“Leadership is a way in which people change the minds of others and move organizations forward to accomplish identified goals. Leadership is also the ultimate act which brings to success all of the potent potential that is in an organization and its people”. Bernard Chestner (1938 P-11)).
The issue of leadership in Africa today is getting out of hand, even in these modern times leaders still afford to behave aggressively, unjustly, undemocratic and disrepective to the constitution. The leadership culture in Africa is about acquiring more power, more influence and resources at all costs and at the expense of the masses. Access to resources is by a small group of people, the gap between the rich and the poor is widening everyday. The region is increasingly drowning in its problems; war crimes, corruption, impunity, poverty this is the picture Africa portrays to the out side world.
There is one common thing about the cries of all African countries due to poor governance, that is the persistent problem of corruption, conflict be it civil or cross- border, the young people are directly involved. As young as they are, they are only victims of circumstances burdened by the despair of these challenges and yet they are also largely untapped sources of social change and transformation. Good leadership should be participative and be able to transform potential into reality.
Although there are various leadership styles and types I shall focus on the type that in my view seems most suitable and appropriate in the African situation. Participative leadership style is ideal and leaders should adopt it. It assumes that there is involvement of all parties in the decision-making which improves the understanding of the issues involved by those who carry out the decisions. This leadership style has been exercised and practiced in democratic states, where fairness, justice and participation of everyone are respected values the time is now and each of us can do something, I believe that investing in the youth with leadership skills, good African values is not only the future but also the now.
The African perspective on leadership
The original concept of Leadership in Africa was understood as a collective process, where everyone was invited to discuss issues and also agreed on solutions together. A leader was exemplary, worked for and with people and if a leader misused his position he was severely punished. leadership faced challenges like; lack of independent institutions, written policies, misrepresentation, groups like women, children were not represented but human values such as respect, honesty, integrity and trust were strictly respected.
The world view of Africa’s concept of leadership today varies from the universal view of leadership elsewhere. It’s been based on negative connotations such as; tribe, ethnicity and religion. This explains why most African governments’ have witnessed many coups, revolutionary attempts, civil unrest, ethnic violence and tensions across the continent.
Since post-independence1960s leadership has changed, Africa’s leadership style has been manifested by dictatorial and despotic regimes where leaders who have over stayed in power use their influential positions for personal gain, while the masses suffer severe deprivations and human rights abuses.
On the other hand the youth have taken center stage; their exposure to global lifestyle through modern social media can possibly influence their leadership style, which is more accommodating and inclusive in terms of informed decision making. The need to be mentored with good leadership skills and human values, social media can be used as a forum to influence positive social change and transformation the youth are the now and future leaders.
Meanwhile the universal understanding of leadership is that the principles of justice, fairness are pre conditions for good governance and that the majority are empowered and can make informed decisions. Africa still has a long way to go because the problems of Africa are connected to poor leadership. It’s necessary that we mention the challenges leadership in Africa faces and also putting in mind that the challenges cannot be explained as a single point, but as a sequence of related issues.
Challenges leadership in Africa Face
Security is a major concern to the region. Everyone has the right to safety of life and property and if it is in jeopardy then security across the region is at stake. The common explanation of violence is rooted in poverty. However experience teaches us that violence and criminal activities cut across all political, social-economic aspects of society. The existence of militia groups, terrorist, radicalization for instance across the region is not only a threat to leadership but to the entire region.
Weak institutions and poor policies, most institutions in Africa governments are run with poor rules and procedures, and run not based on merit but favoritism instead of delegating responsibilities to qualified staff. The practice of nepotism is an overwhelming challenge to leadership in Africa. These institutions failed to fight corruption, impunity and curb issues of insecurity thus the growing insecurity problem and insecurity.
