African Leadership And Economic Development: Where Did We G0 Wrong?

In Africa, despite her abundant natural resources, a vast majority of the continent’s people still wallow in poverty, not just the UN’s “standard of poverty” (living below $1  a day), but a type peculiar to Africa, where having up to a dollar a day is luxury.

The current news in Nigeria is about recession, it’s probably the most used word on the street. The market women, the taxi drivers, even the illiterates in the hinterlands have got wind of what’s going on as analysts and government officials have been barraging previous governments, passing the bulk of the blame to them.

It is impossible to overlook the clay-footed giant of Africa as its once vibrant economy slowly grinds to a halt. With a population of over 170 million people, getting jobs in Nigeria was already tough enough, a predicament that has been made more difficult by its over reliance on oil. Recently released official statistics say youth unemployment increased to 24 percent from 21.5 percent.

Recently in Gabon, there was an uprising as the Gabonese openly revolted, setting their Parliament ablaze in protest over the strangle hold on the government by the Bongo family. A family that has been in power for about five decades in a “democratic” nation, after its late leader Omar Bongo devised a means of ensuring his son succeeded him in office.

The family is alleged to have skimmed off 25 percent of the oil-rich nation’s gross domestic product over the years yet the present occupant of the highest office in the land is bent on staying in power. Investigations in France have shown that the Bongo family own no less than 39 residences across France, including Paris.

The tales are unending; South Sudan, Burkina Faso, Congo, Zimbabwe and sadly even South Africa where the men who have succeeded Madiba have perfected the art of ensuring the standards of governance keep falling to its present state.

An ageing and ineffective Mugabe still holds sway in Zimbabwe amidst protest from his people, the list just goes on and on. As long as African political leaders are drawn from this class of predators, no amount of preaching about the virtues of good governance or tuition on public administration will alter the quality of governance.

Across Africa, woes are being linked to an obvious leadership deficit, an argument that perhaps bears further credence as there exists a correlation between leadership and economic development.

What are the leadership answers Africa seek? Are they found in one man? Are they found in adopting a specific system? Say ‘democracy’? (Saudi Arabia has to some extent proven that even without democracy, it is possible to build a system that works). Is there some sort of curse on the continent? That we will never find a Mandela-type leader ever again?

As with any complex problem, there is never one simple answer, and to the economic problems in Africa it will be difficult to prescribe a simple, single dose treatment.

In Nigeria for example, an objective analysis will truly reveal that our present economic quagmire was not brought upon us (solely, some might say) by the present regime; it is a culmination of decades of misrule and visionless leadership.

That said, the present Government has been in power long enough (1 year and 4 months) to chart a clear economic course for the country, but so far the country is still deeply enmeshed in its problems.

It’s an economic crisis across the continent, yet it seems the not so secret ingredient in the antidote is the leadership. In the midst of gloom and chaos people want to know what direction they should take, foreign and local investors need to see what the policy plan is.

What is the government’s socio-political ideology? What’s her stand on taxes? What’s the government’s plan on spending? Does it favor a certain sector? Companies are shutting down, what is the plan/incentive to convince businessmen to get back to work? WHAT EXACTLY IS THE PLAN? Is there any?

Suffice it to say that what we see is an economic recession, but the real challenge is the leadership recession.




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