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15.03.2009 Feature Article

Leadership and Africa's development

Over the past decades development practitioners, economists and politicians have tried various measures and approaches to address and fix Africa's socio economic challenges, but not enough has been achieved.

Africa is a continent afflicted with disease, hunger, war, drought and famine. Despite attempts and efforts to address the socioeconomic challenges in Africa, the continent continues to see some of the world's worst political, economic, social, humanitarian and security crisis.

A continent endowed with enormous natural resources but has little to show for it, a continent blessed with fertile land but cannot feed its people, a continent that has raised abled men and women in all fields of human endeavor but has still not been able to free itself from the shackles of underdevelopment.

Various theories and arguments have been advanced to explain and sometimes justify the deplorable state of the continent. The story of Ham found in Genesis 9:18-29 is one of such arguments. Genesis 9:18-29 has been popularly understood to mean that Ham was cursed, and this understanding has often been used to justify oppression of African people, since Ham is regarded as the father of African People. Arguing from a Christian perspective, if “Ham's theory of development” is valid then Christians should understand that the redemptive work of Jesus Christ was not complete. There are others who argue that the slack in the pace of Africa's development has its root in the slave trade and colonization. Proponents of this theory contend that colonization arrested development in Africa and stole away resources. They assert that African countries that are the poorest today are the ones from which the most slaves were taken. They further argue that the loss of millions of abled-bodied people during the slave trade is one reason for this underdevelopment.

The policies and programs of the International monetary system (IMF) and the World Bank have not been spared in these arguments. Some scholars are of the view that debates on the state of Africa will be far from complete without a critical assessment of the role of the IMF and the World Bank in Africa's socioeconomic affairs.

It is really an undeniable fact that some of these factors and arguments have militated against our development, but the fundamental question is “what role has leadership played to help the situation?” “Could the continent have been better with visionary, selfless and committed leaders?” It is often said that “the only safe ship in a storm is leadership”. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy”.

Unfortunately, leadership has exacerbated the challenges and problems confronting the continent. Most of the conflicts, civil wars and untold events, in the continent, thrive on the wings on leadership. Lives, destines, properties and resources have been lost and destroyed for the quest of this same leadership.

Today, Africa has a leader whose country is facing chronic food shortages, economic stagnation and an outbreak of cholera that has killed nearly 4000 people and urgently seeking $2billion (£1,4 billion ) to rescue its collapsed economy but can afford to raise and spend $250,000 (£176,000) on his birthday. We have a leader today who is thought to have more than $4m (£2.8m) in French bank accounts.

“Ex-Malawian President Bakili Muluzi has been arrested and accused of stealing $11m (£7.7m) in donor money, says the country's Anti-Corruption Bureau”. Mr Muluzi had been charged of allegedly siphoning aid cash into his private account.

I cannot believe we have leaders who divert chunk of the foreign loans and financial aid into their private bank account in Europe and America. The sad thing about this is that, monies which are intended to improve the standard of living in the region are lodged in foreign bank accounts and are given back to the continent as loans.

In his book Africa's choices: After thirty years of the World Bank, Brown stated that Mobutu Sese Seko former president of Zaire received a lot of financial aid( loans) from the United States during his regime. Unfortunately a chunk of the money was stacked in Mobutu's private Swiss bank accounts while Zaire's debt continued to pile up and people lived in abject poverty (Brown, 1996, pp.111, 129). He further stated that under General Sani Abacha's regime, a chunk of Nigeria's oil revenues and loans contracted were allegedly diverted into his private bank account. (Brown, 1996 p. 307).

It is very pathetic to see leaders and governments who take loans to buy Land Cruisers for ministers of state and parliamentarians while ordinary farmers and poor taxpayers from whose labour the loans will be repaid cannot secure loans to buy farm inputs.

How can the continent escape from the captivity of poverty, the pain and consequences of underdevelopment, the dungeons of misfortunes and the plague of diseases and sickness if we have leaders who behave this way. Our Leaders must understand that their decisions and actions today have “generational effect”.

Time has come for a change of approach and attitude towards our socioeconomic challenges. The time for Africa to mount the “stage of development” is long overdue. There is therefore an urgent need for a renewed, positive and genuine sense of duty on the part of our leaders. African leaders must recognize that they have the primary responsibility to tackle poverty and crucial to realizing this goal is positive sense of commitment, good leadership, governance and peace building.

God bless Africa
Credit: Daniel Akwasi Kanyam, Ohio University

MyjoyOnline, © 2009

This author has authored 338 publications on Modern Ghana. Author column: myjoyonline

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