Bad governance and corruption characterized by long serving dictators with the worst performing record in every respect are some of these leadership challenges These also leading in corruption in Africa are; Mugabe of Zimbabwe, (years), Hosni Mubarak of Egypt (years), Museveni of Uganda, Bashir of Northern Sudan, despite efforts by the international community to oust them, there has not been any success to that effort. There are also African countries that have demonstrated democracy and good governance some of these countries are Ghana and Kenya, these countries on the continent have evidently represented Africa in Economic growth and political tolerance.
Africa’s leadership shares a common ground of problems like, poverty, diseases, political instability, lack of basic infrastructure and the unwillingness or inability of leaders to execute policies which propagate good governance. There is cause – effect relationship between bad governance, corruption and the problems affecting the region.
What has been done?
Although some collective effort to fight the persistent problem of corruption has been evident by Africa’s governments, these efforts have been thwarted by the weak policies and institutions in place. It’s also good news to know that African leaders now understand that accountability and transparency are necessary preconditions to achieve good leadership, the commissions put in place so that leaders who abuse office be accountable to the citizens.
Network for Economic Program Africa Development (NEPAD) has taken an initiative to involve Africa at the global level, through international investment to achieve the millennium goals. NEPAD should tap the potential in the young generation; empowering them economically, through leadership mentoring skills. Give young people leadership responsibilities even at the board management level.
Most of these initiatives have trained and mentored young people in leadership skills, but strong follow-up mechanisms after such trainings to know what and how they are utilizing the skills acquired have been lacking. Follow up mechanism should be put in place, to find out whether skills are utilized and if any opportunity arises to ensure these young people are taken in by these initiatives.
The East African Community has taken on regional integration as the way forward in attaining peace and security in the region and in the future attains stainable development. This is an opportunity for African countries’ to mobilize other countries in solidarity to solve their own problems. The international community should only provide strong support to the struggle but Africans should take the lead position to resolve their own problems, through their own institutions, policies and staff.
The need to replace monotonous traditional understanding of leadership and try to adopt new paradigms of leadership in relation to Africa’s situation. Leadership should be understood in these aspects-particularly when empowering young people in leadership skills. That leadership should be understood as;
– a process, should include all stake holders
-There must be influence, should be able to transform potential into reality
-Occur in group context
-Involve goal attainment
The population in Africa takes covers quarters of the Africa’s population, there is untapped potential, Investing in young generation would be politically, economically and socially would be my second priority.
Put up independent structures and right policies to fight corruption. Independent institutions like the judicial system, experienced staff and monitoring and evaluation mechanisms that should be designed to provide checks and balances.
Take regional integration seriously by not delaying but support its implementation. When it comes to security independent countries cannot fight this problem at national level, because security is a global problem and therefore there is need for collective global responsibility and action. Africa also needs solidarity and joined effort to address her own problems, this kind of initiative is good forum to address our problems.
Safety must be guaranteed to all and therefore should begin at our homes and communities, the “Nyumba kumi” an initiative by the Kenyan government is a good effort and would enforce it. People at all levels of society should be educated on its benefits so that they can embrace; it’s a way of addressing security at small levels. Safety starts from where you are, it’s an African concept but can be implemented to fight insecurity.
Affirmative action that ensures the poor and marginalized are empowered through initiatives, such as leadership mentor ship kills, entrepreneurship and access to financial grants with moderate conditions. Empowering people means setting them free from severe deprivations that affect their decision-making process in life.
The problem of impunity and weak institutions can be addressed by implementing the constitution, that treats everyone equally, equal distribution of resources and is against the culture of impunity.
Leadership in Africa is faces a lot of challenges and the time to achieve good leadership is now. Good governance and constitution are related, abuse of the constitution is like opening doors to conflict and abuse of power at all levels of society and therefore it’s time to educate our people on these two concepts particularly the youth in all aspect of life.
Nevertheless it’s important to appreciate the diversity within the African rich heritage, culture in terms of human values, and therefore if tapped can be used to influence positive leadership skills and styles, so we can have a true African concept and perspective of leadership.
This article first appeared on http://salmaimam.blogspot.co.ke/