Africa and the Dearth of Transformative Leadership

Published on 1st November 2011

Africans must ask themselves why their continent is poor and underdeveloped despite being endowed with natural resources such as arable land and assorted minerals. What went wrong? What are we not doing right? What should we do to place the continent on the right developmental path? What type of leadership will midwife Africa’s path to greatness?

Over 90 % of African leaders are transactional. They are simply interested in personal wealth accumulation; playing politics and strategically placing their loyalists in sensitive departments such as the army, police, treasury, immigration etc.

Many of them have patronised their countries’ resources for their own benefit, their family members and for their loyalists. The rest of the citizens don’t matter to them. Take for example Equatorial Guinea, it has a population of just above 500,000 people and earns more than $2 billion dollars annually from its oil exports but its people are among the poorest in Africa. A majority of them survive on less than $1 dollar a day. This is going on as President Teodore Nguema and his loyalists live in opulence, dine in western capitals, educate their children abroad and own property abroad, among other factors. They care less about improving the educational and health infrastructures of their countries as they rarely use them.

In Uganda, whenever president Museveni’s daughters are due to deliver, they are always flown in a presidential jet on tax payer’s money to western capitals for delivering and then come back. Similar treatment is accorded to his loyalists. In this same country, 16 women die every day during child labour indicating that 5,760 women lose their lives annually during child labour. While the country’s health sector is in shambles, the leadership cares less to improve it.

The leaders encourage polarisation and favouritism that breeds citizen unrest. The 1994 massacre in Rwanda in which over 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus lost their lives was largely due to ethnic polarisation. In Sudan, the recently ended long civil war in which 1.5 million people lost their lives was largely due to the religious and ethnic discrimination meted on southerners by Arabs in the North. In Northern Nigeria, religious and ethnical differences among the inhabitants in the region are a thorn in the flesh. Other African countries such as Kenya, Ivory Coast, Uganda, among others have also experienced this ugly scenario.

As the African presidents and their loyalists feast, over 10 million people in African regions such as Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia are starving and malnourished. With millions of hectares of arable land available in Africa, why should people in the continent die of famine? The leaders are not supporting their people to acquire fertilizers, tractors at subsidized prices and irrigation facilities to enable them become self sufficient in food production.

Besides being selfish, African leaders don’t have a long term plan for their countries. This is why they watch as millions of hectares of forest lands, wetlands and swamps, rivers and lake belts are destroyed. Already the effects of desertification are being felt throught Africa in form of reduced rainfall which is negatively affecting agriculture and thus famine. The leaders are not taking environmental conservation seriously.

If the leadership mantle in Africa can be placed in the hands of transformative and leaders, the continent can experience rapid high economic growth and development. Transformative leaders identify the potential in their people and nurture it. They also set high moral standards, live by them and are forward looking.

In sum, transactional leadership remains a big obstacle to Africa’s development journey. Africans must rise up and dismantle this leadership. This task requires a lot of sacrifice. Transformative and visionary leadership will enable Africa to achieve sustainable development.

By Moses Hategeka

A Ugandan based independent governance researcher, public affairs analyst and writer. 

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