Problem Solving

Africa’s Leaders Need a Paradigm Shift in Their Thinking

Mfonobong Nsehe asked:

When Sudanese Telecoms billionaire, Mohammed Ibrahim launched the annual $5million prize for exemplary leadership in Africa, he imagined that the money would be enough to motivate Africa’s leaders to shun corruption, greed and self-interest and work towards developing their countries. He actually imagined that the money would go a long way in improving the continent’s sickening leadership problem.


But what attraction does $5million really hold for a typical African leader who controls billions of dollars of a country’s resources?


While Ibrahim’s intention in giving the prize was well motivated, it is very unlikely that the money will do much in solving Africa’s leadership problem. Ibrahim’s gift was a sort of incentive to entice Africa’s leaders to shun greed and corruption, and encourage selfless service in governance. It is wrong to assume that the morality of African leaders can be bought with money. You can never solve a greed problem with money.


The only way Africa is going to overcome its leadership problem is for the leaders themselves to have a paradigm shift in thinking, shun their avaricious tendencies, and scrap the idea that once in power, they are responsible for themselves and their families. Africans have gone through decades of untold pain, suffering, poverty and misery not because the continent is poor, but because the leaders have committed to serving themselves before anyone else.


As far as natural resources are concerned, Africa is arguably the world’s richest continent. It houses about 50% of the world’s gold, a huge chunk of the world’s diamond reserves, chromium, cobalt, manganese, millions of acres of untilled farmland, as well as other natural resources. In spite of this, Africans are still the most impoverished people in the world. Its people live in the poorest situations imaginable. The bottom 25 spots of the United Nations (UN) quality of life index are regularly filled by African nations. Over 400 million people in Africa live on less than a dollar per day.


Africa has not been on the road to recovery as a result of the role of post-independent and contemporary African leadership. These bunch of leaders apparently do not care about the situation of their countries. How can one explain the fact that in an economy like Zimbabwe where millions of children can barely get an education, the country’s first lady, Grace Mugabe squandered $80,000 on a shopping spree in Italy, as reported on the 8th June, 2008 edition of the Zimbabwean Times newspaper.


Even the leaders who steal the country’s resources do not even do the country the favor of ‘reinvesting’ the resources in their countries. Instead, they stash the money in off- shore accounts and invest in foreign companies. The late Nigerian military dictator, Sani Abacha stole billions of dollars from the country’s coffers and stashed them in foreign accounts in Switzerland and other tax havens. His son, Mohammed Abacha, bought shares in foreign blue-chip companies.


African leaders have never been able to control their greed. General Olusegun Obasanjo, the immediate former president of Nigeria who during his tenure as president ‘fought’ corruption was eventually discovered to have misappropriated billions of dollars of the country’s funds which was meant to deal with Nigeria’s electricity crisis. Nigeria currently has the worst power situation in Africa. Parts of major urban cities go for days without electricity supply.


King Mswati III of Swaziland has spent millions of dollars on palaces for his numerous wives, $400,000 on a single Mercedes car, and hundreds of thousands of dollars annually celebrating his birthdays, while his people live in abject poverty. Mobutu Seseko, the infamous Zaire despot embezzled country’s resources such diamonds in the Congo and country funds to the tune of billions of dollars. It was said that he had the capacity to pay the entire military from his personal coffers. At a time, he was said to have been richer than his own country.


Even in situations where money is used within the country, it is often spent on frivolities that hardly benefit the economy or those in dire need of government assistance. Lavish palaces like Cameroon’s Unity Palace, fleet of cars and jet planes have become status symbols for African regimes and symbols of political greed.


Former Emperor Bokassa of Central African Republic for example, wasted $20 million of his country’s money on a meaningless coronation. During his reign, poverty, political killings, and outrageous plundering of state resources characterized his government.


For years now, African leaders have adopted the mentality that once in power, they have to secure the future of themselves, their children’s and relatives’. Most of them get into power, neglecting the needs of the people who voted them into power (in democratic situations), and instead, devote their energy towards unscrupulously enriching themselves and relatives. This mentality has lived on with African leaders for years now and slowly but surely, this mentality is transferring to the youth- the future leaders. Except African leaders do away with that mentality, Africa will always remain a retrogressive continent.  In the light of this, what is needed in Africa is paradigm shift in the thinking of African leaders, and a change in the entire political ideology in Africa. It all starts with the mind. Once our current African leaders and future leaders change their mindset and resolve to serve their people and not themselves, Africa will well be on its way to seeing a new day.


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