• June 3rd, 2020

Social cohesion in the context of nation-building

One of the primary reasons that otherwise good politicians enact bad policies in countries all over the world, but especially in low-income countries, is that they face significant constraints in their efforts to bring about reform. These constraints - the room for manoeuvre - are shaped by the degree of social cohesion in a country and the quality of its institutions. Social cohesion, the inclusiveness of a country’s communities, is essential for generating the trust needed to implement reforms. 

However, Namibia is divided along class and ethnic lines and with emerging institutions, even the boldest, most civic-minded and well-informed politician (or interest group) will face severe constraints in bringing about policy reform. 

Academics hypothesise that key development outcomes (particularly economic growth) are more likely to be associated with countries that are both socially cohesive and governed by effective public institutions. Sufficient evidence has shown that differences in economic growth rates among developing countries are as a consequence of a weak culture or lack of respect for the rule of law, lack of democracy, and other institutional deficiencies.  

Pro-development policies are comparatively rare in the developing world less because of the moral fibre of politicians (though that surely matters) than because good politicians typically lack the room for manoeuvre needed to make desired reforms. This lack of manoeuvrability is a product of insufficient social cohesion and weak institutions. Social cohesion should not be seen as a concern primarily of developing and transition economies. Indeed, it is as important in the United Kingdom as it is in Ukraine, as important in Canada as it is in Colombia, in the Netherlands as it is in Nigeria.  Promoting social cohesion is one of the most difficult, yet one of the most important, challenges facing Namibia today. However, while there is a widespread agreement that social cohesion influences economic and social development, and that nurturing a more cohesive society is an important policy goal in itself, little progress has been made in trying to measure it and track progress in this domain over time. 

One of the most severe limitations to this progress is the lack of definitional consensus on social cohesion. Social Cohesion may seem intuitive to describe it as the glue that binds us, or otherwise stated, the forging of a common sense of identity and belonging. 

In Namibia, the concept of Ubuntu has, for many, become synonymous with social cohesion, nation-building and efforts to bridge the cultural and racial divides of the past. As such, it is worth reflecting on the extent to which our proposed definition resonates with the notion of Ubuntu.

Allow me to illustrate the following: the slogan “your child is mine [and] my child is yours” has a particularly African flavour to it and in many ways epitomises the sense of community so prevalent in African society.

In this sense the child is held to be the property of the community and it is the community members who are expected to see to it that the individual child becomes a significant member of that particular community, an asset to all. The initial social stratum is constructed first of all into families and kinship, associations like clans, and then into clubs, neighbourhoods, communities, congregations, and more extended social hierarchies. This is the central notion of a society where people work together to create peace and love.  In furtherance of my views in this respect, I would like to register that some people use social media platforms to bad-mouth, slander and offend the other. 

Today everyone knows what cyberbullying is, and most of us have seen what it can do to a person.  A new epidemic has broken out in Namibia where young people use social media to fuel propaganda and insult national leaders and whoever else falls within their definition of who qualifies same derogatory insults.

 Today people garnering for power have deployed armies of fake accounts to do so.  We are also enthusiastic about the Cyber Security Bill, which is under progress as working document with the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology. I trust that this Bill will make provision to criminalise the distribution of harmful data messages to fellow citizens.  The initial draft Bill received some backlash with several critics saying it was too broad and open to abuse, and it threatened the fundamental democratic spirit of the Internet.   Research all over the world has proven that cybercrime is a huge and growing problem that warrants legislation to comprehensively deal with the scourge because the current legislation is not advanced enough, and that the cyber world is something we’re involved in. As much as social media is beneficial, I must caution our (youth) society to use social media with caution. Cognizance needs to be taken that posting on the various social media platforms (i.e.) Facebook, Google, Twitter, Instagram, Snap Chat, all records are saved on the servers and its records are permanently saved on the respective platform. 

* Obeth Kandjoze is Minister of Economic Planning and Director General of the National Planning Commission. This article has been shortened for space.

Staff Reporter
2019-07-26 11:12:22 | 10 months ago

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