On May 13, reviewers Nick Westcott and Prof. Shanta Devarajan joined K.Y. Amoako and a panel of economic commentators and practitioners to hold a discussion on Know the Beginning Well for the African Arguments, African Voices podcast. The book discussion generated a lively exchange of ideas on experiences on a wide range of African development issues.
The one lesson I take away from Know the Beginning Well is ‘hope’. Despite all the issues that KY has faced throughout this wonderful journey, he has shown us – without arrogance or pompous declaration – that we can actually do something about them. Wherever he has been he has actually made a difference: at the World Bank, at the UN Economic Commission for Africa, and now through ACET, he is making a great difference. I see how his ideas are being shared across policymakers in Africa. ACET has set the agenda for economic development and can be credited for the fact that jobs and transformation are now at the center of World Bank policy for Africa. Despite all the challenges, there is hope, and even a single person, when working in collaboration with others, can make a difference.
While we are dealing with problems that are similar to those that KY encountered over the last 50 years, the conversation is very different, as we are building off of what KY has built. People no longer question the importance of gender equity – there are still big questions about how to promote it, but that is a different conversation from having to justify it. It is no longer questioned that poor people have to hold their governments accountable; that is now a given. We still have to work on implementation to make sure we get there, but that is a very exciting agenda that reinforces the point of the book – it is important to know the beginning well.
I have learned a lot by reading Know the Beginning Well. When advocating for change at the macroeconomic level, it can be very difficult to get attention for women and gender issues. But I realize that it has become part of our DNA – in no small part thanks to KY, who has been one of the first leaders to bring this agenda to Africa. The journey continues, it should not stop here.
One of the lessons Know the Beginning Well teaches us is that meetings matter. They can be dull or contentious, but getting politicians in a room together and having them talk without reading off of their scripts is when the rubber hits the road, and they have to justify their ideas and can be influenced by them.
K.Y. Amoako, Founder and President of the African Center for Economic Transformation
While we have talked much about the beginning, the end is about the future for Africa’s children. Given all the challenges, there is still a sense of optimism. Kofi Annan told me that the difference between an optimist and a pessimist is that while they can both be wrong, the optimist dies a happier person. If we can focus on the youth, gender, and our children and grab that agenda, I will not be troubled.
Listen to the podcast below