Cover Story Africa
Why a new breed of African Leadership beckons
Ripe for Change
Without a doubt, 2011 was one of the most unforgettable and momentous years in postindependence Africa.
Needless to repeat what the so-called Arab Spring begat, in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, the results of which still reverberate over a year on. But nearly half way into 2012, a year in which Africa i s expected to become the secondfastest growing region in the world, the issue of leadership – good leadership, that is (a principle factor in the downfall of the Ben Ali, Mubarak and Gathafi governments) – could not be more paramount.
As can be seen from our coverage in the proceeding pages – and there are also a number of general elections scheduled to take place in the next six months, notably in Zimbabwe, Kenya, Ghana, Angola and Egypt – a lot has been happening and will be happening, in terms of the transfer of power on the continent. Despite the regrettable military take-overs (in Mali and Guinea Bissau, and just as the two countries were about to hold elections) and the sad passing of a leader, which has however produced Africa’s second female president (in Malawi), the pragmatic consensus and lessons still being learnt for the Arab Spring indicate beyond doubt that the time is ripe for changes in African leadership.
With an estimated 60% of the African population aged under 30, Africa is not only the youngest continent in the world, but these demographics also call for a new dispensation in African leadership. What, however, should the “changing face” of African leaders be or look like?
In his book Africa: Altered States, OrdinaryMiracles, journalist Richard Dowden wrote: “Leaders do not emerge from nowhere.” And as he critically asked himself: “Could it really be coincidence that all of Africa’s forty-odd leaders who came to power at independence were bad rulers who took bad decisions?” The veteran journalist found his own answer explaining and admitting that not all post-independence African leaders were like that:
“Many were decent men who believed that what they were doing was the best... The new presidents inherited total power from colonial rulers, but the states they ruled were made up of old African societies, once self-governing and still held together by their own networks of power and influence. Trying to use the tools of a Western-style state to control these rooted societies was like trying to herd cats with a dog-training manual,” he wrote.
Indeed as he elaborated, African independence restored power to Africans, but the countries created and the systems that the Europeans imposed on Africa as they left, were not rooted in African culture or experience and the European influence remained. Fast-forward to 2012 and this scenario still remains, but a lot has changed in Africa both politically and economically. The continent is not only getting younger and more savvy, the global world is becoming smaller and smaller.
In its upcoming issues, NewAfrican will explore the topic of “new” African leadership in this “new world order”, a debate we are also throwing out to you for your participation. “Ripe for change” is the argument, and we would like to know if you agree or not that the time for a new breed of leadership in Africa beckons more today than ever before.
As once popularised by former US president Bill Clinton, who wanted the proponents to devote themselves to “democracy and economic reforms”, the term “new generation of African leaders” is truly back in fashion.
Our cover stories in this edition, on what is happening in Kenya, Malawi, Senegal, and Mali (the news on Guinea Bissau came as we went to press), as well as the never-dying media fixation of relating rumoured “deaths” (there have been quite a few) of Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe (and a leadership succession battle), are clear indications that the debate on leadership, like the muchtalked about need for change, is also ripe. Let the debate begin.
May 2012 New African Magazine 9