Human Augmentation, Anticipation Initiative And African Youths
By Leo Igwe
Human augmentation projects the capacitation of human beings beyond their natural abilities and limitations. It is a basic aspiration of human beings, and has been going on since the emergence of humans. Human enhancement is both physical and cognitive and promises to cure and overcome diseases and disabilities that encumber and debilitate human existence. Interestingly, human augmentation is one of the themes of this year’s University of Cape and Geneva Science Diplomacy Accelerator (GESDA) Youth Anticipation Initiative. This initiative aims to use the science of the future to shape the present. More importantly, it tries to mainstream African youth participation, making sure that the voice of African youths is heard in this important conversation. The Youth Anticipation Initiative is a thoughtful and commendable program given the fact that the future belongs to the youths.
To situate the link between human augmentation and African youths, I would like to recount a recent incident. It happened in my community in southern Nigeria. On Monday, July 11, 2022, I got a call that people in my village woke up early in the morning to discover that someone had poured some white sand across the major footpaths. It was a strange sight that evoked fear and panic among the population. Community leaders quickly summoned an emergency meeting to unravel what happened. Their inquiry traced the incident to a young man in his late 30s who was visiting. This gentleman lives in a city about 110 kilometers from his hometown. He works as a school teacher and also a part-time pastor at a popular Pentecostal church in Port Harcourt.
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According to family sources, some weeks ago the mother informed him that the aging father, over 80 years, was ill. Some years ago, two of his brothers took ill and died under what some within the family deemed “mysterious circumstances”. Before traveling to see the father, this young man went and consulted, not a medical doctor, but a senior pastor in his church. The pastor told him to go and conduct a liberation prayer with some white sand and olive oil so that his aging and ailing father would recover. The ritual would supposedly neutralize any other malicious forces linked to the father’s sickness and other misfortunes in the family and community. On Sunday night while the villagers were asleep, he went and poured some white sand and olive oil across the footpaths in the community as part of this prayer of liberation, and obviously, efforts to get his father healed.
The community leaders were angry and sanctioned him for conducting this ritual without their consent and permission. They asked him to pay some penalty, to give the community some kola nuts, a goat, a jar of palm wine, and five thousand naira to appease the gods of the land. But the young man objected to paying the penalty, and later went back to the city. This young man indulged in this ritual exercise to increase the father’s and by extension other community members’ health and lifespan. It was an exercise to tackle existential challenges. While this incident is not representative of what all Nigerian or African youths do or would do when confronted with illness and aging, it is indicative of a potent and pervasive mindset in the region. In the absence of technoscientific goods, African people deploy mythical formations and rituals in their efforts to cure diseases, defy death, and augment life. They resort to using traditional, Christian and Islamic charms and accessories. Unfortunately, the mythical habit hampers the ability of Africans to use the science of the future to build the present, and increase health and lifespan. It stymies the possibilities of human augmentation and the potential of Africans to leverage other new science and technology advances. But the situation is much more complicated.
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Existing techno-politics has orchestrated a gap between Africa and the rest of the world. This gap has made technologies inaccessible and unaffordable for many people. If urgent measures are not taken to rectify the technological disconnect of Africa from the rest of the world, the gap would persist in the anticipated augmented future. If Africa does not witness some radical shifts in policy, orientation, and mindset associated injustices and inequities would even worsen. Although human augmentation and other emerging technological schemes point to much better, healthier and happier futures, risks and dangers abound.
While Africans must be optimistic about the prospects of human augmentation and other emerging technological programs, there is a need to exercise caution, and temper optimism with realism. The technological differential has created a situation whereby these goods and benefits have largely been elusive, unharnessed, and underutilized. African countries have become a dumping ground of outdated and sometimes harmful technologies. Africans have been unable to access or optimally deployed existing technologies to tackle their everyday needs and challenges. Many Africans travel to Europe, America, India and the Middle east to access medical care at exorbitant costs. And this trend is not changing for now. If these gaps are not narrowed or closed, Africa could be left further behind in the race for human augmentation and other futurist schemes.
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In addition, existing technologies have yielded a situation where African countries are described as developing, less developed, or underdeveloped. If the gap is not rectified, augmentation could become an identity political issue. Augmentation could become a way of defining and identifying humans. Africa might end up being designated as a continent of unaugmented, under-augmented, or less augmented humans as opposed to augmented humans in the west and the rest of the world.
