Sound Leadership: Africa's Hope

Published on 22nd August 2012

Why has Africa failed to attain sustainable economic transformation despite its rich natural resources which are enriching developed and emerging economies? Jacob Simmons, a retired American development economics professor, observes that:  “Africa’s major problem, in her development journey, is transformative leadership deficiency.” He advises that ‘Africans must rise up and effectively deal with this problem, if they are to benefit from their countries’ rich natural resources.”

Macharia Munene, a political analyst and international relations scholar based in Kenya echoes the same sentiments and says that “unless Africa rises up and decisively deals with its transformative leadership deficiency problem, the continent will continue to lag behind other continents in the world in all aspects of development.”

As one moves in rural Africa, he will come  across either an NGOs  promoting this and that, ranging from human rights issues, food security, good governance, education, orphans, women’s rights, transparency and accountability, instead of business and vocational incubation centers. The continent is increasingly becoming  NGO driven. This is a pity because some of these organizations have vested interests which may not be of interest to host nations. Furthermore, their varied agenda creates confusion in host nations.

The NGOs are not entirely to blame, since Africans have a hand in their operations.  For example, Africa has enormous agricultural land resource potential, which if well utilized, can feed half of the world’s population with enough food, but the leadership in the continent is doing little to effectively utilize this precious land resource. African leaders are instead beneficiaries of the ongoing land grabbing bonanza in various African countries, such as, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Liberia, Uganda, Zambia and DR Congo, among others. They are collaborating with foreign companies to dish out large tracts of government and community owned land. China through its overseas development fund is allegedly funding its citizens to acquire millions of hectares of land in Africa to grow food and biofuels, for export back home. Western countries are also allegedly doing the same. If nothing is done to stop this practice, millions of Africans will soon find themselves landless and turned into slaves in their own continent. What a shame!

It is ironic that while Africa is richly blessed with rivers and lakes that contain various fish species (Lake Malawi, Africa’s third largest lake contains 500 fish species), very few people on the continent feed on fish.  The price of fish is beyond the reach of African citizens.  85 per cent of the fish is thus exported by exploitative rich middlemen and foreign companies, further impoverishing fishing communities. Countries, such as, DRC, Zambia, Angola, Nigeria, Libya, South Africa, Equatorial Guinea are richly endowed with mineral resources which Africa’s leadership in collaboration with multinational companies and governments exploit at the expense of Africa’s citizenry.

If Africa is to attain sustainable fundamental economic transformation that meets the expectations of its citizens, it will have to be led by transformative leaders as opposed to transactional leaders. As Africans, it’s time we realized that the development of our continent is purely our responsibility. Martin Luther King junior once said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

By Moses Hategeka.

The author is a Ugandan based independent governance researcher, public affairs analyst and writer.

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