7 ways to fix African leadership

2014-05-22 14:35

The kind of leaders Africa deserves was up for discussion during the African Development Bank’s Annual Meetings in Kigali, Rwanda, this week.

Yesterday’s panel included founder of Celtel International Mo Ibrahim, African Union chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Rwandan President Paul Kagame, Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto and former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo.

Here are seven suggestions for better leadership:

1. Younger presidents

Half the people in Africa are younger than 20, but their presidents are on average 67 years old. Ibrahim said: “We are the only continent in the world where presidents start new terms at 90. If Obama was in Kenya, he would be driving a bus right now.”

He said that if the biggest economies in the world could have young and successful presidents in their 40s – and trust them to run massive economies and nuclear programmes – Africa could too.

“There’s a disconnect between leadership and the youth,” he said.

2. Think continental

Dlamini-Zuma said: “We need a leadership that thinks Africa. Together, we are a big continent but individually we are weak.”

She said African countries cannot compete effectively with the likes of China and even India on scale alone. If we are going to succeed in modernising Africa, we need to work together as a continent.

3. Invest in young people and women

Young people should be encouraged to study engineering. “China produces more than 700 000 engineers a year, the European Union 200 000 and Africa only produces 20 000,” said Dlamini-Zuma.

In addition, Africa should remove the barriers that stop women from participating in the economy and society.

4. Inspiration versus indoctrination

Ruto said: “We [in Africa] have an extremely selfish leadership.”

Kagame agreed: “We need a leadership that inspires people. African leadership thrives on indoctrination to pursue their goals.”

5. Speak up on wrongdoing

Former president Thabo Mbeki said African leaders needed to be more honest with each other. “We are afraid to speak to one another about our wrong-doings. We need a real and truthful self-assessment. We want an Africa that is free of corruption.”

6. Succession planning

African leaders need to have a proper succession plan. Kagame said: “Think beyond placing a plan on the individual. People reduce succession to an ending in itself. Institutions should serve society and not individuals.”

7. The problem of aid

International aid encourages mismanagement of funds because there is no accountability to taxpayers, which fosters bad leadership on the continent.

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