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Towards a United Africa
Posted Thu, 03 Mar 2005

Despite being born into privilege, Dr Manu Chandaria is a social activist. He spends a considerable amount of his time in projects meant to uplift the community.

Dr Chandaria runs a business conglomerate spanning 40 countries from his offices in Nairobi. Through the social and charity work he undertakes, his has intimate knowledge of the problems that afflict Kenya in particular, and Africa in general. And he does not shy away from stating forcefully what he considers to be the source of Africa�s problems.

�Africa needs really strong leadership that understands we are at the bottom of the pit. If we are not careful, we will not emerge,� says Dr Chandaria.

He says that turning the continent around will require a lot of determination by heads of state. He notes that tremendous progress is being made in some countries like South Africa, Tanzania, Senegal and Algeria.

This highly decorated businessman is as simple as they come. Not for him the huge trappings that his position as head of the Comcraft Group of companies obviously entitles him. Nor does he surround himself with a coterie of assistants and aides that would make him inaccessible.

At 74, however, one would expect him to be slowing down, but his tempo of activity seems to be increasing. His concern for development of Africa is a strong motivator. He sees the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) as having a silver lining as it compels all African nations to make the changes needed to turn them around.

He wants to see a group of leading African presidents forming a consultative forum that will set the agenda for the continent.

�We require 10 strong leaders in Africa who can set the agenda for the continent. They must think Africa first and their own countries second. They must hold meetings every three months, and deal with their colleagues who are not toeing the line,� says Dr Chandaria.

He cites leaders such as Thabo Mbeki (South Africa), Hosni Mubarak (Egypt), Olesegun Obasanjo (Nigeria), Yoweri Museveni (Uganda), Mwai Kibaki (Kenya) and Eduardo dos Santos (Angola).

He decries the fact that though this process already started with the launch of the AU, delivery is lagging behind. Dr Chandaria is emphatic that business has a major role to play in the renaissance of Africa, and wants to see the creation of an African Business Council comprising of the continent�s leading countries.

�Politicians cannot do it alone,� he says, adding that African politicians must change their attitudes towards businesspeople. �African governments take the private sector as enemies, yet they (private sector) generate taxes, create wealth and jobs.� Empowering the private sector will create investments and employment.

An engineer by profession, Dr Chandaria is no stranger to leadership. He is the founding chairman of the East African Business Council and the first chairman of the Kenya Private Sector Alliance, an umbrella body for 200 private sector associations. He is a also past chairman of the Kenya Association of Manufacturers.

In 1997, he was awarded an honorary doctoral degree by the University of Nairobi in recognition of his outstanding achievements in the industrial, manufacturing and business sectors.

For three consecutive years from 2000, Dr Chandaria was named the most respected chief executive officer in East Africa through a survey conducted by PriceWaterhouse Coopers and the Nation Media Group.

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