Re-engineering management in Africa
Dr Olivier Nzépa
Different forms of post-colonial
in the public and parastatal
sectors in Africa. Unfortunately,
they are prone to both
inefficiencies and a lack of
legitimacy in the way that
people are managed.
The post-colonial systems
tend to be control oriented with an emphasis on process and
hierarchy. The post-instrumental systems tend to be result-focused.
The African renaissance systems are humanistic, focusing
on people and the community.
Africa is culturally complex. On what is called Human Goodness,
African countries score lower generally than Western
countries. Yet on Rules and Hierarchy as well as on the importance
of religion, the African countries score highly compared
with the Western countries.
It is difficult to make a comparison
of Traditional Wisdom. Africa scores highly on Sharing, has one
of the higher scores for Jealousy, but for social responsibility, the
Continent is near the bottom.
The degree of
political influence and a tendency of political
polarisations by ethnicity has many implications, amongst them,
the exclusion of talents not belonging to appropriate political
parties. The public service also experiences a relatively high
turnover of managers, as people fall out of favour and others
fall into favour. Again, being seen to be actively campaigning
and indeed returning the ruling party back to power is a means
of safe-guarding one’s job. Yet this situation may also give rise
to inequity, frustrations and low motivation at managerial levels
It also provides evidence of what another study pointed out to
be a dual system: a formal system left in place by the colonizing
power; and, an informal system.
The informal system, generally established and used in
preference to the formal system, has as its main function the formal selection, appraisal and promotion procedures is weak.
This ‘tribalisation’ of the managerial workforce appears not
relate to any inherent ethnic antagonisms, but simply to political
polarisation along apparent ethnic lines. These aspects of politicisation
and tribalisation affect the way people are managed in public sector organisations.
This results in a lack of formal rules of recruitment and career progression. The real decision makers are not the leaders or managers of the formal system, but rather the king makers of the informal system who appear to be motivated
along political and ethnic lines.
Short sight directorship, lack of anticipation and proactivity
have taken their toll in Africa management. It’s been said that
for every single dollar lent to Africa, 80 cents is eaten up by ill
This might be an exaggeration. Nevertheless, it
shows the managerial gap Africa has to overcome to abide by
the standards of the New Economy, powered by information
and knowledge. It also reflects the tremendous burden placed on
African leadership and
In his article titled Re-engineering Management: Awakening
the Leadership Genius within yourself and your followers,
Charles Cotter asks African leaders to cultivate a leadership
culture in this era of organisational intelligence. Performance
development is no longer adequate – performance improvement
is essentially what is required. Value adding is now the accepted
norm - value creation is what African leaders need to generate.
They have to innovate not imitate – ‘outside the box’ thinking is
imperative. African leaders cannot solve today’s problems with
yesterday’s outdated solutions.
Africa has produced leaders like Nelson Mandela; Desmond
Tutu; Kwame Nkrumah; Patrice Lumumba. They have demonstrated
that most importantly that the long lasting effect derives
not from what you do to people, but what you achieve with
people. African management is in search of visionaries who can
shape the future, point the direction and unleash
the power of
over a billion Africans.
Dr Olivier Nana Nzépa is a Professor and Consultant in Public Management at the University of Yaoundé II, Cameroon.
Market news on your cellphone
Get live JSE listed shares, warrants, major indices, brent crude oil, international markets, agricultural futures & daily market analysis via SMS on your mobile.
Find out more...
Energy in Africa is an intelligent and in-depth look at how energy impacts people, places, projects, price and development around the African continent. Subscribe now...
African Business Leaders Forum
African business and public sector leaders define and construct a prosperous future for the continent. Find out more...
Online travel bookings
Planning to travel? Book accommodation in Africa & South Africa here. Book now...