Africa constitutes roughly oneseventh of the human population, but controls only 3.09% (2014) of global trade and economy. The United States, with 5% of world population accounted for 22% of world’s GDP in 2015; while China, with a population figure comparable to that of Africa, accounted for 15% of total global GDP in 2014. Africa and Asia started from broadly the same development pedestal in the 1960s. Today, much of Asia has done away with absolute poverty, while on the African continent, the camp of the absolute poor continues to widen.
There is direct relationship between Africa’s unenviable place on the development trajectory, and the type of leadership prevalent on the continent. Leadership speaks to the ability to motivate. It is the art of exacting from ordinary people, extraordinary performance. It is about mobilisation of people and materials, in the right mix, in the accomplishment of organisational goals, at minimal cost. It speaks to management of change – a transition process, directed at moving people towards greater effectiveness and efficiency (Mimiko, 2012a).
Its core elements are visioning; courage; knowledge; passion; selflessness; and integrity. If any of these is lacking, hardly would you be able to have leadership in the right mix. Leadership impacts substantially on the fortunes of organisations, making it the most important variable in organisational success.
What is usually lost on people given to macro conceptions of leadership, however, is the tendency at marginalizing the ordinary layers of leadership while focusing wholesale on top political leaders.
It is not often appreciated that leadership office exists in different layers, and at all levels. Ultimately, the good of society is predicated upon how each of the several leaders (technically everyone) in a collective applies themselves to the task of leadership. In spite of pockets of good governance and credible efforts at engendering economic development in a few countries on the continent, Africa’s development situation remains precarious.
The general picture is of crisis of governance and development, the basis of which goes back several centuries. Indeed, any robust explication of the nature of colonialism, which ravaged the African continent for at least a century, cannot but come to the conclusion that it remains a critical variable in Africa’s post-colonial experience.
Making this point does not constitute an attempt to absolve subsequent generations of Africans of blame in the governance and development crisis that their continent is. Rather, it is to call attention to the fact that when a people is subjected to the most damning form of exploitation and abuse ever seen in history – 400 years of slave trade, and 100 years of colonialism, it is not unimaginable that the era following these experiences would still be largely shaped by them.
There is no amount of frustration with the present that can justify a denial of the structural impact of those years on Africa’s present situation. Scholars like Ayitteh (1992), and Diamond (1982), have noted the singleminded commitment of African leaders to rent seeking as the basis of the non-performance of the continent. In disputation of the corruption narrative, however, Jeffrey Sachs (2005: 356)) argues that the damaging impact of corruption notwithstanding, it plays only a small part in explaining Africa’s inability to deliver on development.
For him, the development crisis in Africa is a function of the continent’s ‘economic isolation,’ bypassed, as it were, by ‘the forces of globalization;’ ‘omnipresence of disease and death’ (Ibid: 194); and a situation in which ‘geography (too) conspired with economics to give (the continent) a particularly weak hand’ (Ibid: 208).
So for him, an infusion of massive official development assistance (ODA) into Africa constitutes, in the context of market reform, and fairer global trade practices, the surest route to development. In contradistinction to the geography hypothesis is the averment represented by the work of Acemoglu and Robinson (2012), who argue that the existence of extractive political and economic institutions in Africa is the primary basis of its inability to do away with poverty.
These institutions thrive on exclusion of a preponderance of the population from the economic and political processes of a nation; and are directed at ripping the gains of whatever economic engagements they tolerate off the hands of those involved therewith.
In addition, extractive political institutions limit political power, and access to the privileges they confer, to a very limited circle of people united by blood, or ideology, or one or more of the several socially constructed identities. Extractive political and economic institutions reinforce each other; and reproduce poverty and alienation rather than prosperity and inclusiveness.
The debate on the nature of the forces responsible for the development crisis in Africa can go on ad infinitum. It suffices, therefore, to anchor this on the note that fundamental to the leadership and development crises in Africa is the nature of the state that grew out of colonialism.
African leaders have sought to sustain and consolidate this after independence for its depredatory essence. This they do, in the service of the new, local ruling elites, and their foreign collaborators.
The state thrives on power centralization, exclusion, and acute cronyism. It lacks autonomy, hegemony, and capacity. It reinforces the shortage on the continent, of leadership commitment, a pro-people and prodevelopment organising philosophy that provides the basis for state action (ideology). In this context, the state remains largely moribund, and the central task of delivering development, which it is supposed to play, becomes practically impossible to accomplish.
Thus, ‘rather than being developmental like its Asian counterpart, the African state (remains) predatory’ (Mimiko, 1998: 162-177); and a huge force in the demobilization of the African population, and their inability to lead the development initiative. Using the three levels of analysis theoretical schema in foreign policy analysis as a guide, the paper notes that outside of the operating environment presented by the state and system levels, it is the precipitating cause (the trigger factor), at the individual level, that gives direction to a country.
The individual level of analysis is, to all intents and purposes, the domain of decision. It is the decisions taken, or the choices made, by leaders who are empowered to sign off on one of several options before them on any issue, and at any time that, when implemented, constitutes the behaviour of a state.
This is what is subsequently reacted to by other stakeholders at the system level. It is thus obvious that what becomes of a state is a function of the choices made by individual leaders – how rational, well-thought-out, altruistic, and evidence-based – such choices are.
This speaks to the concept of capacity; which at the less formal level, equates the ability to get things done; knowing what needs to be done, and the gravitas to make that which is to be done, done.
In the more formal sense, as it is applicable to operations of state apparatuses, capacity equates, ‘the possession of effective policy tools and sufficient power to carry out economic policy’ (Kumar, et. al., 1995, cited in Mimiko, 1997). Capacity collapse (or gap) is clearly evident among a good number of African leaders (Mimiko, 2011).
It is a more fundamental element than corruption, and virtually all the other array of causes accounting for, and sustaining the development crisis on the continent
TO BE CONTINUED TOMORROW
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