Africa’s leadership failures: Do we cast stone at age or quality?

Africa’s leadership failures: Do we cast stone at age or quality?

I do make time to browse the social media to catch up on what is news and follow discussions on interesting topics with like minds.

The interesting discussion I came across last week on social media, more or less, posed the question as to whether Africa, a continent so rich by all standards and so well endowed, is where it is today due to ageing leadership or the substance of those leading the flock.


What had prompted the discussions on, at least, three professional platforms I checked in on was a viral video on the 80-year-old President of Cameroon, Paul Biya, who allegedly was unaware of where he was when he travelled to Washington DC for a US-Africa Leaders’ Summit.

In the reported video, the sorry picture of the Cameroonian President, oblivious of his whereabouts, struggled to present his speech when it got to his turn. Rwanda’s spirited Paul Kagame had just finished giving his speech and it was the turn of President Paul Biya. His seemingly helpless aides tried to get him to the podium with his prepared speech.

But no, the President was completely lost. He did not know where he was, why he was there and what he had to do as he kept asking his aide questions. He sat down browsing through the speech which had been given to him. Meanwhile, the packed audience were kept waiting.

Old age

And so, with the stage set, and like a case study at a political leadership workshop, the discussions that tipped the social media scale for a couple of days was whether old age was the bane of Africa’s poor and sometimes abysmal leadership performance.

The discussions assumed that an aged Head of State would not have the strength, agility and capacity to shoulder the heavy expectations of an entire country and hence, the problems with disappointing performance and poor governance in some cases.

Some of the discussions were based on the fact that there is a good reason why retiring age in those countries in Africa was between ages 60 and 65. So, if that was the case, it begs the question to vote for people who were 70 years and above to take on the enormous responsibility of managing an entire country.

On the other hand, however, there were some interesting counter arguments that were floated around on another platform. Some opined that there were relatively young leaders in Africa who were not doing well for their countries.

There were, however, others within the ages of 70 and 80 years who had done well for their countries and needed to be acknowledged and applauded. One such was cited as the President of a neighbouring country who is said to be 81 years and who firmly has had his feet on the ground, leading developments for his people.

Quality leadership

The discussion got even more intriguing on yet another platform, placing the problem of leadership challenges on poor quality rather than old age. The problem of quality was argued to be across board and not just for political leadership.

I could not agree more, casting my mind back on some irking public organisations that we have.

Anyone who has had dealings with any of the Assemblies, especially the sub-metros, will testify to the problems that exist and dealing with them, even with something like property rates and services expected of them.

If these Assemblies had good mechanisms in place, annual property and other basic rates alone could fund developments as well as keep our communities clean and well developed. Why should residents be left to fix their own street lights, disposal of garbage, construction of access roads and drainages and yet expect to pay rates?

Go in there to follow up on why you have been billed for other years when consistently, you have been paying rates annually. They have no ready record to sort you out but ask you to go and bring your last receipt to prove it.

And why do we have a hierarchy of officials at some of our State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) expected to manage for profitability and yet performances over the years are always a problem?

I have had shocking experiences at the State Housing Company for over five consecutive years, writing and going there in person to point out some anomalies. But the same mistakes keep recurring. Where is the leadership in management?

Ground rents are sent with alacrity, sometimes billed for three years or more. Meanwhile, they are supposed to have records to verify and reconcile current status before bills are sent. Shockingly, they do not seem to have critical lease documents for some customers. I received, from them last year, a letter which said my lease was expiring in five years.

Guess what! The letter was just assumed and sent out. They did not have their own copy of the lease. They begged to photocopy mine which had 25 years to expiry.

The leadership issues definitely spread across board. We must start by acknowledging the fact and work assiduously towards it.

Ageing is not necessarily the problem with Africa’s leadership. It is the quality of the leadership all over which we should all work hard to fix.

Writer’s email:[email protected]


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