The continent of Africa is home to more than 1.4 billion people, representing over 16% of the world’s population. Yet despite this size, Africa is one of the least developed regions in the world. Many African countries continue to face extreme poverty and suffer from under-resourced healthcare and education systems, and other basic necessities. Despite the tremendous economic potential, most nations of Africa lack the resources and infrastructure needed to develop and advance their societies. This lack of development has prevented millions of people from reaching their full potential. Fortunately, this situation is not irreversible. With the right human capital investment and vision, human flourishing in Africa is possible.
What is human flourishing?
Human flourishing is much more than the absence of suffering. It is about enabling people to achieve their full potential and to live the lives that they value. But achieving human flourishing in Africa is a challenge for many reasons. The continent has lots of problems: there are ethnic conflicts, corruption, a poorly funded education system, high rates of unemployment, and hunger. There is also famine, poverty, and inequality — all things that inhibit people from living flourishing lives. The complexity of these issues makes it even more challenging to promote human flourishing in Africa.
In order to begin improving conditions for people across the continent, we must first understand what human flourishing means and how to encourage it in Africa. Human flourishing involves more than just letting people live happy unproductive existences. It means actively creating opportunities to enable them to pursue their highest aspirations and find meaning in their lives. To that end, here are five key ways that we can do this.
#1 Acknowledge that we can’t be neutral
Although we may be tempted to remain neutral in the face of suffering, it’s important to acknowledge that we can’t be neutral. We have to take a stand and take responsibility for the impact of our own actions on others, and on the world at large. Taking a stand doesn’t mean that we have to engage in militant or aggressive action. But we do have to acknowledge the inherent power imbalance between the “haves” and the “have-nots” within our continent. If you want to promote flourishing across African communities, then you need to acknowledge that you are part of the solution. Taking a stand against the oppressive structures that inhibit flourishing, such as sexism, corruption, and xenophobia, is a crucial first step to being part of the solution.
#2 Empower women and girls
Empowering women and girls across Africa is crucial to promoting human flourishing in the continent. Women and girls are often the most marginalized members of society. They are also among the least likely to have opportunities to fully express their talents and abilities. In many African countries, women and girls face discrimination at every level of society. They are often denied access to education, health care, and property ownership, among other basic rights. They are also more likely to be the victims of sexual and domestic violence, and less likely to be able to report such crimes. If we want to promote human flourishing in Africa, we need to ensure that women and girls across the continent have equal opportunities and access to resources. We need to dismantle the cultural and institutional structures that relegate them to second-class status in their own continent.
#3 Create safe spaces for marginalized groups
There are a number of marginalized groups in Africa, including LGBTQIA+ people, religious and ethnic minorities, and people living with disabilities. Many of these groups are particularly vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. Those that are reliant on others for survival, such as children and young people, are especially at risk. Since the current political climate in many African countries is hostile to members of these groups, creating safe spaces for these populations is crucial. Creating safe spaces involves a number of things. First, we need to recognize the unique set of challenges faced by these groups and acknowledge that they have been excluded from the mainstream discourse. Then we need to provide information and support. For example, we can provide resources and safe spaces where members of these groups can connect with one another.
#4 Provide opportunities for self-determination
Allowing people to exercise their autonomy and make their own decisions is crucial to promoting human flourishing. But this is especially important for marginalized groups that are regularly denied the opportunity to exercise self-determination. We can promote human flourishing in African communities by providing opportunities for self-determination. One way to do this is to support initiatives or projects that are led by members of marginalized groups. We should also promote spaces where members of marginalized groups can assert their autonomy. For example, we can provide platforms for secessionist groups to be heard, share their perceived experiences of marginalization, and offer their expertise and insights on how to resolve issues and strengthen ties with the broader population. This will help to combat the prevailing narrative that is dominated by the experiences of the privileged elite.
#5 Take a stand against harmful cultural practices
Not all cultural practices are beneficial. Some are even harmful. And some can inhibit people from living flourishing lives. Some African communities engage in harmful cultural practices such as female genital mutilation and child marriage. These practices, along with other cultural practices such as polygamy, can have devastating effects on the lives of millions of people in Africa. Now, we can’t just go around telling people to stop practising their customs, but we can use our platforms and positions of authority to advocate for change or reform. We can use our respective positions to speak out against harmful cultural practices and promote alternatives.
The way we approach what we do is the difference between helping people, and making a difference in their lives. Human flourishing is rarely an accident; it is usually the result of a concerted effort to create an environment of possibility. Now, these are just five ways to promote human flourishing; there are plenty of others as well. But if we want to create change, then we need to actively work towards making a difference in the lives of others — to create opportunities for flourishing.