As Mauritius prepares to celebrate 50 years of independence in less than a year, the time is no doubt ripe to reflect on the kind of country we aspire to live in.
50 years is a watershed moment for many and a number of African countries have recently passed that mark. The one country that springs to mind as a model of citizenry engagement both qualitatively and quantitatively is Ghana.
The case of Ghana is highly symbolic as it was the first country on the continent to break the shackles of colonial power and become independent. In fact, this year (March 6), Ghana turned 60 and the newly elected president, Nana Akufo – Addo called upon Ghanaians ‘to understand their country’s short comings and look at ways to improve’.
The reason why Ghana is referred to is because it offers a good experiment in citizenry democracy. Technology, innovation and the astute use of social media are being harnessed by the average Ghanaian to shape their country, push for policies more reflective of their expectations and demand governance that is accountable and transparent.
Hashtags such as #MyGhana and #NotmyGhana were developed to push for a new class of politicians and where the voices of the youth were factored in. Today, #MyGhana has become a symbol of national brand which is used to promote different aspects of economic, social and cultural activities. Another interesting example is the electoral project that the Electoral Commission of Ghana supported in the run up to the December 2016 elections. ‘Ghana Votes’ promoted an extremely interactive and respectful exchange of ideas between the contenders for the highest position in the country. Never was social media as live, interactive, dynamic and qualitatively driven. For a number of observers it spoke to the meaningfulness of casting one vote on ideas and not on empty electoral promises.
Can Mauritius follow? There is no reason why it cannot or should not. The island has one of the highest Internet connectivity on the continent, there is a 146 % mobile penetration and social media is spreading fast and furiously. However, what is imperative at this juncture is that there is a national project, which triggers a national consciousness to be part of the conversation and the action of Mauritius@50 and beyond. The time for collective citizenry is now. Perhaps the national Think Tank MSR provides a wonderful opportunity.