Underdevelopment and poverty still plague the continent. Everyone is pointing fingers at everyone but themselves. Some blame Africa’s woes of the colonisation and its legacy. Other blames the meddling of Western powers in Africa’s affairs. Whilst these points are valid, the overarching underlying problem is a crisis of leadership in Africa.

 

Africa’s challenges

Africa continually faces eruptions of political, social and economic instability. African ethnic, religious and regional crises regularly haunt the news headlines. Amidst these crises, and in the center of it all, is the crisis of leadership in Africa.  No country can achieve meaningful development socially, politically or economically without effective leadership.

 

What is leadership?

The definition of leadership has been thoroughly discussed. There were 221 definitions of leadership published in books and articles between 1900 and 1990. Hackman provides a comprehensive definition. He asserts that

(i)Leadership is about what you are: this definitional theme focuses on leader traits and attributes and is one of the oldest ways of conceptualising leadership. This emphasis is on identifying the characteristics that define natural or born leaders.

(ii) Leadership is about how you act: From this perspective leadership is defined as the exercise of influence or power. To identify leaders, we need to determine who is influencing whom.

(iii) Leadership is about what you do: This definitional thread focuses on the role that leaders play.

(iv) Leadership is about how you work with others: This definitional theme emphasises collaboration. Leaders and followers establish mutual purposes and work together as partners to reach their goals

The consequences of lack of leadership

  • Leadership affects institutions. Poor leadership weakens institutions. Institutions affect democracy, economic growth and social development.
  • Ineffective leaders increase the gap of between policy and its implementation. Policies are useless unless they can be effectively implemented.
  • Leaders train future leaders. Lack of leadership results in young people shut out of decision-making processes.

 

Africa must confront the pressing issue of leadership to experience peace, development and prosperity. She must speak up on the type on leader who will end poverty and corruption.

 

This is the first part of a She is Africa series focused on governance & leadership in Africa. The governance & leadership series will dissect the African Peer Review Mechanism, current and past aspirational leaders on the continent and African governance mechanisms.

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