Day One of Atlas Network’s 2020 African Liberty Forum was filled with history, new success stories, and great ideas about the ways in which economic liberty can transform the lives of billions of people. More than 210 participants joined via Zoom to discuss how they are responding to the challenges created by COVID-19 with thoughtful programs that engage local stakeholders in both the public and private sectors and inspire peers all over the continent.
The first session kicked off with an examination of the African narrative tradition and its rich history of advocacy for a free and just society. AfricanLiberty.org’s Ibrahim Anoba provided a useful primer of ideas for students of the liberal tradition, cataloguing the work of scholars who have identified the struggle to end domination by more powerful states. Anoba also discussed the work of African emigres to Europe and the emergence of African voices in America as they began to agitate for freedom.
Africa Liberty Forum 2020: Creating a Continent of Freedom, Peace, and Prosperity.
Franklin Cudjoe, the founding president and chief executive officer of IMANI Center for Policy & Education in Ghana, welcomed attendees from around the continent, saying that he looked forward to hearing how others in the liberty movement are solving current problems and pursuing freedom and prosperity in the context of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement. He spoke briefly of IMANI’s efforts to confronting the COVID-19 epidemic with research and commentary about the impact that the country’s poor trade policies will have on the country’s recovery. Billions of dollars have been pledged to fight the disease, and Cudjoe stressed the need for careful managing of future expenditures. He suggested an expenditure tracker to monitor future COVID-19 related spending.
IMANI Center President Franklin Cudjoe welcomes attendees to the conference in his opening session with Ibrahim Anoba and Aimable Manirakiza.
Promoting local solutions through stakeholder engagement is key to the work of Centre for Development and Enterprises Great Lakes, and President Aimable Manirakiza’s thoughtful explanation of the need to build public awareness for the ideas of economic freedom shines through each program launched by his team. Manirakiza spoke of the need to lower taxes, which CDE has promoted through the award-winning Birashoboka! (It’s Possible!) campaign; and to educate policymakers and the public about the value of free enterprise and the rule of law through the Mfashakumenya (Help Me To Know) campaign. With classical liberal ideas nearly unknown in Burundi, CDE’s educational programming helps to direct local attention to human rights and other critical challenges using both traditional and social media.
Africa Liberty Forum 2020: Powerful Pivots During a Pandemic.
During the pandemic, Atlas Network partners have responded to new socioeconomic challenges with creative solutions that keep their work relevant. CDE's Bruce Vaillant Ntangibingura spoke of the potential for government power to increase when people are demoralized by fear. CDE’s Kanguka (#wakeup) campaign is reaching out to the Burundian parliament and local regulatory agencies to help them understand why regulations will make life more difficult as the economy begins to recover.
June Arunga welcomes Fri Asanga and Bruce Vaillant Ntangibingura to the Powerful Pivots session.
In Cameroon, Fri Asanga of the Nkafu Policy Institute noted that a significant percentage of the population have lost confidence in the government, and Nkafu is working to protect individual liberties by launching a task force to address the needs of a country where safety nets for vulnerable populations do not exist, as well as to consider the impact of the pandemic on the economy. June Arunga of Usafi Comfort, who moderated the panel, spoke about the impact of the pandemic on business conditions in Kenya, pointing out that her own business has pivoted so that they remain relevant in difficult operating conditions.
Africa Liberty Forum 2020: "Big Daddy Liberty" with Magatte Wade.
With a growing following in southern Africa, Big Daddy Liberty’s anti-statist worldview was perfectly paired with the fiery passion of Atlas Network’s Magatte Wade, as the two electrified the conference with Wade’s fervent belief in change, entrepreneurial thinking, and the future of African leadership. Big Daddy Liberty, who is known as a street fighter for classical liberal ideas in Africa, is a powerful spokesman for freedom, and during their conversation, Wade identified seven reforms that will create future prosperity for the continent:
- To create widespread recognition that statism is colonialism, and that indiginous Africans created empires for commerce once—and will again.
- To create a popular movement that leapfrogs Africans into leadership roles via entrepreneurship and commercial success.
- To promote concrete, measurable targets in economic freedom.
- To unleash e-government and transparency to end corruption.
- To create special economic zones, such as charter cities, that enable freedom to thrive under the rule of law.
- To promote a popular campaign to denounce obstructive laws throughout Africa.
- To promote the “Cheetah Alliance” (as articulated by Ghanaian economist George Ayittey) by supporting African products, businesses, and entrepreneurs.
“We have no time to waste,” said Wade.
Africa Liberty Forum 2020: Upward Globility | Whose Land is it Anyway?
The final session of the day featured the first episode of Atlas Network’s new video series, “Upward Globility: Whose Land is it Anyway?”, which focuses on Free Market Foundation’s Khaya Lam project. Atlas Network’s Melissa Mann led a discussion with Free Market Foundation’s Temba Nolutshungu, who helped create and launch the project. His insight into the need for land reform in South Africa provided important context for the project’s success. "The logic of the value of property that you want to see the value increase,” said Nolutshungu. “With the legal title of the property in-hand, people make improvements to the land. Through no government investment, people take it upon themselves to improve the value of the land. It is a microcosm of the free market. It is what I call economic self-empowerment.”
To date, Khaya Lam has supported close to about 20,000 titles at approximately US$146 per unit, which has led to widespread support for the ownership process. Vale Sloane, who hosts Upward Globility, spoke about his filmmaking experience in South Africa and the impact that homeownership has on the lives of people who never dreamed that ownership would be within their grasp.
Day 2 of Africa Liberty Forum starts in less than 24 hours. Stay tuned for the announcement of the 2020 Africa Liberty Award Winner!
Big Daddy Liberty’s popular online shows and podcast are available for download and posted to social media.