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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Africa Arise

That Africa is lagging behind in all spheres of human endeavor is not due to lack of good ideas or smart people or policies or its water or soils or benign neglect on the part of the international community.

Africa’s problems are largely due to a fatal failure of leadership, a preponderance of a brand of politics that is visionless and uninspired by the desire to solve the myriad problems that continue to trap millions of Africans in an existence that is miserable, short and brutish.

The poet William Woodsworth wrote "the works of peace cannot flourish in a country governed by an intoxicated despot… commerce, manufacturing, agriculture, and all the peaceful arts, are of the nature of virtues or intellectual powers; they cannot be given; they cannot be stuck in here and there; they must spring up; they must grow of themselves; they thrive better with encouragement and delight in it."

Abuse and misuse of power and authority by Africa’s political elite is not due an inherent lack of capacity for good governance. African leaders have been tyrannical and ineffective not because they are incompetent or ignorant. Neither has the lack of administrative or intellectual expertise to formulate and properly execute growth enhancing policies been the major problem. Quite simply, African leaders have no intention or desire to govern for the collective good of their people.

Similarly, the wrong-headed economic policies and practices of African governments are not as a result of a lack of understanding of sound fiscal policies and management. Africa’s nobility has reaped bountifully from the economic plunder of their nations. They prefer to maintain the status quo as chaotic and desperate.

Poverty is not Africa's tragedy. Africa’s real tragedy is that it lacks political leadership that is committed to protecting fundamental rights and freedoms, solving practical problems and creating opportunities for its citizens to innovate and thrive in free enterprise.

South African writer Ruth First in her book The Barrel of a Gun published in 1970 wrote "There has been eloquent, inexhaustible talk in Africa about politics, side by side with the gaping poverty of political thought. Politicians are men who compete with each other for power, not men who use power to confront their country's problems."

The post-colonial nation-state has not been liberating and protective of its citizens: on the contrary, its gross effect has been to constrict innovation and exploit its citizens. In a large measure, the post-colonial state has simply failed to operate in any rational way at all.

I often ask myself two questions: How can I encourage people around me to think like problem solvers? How do I harness my own potential to catalyze the emergence of a “new age African leadership”?

It is time to turn the page. A new generation of leaders must now rise in Africa and take the mantle of leadership and deliver economic prosperity and social justice for all of Africa’s people.

See related article in TIME,9171,1813508,00.html

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