Friday, July 26, 2013

HOW LEADERSHIP IN AFRICA CAN BE IMPROVED

How Leadership in Africa can be improved Paper Presented by Moses Paul Sserwanga Media, Communications and Legal Consultant Understanding the problem: To answer the above highlighted question I start by quoting one of Africa’s icons former South Africa President Nelson Madiba Mandela who once stated thus: “ Poverty is not an accident like slavery and apartheid: it's man made and can be removed by actions of human being”. Many of the problems of my country Uganda and Africa in general are man made and that’s why in order for one to advocate solutions to Africa’s problems , it’s imperative to identify some of the underlying factors responsible for the leadership and development challenges that the continent faces today. Dictatorship has led to many civil wars that have caused so much suffering to the Ugandan people since independence in 1962 up-to the early 2000s when Joseph Kony’s Lords Resistance and Allied Democratic Forces, (ADF) armed rebellions where brought to an end by the National army the Uganda Peoples Defence Force (UPDF). With dictatorship, came wide spread corruption, discrimination and disfranchisement of the vulnerable people including women and minority communities; misappropriation of state resources mainly for the benefit of a few people in the ‘privileged’ political class among others. Women who form a critical mass for the development of any given society in this modern era, still play second fiddle due to the male chauvinism which is deeply entrenched in the African traditional systems/settings. Many women in Uganda are not engaged in meaningful economic activity because they are meant to state at home and fend for the family while the men are out on drinking sprees. Thus, women have less civic engagement and lower political participation . Although , Uganda is considered one of Africa’s fast growing economies with an annual economic growth of 7.2% -one of the highest in Sub-Saharan Africa, the country largely relies on foreign aid for much of it’s national budget financial support and the majority of the people are still below the poverty line living on less than one dollar a day. It’s only recently when the donors suspended aid due to widespread corruption that the government has announced that in the coming financial year Uganda will finance its entire budget. One would therefore think that Uganda cannot fund its own development. That’s not the case. The government has got money but like many other African countries, state resources are not spent on priority areas like education, health and infrastructure, instead , money is channeled to finance political patronage and the military. The African leaders spend much of their countries’ resources to develop big armies which they employ to perpetuate themselves in power. This is not a good practice for development to take root . There’s even a challenging of collecting taxes that are due to government because of corruption . Ms. Allen Kagina, the Commissioner General of Uganda Revenue Authority,(URA) has recently acknowledged that Uganda collects only a fraction of its the taxes due to the monster called graft!. And much as Africa is endowed with rich natural resources like the recently discovered oil in western Uganda and neighbouring , DR Congo, Kenya and Tanzania -the Sub-Saharan Africa is home to a third of the world’s poorest people, and six of the top 10 most backward economies in the world. The majority of the poor cannot accesses the resources available for development and the circle of poverty continues. The continent’s economic ability is also being eroded by the illegal capital flight “ hemorrhaging” out of African countries – often in the form of tax evasion and trade imbalances . This is the wanton phenomenon of under development that’s pronounced across much of Africa -a continent with 52 states. WAY FORWARD First and foremost ,the political leadership in African must be held accountable on all the promises they make while assuming office. This can be done through periodical peer reviews which should be set up at all levels of governance to assess the performance of leaders on the continent. The African Peer Review Mechanism that was set up to access the performance of African presidents is a good measure going forward. But much as the African Peer Review penal normally publishes its findings following the assessments it carries out for public accountability purposes , mere publication of its reports without attendant sanctions for poor leadership is simply not good enough. The Peer Review Mechanism should come-up with agreed sanctions to be imposed against those leaders who do not meet the minimum set standards for good leadership. There should be a concerted effort to encourage women to participate in the political processes and take –up leadership positions because it has been proved that once given a chance, women can turn out to be good leaders. Africa is not short of the shining examples of women leaders who are now acclaimed globally. Here in Uganda for instance, the first woman speaker of parliament , Rebecca Kadaga is being hailed for her firm stand to protect and promote the sacred constitutional doctrine of separation of powers among the three arms of government ,the executive , parliament and the judiciary . Elsewhere on the continent, the first woman to be elected president on the African continent, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia’s and her counterpart Joyce Banda of Malawi are two other good examples of smart leadership that caters for the interests and development of the common man. Leadership that¬’s tailored at eliminating wastage of state resources for personal aggrandizement is what is need in Africa . Other leaders on the continent should be encouraged to emulate President Banda’s example were she sold off an expensive presidential jet and invested the proceeds in vital sectors such as agriculture , health and industries which directly benefit the people and spur economic growth and development. Leadership on the continent can also be improved by strengthening the various institutions of governance such as parliament , the judiciary ,civil society so that the individual leaders cease to be the law unto themselves. This is why state resources should be deployed to empower people through civic and formal education to demand for what is due to them and hold their leaders accountable. The question of accountability is even more prudent now that several countries have discovered mineral resources and oil within their territories. Much of the proceeds of the African resource boom need to go directly into education, health and nutrition and improving the productive capacities of the poorest citizens to foster economic growth and development . If not, efforts to boost economic growth in a sustainable way will be untenable . The European Union has recently set up a law that will make oil, gas, mining and logging companies declare payments to governments in the countries where they operate. This is a good gesture in a global concerted effort to enforce transparency. On the economic front, African governments should put in place all inclusive economic policies that cater for the interests of all- including the vulnerable groups like women , minorities, and the disabled. Women emancipation programs being implemented in Uganda to empower women economically by extending credit and farm inputs should be show-cased elsewhere on the continent. The private sector should not be left behind either because its the engine of Africa’s economy. Financial institutions like the African Development Bank should be revamped to provide the much needed credit to fuel economic activity and development through the public –private partnership mechanism. African governments should enact laws that will reduce the lead times in doing business on the continent . There’s to much red tape coupled with corrupt tendencies that continue to discourage many foreign investors from doing business and investing in Africa. Uganda is now moving to reduce on this red-tape by creating a conducive investment climate by enacting a friendly legal framework to ease on the length procedures an investor hitherto, had to endure to start-up a business in the country. The rest of Africa should follow this good example. African leaders should leverage and position Africa as a major investment destination in the world in those sectors where it has a comparative advantage such as agriculture and energy. They should also ensure value addition to much of what Africa produces to increase people’s incomes the majority of whom are farmers. Africa needs to invest more in equipment, technology and infrastructure which create jobs for many youths that are coming out of universities and technical colleges . But it’s also imperative that efforts to develop Africa must be carried out in a sustainable manner by taking care of the natural environment for the benefit of the present and future generations . For their part, Africa’s development partners can deliver aid, which will promote good governance, and support civil society to keep their leaders accountable. Aid must be properly used to increase our capacity to produce more income. It is time for a new, fair deal for the poor peoples of Africa; one that gets Africa’s resources deployed for the benefit of all its people- the public good so to speak. ENDS msserwanga@gmail.com

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