The great role that individual agency plays

Many have been pondering the problems that have afflicted the African continent, and caused its stagnation and in some cases retrogression as the rest of the world made major advances in human living conditions.

Many have been pondering the problems that have afflicted the African continent, and caused its stagnation and in some cases retrogression as the rest of the world made major advances in human living conditions.

This advancement in conditions in other continents especially south east Asia, in the later part of the 20th century, was occasioned by advancements in those countries economies and hence technology.

It has been argued by many that African countries were stunted by the effects of the many years of slavery and colonialism.

But there is hardly any country or nation that has never suffered the indignities of colonialism. 

America was colonized. The Chinese suffered under Japanese occupation.

So this line of argument though popular at one time among pan-Africanist intellectuals, has been rendered tired by what others especially in the Far East have achieved in just one generation.

So it is a road- side argument that can not stand.
At the time of independence, most economies in Africa, it has been stated with empirical facts, were at the same level of development, as countries in the Far East like South Korea.

So how come, such development was not realized in Africa, and even now in many countries on the continent, evidence shows that some countries are even not on the stage that can and has been described as take off.

Besides, compared to Africa, many of these countries in the Far East had and still have a scarcity of raw materials that are abundant in Africa. 

The paradox can only be settled if we take a look at what happened in terms of the politics of the continent.

The question of the people who took up the mantle of leadership and the resultant failure of leadership is what explains this phenomenon to a large extent.

Countries in the Asia-Pacific like South Korea, Singapore, and Malaysia to mention but three of the countries that have been dubbed the Asian Tigers, had one common factor.

They were at the time when they underwent rapid transformation, under the leadership of strong, idealistic yet pragmatic leaders.

These leaders were at the helm of their countries for many years, and they oversaw the rapid transformation of the countries they led.

Unlike what we are made to believe or think, democracy was not a factor in all this. All transformative leaders who have turned around their countries -be it economically like Lee Kwan of Singapore, or Dr. Mahatir Muhammed in Malaysia, presided over authoritarian regimes.

This also obtains for great nation builders like Moustafa Kemal Ataturk the founder of modern Turkey.

The same holds for Cuba under the long years of the Castro brothers. All these were consensus building leaderships yet authoritarian and regarded as undemocratic in what has become the conventional western way of looking at things.

Even the western countries were largely undemocratic with many sections of their populations having no say in governance issues at the time when they underwent the industrial revolution. 

Back to the issue of African leadership in the aftermath of colonization and in later years, we see that even leaders like Nyerere, who were strong personalities and well intentioned failed to achieve economic transformation .

But Nyerere the man-unlike many other leaders, created a strong unified Tanzania that is unique in a region where others advanced tribal/ethnic goals ahead of the national good.

So he also occupies a high pedestal alongside Fidel Castro, Lee Kwan, Mahatir Muhammed and the Turkish nation builder Moustafa Kemal.

Nyerere is like Chairman Mao Zedong who created a strong China, paving way for the emergency of Deng Xiaoping who would over see the radical economic transformation of China. 

Here, I will postulate that for a society to transform in any way, bet it political, social or economic, there must be the individual agency.

That is the leader/ a personality who inspires and makes all that happen.

Africa has always lacked such leaders, but in recent years a new trend has emerged with transformative personalities like Mandela emerging.

Fareed Zakaria and Rick Warren and many others have written about our own President Paul Kagame, attesting to his unique leadership qualities and style.

He is seen as and indeed is a real new face of an emerging continent.

I believe that with the passage of time, when historians get to work, our leader will be placed up there with the great transformative leaders of our time for providing that, which is called individual agency in the liberation, rebuilding and transformation of Rwanda and the rest of Africa.