If Africa is to grow, then all of us must now make a solemn vow that whatsoever we do, we shall do it for the benefit of the continent. All men and women in the fifty four (54) African countries must roll up their sleeves and work.
Those in positions of leadership must see those positions as positions of trust not opportunities for material aggrandizement. As Dr Boima Fahnbulleh, a Liberian politician and diplomat has said, Africa can rise and indeed must rise, but she can only do so if her leaders and her people make that choice in their home now.
Throughout history, leadership has been the driver of human progress. Human history is replete with stories of societies which have known astounding development because they were led by enlightened leaders.
Conversely, examples abound of other societies that have had to endure great pain because of being led by fiends masquerading as leaders. This necessarily begs the questions, who is a leader? What is good leadership?
Leadership is difficult to define but easy to recognize. However, for the purpose of this paper it suffices to say that leadership is service for society’s benefit. According to Peter Drucker, “Leadership is the lifting of man’s vision to higher sights, the raising of man’s performance to higher standards, the building of men’s leadership is difficult to define but easy to recognize…”
In Africa, the term leader is often erroneously used to describe anybody in a position of authority who wields power. It does not matter how he or she exercises such authority or power. In a nutshell, the mere occupation of a position that calls for leadership is equated to leadership.
However, as we know different societies have over the years treated charismatic ‘fiendish demagogues’, like Adolf Hitler (Germany), Benito Mussolini (Italy) Idi Amin (Uganda), Mobutu Sese Seko (Democratic Republic of Congo), Jean-Bédel Bokassa (Central African Republic), Macías Nguema Biyogo (Equatorial Guinea), and many others as leaders, merely because they occupied positions of leadership, while in fact they were ‘mis-leaders’, who led their countries to destruction.
In his book ‘Virtuous Leadership’ Alexandre Harvard with whom I agree, identifies the essential ingredients of leadership –service, virtue in action and character. Fortifying his assertions in sources like Plato’s writings, the Book of Wisdom in the Bible and Steven Covey; Harvard distils six virtues as the pillars of leadership: “Leaders are defined by their magnanimity and humility. They always have a decision, which they invariably transform into a vision and mission. It is magnanimity – the striving of the spirit towards great ends – that confers this lofty state of mind… But leadership consists of more than just ‘thinking big.”
He continued: a leader is always a servant of those in his professional, family and social circle, his countrymen, and indeed, the whole of humanity. And the essence of service is humility.
Leaders who practice humility respect the innate dignity of other people and especially of fellow participants in a joint mission. Magnanimity and humility go hand in hand in leadership. Magnanimity generates noble ambitions; humility channels these ambitions into service for others.”
Former UN secretary General Kofi Annan argued that opulence for Africa hinges on good governance, the rule of law and systems of accountability are essential to ensure that resources are subject to public scrutiny and used effectively. He further argued that for this to be accomplished, then the continent needs determined political leadership to set and drive plans for equitable growth and poverty reduction.
Despite the abundant availability of natural resources, African countries such as Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Niger and many others have failed to realise their potential because of a history of poor leadership. Africa’s unsatisfactory economic performance can be put down to poor leadership.
The fact that many Africa leaders are permitted to get away with self-interested decision must be attributed to large parts to greed which has become their creed. The system that many Africans leaders have preferred thrives on corruption and nepotism. African societies have overwhelmingly run along the politics of “belly”, lust for wealth, power and crude racial, tribal, party, familial lines.
In this type of government, officials and politically connected business elites use their positions and influence to enrich their families to the detriment of their countries and the populace. Africa will only know positive change if her ‘leaders’ and her people embrace the path of selfless service to their countries.
African leaders must provide leadership by putting things into action. As the late Pan Africanist Kwame Nkrumah once said that ‘Actions with thought is empty. Thought without action is blind. The time to change is now.’
Challenges to Africa’s growth
The essence of development is to improve the quality of people’s lives based on clear policies which underpin development infrastructure. Today, if one travels around capital cities of Africa from Nigeria, Tanzania, South Africa, Rwanda, Angola, Ghana, and even here in Namibia, it is evident that Africa is beginning to rise.
