A triangle of poor leadership

Published: 01-OCT-03

A new African leader has just been elected or selected. At the swearing-in ceremony a military brass band in starched white uniform trumpets the national anthem as the victorious new president salutes the flag. The air is full of triumph.

In the audience, top elite of the country's business, political and social tradition endures the pageantry while waiting for a first private opportunity to meet and greet the new Mr President. In his first 100 days in power, civil leaders will pay homage and pledge support to the new president.

Business leaders seeking the best deals will network with senior government officials and seek advantages. And so, the scene will be set for these three main categories of leaders to rescue or wreck the country's fortunes. To the naked eye, this ceremony is that of renewal - a celebration of the ousting of the old order and a new chance to embrace a prosperous future.

The real Africa is often less colourful than this painted scenario. Sadly, millions of Africans are now increasingly reliant on an incompetent union of corrupt political elite, shady business moguls and unquestioning traditional chieftains for leadership.

Increasingly leadership in Africa operates along the wishes of this triangle of evil actors who connive to disenfranchise the masses.

New leadership

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

In many respects Africans are crying out for a new brand of political, business and civil society 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 shortsighted leaders. Africa, more than ever requires strong leadership in governance to deliver the much needed democratic stability.

Africans are yearning for political leadership that is not vogue on the outside and vague on the inside. The notion of civil leadership that speaks up for the needs of the masses is not fanciful. Africans must demand and get inspired civil society leadership that is capable of binding the many socio-cultural differences on the continent. A civil society leadership that is not semi-detached from the people it promises to serve. Many businesses are now taking the continent's prospects more seriously than before.

Africa is now hungry for real business leadership that is based on honesty of purpose. An entrepreneurial drive that recognises the underlying needs to transform the informal economies of the continent to brave new ventures for prosperity. African role models of business leadership must emerge.

Tough challenges

This magazine's initiative in hosting an African Leadership Forum happens at a time when the need for economic development is pressing. Despite the threat of HIV/Aids, population growth rates in Africa 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.

Our Eskom African Business Leaders Forum is happening at a time when the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa says the GDP of the continent is down from 4.3 to 3.2 percent. The lowest growth rates are in four of Africa's five largest economies - Algeria, Egypt, Morocco and Nigeria.

Only five of the continent's 53 countries achieved seven percent growth in 2002, the level needed to achieve accepted targets for reducing poverty. Ironically the countries pushing hardest for the implementation of the New Partnership for Africa's Economic development (Nepad) initiative suffered the worst growth rates.

This magazine urges leaders in these countries to practice what they preach. 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 to promote peace, democracy, people-centred development and accountability. This is a tough challenge. If Africa is to realise these objectives, it needs leadership at every level that can translate dream into reality.

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