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Opinion / Columnist

'Africa has everything except leadership'

10 Aug 2014 at 09:26hrs | Views
The entry of Barack Obama as United States President was characterised by inflated and buoyant expectations by most Africans who thought the Washington song would be sweet melody for the rest of the continent.

In reality, there has been a lingering sense of disillusionment, anxiety and in some instances, outright disappointment in the hearts and minds of many African brothers and sisters.

Last week was an historic week in Washington as Obama hosted African heads of state and governments.

The three-day US-Africa Leaders' Summit was focussed on sustainable development, trade, collaboration, investment, America's commitment to Africa's security, its democratic development and its people.

Interestingly, the theme for the US-Africa Leaders Summit is "Investing in the Next Generation." I suppose we are too careless about ourselves that we need another to define our priorities and strategic direction going forward.

In that context, it makes illustrative and interesting reading after making a survey of the list of leaders who were not invited.

These include Robert Mugabe, Omar al-Bashir of Sudan, Catherine Samba-Panza, interim president of Central African Republic and Isaiahs Afewerki, president of Eritrea. It is good that the US has made the correct finger sign on regimes outside the zone of legitimacy.

The above list is made complex by the invitation of certain leaders of the same street as those excluded. These include Swaziland's King Mswati, Equatorial Guinea's President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo whose country ranks 136th out of 187 countries in the Human Development Index and Republic of Congo's President Denis Sassou Nguesso.

It appears to me that no nation boycotted the summit in solidarity with Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe, who is currently the deputy chairman of the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) and vice-president of the African Union. This is in itself, a very telling development on the politics and psyche of African power dynamics and priorities.

With the International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecasting that the economies of sub-Saharan Africa will grow at an average of 5,4% this year and 5,8% in 2015 — faster than the global average — the thrust in reaching out to the continent's leaders merit full and serious consideration.

According to a recent World Bank report, 33 of the African countries suffer from malnutrition. Malnutrition at an early age stunts both bodies and minds. The lost potential is thought to cost Africa about 16% of GNP.

The US is only doing what it can and ought to do in the context of own national interests. In the context of both the US's global influence and African interests, Obama's latter day move appears to me, to be more of a classic case of a late tackle. The move is but too little yet too late.

As an African citizen, when asked which is better speaking out or taking action, I choose both.

From my perspective, Africa will only become prosperous the moment its leaders begin to love their people much as they love themselves.

Africa is burdened by the yoke of a parasitic and predatory elite that makes a hobby out of the exploitation of many of our innocent and peace yearning citizens. In Africa, the big fish eat the small ones as a speciality.

On the other hand, we seem to over-trust donors. But, we do not need just access to the handouts of the West but their markets, investment and technology too.

Donations are never a permanent panacea to Africa' s quagmire. We must refuse to be either a continent of handouts or a charity continent.

We need investment, not mere donations. Perhaps it is the dearth of leadership on the continent that makes donations the inevitable first and only choice on a menu of the survival diet.

The continent is handicapped and hamstrung by a bad leadership showing traits of legendary corruption, unmitigated tribalism, institutionalised terrorism and encyclopedic shortsightedness upon layers of nauseating parochialism.

We are victims of exhausted nationalism and a revolution checked half way. Africa should feed and not be fed by the world. We should transit from being a basket case to being the bread basket. We have everything except leadership.

We must not be victims of too much talk shopping with little hard and smart working. Yes, summits are important but not as the invited but the inviting.

Yes, summits and conferences on the African continent for African solutions to African problems and not on foreign soils. This may be the only solution to the malaise ravaging our motherland. We seem to be spending too much time in meetings and never on practical solutions to Africa's practical problems. If it is not China inviting us, it is the European Union or the US.

I am sure Russia is the next! Do we really look so cheap and desperate as a continent to deserve such reckless courtship? Why we allow ourselves to behave like a horse without a rider boggles the mind. The rider to the African continent horse should be the African people themselves, not China or any other.

Why should our continent be a source of cheap raw materials and yet a ready market for cheap quality products and second-rate technology?

As Africans, we have not just the climatic droughts but a drought of vision, sound plans and bankable policies.

I believe it is time we turned our African tropics, the savanna woodlands and equatorial forests into citadels of prosperity and global glamour.

In that regard, leadership is that first drop of rain. We must stop too much cheap talk at the top and begin to fully deploy our energies on root causes so manifest and bedevilling the African populace.

On the domestic front, we must establish frameworks, systems and structures that minimise waste yet optimise the resources we have. The African government's budget has more money for off roader vehicles than the money for constructing and paving the country's roads.

Mediocrity of leadership has fanned the fires of internal turmoil and strife. The leadership has lost our ideological roots and the moral authority of the revolutionary ideals. We must see and learn from the error of our ways.

Africa's case is a resource curse depicting the tragedy of trouble in circumstances of plenty. We have the resources but not the correct developmental discourses to change the course of our beloved continent.

We must sing a new song. We must change our time. We must lead and stop forthwith having leaders without leadership.

Source - The Standard
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