As ticket sales for the film "Black Panther" rocketed into the stratosphere in the United States and around the world after its opening in February, a real king in the poor West African nation of Burkina Faso won a peace prize for his part in averting bloodshed in a political crisis.
On Feb.23, Mogho Naba Baongo II, the traditional ruler of the Mossi people, the dominant ethnic group in Burkina Faso, was honored by fellow African rulers -- elected and hereditary -- with the Macky Sall Prize for Dialogue in Africa, named for the current president of Senegal, who promotes political engagement in his own country and across Africa.
The prize, which carries a 50,000 euro stipend (just over $61,000) is awarded by the Geneva-based Center for Research and Initiatives, a nonprofit group with formal consultative status at the United Nations.
In 2015, Baongo stepped into a volatile Burkinabé breakdown of order after large popular protests forced the resignation of President Blaise Compaoré in 2014. (He was exiled to Ivory Coast.) Quarreling military factions threatened to block the restoration of democracy. As an elder statesman who has held the centuries-old traditional Mossi community kingship since 1982, Baongo has frequently been called on for political advice and intercession, according to an article by Ally Jamah in the Standard newspaper in Nairobi, where the prize was presented.
Jamah noted in his article that Baongo's title, Mogho Naba, means "king of the world" in the Mossi language. In more down-to-earth terms, Baongo's power is centered around the Burkinabé capital, Ouagadougou. Farther north, the country is facing rebel attacks that have so far defied resolution.
Political dialogue is one ingredient for stability often in short supply in Africa, where numerous conflicts have hampered economic and social development.
Turning to fiction, the success of "Black Panther," an adaptation of a Marvel comic book, has led two specialists at the Brookings Institution's African Growth Initiative to extract lessons from the story of Wakanda and the challenges faced by King T'Challa in his imaginary kingdom.
In an analysis titled "Marvel's Black Panther: natural resource management and increased openness in Africa," the authors, Mariama Sow and Amadou Sy, focus on the successful development model of Wakanda and those who would upend it. Their analysis looks at options for balancing the guarding of a unique natural resource -- in Wakanda's case, indestructible vibranium, a fictional metal dropped by a meteor -- with plans for future growth and integration in international trade and aid.
"Wakanda shares similarities with many African countries; African policymakers and their partners can draw lessons about good resource governance and economic integration from the movie," the authors wrote. Wakanda, they argued, "provides an image of the prosperity and technological advancement, which awaits properly managed resource-rich countries."
But . . . "Because of its self-imposed isolation," the authors wrote, “Wakanda appears to have an economic model where it does not trade its natural resource with the rest of the world; it lives in autarky and invests heavily in technology.”
In other words, there is no balance between hiding its nonrenewable vibranium to avoid becoming an exploited country and learning to use the resource wisely and selectively to sustain further development, sharing its riches and technological know-how beyond its borders.
This leads to an examination by the authors of the radically different policy prescriptions favored by three major characters in the film: T'Challa, Nakia and Erik Killmonger. Sow and Sy discern in the imaginary Wakanda a country that can handle its economic prospects wisely because of good governance, yet it may have to adapt to less isolation.
From the real world, the authors cite the wisdom and success of diamond-rich, well-governed Botswana, which through good governance did not fall victim to the "resource curse" of other African countries that built economies on exploiting their natural riches to the full. This exploitation has led to "misaligned exchange rates, the decline of non-resource sectors, political authoritarianism, conflict and economic inequity," the authors wrote.
If Wakanda were real, it would be perfectly poised to avoid the mistakes of others while making the most of its advantages. Policy wonks can enjoy the film and have something to think about later.
Traditional King in Burkina Faso wins Africa Peace Award
Press release By Ally Jamah | Published Fri, February 23rd 2018 at 19:18, Updated February 23rd 2018 at 19:21 GMT +3
An influential traditional ruler in Burkina Faso who has led peace and dialogue efforts in the West African country has won an award that seeks to promote dialogue and avert conflict in the continent Mogho Naba Baongo II, the reigning king of the Mossi, the largest community in Burkina Faso, and a symbol of tradition in the country and the region, has won the 2017 Macky Sall Prize for Dialogue in Africa, which is named after the current President of Senegal. The annual award, comes with Sh6.2 million (50000 Euros) cash prize, was awarded by Geneva-based Centre for Research and Initiatives for Dialogue (CIRID), an international NGO that promotes political and social dialogue to avert conflicts in Africa and enhance sustainable peace and development.
"Mr. Baongo was selected due to his role in resolving serious crises that have rocked Burkina Faso and played a key role in brokering the return of civilian rule to the country after the military coup in 2015," said Joel Hakizimana, CIRID's Permanent Secretary in a press conference in Nairobi as part of activities to publicise the award in the continent. The award is named after Senegalese President Macky Sall, who is credited with embracing dialogue in resolving political and social differences in the country. Mr. Hazikimana, said an Honorary selection committee made up of African leaders including former and current Presidents and Kings, settled on Baongo II after a lengthy and rigorous selection process. The Committee includes Ivory Coast’s President Allassane Ouattara, King Mohamed VI of Morocco, Gabon's President Ali Bongo, international artists Youssou Ndour, Angélique Kidjo and Emmanual Jal among others. CIRID is seeking to persuade Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta to join the committee. Mogho Naba is the title of the reigning monarch and means "King of the world" in the Mossi language. The community makes up about 40 per cent of the country's 18 million people.
Baongo II has been reigning since 1982 over a traditional kingdom that dates back to the 12th Century and lies at the heart of Burkina Faso's centre of power and capital Ouagadougou. The figure, seen as a powerful symbol of tradition, is often sought by the country's power brokers for his symbolic approval. But the traditional leader is supposed to be politically neutral, to make himself a credible arbiter during times of national crisis where there is a breakdown in dialogue between rival political actors. The Macky Sall prize was launched in 2016 by former Burundian teacher, journalist and diplomat Deo Hakizimana who heads CIRID and also chairs a Civil Society platform for Truth and Reconciliation in Burundi. CIRID has a special consultative status with the United Nations. "We are working to see the realisation of an African Day of Dialogue to be marked by all countries in the continent to draw attention for the need for innovative ways of preventing and resolving conflicts through dialogue to avert violence," said Joel Hazikimana.