Africa desperately needs ethical, committed leaders
Africa desperately needs ethical, committed leaders
For nearly a week, the African heads of states have been dealing with continental and global issues on the 32nd Ordinary Session of the African Union here in Addis Ababa. These issues are demanding the leaders to demonstrate excellent leadership skills. It is not an exaggeration to deduce that the fate of the future Africa is in the hands of these leaders.
Hence, it is proper to ask: ‘how much have they prepared to manage the rising challenges of Africa?’‘How much are they consistently sharpening their leadership skills to meet the growing social and economic demands?’ In order to get answers for these questions, it is appropriate to consult researches body.
A glance at the literary materials on African leadership enables one to get the answers. The findings of almost all researchers define some African leaders. After analyzing several challenges that impaired the leadership in Africa, the researchers have made a recommendation: “Africa desperately need committed, loving and ethical leader.” I believe the findings of the researchers are not far from what is prevailing on the ground.
As an African who has been experiencing the results of African leadership, I believe the findings of the researchesare similar with what is resonating in the minds of many African citizens. One of the common assertions is most African leaders have done little to improve the welfare of their people. They are known by making gross promises for their people during the election.
Nevertheless, their accomplishments cannot commensurate with the promises after they assume power. The other assertion of the researches is that the problem goes all the way through the political chain to elected and appointed public officers – starting with political parties. Party financiers dictate who holds what public office without regard for competence and internal democracy. They ultimately dictate how state affairs and funds are managed with barely a distinction between public and private funds.
“Thus,” the researchers hopelessly concluded, “elections don’t seem to help, mainly as the politicians are the same. Despite African political parties espousing different ideologies and launching welfare manifestos, nothing really changes when governments change.” The researchers dare to conclude, “Corruption is prevalent throughout the continent. And the fact that anticorruption efforts fail because of a lack of honest and accountable leaders.”
Many have co-opted democratic systems, such as regular elections, or they simply make up the rules as they go along to stay in power. Furthermore, the researchers identified the root of all the problems stating that “an insatiable appetite for money,” and the realisation that power can deliver untold wealth. In these scenarios, played out across dozens of countries on the continent, the state (and the people) are sacrificed to greed.
And those brave enough to stand up and be counted are driven out – either literally or figuratively.Every year about USD$50 billion is lost through illicit transfers. Not only does this hold back the continent’s socioeconomic progress, it also threatens peace, security and stability. Whereas the ubiquity and repercussions of corruption in Africa have been widely articulated, the fight against it seems to be a fleeting illusion. Anti-corruption measures mainly revolve around legislating to tighten loopholes, strengthening anticorruption institutions, and empowering the media and citizens to report or stand up against malfeasance.
Willing, able and visionary leaders are required to push through sweeping reforms to curb corruption and augment public accountability. Unfortunately, such leadership is lacking in Africa. Africa is home to despots and sitin presidents who either abuse their power or allow abuses to be perpetrated. Countries are run like family property and political dynasties are created by fathers passing power to sons.
Checks and balances are weak, dissent is crashed, and alternative views are discarded, culminating in low accountability which further deteriorates leadership and reinforces corruption. One would expect multiparty democracy and its associated principles to produce visionary and effective leaders, but this is rarely the case in Africa. While elections are held and leaders are changed at the ballot, things usually remain the same.
Oftentimes, policies and corrupt practices which were criticised by political leaders while in opposition suddenly become right and justifiable when they win power. In essence, there may be new faces in government, but the status quo does not change. The big question is, why? Politics in Africa is synonymous with wealth, whether acquired legally or otherwise. Hence, the scramble for power can be intense and sometimes dangerous.
The expectation of quick riches increases internal competition for party candidature, which often requires deal making and vote buying. And failure to align with the party establishment can prevent members from ascending the party hierarchy. Party members are socialised in the same way, mainly to do whatever is necessary to win power by fair or foul means, and those who dare to think or behave differently are sidelined, sabotaged or expelled.
At the core of Africa’s corruption and leadership problems is opaque party financing. In most countries, parties rely on private funding from individuals and organisations. But regulations on financial disclosure are either non-existent or ineffective, which allows wealthy individuals, known as godfathers, to wield significant influence, mainly for their benefit but to the detriment of the state. Even leaders perceived to be strongwilled can find it hard to withstand the pressures.
These examples attest to how African leaders can be controlled from behind the scenes by vested interests and crooked godfathers. In some cases, the leaders are incapable of addressing the excesses of their sponsors, leading to anarchy and recklessness. There is a popular idiom: “do not bite the hands that feed you”. Indeed, anecdotal evidence suggests that this is true for African leaders.
There is a high chance that leaders who act against the interests of their party establishment, financiers and godfathers, even for the benefit of the state, will not last long. The same applies to their policies. So what’s the way forward? Africa must regulate political party financing and strengthen state institutions such as electoral commissions to enforce compliance. Until then, most leaders on the continent will continue to be prone to capture and control by powerful and parochial godfathers.
And the looting of public funds won’t stop. In general, the above assertions are what the world of literature on African leaders depicts. These assertions may define some African leaders, who are expected to change the course of history through demonstrating the skillful leadership skills and disprove the assertion of westerners.