Recently, various forms of violence have threatened the developmental aspirations that many countries are striving to put in place. Fresh in our minds are the terrorist attacks in East Africa targeting university students in Garissa, Kenya; the abduction of school girls in Nigeria by Boko Haram extremists; and the xenophobic attack in South Africa orchestrated against refugees and business owners in the city of Durban.
Issues of insecurity and social unrest point to the idea that economic development is not enough, and for a healthy national development, certain areas of the social fabric need to be equally taken care of. Indeed, money cannot buy everything; beyond the market economy citizens wish to live happily, fully secure, and able to express patriotism for their nation. For this reason, those running the political machinery need to set in place conducive policies that can harness the ideals of nation-building and the economic development that every citizen needs to acquire services and to satisfy their individual material needs.
However, in countries with shaky social structures and unequal access to national wealth, it is likely that the notions of patriotism and nation-building prospects will be shuttered by apprehensive reactions from citizens who are sidelined by a political system alleged to be more partisan than all-inclusive. Inequality, nepotism, and corruption weaken social integration and cohesion among citizens; they render the poor and minority groups vulnerable to manipulative, ill-intended lobbyists and terrorist sympathizers.
Hence, true development should aim at empowering the poor and minority groups. Failure to attend to the needs of the poor can cause inequality to grow more severe and social stability that prosperity requires to prove unattainable. This is why proper development requires a mature political environment that clears the ground for individual members of society to fulfill their developmental aspirations.
From the foregoing, it is clear that social integration and a law-binding system of governance could help eradicate social disintegration, and it is only within such a framework that integral development can truly be successful. In my view this is the path future development policy makers should embrace. It was unfortunate that in the Millennium Development Goals of 2000-2015, the notion of social integration was taken for a given; but recent history has proven that societies first need to be united and fully integrated for education, business projects, and disease control programs to succeed.
In a world in which religious extremism and ethnic violence keep shocking everyone, no advice will be more prophetic than the wake-up call Pope Francis issued in Gaudium Evangelii, which extols the harmonization of differences: “diversity is a beautiful thing when it can constantly enter into a process of reconciliation and seal a sort of cultural covenant resulting in a ‘reconciled diversity’” . Until we reconcile our differences and are able to make political decisions beyond our selfish interests, our developmental aspirations lack solid foundations. This is a global challenge that policy planners should take into consideration, especially in African countries that are in dire need of this dimension so as to exorcise the historical injustice and the spiral of violence which have kept their development at bay.