Rethinking African Leadership: Right resources, wrong leaders
African Leaders at the African Union building (Source: AU)
How possible is it that the continent with the most of the world’s natural resources, hardworking labour force and favourable climate conditions could have earned the title of being labeled poor and be reduced to beggars than those that have less resources? The scenario that Africa has created of being rich but not prosperous has presented a paradox whose puzzle needs a careful consideration to spot the missing link to enable Africa retain its rightful title, “The prosperous land of opportunity.”
Since the management of resources and the driving of the development agenda falls mainly on leaders, the attainment of real meaningful development can best be achieved when there is in place the right leaders who are selfless and put the interests of their countries and continent above their own. With many African countries having attained independence decades ago, what type of leaders should be put in place to change the African Narrative?
Development focused leaders
Over 20% of current African leaders have been in power for over 20 years and seem to have run out of ideas of what to do differently. They instead usually maintain the status quo of running affairs despite shifts in various development fundamentals. This trend has resulted in rampant corruption, political instability and economic stagnation because the leaders become preoccupied with how retain power and silence challengers at the expense of development. Most African countries are engulfed in discussing political issues and other non-development essential matters that have painted their countries black, thus affecting local investor confidence. For a country to be able to produce enough for exports, it must be able to focus on producing more than local demand and create a suitable environment for the each sector to thrive.
However, African countries have focused their efforts on political issues and planning how to win the next election instead of what milestone to achieve. This derails efforts to work towards real development. African countries have nicely drawn up development plans with well elaborated visions and objectives but the challenge has been implementation. Therefore, Africa needs leaders who are focused and determined to develop it.
Local solution believers
Speaking at the UN general Assembly in 1984, former president of Burkina Faso, Thomas Sankara argued that „it was time for men of Africa to come to their senses and turn to their societies to develop solutions that will be credible even at the international level. Leaders must carry out profound changes so that they free themselves from the foreign domination and exploitation that lead only to failure of the countries.‟ Africa needs leaders who believe in local solutions and will advocate advancing these solutions. Not leaders who always parade problems before advanced countries, seeking for aid and solutions like beggars who are helpless.
Statistics have shown that, while Africa receives help in various sectors, it loses more. The Health Poverty Action report research found that while about $134 billion flows in Africa in each year largely in form of loans, foreign investment and aid, over $192 billion is taken out in profits made by foreign companies, tax evasion and in costs of adapting to climate change which results into a net loss of about $58 billion annually. For how long will African leaders seek foreign help when they can believe and try local solutions suggested by their people? It is interesting to note that while it is the responsibility of leaders to improve the living conditions of their people and provide better health facilities, a number of African leaders would rather seek medical care from advanced countries.
Unsurprisingly, a number of African leaders have died in foreign countries while seeking treatment and this point to the fact that they do not believe in their medical facilities. Africa needs leaders who will eat, drink, work, rejoice and face problems together with their people and make a difference together. It is not enough to build hospitals that leaders themselves fail to go to or have schools which they cannot send their children. Therefore, Africa needs leaders who will inspire confidence in their people and be open to listen and support local solutions.
The leaders that Africa needed at the time of independence achieved their aspirations and gained the freedom that they sought. But times and challenges have since changed and African problems are no longer about seeking independence and therefore, Africa needs leaders that can read the time and accommodate change. The problem of having long serving leaders has been that they want to use the development mechanisms that worked decades ago and apply it in today’s world. Knowledge and technology have advanced; populations have grown and therefore needs have increased and changed. Africa needs leaders who will collaborate to develop it.
The ideal African leader is one that will upscale the interests of Africa first and work with others to maximise the African potential in trade, resources and prosperity. What is worrying about Africa is the fact that it trades more with countries outside the continent than among member countries. The share of exports from Africa with the rest of the world ranged from 80 – 90% for the period 2000 to 2017 (Economic Development in Africa Report, 2019) while intra Africa exports averaged only 16.6%. To boost economic fortunes, leaders must support the Africa Continental Free Trade Area with a view of working together in solving local problems.
Africa also needs leaders who accommodate the views of the youths who are creative, energetic, and innovative and not view them as a threat. Youths are usually updated with latest changes that should be incorporated in the development matrix of today’s world and therefore, they should not be side-lined with an out-dated proverb “youths are the leaders of tomorrow” when the future and tomorrow is now.
