernizing our economy and stimulating its growth; Phase 2 (2020-2027) concentrates on placing Cameroon among the middle-income countries and Phase 3 (2028-2035) focuses on making our country an industrialised nation. Having weighed the merits of this document, I can only observe that great ambitions require maximum national support, massive broad-based participatory input, and an affiliative, sensitive and receptive leadership.
Since Vision 2035 is still in its draft form, solely in the French language and largely government-conceived, there would be need for it to be exposed through a bottom-up, non-partisan and all-inclusive paradigm. One avenue of doing this would be to host or post the document in the two official languages on a special website with a discussion internet forum attached to it. This way Cameroonians in the Diaspora would also have an opportunity to make their contributions. Another avenue would be through organising regional forums in each of the ten regions in which political socio-economic stakeholders across the board shall freely and openly debate, negotiate and design their specific regional reform packages that shall be integral to the construction of a new social contract and a new Cameroonian order.
In South Africa such forums are called “imbizo”, in Zimbabwe they are called “indaba” and in Lesotho they are called “kgheta”. Recent sporadic but legitimate agitations by elites on regional development ambitions in Cameroon may be a product of a vibrant prodemocracy civil society movement which may on the other hand stampede a more holistic and coordinated national vision that is subject to periodic fine-tuning.
Tanzania’s Vision 2025 was the outcome of consultations with Parliamentarians, all political parties, leaders of religious denominations, women and youth organizations, chambers of commerce and industry, farmers, professional associations and renowned personalities as well as ordinary Tanzanians.
Yet another avenue would be for organic intellectuals and patriotic citizens to make the document a subject of regular debate and discourse in the media.
Either way, at the end of the exercise, a National Council, National Steering Committee and a National Monitoring Committee would need to be established to synchronize all contributions that should aim at rebranding Cameroon.
If Vision 2035 is indeed about daring to improve the present and to invent the future then it was about time we recognized that the expansion of citizen initiatives to promote democracy and development cannot be accomplished through government action alone. Vision 2035 must go beyond being a blueprint drafted by today’s generation for posterity and rather be seen as a promissory testament loaned to us by our children. Beyond organising periodic elections and celebrating anniversaries lies the greatest challenge of genuinely making Vision 2035 a long term democratic and development agenda that is deeply rooted in yesterday’s compromise, today’s contradictions and tomorrow’s consensus.
*Mwalimu George Ngwane's recent book The Power in the writer-Collected essays in democracy, development and culture in Africa is now available on www.amazon.com.