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Ebrima Faal

January 2nd, 2024

Africa’s future beyond 2024 demands unapologetic and resolute leadership

3 comments | 8 shares

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Ebrima Faal

January 2nd, 2024

Africa’s future beyond 2024 demands unapologetic and resolute leadership

3 comments | 8 shares

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Africa’s leadership landscape is a constellation of stories, encompassing triumphs and tribulations, visionary leadership and struggles against historical legacies and contemporary challenges. Amidst this intricate mosaic, the path to a prosperous and democratic future for Africa lies in the hands of its leaders, who must navigate these complexities with a deep understanding of the continent’s unique circumstances, writes Ebrima Faal.

Navigating the legacy of colonialism

The scars of colonialism are still visible across Africa, and have left indelible marks on the continent’s political, economic, and social landscapes. Arbitrary borders drawn by colonial powers often disregard ethnic and cultural boundaries, which sowed the seeds for conflict and hinder regional integration. The focus on resource exploitation during colonial times has left many African countries with a dependence on primary commodities, making them vulnerable to global market fluctuations and hindering economic diversification. The disruption of traditional systems and the imposition of foreign norms have undermined indigenous governance structures and contributed to instability.

The transition from colonial rule to self-governance brought its own set of challenges, including political instability, internal conflicts, and economic hardship. The lack of strong institutions, the absence of stable political systems (sometimes leading to military rule) and the struggle to establish inclusive governance frameworks have impeded progress in many African countries. These challenges have often been compounded by external factors, such as Cold War proxy battles and foreign interventions, which further destabilised the region.

Amidst these complexities, the need for visionary and determined leadership becomes paramount. Leaders must possess a clear and comprehensive vision for their nations’ development, setting forth ambitious goals that address the root causes of poverty, inequality, and instability. This vision must be coupled with unwavering resolve to implement it, navigating the inevitable challenges and setbacks that will arise along the way.

Roadmap

Corruption has been a scourge in many African nations, hindering development, eroding public trust, and fuelling instability. It manifests in various forms, from embezzlement of public funds to the awarding of contracts based on patronage rather than merit. Addressing corruption requires a multi-pronged approach, including strengthening institutions of accountability, promoting transparency and ethical conduct, and fostering a culture of civic engagement. The Africa Union estimates that £110 billion is lost to corruption every year, equivalent to the GDP of all but five countries in Africa.

Effective governance, the cornerstone of prosperity and democracy, is undermined by weak institutions, such as in South Africa where the judiciary is subject to improper influence from powerful people and entities. Strengthening these institutions requires a commitment to meritocracy, as seen in Botswana’s efforts to include quotas for women on party lists and its well-regarded governance profile. Rwanda’s legal recognition of land rights and clear mechanisms for enforcing rights and resolving conflicts is another positive example.

Africa’s path to prosperity is hindered by a range of economic and developmental hurdles. Inadequate infrastructure, such as the lack of electricity in communities across Mali, and high poverty rates, as seen in Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo, pose significant challenges. Unequal resource distribution further exacerbates the situation. Furthermore, the reliance on primary commodities, a characteristic of 83 per cent of African countries, makes economies vulnerable to global market fluctuations and hinders diversification into higher-value industries. Addressing these challenges requires investment in infrastructure, promoting inclusive economic growth, and diversifying export markets, as demonstrated by Kenya’s increasing export of manufactured goods markets.

External influences, including geopolitical interests and foreign interventions, can significantly impact African countries’ stability and governance. These factors can undermine national sovereignty, perpetuate conflict, and complicate governance, making it difficult for leaders to implement domestic reforms by creating conflicting pressures on leaders and propping up corrupt or ineffective leaders, thereby hindering the implementation of necessary changes. Mitigating these external influences requires promoting regional cooperation, strengthening African institutions, and upholding international norms.

Tribalism and ethnic divisions remain a source of conflict and instability in many African nations. Leaders must strive to foster unity and cohesion by promoting inclusive policies that address the root causes of these divisions. This includes promoting equal access to opportunities, ensuring representation of all groups in decision-making processes, and addressing historical grievances These grievances often stem from colonial rule, such as the dispossession of land, the undermining of traditional roles of African chiefs, and the introduction of franchise legislation that denied many Africans the right to vote.

Case studies of success: Botswana and Rwanda

Despite the challenges, Africa has witnessed inspiring examples of leadership that have positively impacted the continent’s democratic landscape and economic prospects. Two such examples are Botswana under the leadership of Seretse Khama and Rwanda under Paul Kagame.

Khama’s leadership in Botswana was characterised by a profound commitment to democratic principles, economic liberalisation, and robust governance. His unwavering belief in multi-party democracy and free and fair elections established a stable and inclusive political system which fostered a sense of national unity and resilience. Simultaneously, his embrace of market-driven principles and his proactive efforts to attract foreign investment transformed Botswana into an economic powerhouse, propelling the nation to become an African success story.

Khama’s emphasis on strengthening public institutions, particularly the judiciary and the civil service, laid the bedrock for effective governance. His zero-tolerance policy on corruption instilled public trust and created a business-friendly environment, attracting investors and driving economic growth. Khama’s leadership left an indelible mark on Botswana, setting a high standard for governance and economic development, inspiring leaders across Africa and demonstrating the transformative power of visionary and committed leadership.

Kagame’s vision for Rwanda extends beyond mere stability or prosperity; he envisions a nation where harmonious coexistence, economic vibrancy, and inclusivity flourish. To achieve this ambitious goal, he is implementing a multifaceted strategy that addresses deep-rooted societal divisions, strengthens the institutional foundations, prioritises education, and fosters entrepreneurship. These far-reaching policies are driving Rwanda’s transformation, propelling the nation from the ashes of genocide to a position among Africa’s most promising economies.

Kagame’s leadership is not without its challenges and controversies. His unwavering focus on national unity and economic development is often accompanied by measures that critics deem authoritarian. However, supporters argue that these measures are necessary to maintain stability and security in a nation that had experienced the horrors of genocide. Despite these debates, Kagame’s leadership stands as a testament to Rwanda’s remarkable resilience and the power of visionary leadership to steer a nation towards a brighter future.

Charting a course for prosperity and democracy

Prosperity and democracy in Africa require leaders with vision, determination, and a deep understanding of the continent’s unique challenges. These leaders must uphold transparency, accountability, and inclusivity to foster trust and socio-economic growth.

The rise of populism and the impact of social media present both opportunities and challenges. Populist rhetoric can resonate with the populace, but it must be balanced with democratic principles and inclusive governance. Social media, a powerful tool for civic engagement, can also spread misinformation.

Leaders capable of navigating these complexities and harnessing these opportunities are crucial for guiding Africa towards a brighter future. By addressing poverty, inequality, and instability at their roots, they can create a prosperous and democratic Africa that benefits all its citizens.


Photo credit: Paul Kagame used with permission CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 DEED

About the author

Ebrima Faal headshot

Ebrima Faal

Ebrima Faal is the CEO of Development Perspectives UK. He has had a 30-year career in international development, including roles at the African Development Bank and the IMF. He is a graduate of Mount Allison and McGill Universities in Canada.

Posted In: Politics

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