Ladies and gentlemen,

Dear friends of CAFRAD from Africa and the World,

A few years ago, together we made the choice to rebuild our vision, redefine our strategy and rethink our means and our goal. We have committed ourselves to redefining our vision by repositioning CAFRAD’s institution, through an African centrality not exclusive to the rest of the world, because, from our point of view, there can be no substantial caesura between Africa and the nations beyond.

We thus oriented ourselves towards an Afrocentrality, in which the transformation of Administration and administrative governance in Africa must, from the onset, primarily be thought of as endogenous prisms, while steering clear of any form of exclusivism which would isolate from global transformations or dynamics.

This necessary position has enabled us, throughout these years, to revise many certainties, the limits of which have been demonstrated through experience. It has also allowed us to realise how far we have come, the real progress, the pertinence and relevance of certain choices, as well as the pitfalls or limits that we still must overcome.

In terms of the progress made, we have effectively been able to fathom the historical and symbolic importance of our institution. Created almost sixty (60) years ago, CAFRAD has navigated the unabridged history of the countries of our continent. It thus has experienced its various upheavals, its legitimate joys and celebrations, as well as certain disillusionments.

It has experienced now-controversial positionings due to a formerly standardising orientation, that, while being conscious of limitations, were determined by an era and its circumstances, thus occasionally opting for pragmatic and reasonable alignment.

That was the way of things, and it was the fashion. As others, CAFRAD joined in the building of African history, being contemporarily a part of this history, and writing it. Alone at times, but above all with their participation. It was the era of great change.

The time of reforms, ranging from the cosmetic variety of “Africanization of public services”, those of eras focused on the “democratising” type of participatory legitimisation, the “modernisation” of reforms hinging on the efficiency of “Performance and results”, and those now dubbed “transformative”, oriented towards a review of former paradigms, similarly based on increasingly questionable and substantially contested underpinnings (the transformation of Governance and Public-Private Partnership).

CAFRAD has witnessed all these mutations and is still very familiar with them today. It has become closely acquainted with these underpinnings and chooses to confront them one at a time, no longer with a sense of repulsive passion, endorsing, at times inopportunely, the argument of true but not always pertinent extroversion. Instead, opting to question each of these moments, each of these concepts, and all of the ends sustained by the rhetoric attached to them. This is why, in view of this rich and diverse history and trajectory, it seemed legitimate to mark its own positioning.

This choice is indeed the logical consequence of its historical trajectory, that accompanies its deepest convictions. This trajectory is, above all, expression of the refusal to deny its own identity. Indeed, from CAFRAD’s point of view, there can be no African and pan-African institution that does not claim its history, its epistemological positioning, and its axiological trajectory.

In so doing, CAFRAD has aspired not only to remain deeply anchored to Africa, but, above all, to remain true to itself. That is to say, open and flexible to the world, while always maintaining its roots in Africa, its priority target.

To be consistent with this vision, in the course of the past decade, CAFRAD decided to formulate the essence of its thought around what is now known as its flagship concept, namely: Responsible Public Governance. Through this concept, in fact, CAFRAD has aimed to remind us that the first moment of Responsibility, is, first and foremost, self-awareness. This grounding awareness constitutes the determinant and foundational support, that comes prior to all other forms of interaction.

This is why we believe that in this matter there can be no administrative, political, economic, cultural or any other form of governance, without a prior awareness of oneself, and thus, without a substantial dose of Responsibility.

This grounding awareness, should not, however, be understood as the erroneous catalyst of opportunistic and instrumentalised forms of exclusion, or of other manipulations. It is, from our point of view, the moment par excellence of any constitutive and constructive attitude of responsibility.

This is why, after having positioned the first conference of ministers of our institution under the theme of “Responsible Public Governance as the foundation of the rule of law”, we wanted to recall that beyond the essentially legal approach of responsibility, based on the prerequisite of a censured action,  sanctioned by a direct or indirect fault  ̶  that is to say,  attached or detached from the immediate intervention of its author  ̶ , we have chosen to adhere to a perspective which, in this case, diverges from the prior assumption of “fault” in the legal sense, but which, contrarily, fundamentally rests on the movement reflected by the conscience on itself or on the agent.

