Increasingly, leadership has emerged as a key factor in Africa’s progress. Bewildered leadership schemes have seen a good part of post-independent Africa sinking, some leading to horrible civil wars and state paralysis.
Africa’s leadership jam reveals that African elites have not understood their environment in relation to Africa’s progress.
This acknowledgement was revived when I read Reforming Leadership in Africa, a contribution to the on-going discussions continent-wide for the need to appropriate Africa’s cultural values and institutions into Africa’s progress, as a matter of psychology, confidence, dignity and logic.
Such appropriation will help the continent’s progress by fostering the required self-assurance considered necessary for progress. The schism in Africa’s leadership organization has come about because the ex-colonial structures have not been harmonized skillfully enough with Africa’s indigenous ones, especially in the on-going decentralization exercises and the talk of developing new leaders for tomorrow’s Africa.
The propaganda have been that the ex-colonial structures are generally thought to be superior (though wrongly) to that of Africa’s, not only by the ex-colonialists of yesteryears but to many of Africa’s elite.
In J. William Addai’s bold attempt to locate where the African leadership-progress inadequacies come from (that’s lack of Africa’s cultural inputs), it is easy to see where Africa’s developmental troubles come from – leadership mired in the notorious authoritarian, individualistic Big Man Syndrome cooked in ex-colonial European systems against Africa’s traditional consensus building systems.
If Africa’s development challenges are first and foremost leadership, then what value of leadership? Leadership that for historical and cultural reasons, flow from Africa’s innate traditional values, and simultaneously balanced with Africa’s ex-colonial heritage. The question is how African elites, as directors of progress, can draw from Africa’s cultural values to reform their leadership.
It is clear from Addai’s work that from scratch African states were in leadership dilemma – that’s if they are aware of that and that it is a pressing development issue, and how to reconcile ex-colonial Europe’s individualist-oriented leadership organization with Africa’s traditional group-oriented system.
Underpinning all these systems are the foundational values of each society as drivers for effective leadership organization for progress.
Africa has leadership difficulty at the moment because its foundational cultural values do not flow dexterously into its modern state organization, as the Japanese have successfully done.
In dealing with both inadequacies of the European leadership system imposed on Africa and the shortfalls of Africa’s traditional leadership organization, Addai compellingly discusses various leadership theories and practices and come out refreshingly with the view that some sort of hybridization of the European and the African systems is needed to make progress.
The author is a social commentator living in Canada