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African Leadership is bankrupt
Posted Thu, 03 Mar 2005

Africa is a continent that generates differing emotions, with its major contradictions and potential. But the corporate sector has come to be bandied together with those who would prefer the continent remains a prisoner of itself. Recognition has finally dawned that the critical ingredient missing from the African development mix is leadership. And some of their views are as radical as they come.

Ndung�u Gathinji, the chairman of the Nairobi Stock Exchange, is a trained lawyer and accountant. He has been in both the public and private sectors for over 26 years. His quali- fied audit opinion of African Leadership comes with several reservations.

�I fear that much of African leadership currently is steeped in the colonial leadership mode,� he says.

He notes that whereas it was important that Africa liberated itself from colonialism, the continent faced a new set of issues immediately thereafter, the major one being the need to craft a nation.

�This is where Africa has failed. I cannot help thinking that the reasons for this is because the leadership required to bring about political independence is not necessarily the leadership required to bring about nation building,� he says.

African leaders, he says, must recognise what kind of leaders they are and the kind of leadership required at various times. He is emphatic that to turn Africa around, it will take a �different set of leaders.�

At 58, Mr Gathinji is a man who does not offer his opinions lightly. But, having spent a considerable part of his life in boardrooms in the world of high finance, where the everyday concerns of ordinary Africans scarcely permeate, has hardly tempered his strongly held views. He has a good grasp of the many issues confronting the continent and believes the solutions are internal.

�Only Africans can save Africa,� he states.

He says that the strategy for subjugating Africa by outsiders recognises the centrality of the issue of leadership in resolving the continent�s problems, and consequently focuses on involvement with the process of choosing future leaders.

�Whether you are talking about Parliament or corporate boardrooms, the interference is widespread and glaring,� he declares.

To turn the continent round will require that everybody effectively plays their role at every level to bring about the desired changes, says Mr Gathinji. The sum total of such changes must be to raise the dignity of the African. Mr Gathinji says that even in the failed African states, there is hope, but only if they�re willing to pay the price of realising that hope.

He emphasises, however, that Africa�s problems largely emanate from its potential. It is consequently desired by many people and can be exploited for many years before the effect becomes intolerable. It is this potential that guarantees Africa�s future emergence, assuming it is not left to only benefit others.

He sees hope in the current initiatives like New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD). He cautions however, that to the extent that they depend on other people�s goodwill, their chances of success will be limited.

Mr Gathinji is no stranger to leadership. He studied law at the University of Nairobi, but it was in accountancy that he pursued a career. He retired as vice-chairman of Ernst and Young Africa in 1997. He is also the chairman of Francis Drummond and Company Limited, Kenya�s oldest stock brokerage firm. He also serves as chief executive of the Eastern, Central and Southern Africa Federation of Accountants, an organisation he helped found in 1989.

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