However, as soon as the consciousness exerts a movement that is reflected on itself, and thus becomes intrinsically aware, it becomes conscious of being the actor and thus recognises its own responsibility as well as that of others living the same experience. Thus manifests the consciousness of others in its worldly presence, and, consequently, forms of interaction are no longer solely reflexive and egocentric, but, also, relative and open to otherness.

From these two instances, appear what we translate into the notions of authenticity, singularity, ipseity or self-awareness. This is also where the interplay of notions such as relativity, the consciousness of others, otherness, the disposition to enter into relationships with others, extroversion or projection towards the known, and the space that is unknown but potentially known or knowable manifests. It is also the opening to other horizons; the projection towards encapsulated universality. A universality where encounters can give rise to understandings based on the sharing of values because of the variation of surrounding transactions.

This approach has necessarily led, in an inductive way, to admitting that the singularity of the African continent of which CAFRAD is the expression  ̶ through its historical and epistemological trajectory, as well as its missions  ̶  would inexorably entail recognising the existence of other spaces and thus other modes of expression, of assumption, and claims to their relationship to the world, despite the possible agreements or links between them.

This is what we translated through the organisation of the second forum of ministers of reform in Tangier in 2016, under the theme of the “cultural dimension of Responsible Public Governance.”

Through this perspective, we indicated that there can be no affirmed and assumed responsibility without the precondition of an ethical spirit or grounding. This can only result primarily from an agreement that is formal or tacit, voluntary or induced, acting as a unifying base of a group, founded on an idealised frame of reference that is rooted in tradition, revelation or reason.

In other words, there can be no responsibility without a founding or fundamental ethic, based on values legitimised by tradition, revelation or reason. Given the diversity of contexts, of traditions, of peoples and relationships to faith or to a certain idea of “Good”, the acts of command or authority should thus be conditioned.

This ultimately means that the notion of Responsibility in terms of governance, can only make specific sense if it is aligned with an idea of values and therefore embracing a certain basic ethic which shapes it, and according to which it is regimented. Consequently, there can be no governance good in itself (thus objective), but always only a relative governance that is therefore “good for itself”.

Governance dynamics can ultimately only assume determined and situated ethical characteristics. In other words, there cannot, in principle, be a virtuous governance dynamic in which “one size fits all” or that is “interchangeable” from one context to another, or from one era to another.

However, there will always and necessarily be different forms of virtuous Governance, due to the range of contexts, the variety of determinants to the basis of values, in addition to the diversity of forms of alignment with particular and determined types of ethical references in space and time.

This evidently does not mean that we should leave the door open to all forms of practice, which could be in contradiction with each other, and thus dilute the idea of virtue and display a form of tension towards shared or harmonised values in the global space that we want, albeit more integrated and more interdependent; Quite the opposite!

For CAFRAD, it is a question of saying that the diversity of cultures, traditions, environments, or conditionings, cannot and will not legitimately or rigorously be exempted from the debates, on the sole ground of a universal rationality peremptorily defined and fixed in an unequivocal and self-centered way.

This is why CAFRAD prefers the term “shared” to that of “universal”, as it better reflects the diversity of the world, but above all, leaves open the possibility for positive compromises, resulting from transactions between different spaces, cultures and traditions.

At CAFRAD, we therefore believe that the nature of governance is substantially and fundamentally complex; of a complexity which the analysis must first necessarily take into account. We therefore believe that the intelligibility of this concept cannot be achieved outside this perspective, if one aims to build an integrated and participatory global governance.

This is why, we believe, that the cultural dimension of Responsible Public Governance constitutes a fundamental step in this direction, and that the subsequent consensus, as the consequence of transactions, can give rise to a form of universally shared ethics. It is thus that the third conference of ministers based on the fight against corruption emerged in Rabat in 2017, as the first expression of an operationalisation of Responsible Public Governance.

By choosing this theme, we wanted to highlight the idea that the fight against corruption goes beyond the determinisms resulting from specific conditionings, but that, further to the previously laid out perspectives, transcultural and trans-contextual bridges could exist.

