The problem with Africa is the problem of commercialisation of leadership. Leadership in Africa is not motivated by genuine willingness to serve, but rather it is fuelled by personal greed, thus leading to the underdevelopment of Africa. Africa desperately needs selfless leaders, if there are any left. While we recognize and appreciate how far our leaders have taken Africa so far, what has been done is not enough. With the kind of resources that Africa has it should be by now a continent to recon with in terms of development.
We need fresh ideas in Africa, or we are at a risk of either remaining stagnant, or worse deteriorating. Africa has come along way when it comes to democratic leadership, but democracy is a luxury enjoyed by a certain class in the African society. Yes there may be a higher degree of freedom of expression, but what is the point of expressing oneself if no one is listening.
What many Africans and are beginning to realise is that it is not only about democracy and freedom of speech and expression, but more importantly it is about how power is exercised; democratic governance. “Democratic governance is not only about politics, but it includes the economic and social dimensions. It addresses questions of improving public sector efficiency, policy predictability, and accountability. It is about fine-tuning incentive structures for increased production, productivity and competitiveness...it strives to make governance more responsive, transparent, strategic and participatory…it is about the totality of efforts to improve the nature and quality of the relationship between leaders and public institutions on one hand, and the citizens- both private and corporate- they seek to serve and in whose name they rule, on one hand…democratic good governance for us must be an integral part of the war on poverty” (Benjamin William Mkapa, former president of the United Republic of Tanzania at the African Regional Symposium)
All leaders in Africa should have these words hanging on their office walls. After the December 2007 general elections in Kenya which lead to a kind of blood shed Kenya had never experienced before, Kenyan politicians have gone back to their old ways, making many citizens weary of the next elections, talk about corruption, political manipulation just to mention a few. Their blatant refusal for their allowance to be taxed proves how commercialised leadership is in Kenya. Yet Kenya claims to have a tight budget and its citizens are dying of hunger, and some still internally displaced.
In Kenya it requires approximately four hundred women and children working on a minimum wage or below to produce enough coffee, rice, tea and sugarcane, to finance one cabinet minister’s salary and their Mercedes Benz.
In Zimbabwe, while one appreciates Mugabe’s love for the African in him, he has a wife who is addicted to a life of luxury and is not afraid to use states resources to feed her addiction, by spending huge amounts of money on “foreign” goods, the irony. While more than three quarters of the country reels in poverty, there is no freedom of expression, and inflation is approximately one million percent, yet we call ourselves educated Africans. He might have been lead by the love of his country at the beginning, like many African leaders, but at the moment one is left to wonder if any of that love is left in him, as he watches his people die of hunger, and disease. Agreeably the power sharing deal, by creating the prime minister post for Morgan T, is a welcomed long awaited step.
In Tanzania a young minister, Hon. Zitto Kabwe was suspended from parliament for four months, after he questioned the mining contracts that Tanzania has signed with multinational mining companies over the years. The contracts had loopholes, and there were allegations that elements within the countries reigning party had colluded with the mining companies to extort the countries billions of dollars. It is only after the masses took to the streets, that the president formed a committee to investigate and appointed Hon. Zitto as chairman of the committee.
There is a lack of accountability in leadership in many African states; leaders they are more concerned with making money for themselves as opposed to producing it, generating growth in the economy.
So many industries and institutions collapsed in Africa after attaining independence due to mismanagement by the then existing leaders, and those that have taken over are more concerned with protecting their riches and power. Yet what is worse is that Africans are not coming up with more industries, innovation in this sector is a scare resource. Entrepreneurs who studied at Egerton College, in Kenya, formed East Africa breweries, East African industries, Dawa pharmaceuticals, among others. What is happening to our graduates, brain drain and corruption is a nutshell of an explanation.
It is about who holds the power, and how is he/she going to use it to benefit him/herself first. It is about securing that position of power and fighting off any threat or opposition. Many find it hard to give up such power once they grasp it, and those who want it will stop at nothing, even facilitate bloodshed just so as to get it. Those who want to be diplomatic, claim that they are “democratic”, but such leaders do have their hidden ways of securing and protecting that power. In Kenya talks of who is going to be the next president stated barely an year after election. Members of parliament came out in public expressing their interest in presidency, and proudly debating among themselves, yet there are citizens who are still internally displaced. On the other hand those states that do not care about democracy do not bother hiding it. A good example of this is Zimbabwe.
However there are leaders in Africa who are lead by a passion to develop their community and are not afraid to carry out policies that may be painful to some people in the short run, but very beneficial to the whole population in the long run. Some do this in a small scale; others do it on a grander scale. A good example of the latter is Rwanda’s President Kagame. Immediately after his election as a president, he launched a campaign against corruption, despite the fact that it meant that many of his allies would be prosecuted and even jailed. Many of them fled the country. He improved the health care and education system of the country. He took away official cars from government officials and reduced the size of his government.
His critics have come down hard on him, accusing him of curtailing freedom of expression, and ignoring intellectual criticism. But given the history of Rwanda and progress made, his decisions and actions can be understood and explained. But that is a debate for another date in the same forum.