African Leadership

There have been a few recent news items about Leadership in Africa that have caught my attention.

The first, that Sudanese Businessman Mo Ibrahim has declined to award his individual prize for African Leadership for the second year in a row because there were no candidates that deserved it. The prize is no chump change, the winners receive $5m over 10 years, and then $200,000 a year for life. The whole theory behind the prize is to incentivize democracy by rewarding former African leaders who demonstrate “exceptional leadership” during their time in office (you can only qualify when you step down as leader), as well as encouraging them to relinquish power when it is their turn to do so.

Mr Ibrahim argues that the prize is needed because many leaders of sub-Saharan African countries come from poor backgrounds and are tempted to hang on to power for fear that poverty is what awaits them when they give up the levers of power.

I would say leaders don’t necessarily hang onto power because of “poverty”, because when they leave the corruption continues in the form of diverting aid, or paybacks from contracts on natural resources. This would be pretty patronizing stuff if it were set up by Western Nations, but because the scheme is set up by a fellow African, and the money earned in Africa? I’m not seeing much dissension except for about the size of the prize – some say too big, others say too small to be an incentive.

If you have 5 minutes to spare I would take the time to listen to the audio clip found imbedded in the news story link above where, despite the interviewer annoyingly interrupting and inserting his own opinion, Mo Ibrahim explains what he means by “exceptional leadership.”

The second item is recent celebrations to mark the 50th anniversary of the independence of 17 African Nations. At the Bastille Day celebrations last month, French President Nicholas Sarkozy celebrated with the leaders of 11 African heads of state, most of them former French colonies. Obama, to mark the occasion, convened a forum last week with the next generation of African leaders – not a single head of state to be seen. There has been some media attention analyzing this move, which spells out Obama’s views on African leadership clearly enough if he hadn’t already made public statements about how “Africa doesn’t need strongmen, it needs strong institutions” and how Robert Mugabe “breaks [his] heart.” Time for my generation of Africans to step up, lay the smackdown on corruption and take responsibility for the future of the people. Obama backs you up anyways.

Things are not all doom and gloom, look at the difference a few years makes for Kenya! Two and a half years ago the country was wrapped in conflict over elections in which 1,300 people died and hundreds of thousands of people fled their homes in fear. And last week in the country’s first-ever peaceful election, Kenyans voted “yes” to a new constitution which waters down the power of an executive branch, creates a senate, reforms the judiciary, and gets rid of the law that makes it illegal to hold more than one passport.  Now I just need to convince Simba that it is worth his while to vote in Kenya and not just here in the UK…

Ume jaribu ume fanya vizuri Kenya, Kenya juu!

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About Petunia

She wore rings on her fingers and bells on her shoes And I knew without asking she was into the blues She wore scarlet begonias tucked into her curls I knew right away she was not like other girls ~The Grateful Dead
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