It was, in fact, the demonstration that certain values could be shared. Specifically, through the mutual pursual of an integrated definition of the idea of justice, organised around necessary and indispensable tensions, the advancement towards a certain shared idea of “Good” and therefore a shared definition of the notion of Responsibility could be achieved.

Here, CAFRAD wanted to highlight the idea that Responsibility in terms of governance, despite its reflexive and relative aspects, inevitably leads to intrinsic consequences at the qualitative level. In reality, for CAFRAD and through the chosen perspective, the agent or administrative authority is, in this case, always and necessarily committed at the beginning and at the end of the Governance activity, in the capacity of stakeholder.

He is the initiator, but he is himself likewise the beneficiary and addressee of the acts, while bearing the consequences of said acts. He is also accountable for the deviation from principles, of which he may be the author and to which he must, due to the confidence placed in him via an election or appointment, respond. By virtue of this prior trust, he is and must be the guarantor of the harmonious or virtuous execution of the mission entrusted to him. From our point of view, this is the very meaning and expression of the idea of accountability, which is essential in the case of adopting Responsible Governance.

This could, moreover, be done rigorously, only if we were in an ideally constructed world, without the possibility of manipulation, nor from the conceptual point of view, or from the point of view of these agents’ execution of this initial vision.

This is all the more accurate, since the history of the establishment of administrations in African countries was constructed, in a general way, as a project that was not always in service of the people, nor in respect of the administrative authority and these young States of the time.  It was therefore not necessarily constructed upon a sound ethical premise.  It was fundamentally built in a context of extroverted authority and with a central concern for the subordination of peoples and populations, in order to guarantee a certain global hegemonic order, for which the endogenous administrative authorities of the time had to primarily guarantee and ensure durability.

Thus, at the end of the discussions and reflections conducted at the highest levels, the proposal for a profound overhaul of the paradigms of public governance in Africa appeared in debates, along with the conference of Ministers of Reform on the theme of the “transformation of Governance in the pursuit and achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals”, held on the sidelines of the International Public Service Day.

This conference, held in Marrakech in June 2018, came as the close of a cycle, putting an end to the idea of reforms anchored in the initially disputed and discussed fundaments. International Organizations, and the most important among them, the UN, indirectly admitted that it was time to rethink Governance and introduce it to a new era; that of the reconstruction of Governance, on less controversial bases.

On this occasion, CAFRAD made the choice, since it was given the opportunity, to present its vision. A vision focused on a redefinition of the idea of Governance, insisting, among other things, on the need to depart from self-centered and univocal logics. It then proposed to open up to a perspective or to polycentric approaches. In passing, it invited all international institutions committed to this path to strengthen the dynamics of exchange, and to give substance to a more integrated governance on a global scale.  An approach in which the sharing of values and principles would be more relevant. This was reflected in the subsequent meetings organised on this occasion, as well as in the various training courses and seminars that followed.

Today, more than ever, CAFRAD’s identity is established, and has garnered recognition for its epistemological and axiological positioning. The framework of its action is forever visible and readable at all levels of the activity of reflection on the governance and transformation of administrative activity in Africa and in the world.

Admittedly, its position is not yet unanimous and perhaps never will be. But this is not its ambition, nor its concern.  Its ambition is to offer an alternative lens, distant from the unequivocal schemas within which we have so often lingered while being aware that these would be unsuitable to provide concrete solutions to the problems posed by African countries. These African countries, with their structures and cultures, content themselves, however problematically, with the formulas proposed to them, albeit sometimes inducing judgments with basic premises.

Nevertheless, this is a happy adventure, which essentially delights us in terms of the advances in the quality of debates, the quality of the contributors from Africa and the world, the rigour of conclusions and proposals for increasingly innovative approaches, as well as the determination of the teams. This is the place to thank them, each in a solemn way, for their unwavering dedication.

For us, it is the beginning of a new great journey, towards the contribution to the construction of a true Responsible Public Governance, which significantly reflects the constant tension of Africa and its institutions, towards the true claim of its history, its authenticity and its permanent openness to the universality of its values, signs of its full and complete solidarity and generosity towards the world and devoted to its beautiful singularity.