Should the SA government lend money to Zim?

Have your say
Chat on the Business in Africa forums with other readers about the issues of the day, affecting Africa.
Post your comment...

Calculate the latest currency rates for Africa and world currencies
Find out more...

Decolonising the mind
Posted Thu, 03 Mar 2005

Have you ever wondered why a disproportionate number of African leaders are better known for their oppressive policies and the size of their mansions than for their role in effecting positive changes in their communities?

This question has generated serious debate among academics and concerned citizens who recognise that unleashing Africa�s leadership potential is a critical prerequisite for any form of sustainable development. By Ndidi Okonkwo Nwuneli

The challenge of Leadership development in Africa was discussed and debated recently at the regional meeting of the World Economic Forum in Maputo, Mozambique. Mirroring the meeting of elders in a traditional African village, panellists - including President Thabo Mbeki, Armando Emilio Guebeza, the Secretary General of Frelimo, Reuel Khoza, Chairman of Eskom, Adam Roberts of the Economist Group and Peter Wilson of the African Leadership Institute - gathered under the shade of fig trees to discuss the root of causes of Africa�s leadership problems and to generate recommendations for preparing the next generation.

Throughout the session, a range of compelling ideas were presented. Perhaps the most compelling argument was made by President Mbeki. Using a series of light-hearted but powerful illustrations, he blamed Africa�s leadership problems on the �decolonisation of the soul and mind�. He emphasised that many Africans have struggled to define their own identities. Unfortunately, in their attempts to imitate the colonisers, they have failed their people.

Consider the example of Mobutu Sese Seko, whose 32-year reign of terror and kleptocracy closely resembled his colonial master, King Leopold of Belgium. The sad reality is that the concept of �servant leadership� was never espoused or modelled by the colonialists. As a result, it does not resonate in the modern African society.

Indeed, Africa is replete with examples of individuals in positions of power and authority, who believe that their workload should decrease as they move up in rank. They are convinced that their followers should serve them. The white man never carried his own bag, why should a �big� African man carry his?

While there is tremendous merit in the argument that the �decolonisation of the mind and soul� has severely tainted Africa�s present-day leaders, it is important to recognise that this argument is not sufficient. After all, some African leaders narrowly escaped colonialism and yet still face the same challenges as those that did not.

I would argue that three additional factors are responsible for Africa�s leadership problems. First, our education systems are designed to stifle and stunt leadership development. Our institutions do not provide a robust introduction to the concept of leadership, nor do they create a medium for the study of the lives of historical and present-day leaders. Instead, they punish students for taking risks, demonstrating creativity and challenging the status quos.

Secondly, as other world regions coalesce around their national and regional identities, Africa has followed the opposite trend. The intense patriotism that many of the proponents of independence demonstrated in the 50s and the 60s seems to have vanished. Most Africans are dreaming of leaving the continent.

Those who can afford to do so send their children abroad for a �better education� and greener pastures. We have lost our deep love and respect that is desperately needed to champion selfless development.

Thirdly, the dearth of a strong and independent civil society has allowed for unchecked abuses of power. As demonstrated by the recent events in countries such as India, Brazil, Indonesia and the Philippines, the presence of a free and powerful press and strong advocacy groups, ensures the emergence of transparent, effective and accountable leadership.

But all hope is not lost. Africa must inspire, empower and equip a new generation of leaders. I am convinced that the next generation of leaders will leave a different legacy on the continent. As stated by Reuel Khoza in his closing remarks at the Maputo session, they will be known:

� Less for what they say and more for what they deliver

� Less by their titles and positions and more by their expertise and competence

� Less by what they control and more about what they shape

� Less by the goals they set and more by the mindsets they build

� Both for great personal integrity and for exceptional organisational abilities.

Ndidi Okonkwo Nwuneli is the founder of the Leadership Effectiveness Accountability and Professionalism (LEAP) Africa, a non-profit organisation based in Nigeria.

Economic Statistics
Click here for the latest economic statistics graphs.
Find out more...

Special book offer
A new book by Eskom's Reuel Khoza on how to enhance performance of state-owned enterprises.

Buy this book now!

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
Energy in Africa is an intelligent and in-depth look at how energy impacts people, places, projects, price and development around the African continent. It is the first pan-African bilingual publication in both English and French in Africa, published quarterly.
Subscribe now...

Eskom 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...

Financing Black Empowerment Partnerships 2006
27 February � 3 March 2006.

Sandton Convention Centre, Johannesburg, South Africa
Click here for more

�Current Edition
��Subscribe to:
�� Print magazine
�� Digital edition
�� Energy in Africa

Employee E-Mail | Contact us | About us | Newsletter | Subscription centre | Advertising

All material copyright Business in Africa. All rights reserved. Material may not be published or reproduced in any form without prior written permission. Read these terms & conditions. Read our privacy statement and security statement. Powered by Mail & Guardian Online &