Transformative Leadership Deficiency: Africa’s Major Obstacle

Published on 15th December 2008
Passing on the Baton
There is a dearth of transformative and visionary leadership in Africa. All African countries are led by  transactional leaders who are only interested in power and personal gains but  do less to improve the lives of their people. That is why African economies are lagging  behind.
 Africa is  the poorest continent in the world despite its rich mineral resources like oil, gold, tin, cobalt ,diamond and other natural resources like flora and fauna, lakes and rivers. Africa's  resources have not benefited the African masses as African leaders have failed to put in place mechanisms to exploit them for the benefit of their people. It is a shame that these resources are being exploited by 'development partners' to facilitate the development of the already developed nations.
As developed countries continue progressing, poverty levels are persistently increasing in Africa. Unemployment is high and there are no serious industrialization programmes. In Zimbabwe, DR Congo, Somalia, and Uganda among others, people are dying of preventable diseases like cholera and meningitis. There is need to overcome all these problems and transform African countries for better through transformative leaders.
African leaders should stop blaming their failure on colonialism. Developed countries and other progressing countries like the Asian tigers also had problems but because they were led by transformative leaders, we in Africa admire them.
I am disturbed to hear many African leaders still blaming colonialism.  African leaders should re-orient  the populations towards the values of nationalism, hard work, tolerance and democracy. When fully embraced and instilled in African people, these values can surely transform the African countries for better.

 African leaders need to be reminded that it is not only African countries that were at one time under colonialism. Other countries in Latin America and Asia were at one time colonized but are far ahead of us in terms of development. In fact Nigeria, Ivory Coast, and Uganda were far better than some Asian countries like Malaysia and Hong Kong in the 1960’s but today, these Asian tigers are far ahead of us in terms of development.
Transformative Asian leaders have power, vision and a sense of purpose to transform their countries. They have properly exploited their countries’ resources for the benefit of their population and they have also further re-invested the proceeds from these resources in appropriate sectors like industrialization, rail transport, power generation, man power training among others. They have also put in place clear investment friendly policies thereby stimulating the development of private sector as well as promoting export sector as thus, they have attracted trillions of shillings in form of foreign direct investments.
China alone has for instance attracted $327 trillion in FDI in the last 18 years. India has in the same period attracted around $250 trillion in FDI, Malaysia around $180 trillion. On contrary African countries have attracted far less FDI compared to their Asian counterparts. Uganda has for instance attracted only $2.9 billion in the last 18 years. The reason for the African countries failure to attract large sums of EDI like their Asian counterparts is that African leaders have not properly spearheaded their countries in exploiting and utilizing their given resources. Where they have been exploited, the proceeds have been taken by the leaders themselves and their loyalists instead of investing them in practical manpower training, rail transport, industrialization.
As long as Africa's  leaders remain transactional, African countries will continue to suffer from detrimental evils.Personalizing of state institutions like the police, the prisons, and the army, the parliament among others will be done to consolidate and extend government power. Police and the army pay much allegiance to the leaders than to the state. This has weakened institutional development in Africa and also undermined economic development.
Since the transactional leaders are more interested in using power for their personal gains, they tend to reward their political loyalists with job appointments in key government sectors while they exclude those who don’t support them. This has created division among the people in different African countries and in some cases resulted into the civil wars and political unrests which have further undermined the transformation of the African countries.
Trnsactional leaders misallocate resources. They spend more on defense but less on key sectors like industrialization, agriculture, manpower training, and health.   Furthermore, African leaders have resorted to corruption. They steal large sums of money from their countries and bank it in foreign banks abroad.  These leaders do less to transform African economies. Poor economic conditions in Africa consequently force highly educated Africans to seek green pastures in developed countries hence creating a manpower vacuum.
What has always failed and is still failing Africa is lack of transformative leadership across the continent and unless we get leaders who are transformative, whatever we are appearing to be doing like holding elections and freeing of political prisoners will not take us anywhere.                                            
By Hategeka Moses
Makerere University Alumni

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