Governance: Are African Leaders Serious?

Published on 9th August 2011

Business leaders and policy makers have just completed a two days Africa leadership Forum in Mombasa which discussed realizations and challenges affecting business growth and human Development in Africa in the 21st Century. The three days Governance Convention was attended by   former president of Nigeria Chief Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria, Thabo Mbeki of South Africa among others. President Obasanjo is also the Patron of the Convention.

The 2nd Africa Governance, Leadership and Management Convention held at Whitesands hotel, Mombassa focused on the private Sector's role in the integration of Africa. It was organized by the Kenya Institute of Management (KIM) and the African leadership Forum in partnership with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).

Challenges hindering development of Africa both politically and economically revolve around governance and democracy. Many African leaders do not believe what they preach. In most cases the leaders practice the opposite and are not concerned about development and growth. Such leaders are under serious threat from people revolting against dictatorship as witnessed in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and other Arab countries.

Even though former president of Nigeria Olesegun Obasanjo castigated the media in Africa for being unpatriotic and the Egyptian people for mishandling former president Hosni Mubarack, the wind of change in Africa is blowing at a very high speed and is unstoppable with people demanding for good governance practice among  the leaders. Africa has lots of potentials that are not exploited. Equally Africa has a vast asset in form of human resource that is underutilised. The problem is just governance.

Political and economic governance in Africa requires urgent attention for Africa to move forward. What is required is not mere talk but practical approaches to change attitude among the leadership and the people and  create new thinking that will put Africa back on track. As rightly put by a delegate Dr Elizabeth Diop, Africa requires revolutionary Africans to change its cause and situation otherwise it is doomed under the current leadership.

Year in year out millions of Africans are threatened by famine because of poor planning and bad governance. Currently about twelve million people are threatened by hunger in the Horn of Africa. It is sad and disappointing that when  important forums on leadership and governance are organised like the one in Mombasa,  it is the same failed leaders who attend to deliberate on ideas they cannot implement.

Accountability, efficiency and democracy are very important towards ensuring stability and prosperity in Africa. Bureaucracy in itself is not the problem as Obasanjo and others observes but the will to follow up and to do things efficiently and effectively. Both private and public sector plays a significant role in shaping economic development in Africa. It is upon the government to embrace and enhance stability and good leadership in the private and public sector.

Constitutions of most African countries including Kenya embrace good governance as a principle of leadership. Unfortunately, to many African leaders, the constitution is a mere paper.

Business associations such as the Kenya Private Sector Alliance ( KEPSA),the Kenya Chambers of Commerce, the Kenya Association of Manufactures and many others require strengthening and efficient and effective management. However, without political goodwill backed by strong good governance structures ,both private and public sectors have no role to play in the integration of Africa as they will not be able to achieve much.

Many African nations performed very well after attaining their independence but stagnated when Africans took over leadership. The economic growth of Kenya in late 1960’s and early seventies was far ahead than that of most countries in South East Asia such as Singapore, Korea and Indonesia. Today, those countries have bypassed Kenya to the extent that they support Kenya economically.

Shifting blame and not reflecting on where Africa has gone wrong is not what Africa requires presently. African leaders and people must reexamine themselves and chat Africa's future. Leaders and those seeking positions of leadership must be evaluated in terms of  game plans in their strategies and performance in terms of both economic and political policies and not just mere politicking and bickering.

In Kenya both the private and public sector are unstable with most of them almost run down as a result of bad governance and nepotism. Hiring and employment of staff and other key employees are not based on merit. Some government ministries, departments, private and public sector companies and organizations are dominated by certain ethnic communities.

Public Corporations such as the Kenya National Trading, the Kenya Tourist Development, Kenya Railways, the Kenya Tea Development, Industrial & Commercial Development, Kenya Cooperative Creameries and Cashew nut company in Kilifi among many others were brought down by corruption and bad governance.

While it is good to expand the Lamu port and the Thika road highway, it is also important to look at what is available and what is required to make them more effective and sufficient in terms of management rather than just being innovative by creating more projects and ideas. Mombasa port, Mombasa road and many others can still perform well when properly well maintained.

Amos Kimunya Minister for Transport who presented a paper at the Convention promised to implement some ideas and proposals that he grasped at the conference. I hope he will also look at perennial power failures at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. It is really shameful that an international airport like JKIA goes without power or water regularly interrupting both domestic and international travel. Electricity in South Sudan especially Juba is supplied from generators and yet power is supplied constantly and reliably.

Benchmarking enhances productivity and performance so African nations needs to learn from each other’s experiences internationally and within Africa itself. Failing is not an end to itself but learning from others is the key to success. Rwanda, Botswana and a few other countries are making Africa proud and therefore serve as good examples that other African nations can emulate backed with good planning and good governance practise.

By Denise Kodhe,

Executive Director, Institute for Democracy, Leadership & Empowerment in Africa- (IDEA) Nairobi, Kenya.

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