Extraction of minerals, construction of roads and railway lines, growing modern technologies, are just but few indicators of a continent beginning to grow. However, these positive signs are few and far between. The bitter and dominant narrative is that the number of people struggling with poverty is increasing daily.
It is therefore clear that development should not be measured on crude oil products, GDP and per capita income, but real change in people’s quality of life.
If Africa is to grow sustainably it will have to adopt approaches that will address all the obstacles to the development such conflicts, corruption, Aid dependency, unfair trade policies, poor education and lack of innovation among other impediments.
(a) Civil Strife and Terrorism
A number of African countries such Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, South Sudan, Chad, Niger, Mali, Libya, and others are experiencing civil strife and terrorism, this has led to death of people, loss of properties and collapse of Industries wand Agriculture with its attendant consequences.
Efforts must be made to eliminate such strife and other terrorist activities, as a condition precedent to the fuller exploitation of resources.
(b) Rampant Corruption
A survey undertaken by the Transparency International (IT) indicated that most African government are not able to meet their citizens’ expectation due to rampant corruption. Corruption in these regions is increasing, despite the campaigns and activism by civil society population. Police officers have been identified as the most corrupt group across the region.
The tragedy is that while Africa is aware of the problems engendered by corruption the culture is strong and continues to undermine efforts at growth.
In an interview with a reporter at BBC, President Ellen Johanson-Sirleaf of Liberia revealed that she underestimated the level of corruption in her government when she took the leadership position. “Maybe I should have sacked the whole government when I came to power,”President Johanson Sirleaf told the reporter. It is poorly managed.
In some instances acts of corruption have been used to fuel civil wars and terrorism. It is noteworthy, however that positive efforts at fighting corruption are being made in countries such as Nigeria, Tanzania, Rwanda, Botswana and I believe even here in Namibia.
(c) International Aid
International Aid has curtailed Africa’s growth efforts. During the 4th World Government Summit in Dubai in February, 2016, President Paul Kagame of Rwanda said “…Donor support should not be relied on forever but instead build institutions and the economy.
In his statement President Kagame said that “There is no reason why we can’t grow intra-African Trade to the level we see in American or Europe “. It’s true that some Non-Governmental organisation have helped Africa by supporting their health, education, governance and in other sectors, but I can tell you without fear or favor that some firms have been accused of using stories and documentaries of desperate Africans to advance their own selfish goals.
Dambisa Moyo in her book ‘Dead Aid’ states that: “With aids help, corruption fosters corruption, nations quickly descend into a vicious cycle of aid. Foreign aid props up governments-providing them with freely usable cash. (pg.49) Africa cannot and should not continue to be in economic diapers, albeit in physical adulthood.” African must therefore, wean herself off aid.
(d) Unfair Trade Policies
Through Regional blocs such as SADC, EAC, ECOWAS IGADD, COMESA, African countries should strive to remove Tariff and Non-Tariff barriers to improve intra African trade. It is only through trade, not aid that the continent will realize sustainable growth for the benefit of her people.
(e) Education and the knowledge gap
Education has and will always an important ingredient in the quest for economic growth, social cohesion and political maturity. Surprisingly, even right now Africa households cannot afford basic education for their children.
Although some governments have taken up the matter of provision of basic education, many areas lack schools and even where are they are the quality is wanting.
African countries should strive to offer quality education. Lessons can be drawn from countries such as Singapore, South Korea, Finland and many other countries that produce labor strong on innovation and invention. In the words of Carter G. Woodson, we must guard against miseducation of our People.
* Prof PLO Lumumba, LL.D, D. Litt (hc), CPS (K), is an advocate of the High Courts of Kenya and Tanzania and director/chief executive of Kenya School of Law. He made these remarks on Wednesday in Windhoek, where he spoke at New Era Publication Corporation’s Thought Leaders Series.