Why NEPAD will fail

Published: 01-APR-03

In many respects Africans are crying out for a new brand of political leadership, more in tune with the aspirations of youth than the old guard and more at ease with the challenges of a new world order. In many respects they are being short changed by short-sighted leaders.

Across Africa, the need for economic development is pressing. Despite the threat of HIV/Aids, population growth rates are among the highest in the world. There is a higher pool of unemployed and underemployed youth burdened with raw energy that often gets spent in crime and dubious activities.

Even more significant is the fact that more than half of the continents population is younger than 36. More than half are women. Yet, Africa's leadership is populated by yesterday's men, capable of nothing except miscalculating the priorities of the people they lead.

As the New Partnership for Africa's Economic Development (NEPAD) gains media space, new questions are being raised about the quality of Africa's political leadership.

How many of today's African leaders are comfortable with teamwork and collaboration? How many can manage change and exhibit positive influence? Which African leaders are the best listeners and communicators? How many are keen or capable of repairing rifts between divergent groups? Oh, and how many can type or surf the Internet unassisted?

According Professor Ali A. Mazrui, the renowned commentator on African affairs, most modern day African leaders have let the continent down in the struggle to improve the material well being of its people. Only a few African leaders since independence have demonstrated skills of development on the ground. Mazrui says Africa has been served well by leaders of liberation, but he is concerned that the continent has not produced enough leaders of development.

"South Africa has the most liberal constitution in the world, and has ended political apartheid. But the wealth of the society is still maldistributed along racial lines. The mines, the best jobs, the best businesses, are still disproportionately owned by non-black people. Leaders like Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki have presided over substantial political democratisation, but they have also had to tolerate substantial economic injustice," says Mazrui.

Our special report on leadership also takes in the views of, Reuel Khoza chairman of South Africa's Eskom. Khoza asks if Africa has enough leaders with qualities necessary to propel the continent towards a better future? "The choice is essentially ours. We can either develop, nourish and unleash the leadership talent that is all round us, or allow it to wither on the vine and continue lamenting the paucity of leadership in present-day Africa", says Khoza. (See story on page 22)

Whichever yardstick one uses, the general agreement is that an emergence of a new style of leadership is critical for Africa's survival and progress. Many agree that Africa's leaders at best are stuck in the liberation mode and have failed to embrace the development agenda.

The concept of NEPAD revolves around an urgent need to consolidate democracy and sound economic management on the continent. Its success is to be measured in terms of rebuilding the African continent and liberating its people from poverty. NEPAD pledges 10 promote peace and stability, democracy, sound economic management, people- centred development and accountability. This is a tough but necessary challenge.

If NEPAD is to realise these objectives, it needs leadership that can translate dream into reality. The forecast in this regard is at best cloudy. Amara Essy, the technocrat chosen to lead the recently revamped African Union recently called on African leaders to stop sacrificing sustainable development on the continent for short-term political gains.

Yes, the truth is that there is a genuine hunger for honest and transformative leadership in Africa. The promoters of NEPAD do not seem to have factored this requirement into their planning. For now and for the foreseeable future, millions of poverty-stricken Africans will continue to look up to mediocre leaders masquerading as agents of the continent's salvation.

Bouteflika's Booty

Abdelaziz Boutiflika of Algeria has now consolidated his hold on power and is now exploiting the economic development potential of the oil-rich Saharan country. Fortune seems to be smiling on him as Algeria regains its status as a much sought after export market. Higher oil prices and increased government revenue have brought new confidence in economic planning. In Africa, Bouteflika is enjoying good media as one of the architects of NEPAD. But will the current signs of hope bring about lasting comfort to a country with such an inflammable past? Dianna Games, the former managing editor of this magazine was in Algeria recently. Her exclusive story can be seen on page 34. Happy reading.

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