Africa’s search for foreign value and validation: the obsession for foreign advocacy and the expensive (hiring of) foreign PR firms and communications experts (gurus).

It’s hard to confidently say whether it is a uniquely African phenomenon or a widely used tactical approach, mainly in the political world, where foreign advocacy on local (national) issues is given more weight and value than local voices/advocacy.

It’s obvious that African governments and their officials attach high value on what foreigners and/or foreign agencies think and therefore say about them and their affairs more than they care to engage and pay attention to what their people think and say on issues that directly affect them. Consequently, many African governments and their officials have become, and are increasingly growing dependent as well as highly sensitive on foreign opinions about them than they are concerned with local (national) opinions on their policies and the behaviour of some government officials.

Many African governments and their officials are constantly chasing for foreign validation than they care to engage and listen to the genuine concerns of the people they, supposedly and ironically, claim to represent. Local concerns and grievances are of little consequence to such governments and their officials, and therefore can be and are easily ignored without direct consequences. All they care for is foreign (international) concern and perception about their behaviour and actions.

This is mainly due to the fact that, the public – the ordinary citizens – have no effective stake, participation in the affairs of governance: what governments and their officials do, supposedly on people’s behalf. The people are treated as a mere non-essential product in the governance process and government affairs. The government can do with or without them; so, sod the people, after all!

In most cases, the ordinary people have no power at all to influence government policies and actions, and the behaviour of government officials some of whom behave and act with impunity towards and in their often overly patronising engagement with the public. Governments and their officials behave and act like feudal lords over the people – the public – who they evidently treat as their serfs.

Consequently, this government behaviour and mindset, has brought about the phenomenon of the “reign of the tyranny of the public servant/government official“. This is because people have been systematically and effectively robbed of power by the[ir] governments through the mechanism of policy: using policy as a whip with which to whip the public in line with government agenda, whether it’s in public interest or not, and have the public cowed into silence.

Increasingly, many African governments are turning to and hiring, quite expensively, foreign public relations (PR) agencies/firms and influential media houses to speak for them; on their behalf. To do something of an “image building” for them by writing glowingly and painting rosy impressions of their (domestic) policies. Obviously relying on and using fictitious tactics and methods to create a certain desirable reality that enhances government image internationally.

It’s strange and a shameful contradiction that demonstrates a lack of ideological conviction and political maturity as well as independence; to have and hear, on the one hand, many such African governments and their officials publicly, in a rather chest-thumping manner, speaking ill and complaining about colonialists and their “neo-colonial” agenda in Africa; yet, on the other hand, running and paying hefty sums of, what’s assumed to be public funds, to colonialist agencies for their colonialist image building (enhancing) expertise.

It’s mainly in Africa, if not a uniquely an African phenomenon, where the affairs and policies of an African government, supposedly in public interest, are communicated, lauded and written about glowingly by, and appear often more in, foreign media outlets. Spoken and written about glowingly by foreign officials and other communications agencies than they are written about by local agencies and/or publicly lauded by the people – the public- who are directly affected by or stand to benefit from them.

It speaks volumes about such governments, many of which claim to be “democratic“, therefore guided by principles of democracy. But what is a democratic government if it is not, fundamentally, or, at the very least; in the words of President Abraham Lincoln “government of the people, by the people, for the people“?

What kind of government puts trust in, values and puts a high premium on foreign voices (advocacy) for its policies and activities on its own people more than it trusts, and can trust its own people to speak for themselves and by implication, speak for it and on its policies and actions?

What message does and should that send about the government’s attitude towards, not only the professional expertise and capacity/ability of its own citizens, but also its own policies on national professional development, i.e, mainly the national education system?

Of what use is a national education system that cannot produce competent people (minds) that can and should be trusted by their own governments, to speak on and about national issues on an international level, be taken seriously and trusted as much as hired foreign mercenary expertise?

What message should such demonstrated government behaviour and actions, more importantly, its clear lack of trust in the professional expertise, capacities and abilities of its own citizens, send to such hired foreign mercenary expertise (foreign consultants) and the entire international community?

If a government, demonstrably, cannot and does not trust the professional expertise, capacities and abilities of its own citizens as to entrust them with advocacy on its behalf, for its policies, activities, actions and other national matters; who should bother put trust in them; and why should they?

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