Human augmentation is a welcome development. Highlighting the risks and dangers associated with human augmentation should not be misinterpreted. It should not be seen as an exercise in despair, or an attempt to stop or oppose the process of human capacitation. Rather, noting these concerns is a way to ensure that necessary measures are taken to mitigate envisaged risks; that promises and possibilities of this exciting project are harnessed as anticipated for Africa and the rest of the world.
Dr Igwe is the author of a paper titled ‘Transhumanism and Emerging Technologies: Exploring Ethics and Human Enhancement in Africa’
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With Us, Not For US
By Ijeoma Fynecountry
The 21st of March of every year is international day for the celebration of persons living with down syndrome. The advocacy and push for communal and political recognition of the basic fundamental rights for persons living with various types of disabilities, particularly intellectual disability, just as enjoyed by their peers who do not have any form of challenge – physical or intellectual has recorded a substantial success around the globe, especially in more developed climes.
While the same cannot be said of the situation in Africa and Nigeria in particular, scanty breakthroughs have also been seen over the years, with the consistent and dogged efforts by some specialized organizations such as Down syndrome Foundation, Nigeria (DSFN).
The theme for this year’s celebration is “With us, Not for us”. This theme is apt particularly in the current era where the push for inclusion has taken a center stage in the campaign worldwide. While it is comforting to know that people, government and communities alike are now becoming more empathetic to the plight of persons living with disability, it is also necessary and most important that their rights as human beings deserving of not just empathy but actual concrete benefits accruable to other citizens without disability, is massively taken into consideration and actually provided for.
Therefore, it is not enough for the government to map out and create as in Lagos state and few other states, sections in the public schools to admit children or persons with intellectual disability, it is necessary to adequately equip these special schools with the needed “specialized” manpower, infrastructural and educational aids to attain the targeted educational goals for these persons. Likewise in the provision of better healthcare, economic, social needs of persons with disability etc.
Persons with intellectual disability do not just need to be specifically educated in accordance with his or her type of disability, but MUST also necessarily be able to aspire to or expect to be employed according to his or her learned ability. That way, a full right, befitting of a person, be him a person with disability or not, is assured. For what is the need of going through a learning process, acquiring a specialized knowledge about a craft or handiwork and eventually still not being given the opportunity of gaining employment as supposed, not due to lack of knowledge but for having a disability? No human being should be subjected to such. Our government should do better. The society at large should do better.
The theme for this year is enjoining all stakeholders – the government, communities, corporate organizations, religious bodies/organizations, individuals to open up their hearts, and recognize the very urgent and important need to help in the actualization of these basic human needs, rights of persons living with intellectual disability as we are all human. No human rights or needs should be prioritized over the other no matter the state of their health, mental and physical capacity. Stand with us by taking actual intentional steps towards uplifting and elevating the humanness of persons living with disability. It is not enough to say that you are for persons living with disability, your specific, intentional, targeted actions toward ensuring the practical applicability of these rights matters.
Fynecontryis a Lagos-based legal practitioner and the legal resource person for the Down Syndrome Foundation Nigeria.
The 2023 Elections And The Newness Of Nigeria
By Hope Nwawolo
Despite the hues and cries that greeted the results of the 2023 elections, what if the court’s pendulum stays or swings otherwise in the expected litigations?
What will it teach our inquisitive young children?
What will it do to the hopes and dreams of the youths?
What will it do to the mind set of those in diaspora, waiting and hoping to return?
How will it affect our heroes still alive and yearning for the good old times?
One basic fact is that no matter where the pendulum swings, something new has started in the political sphere of Nigeria. And because it was unexpected, it has become almost impossible to strangulate it.
In every competition, there is an expectation that the best man will win. That may not always be in politics, particularly, in Nigeria…where the winner may not be the best man or even the better man. And when it is said that politics is a game of numbers, sometimes, the actual numbers may not be visible to determine the end result. It becomes a case of the more you look the less you see; until interpreted by respected learned men with high integrity.
Politics, they say is a dirty game, where money speaks and promises made are broken without an iota of guilt. Where the gullible minds of the masses are deceived, with as little as a box of indomie. Where some vibrant but jobless youths are brainwashed to risk their lives to snatch ballot boxes for the politicians who do not know them beyond giving them stipends through some third parties. Where market women are forced to come out for rallies and campaigns because they cannot afford the fine that will be imposed on them if they failed to participate. They also do not want the harassment of the market leaders.
In politics, fear is palpable in the air, before, during and after elections. The 2023 elections recently carried out, depicted these more than expected in both the politicians and electorate. What started like the usual political pattern took a drastic turn about nine months to the first elections and though it was said to be only a social media affair, it got everyone sitting upright and tightening his seat belt, particularly after the first elections.