Indeed, despite the abundant availability of needed resources for development, Africa’s current situation can largely be blamed on leaders it has had. Leadership mindset change is therefore needed now than ever before.
Written by: Nchimunya Muvwende, an Economist
Nigerian-Born Ayomide Idogun On Creating Impact
Ayomide Idogun is the co-founder at the New African Movement, an initiative aimed at ensuring Africa is conducive for Africans. Ayomide is a development strategist, policy analyst, and military historian with a major flair for transformative change through strategic thought, leadership, and empowerment.
Recently, he had the opportunity to be a delegate at the Arab Youth International Model United Nations Conference, now known as the Best Diplomats Conference, held in Dubai. Beyond the piquancy that came with meeting over 150 people from about 80 countries, and the experience of learning different cultures, the delegates were largely charged with proffering solutions to solving the global food crisis. Ayomide represented the great people of Guatemala, who sadly are no strangers to this phenomenon, with 4.6 million people at the least, facing the hunger crisis, and suffering hugely from food insecurity.
This led him to come up with prospective solutions, to ensure farmer empowerment, and the mitigation of factors hindering food supply minimized to the barest minimum, so as to ensure Guatemala does not just become self-sustaining, but grows to the point of exporting food produce to other Nations. His efforts did not go unrewarded as he bagged the Outstanding Diplomat Award, in recognition of his outstanding negotiation, leadership, and overall performance during the course of the conference.
He is a trainer and speaker with core area in leadership, capacity building and development. Some of his engagements amongst others, includes, training members of the African community in the United Arab Emirates, on capacity building and maximizing potentials, to ensure their time and resources are utilized to maximal effect. And at the maiden edition of DisruptHR Lagos, organized by OutsideinHR, where he spoke on the role COVID-19 played on priorities for humanity, and the ever-changing landscape of work.
Ayomide Idogun holds a degree in Policy and Strategic Studies from Covenant University, a second degree in History and Strategic Studies from the University of Lagos, and he is currently enrolled in the School of Politics, Policy and Governance, where he is undergoing the Public Leadership and Policy Programme.
Scrabble for Africa Reborn?
Kamala Harris, U.S Vice President (Image: Reuters)
In a speech presented to a group of women entrepreneurs in Dakar, Senegal early this year, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen stated that the United States had come as a partner to help Africa realize its massive economic potential. Arguably, Africa has long been a continent of interest to Western countries, and in recent years, their influence has been growing at an unprecedented rate. Whether it is through economic investments, military partnerships, or cultural exchanges, Western nations have been making significant strides in establishing themselves as key players on the African continent. It appears that most developed countries are trying to grow their influence on the African continent in what appears like the rebirth of the scrabble for Africa of the 19th century, albeit not through direct colonization but other different forms of control and influence.
Could it be coincidental that nearly all world power countries are visiting Africa at intervals not seen in the recent past? The first quarter of 2023 witnessed the visit of US Vice President Kamala Harris to Ghana, Tanzania and Zambia, the visit of US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to Senegal, Zambia and South Africa, the visit of China’s foreign Minister Qin Gang to Ethiopia, Egypt, Gabon, Angola and Benin, the visit of Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov to South Africa, Botswana and Angola and the visit of France President Emmanuel Macron to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Angola and the Republic of Congo. Each of these high-level visitors has argued that their visits are aimed at creating meaningful partnerships with African countries with France acknowledging that foreign powers are jostling for influence in Africa.
The French President added that Africa is a theatre of competition and advanced countries are seeking long term partnerships. In an interview at the white house after her recent trip to Africa, US vice President Kamala Harris argued that by 2050, one in four people occupying space of earth will be in Africa and as such, this presented a lot of opportunities in terms of the future and since Africa has a median age, the demographics have an impact on the entire globe. It appears the leaders from advanced countries are seeing the potential that Africa has and are each trying to clinch partnerships in the continent but can the same be said of African leaders? How many African leaders have taken time to visit each other to discuss the opportunities in their nations and work on actualising them?
The real question that African leaders should ask is, why is Africa becoming a theatre of Competition for foreign nations when it can be a centre of cooperation for the advancement of the continent? Is it not true that when elephants are fighting, it is the grass that suffers and in this case the grass will be Africa?
