restricted access Chapter 8: The Role of Leadership in Overcoming Poverty and Achieving Security in Africa
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119 TODAY THERE IS a widespread recognition in sub-Saharan Africa that the continent’s earlier leaders, and some of those still in charge, erred by attempting to repeal the fundamental laws of economics, by grabbing wealth for themselves and their clients, and by pretending that their antidemocratic instincts were culturally sanctioned—that Africans preferred autocracy to real democratic practice. There are still a few throwbacks; several contemporary heads of state continue to be mired in the old ways. But whereas Africans several decades ago accepted misrule, nowadays Africans revile the excesses of past and present leaders and expect their heads of state and heads of government to perform to a global standard. Vigorous opposition movements now provide accountability in many formerly powerful single-ruler states. Major regime changes in Ghana and Senegal ; the denial of third presidential terms to Olusegun Obasanjo in Nigeria, Frederick Chiluba in Zambia, and Bakili Muluzi in Malawi; and Thabo Mbeki’s pledge not to seek a third presidential term in South Africa confirm a new wave of responsible leadership approaches, despite contrary evidence from Namibia and serious lapses in Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Togo, and Zimbabwe. From Liberia to Kenya, and from Mozambique to Mauritania, Africans now expect their leaders to be more participatory and transparent, and much more responsive to citizens and citizens’ needs than ever before. Recent Afrobarometer results voice democratic African aspirations and impatience at anything less than full participation in their national political processes.1 The Role of Leadership in Overcoming Poverty and Achieving Security in Africa ROBERT I. ROTBERG 8 08-1375-3 ch8 3/30/07 1:33 PM Page 119 According to such attitudinal surveys, Africans desire good government and good leadership, as do citizens everywhere who battle bureaucratic obstacles and crave services and opportunities that are scarce or nonexistent. But it is only the fortunate few, who live in the stable, peaceful, and better-run states (for example, Botswana), who can go about their daily business with expectations of order, fairness, consistency, and predictability. Too many still fear predation and corruption. Too many anticipate that faucets will go dry, lights flicker and dim, stores run out of maize meal and cooking oil, gas pumps become empty, roads fill with potholes, and government offices lose the permits or approval stamps necessary for everyday transactions. That is the rough-and-ready regrettable lot of Africans in the many countries still run by dictators, military juntas, guided democrats, and corrupted democrats . In those places (fewer than before, but still too numerous), good governance still remains an aspiration rather than a right or an expectation. Effective leaders, themselves concerned about and anxious to ensure wellrun states, are the first guarantors of good governance. The number of those leaders is gradually increasing in sub-Saharan Africa. It is evident, too, that only capable leaders determined to root out corruption, strengthen the rule of law, and invigorate national bureaucracies can truly transform intention into performance and can supply reasonable measures of good governance to their citizens. Only leaders with a clear vision and the determination to deliver positive value to their citizens can overcome the institutional weaknesses and temptations of power and enrichment that have enmeshed weaker or more susceptible African leaders in webs of cavalier or conscious malfeasance. Overcoming poverty and increasing security take the same leadership skills. Indeed, nowhere else is committed leadership so critical to the achievement of prosperity and stability as it is in Africa. The smaller, the more fragile the state, the more good leadership matters. That is, in situations where human resource capacity is limited, effective and visionary leadership is that much more fundamental and decisive. Because Africa has many more nationstates , many more weak ones, and many more landlocked and thus constrained ones than any other continent, good leadership makes a considerable difference. Indeed, Africa has not distinguished itself over the years in its leadership attainments. There have been too few Seretse Khamas and too many Idi Amins and Mobutu Sese Sekos. Africa remains poor and insecure largely because of its immense leadership deficit. Leadership in the African arena determines whether states deliver effective political goods to their citizens. Political goods are those intangible and hardto -quantify claims that citizens once made on sovereigns and now make on 120 ROBERT I. ROTBERG 08-1375-3 ch8 3/30/07 1:33 PM Page 120 Leadership in Overcoming Poverty in Africa 121 states. They encompass expectations, conceivably obligations, inform the local political culture, and together give...


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