Now, there is a generational shift, a new awakening, a new dawn and a new political birth, waiting to happen. To wherever the pendulum turns; where the court stands, it will make a turnaround in Nigeria. It may be turbulent at the beginning, it may be emotionally draining and psychologically traumatizing, but it will point to light at the end of the tunnel.
There is a new hope backed by a high spirit of determination. An unexplainable faith in many people for that newness of existence and purpose. An unprecedented emotional and psychological strength in the youths not to give up on their dreams. An unquenchable desire to keep praying. Soon a newness will break forth to calm all nerves and dry all tears.
A newness that will permeate conflicts and hatred,
A newness that will dissipate unnecessary anger,
A newness that will usher in unquestionable and transparent political systems in future elections,
A newness of freedom to choose a candidate without coercion or molestation
A newness of jubilation after the announcement of election results.
This is the new Nigeria that is awaiting delivery…
Nwawolo, PhD, writes from Lagos.
Overcoming Policy Execution Trap As Nigeria’s Development Challenge
By Tunji Olaopa
If I am asked to give a succinct and apt summary of the entire challenge faced by the Nigerian state in terms of her policy architecture and development management, in spite of contestation in the development literature, I will not hesitate in stating clearly and unambiguously that it is the challenge of policy implementation; the whole dynamics of getting things done. By elimination, the implication is that the challenge cannot be located as that of the dearth of development ideas, insights, models and paradigms. Right from her independence, Nigeria has been inundated with several ideas, both local and global, about development policy and frameworks. And yet, policy outcomes keep getting bogged down in the murky waters of political shenanigans. This means that the new administration of Bola Ahmed Tinubu has its challenge mapped out, in red, for it.
There is no shying away from this postcolonial predicament that has limited and kept limiting Nigeria’s capacity to honour the terms of her social contract with Nigerians. Hence, the Tinubu government will soon be inundated with the impatient agitations of Nigerians for a quick and tangible fix that will address their sufferings. And they are justified since they have not been given any real deal for the past sixty-three years of sovereign independence. And the new administration is obligated because that is the reason for seeking office in the first place.
Prof. Olaopa’s new book on public policy and development challenges
How then can we begin to understand this policy execution challenge? It is simple: how can an administration in Nigeria transition from governance vision and policy intention to policy outcomes that elevate and transform the quality of life of its citizens? Failure to understand and give critical and political attention to this question lies at the heart of the governance failures of successive Nigerian administrations. The new Tinubu administration cannot afford such a glaring mistake. And so, a fundamental case must be made out of the question of how policy intentions get circumscribed in the dynamics of policy execution that occasions policy failures in past administrations.
Modern states all across the world are distinguished by the traditional four functions they discharge as part of their administrative responsibilities—security i.e. securing the sovereign territory against lawlessness, policy formulation and implementation, governance regulation and service delivery.The capacity to perform each and all of these functions very well within an integrated framework in the governance context is what delivers the dividends of democratic governance to the citizens, and it enhances the state’s competitive and human development rating in global reckoning. With these functions, we have the metrics to differentiate between high-performing states like China, India, the United States,Botswana, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirate, Germany, Rwanda and the Asian Tigers (Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea), and low- or even under-performing countries like Nigeria that is still cluelessly stuck within a dysfunctional vicious cycle within her arrested development.
From the perspective of governance, there must be something these states are getting right in the connection between leadership, politics, and policy articulation. For instance, there is a trajectory of relationship that links elite bargains to development bargains. In other words, development is a
function of elite nationalism and the extent to which the political class of a state can commit elite suicide and gamble on development on behalf of the people they are leading. In Nigeria, low
manifestation of elite nationalism has made it really difficult for the political class to set aside their personal and egoistic class interests in ways that enable them to clearly and ideologically discern and navigate the deadly developmental landmines strewn all over our governance landscape by the
neoliberal implication of ideological apparatuses and frameworks to which Nigeria is beholden. And here, the factor of development gamble of the Asian Tigers’ elites comes into bold relief. From within the ideological ambit of the developmental state, the leadership of the Asian Tigers were able to define a policy space that consciously and critically weighed the benefits and shortfalls of external influences, especially the type that came from the World Bank, IMF and the other cohorts of the neoliberal policy dynamics. Their developmental circumspection paid off!