Africa is home to some of the world’s largest reserves of mineral resources such as diamonds, gold, platinum, copper, and iron ore, among others. Undoubtedly, Africa is the richest continent and therefore, its untapped trade potential is very attractive. It is no wonder that developed countries are competing to foster relations with African countries. However, it should be noted that the competition for Africa’s resources has a long history, dating back to colonial times when European powers scrambled for control of Africa’s land and resources. Today, the scramble for Africa is driven by a range of factors, which include the growing demand for natural resources, and Africa’s emergence as a key market for consumer goods and services.
The trade potential that each country in Africa has, if well exploited would be sufficient to end some of the major challenges faced. However, the focus has mostly been on external trade with developed countries rather than intra-Africa trade hence unfavourable outcomes. Trade with developed countries has mostly been unfair due to factors such as developed countries using their economic and political power to negotiate trade deals that favour their own interests at the expense of African countries.
Further, African countries often lack the bargaining power in trade negotiations due to being small compared to their trading partners and may be forced to accept unfavourable terms in order to access advanced markets. It is interesting that the pricing of commodities predominantly found in Africa is determined by the developed countries and Africa has no control whatsoever. The question remains, what voice do African countries have to decide on what and who to trade with as they seek to actualise their potential?
African countries should come to a realisation that their strengths lies in their numbers and the ability to work together. Why should Zambia order fuel from far countries and incur huge transport costs instead of importing from Angola, its neighbour? Africa will be respected on the global stage when economic decisions such as trade focus on inward solutions rather than continued dependency. The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) which should be the world’s largest single market is a key weapon to boost Africa’s economic freedom. Africa should not come to the trade table as beggars but rather equal partners because the World needs what Africa has and not only the other way round.
Working in partnership with other countries is not the problem, but having only one partner benefiting is. While it is true that scrabble for Africa is history, its reoccurrence in the form of control, power and cultural change should be questioned. It’s a call for leaders, investors, Africans and interested stakeholders to ensure that African interests and viewpoints are prioritised by all in working towards bettering people’s lives. Africa has potential to be its own redeemer instead of being ripped apart in the fierce struggle resembling the scrabble for Africa. In the context of globalisation, Africa should seek meaningful and mutually beneficial deals that are only possible when it comes to the negotiating tables as equal partners, not as directionless people who need deliverance.
By: Nchimunya Muvwende
Prof. Remi Duyile on Nigeria 2023 election and advice to the youths
Prof. Remi Duyile, Founder Legacy Premier Foundation
As Nigerians are gearing up and campaigning for the 2023 election begins, Business Africa Online asked Prof. Remi Duyile share her thoughts on what this election means to her and why everyone must be involved, why we cannot afford to get it wrong this time around, and advice to the youths. Excerpts.
I held a political role in Nigeria a few years ago, which provided me with a good understanding of the country’s political institutions. As we approach another year in the political chapters of Nigerian history, we must not only look forward with expectations but also reflect on our previous experiences in order to identify and choose the right leaders for our future.
We’ve all heard the saying “,those who fail to learn from history are likely to repeat it.” With elections approaching, it is critical that we look back and critically examine not only the people, but also the patterns that have led us here. We cannot build the Nigeria we want without learning from the past and making the necessary adjustments while preparing for the future. It takes time for change to occur, just like Rome did not rise overnight. Nevertheless, now is the time to lay the foundation for the Nigeria we seek to build, tomorrow.
There may be a question in your mind as to what these foundations are. There is first of all a sense of worth and worthiness in life. For any nation to fully develop, it must place a high value on the lives of its residents. As we prepare for the next elections, we must question which of these candidates prioritizes the worth of life and a sense of being Nigerian citizens. This includes: freedom of speech, equality and democratic processes at all levels. This is a priority because unless the worth of life and a sense of self are prioritized above all else, even the best-looking prospects will ultimately become unyielding and dictatorial.
Secondly, there is the growth of human capital and socioeconomic empowerment. It is common knowledge that every industrialized country prioritizes these two factors. No nation is more powerful than its economic potential. Our leaders must be intentional about this. Being a producing nation is one way to successfully enforce this. Nigeria is a great country, yet we are unable to enjoy the fruits of our labor.
All human capacities that can help to improve our economy include the capacity to create, invent, strategize, and engage. To think for ourselves, to maximize the potential of our teeming young people, to generate opportunities and employment, all of these are vital for progress and must be prioritized if we are to see any change in our nation.
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