“THE BANE OF AFRICAN
COUNTRIES FIGHTING THE QUAGMIRES OF POVERTY AND UNDERDEVELOPMENT IS
LEADERSHIP”. TO WHAT EXTENT IS THIS ASSERTION TRUE?
The word development has been defined by
different scholars in different perspective. According to Ghandi, development
is about the realization of human potentials. Michael Todaro also defined
development as multidimensional process involving major changes in social
structures, popular attitudes and national institutions as well as the
acceleration of economic growth, the reduction of inequality and eradication of
absolute poverty. It has therefore been argued there is under development in a
country when that country is unable to realize the full potentials of humans.
There exists the following in such a country: poverty, low economic growth, high
illiteracy rate, low standard of living, etc. African countries are the most
common countries who suffer from adverse poverty and underdevelopment. The
bedrock of this poverty and underdevelopment is leadership. Someone may ask
‘why’ and ‘how’.
According to Katherine J Kehler,
leadership is just the ability to turn a dream or a vision of a desired future
into reality with and through the cooperation of people. This means that a
leader should be someone with vision and he or she should be capable of
attaining that vision through hard work. The following are the qualities of a
good leader: A leader must be hardworking, good communicator, influential,
problem solver, etc. There are different leadership styles namely: Charismatic
leadership, laissez-faire, paternalistic, autocratic, etc. Africans have
suffered from low economic development, illiteracy, poverty and many more due
to bad leadership the continent has encountered. African leaders are therefore
to be blame for the poverty and underdevelopment of the continent due to the
First, African leaders lack
vision and foresight: Vision is the ideal well-view of a situation; which means
it is something too hard to attain but it keeps one to strive hard towards
achieving a particular goal. However, most African leaders lack vision and
foresight because their main focus is to seek power in order to acquire wealth
instead of focusing on the measures to be put in place to eradicate absolute
poverty and underdevelopment in Africa. It takes leaders with vision to say
that Africa in 2025 will be free from poverty and debts. How many African
leaders have this vision? In spite of our independence, it seems we are still
in chains and never free. This is because our leaders in solving economic,
social and political problems always turn to the West causing over dependency
of African countries on the West. African leaders lack the ability to solve
their home financial problems and always turn to external bodies and financial
institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF). However, these
financial institutions decision to help African countries always come with unfavorable
conditions making no difference at all and causing more harm. For example,
during the economic crises in Ghana in 1980s, the country decided to make a U-turn
to the IMF to seek some assistance to eradicate poverty and improve the
country’s economy. However, certain conditions from the IMF like “cut down
government spending” had certain negative implications which even brought
hardship to the people the more. Why should such happen when in terms of
natural resources Africa is the world richest continent. The only answer is
that our leaders lack vision and foresight to see beyond in order to make great
impact in the continent.
Secondly, African leaders are
power conscious. Leading takes place in a state, nation or nation-state. This
starts with politics that is ‘the struggle for power’ according to Robert Dahl.
Also according to Aristotle man is a political animal which means that man
cannot live without politics and also human potentials can only be realized in
the political community. People then form political parties especially in
democratic countries and this begins the struggle for power irrespective of
what it takes them whether through coup d’états, war, stealing elections, etc.
These people then become leaders with their main focus on how to influence
people in order to stay in power. However, the economic problems such as
poverty, illiteracy, poor health care, low Gross Domestic Product and Gross
National Income and many other problems remain unsolved. For instance, most
people in Ghana live in absolute poverty unable to have the basic needs of life
such as food, shelter, clothing and water. However, leaders organize expensive
campaign and elections neglecting the wellbeing of the people. The question is
why? This is because the leaders are willing to do anything to win power and to
also stay in power in order to acquire wealth for themselves. There is no doubt
that Africans underdevelopment is as a result of bad leadership.
Moreover, African leaders are
partisans: Most democratic African countries like Ghana have leaders who are partisans and are ever
ready to satisfy party interest at the expense of national interest. The
leaders instead of finding solutions to the problems of the land and becoming
father for all citizens only seek to satisfy their parties’ and delegates’
interest whiles the masses are left to themselves. Africa lack leaders who are
honest, faithful and loyal to the country and who are willing to sacrifice in
whatever it takes them to develop their country. Also, African leaders in
undemocratic states also turn to be partial and then shift their attention from
seeking the welfare of the totality of the people to seeking the interest of a
few groups in the country. When this happens, development is not fully attained.
Most, of the policies made by such leaders are also accepted since most of
their people are part of the executive and legislative arms of government and
then they support in order to get favor from the President. There is the need
for cooperation through a team but the realization of the individual potentials
in the country should be the top priority of African leaders.
Furthermore, African leaders lack
the ability to make and implement firm policies. The presence of weak
institutions in Africa falls on the side of our leaders because they are unable
to make, interpret and then implement the laws. There exist no measures put in
place by leaders to make those laws part of all individuals to ensure effective
and efficient implementation. Also, African countries lack the boldness in
terms of international relations to take certain decisions independently. For
instance in times of economic crisis, they are unable to find solutions
internally upon all the natural and human resources available. The leaders prefer
going to the IMF for loan; however, they are unable to use those loans for the
betterment of the lives of its citizens. Since the 1960s more than 400 billion
in Western aid and credits have been bumped into Africa which has yielded no
results due to bad leadership. Sometimes there is the need for leaders to be
bold enough to declare the inability to pay back certain loans in order to
build more schools, health centers and other social amenities. The fact that
African countries are underdeveloped does not mean that they going to the IMF
and the World Bank are the only solution. It is about time our African leaders
see solutions to our underdevelopment internally and then master the courage
and boldness and make policies that are firm and successful.
Finally, African leaders lack the
‘spirit of continuity’. One of the causes of Africa’ predicament is lack of
continuity of administration. The opposition seems to be never in favor of
whatever the ruling government does. When they are then voted in power, they
turn to undergo new projects while there exist incomplete projects which need
to be continued so that those projects will become useful to the citizens. This
goes on and on as new parties come to power thereby causing unnecessary
financial loss to the country. When this continues there will be no room for
developmental projects to satisfy the needs of the people.
In spite of all, critiques have
also argued against the fact that leaders are the cause of Africans’ poverty
and underdevelopment. They attribute Africans’ poverty and underdevelopment
from the following: First, pressure from external bodies. According to
non-intervention law, every state has the right to pursue certain policies
without any intervention from any state. However, this law is only applicable
in theory and not in practice since countries do interfere and are very influential
in the policies of African countries. Secondly, high level of illiteracy also
contributes to underdevelopment. A country’s ability to develop is dependent on
the level of education of its citizens. Africa’s level of education is very low
and it’s ‘knowledge oriented’ rather than ‘skills acquisition’. Lack of
technical know-how due to knowledge oriented education rather than skills
oriented. This then causes Africans to depend on the West for technological
gadgets like computers, plough, combine harvesters, phones, etc. Also we lack
personnel to operate those machines needed to increase productivity. Finally,
colonization is also a major factor which has led to the poverty and
underdevelopment of Africa. This is because during those times, the available
resources were sucked by the colonial masters and then sent to the western
world to develop there at the expense of the African continent. All these
contribute to the poverty and underdevelopment of Africa.
To conclude, even though there
are other factors causing Africa’s predicament, bad leadership is the main
cause of the poverty and underdevelopment because the other factors (causes)
can be solved by effective and efficient leadership which will at the long run
bring development and eradicate abject poverty in the continent.
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