Challenges and opportunities (continued)
Africa continues to be lacking in the culture of accumulation, analyses and dissemination of knowledge and experience. Very few political leaders write their memoirs; and those that do it is often a case of justifying past actions rather explaining events and shedding lights on hitherto classified events.
Some leaders have published several books but these have tended to be collected speeches, elaboration of their ideological persuasions or defense of their political decisions.
Virtually no African leader has written a book explaining in details his/her life long experience in politics, the exigencies of state-craft, economic management, administration, and governance in general.
Such information could be useful to the new generation of African scholars and researchers who are keen to create an independent African scholarship and research capabilities. Appropriately presented it could also be very valuable to the aspiring young African leaders.
The world is inexorably moving towards knowledge and information based societies and economies. Attempts should be made to develop the culture of written transmission of knowledge; experience, insight and wisdom from one generation to another.
This will enable the succeeding generations of leaders acquire the expertise and self-confidence to respond to the challenges of the 21st century and beyond.
The first generation of leaders has the responsibility of transmitting the knowledge, lessons learnt and insights gained to the succeeding generation. Effective leadership entails continuous flow and succession of leaders, and not just one or two good leaders.
Hence the notion of the relay race between the generations of leaders. Policy efforts should consider the creation of a centre where retiring African leaders, senior civil servants and businesspersons, could be assisted to collect their thoughts, rethink the past, comment on the present and reflect on the future.
This could be done in recorded seminars, workshops or roundtable discussions, or facilities being provided to those inclined to write.
Africa is losing a lot of valuable information on the art and science of its governance with every death, senility or madness of an African leader.
People are the greatest and most valuable resources Africa has. Over 60% of Africa’s population is under 20 years of age, and the majority of these are female. Very few of these are likely to receive university education or any other form of advanced education or training.
Most of them are likely to be literate, productive and creative in their various communities. They constitute the critical mass of potential leaders.
The challenge is the creation of a system that can tap these resources, identify and attract those talented and ambitious, educate, train, nurture and encourage them to take position of leadership in their various fields of endeavours and at various levels.
Leadership need not necessarily be in politics. Inspite of the four decades of Independence citizens of many African countries are still ignorant of the real social and economic conditions of their fellow citizens in other parts of the country.
They continue to suffer from the old stereotypes and prejudices of the past that have unfortunately been manipulated by unscrupulous politicians.
Mobility within the country is difficult and expensive…bad roads and high fares. Those who can afford to travel are eager to travel outside their countries than within it.
This is one of the downsides of globalisation and liberalisation. Those with the marketable skills and talents are attracted to the global markets for better rewards, working and living conditions.
There is thus the need to create national programmes that will enable the young to know their fellow citizens, familiarize with the social and economic conditions, and thus be able to appreciate the problems and potentials of their countries.
Good leadership entails appropriate technical and ethical knowledge as well as familiarization with the peoples’ social conditions.
If the young from different parts of the country are familiarized with other parts of the country and are brought in contact with one another in a deliberate and constructive way they are likely to establish links and net-works amongst themselves as they grow to adulthood and maturity.
Ethnicity is still a very important factor in many African countries. It is a critical factor in both democratic and development processes.
In Africa the tendency to vote according to ones ethnic preference rather than policy options is still strong. And so is the allocation of economic and other social resources. Public images of leaders are closely associated with their ethnic background rather than the soundness of their policies.
Given its multiplicity and deep historical and social foundations, it is both impossible and indeed undesirable to suppress let alone eliminate the ethnic factor in public policy issues in Africa.
Nonetheless, to be trusted and thus acceptable and effective the 21st Century African leader has to act and be perceived as a leader of all the people …Perhaps the most important challenge facing African countries is how to transform the ethnic diversities inherited from colonial boundaries into national States. There is, in effect, an acute crisis of identity.
The political identity of an African is rather like three-tier edifice. At the top of the structure is an overarching sense of continental identity which all Africans share. Thus, they can all say without hesitation: We are Africans.
At the base of the edifice lies a sense of ethnic identity; this is a powerful force that enables most Africans to proclaim with complete confidence: We are Kikuyu or we are Yoruba or indeed we are Tutsi or Hutu. The crises arise in the middle of the edifice, that is, at the national level.
Those who can truly affirm with feeling and conviction that we are Ugandans or Luos are still relatively few; that is to say that, with some notable exceptions, the sense of national identity is still the least developed of all the elements of identity within the African political personality.
The succeeding generation of African leaders are better educated, well conversant with domestic issues and understands the threats, challenges and opportunities posed by globalization.
They acknowledge the critical importance of freedom, democracy, strong civil societies, good governance, accountability and transparency in the development process.
To these young leaders the colonial domination and the struggles for independence are historical facts to be acknowledged, but the consequences of the failure of that generation of leaders to deliver on their promises is something they themselves have experienced.
They are understandably angry, impatient and frustrated. They have a better sense of what needs to be done to prepare for the challenges and opportunities in the 21st century.
The end of the Cold War and the demise of communism as a competitive development model have liberated Africans from the manipulations of the big powers. Africans now have the opportunity to think for themselves; to decide what is best for Africa without having to worry about the attitude or reactions of the big powers.
In a sense this is a second window of opportunity for African leaders to reinvent their future societies. (Final series next sunday)