Since we cannot argue that Nigeria has been stumped by the lack of vision documents, development plans and blueprints, or even policy expertise, the locus of the new administration’s focus must be directed at the possibility of mustering the political will to undermine the mystified Nigerian Factor, and face the global neoliberal consensus in order to begin the crafting of an enabling policy architecture to drive development. And to achieve this translates to creating the delicate balance between ‘doing the right things’ (a function of decision making quotient) and ‘doing it right’(project and change management effectiveness), and overcoming the various political, cultural, structural and systemic constraints that trapped past well-meaning policies and intentions of Nigerian leaders in the dynamics of implementation.
There is first the conspiracy of elitist interest that ensures there is a poor resource allocation that focuses on elite bargain than development calculations and taking care of the national interest. Other constraints follow: (a) the disconnect between policy design and implementation due to weak implementation planning, risk assessment and incompetent change management strategies; (b) unstable and poorly managed macroeconomic policies; (c) policy and project discontinuity; (d) public service low capability readiness; (e) political interference; and finally (f) deep-seated political and bureaucratic corruption. In essence, development has failed not because Nigeria lacks the blueprint or paradigms to make it happen, but due to the dynamics of the politics that the political elite plays with Nigeria’s development potential.
Let me outline what we can regard as the “politics of policy implementation” that Nigeria has played for many years, a politics the new administration must take into serious consideration if it
does not want to fall into the category of failed administration right before it commences. This politics throws Nigeria’s development and policy non-performance right into the frame of the 2005 World Bank review findings about policy and development projects in Africa. According to the finding, 29% of development projects ever get completed, 45% of on-going projects are rated as satisfactory, while 26% of such projects invariably get cancelled. Such a review can never backstop a solid development project of a developmental state.
The politics of policy implementation in
Nigeria is founded on the following assumptions and practices. One: there is that dangerous presumption, that the new administration must resist, that once policies and development plan are designed, they are automatically implemented by the public service. And such a presumption is against the background of a scant investment in implementation analysis and planning, as well as the failure to facilitate the capability review, determine public
administration system’s capability readiness, and strengthening of the MDAs as the powerhouse of government administrative functionality. The MDAs, that is, are not working according to any
specific theories or praxis of change that can guide the functional integration of blueprints or paradigms. This kind of policy inattention draws attention to the policy contradiction: launching a
national development plan and strategy that are not implementation- ready in terms of adequate capability review of the MDAs integral to ensuring implementation success. Two: this
presumption is compounded by the uncritical reliance of past governments on policy experts and consulting firms who are tasked with designing high-end policies that are then dumped on MDAs whose capability reviews and implementation readiness have been neglected in the first place. The
extroversion of the policy design is then compromised by poor functional integration. The truth is that most of these consulting firms lack the appropriate deep content and solution frameworks that are in tandem with the context of policy dysfunction they are supposed to work with. Three: governance policy or project are hardly subjected to feasibility test determined in terms of scope and expectation that are captured by their framework of time, cost and risk assessments before
they are pushed into implementation. This makes it very difficult to benchmark funding projections for these policies and projects against revenue estimations, as well as facilitating in-built flexibilities that enable the policies and projects to adjust to volatilities and contingencies.
All the issues raised above constitute binding constraint that will undermine any governance possibilities the new administration requires to make a success of democratic governance. Undermining the binding constraints demands returning to the fundamentals. The first and most significant is that the new administration needs to interrogate the framework of how government business is currently being conducted. Governance successes are necessarily a function of how government business engages the complexities of the policy design and execution processes within a results-oriented frame. And that entails undermining the structural gaps between policy objectives, development strategies and policy outcomes. This demands second, setting the public service on a performance curve with the institution of a performance management system. This means that the public service must, for example, unfailingly now deploy KPI-based metrics to replace the cumbersome annual performance evaluation report (APER). And at the backend, it becomes imperative to have a monitoring and evaluation system supported by databases that enable staff and program continuous assessment, human resource development rooted in iterativep performance gap identification, supervisors-staff dialogue and multisource feedback mechanismsf for overall national development policy tracking and reporting.
The governance mantra must be on getting the balance between doing the right things and doing it right. And this cannot be achieved through the wanton multiplication or even duplication of
governance plans, programs and blueprints. What is needed is sequencing the blueprints into a coherent and feasible implementation programme, with the right amount of political will behind it. This gives the success of democratic governance a 95% chance of succeeding. The new administration needs that fighting chance!
. Olaopa, a retired Federal Permanent Secretary, and Professor of Public Administration .
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