“The mark of great leadership is that their footprint resonates for good and righteousness in perpetuity.”
This is the first of a series of posts on “Competitive Ineptitude,” a situation that hampers many African leaders and their governments. In this series of posts I will be discussing the root cause of impediments to African countries DOING A BETTER JOB OF competing for market share in the world economy. My postulation is that it is due to “competitive ineptitude.” Competitive ineptitude therefore is definable as the inability or unwillingness to delve into a profound search for opportunities for deploying competitive advantages to secure trade and sundry opportunities in the global market. Leadership is blazing a trail for others to follow. It means that people who are leaders have to be visionaries. In African countries, this is often not the case. Rather it is usually visionless people who are leading. Having a visionless leader is akin to the blind leading the blind. This is the situation that exists in most African countries today. The pervasiveness of visionless leaders is why problems of African countries appear to be intractable. It is a case of people perishing for lack of vision. Poor leadership is therefore a root cause of competitive ineptitude.
African leaders love to play the part of a monarch. They love the high seats; they love to travel in great pomp and pageantry; they love to exercise and wield power in their domain; and above all they are delusionary about their relevance in the grand scheme of things. There are many examples of such leaders; some are still with us and others have transitioned from this life into one or the other options of eternity, as all must. In the end all the human species can say for certain is that: “from dust we came and to dust we shall return.” What leaders and common folks alike leave behind, however, is the footprint of good or evil, righteousness or unrighteousness that their lives have paved. In the case of African leaders, the path of good and righteous deeds is one less travelled. The obvious existential challenge for their people and for leaders, is that most leaders of African countries, elected and non-elected alike, have failed to concentrate on the single issue of why they are leaders, which is to improve, qualitatively, the living conditions of the people.
The difference between the traits of leadership in African societies and in more successful societies is in the degree to which the leaders of the society concentrate on bringing tangible value to their constituents. In the West and in other (advancing) societies around the world, bringing value to constituents is often a self-interest driven desire because it sustains and perpetuates political tenures. However, every so often, successful societies are blessed with a leader of conscience who is driven by the desire to do right by the people and to leave a lasting legacy of good and righteous leadership. Zhou Enlai and Deng Xiaoping of China; Park Chung Hee of South Korea; Lee Kuan Hee and Goh Keng Swee of Singapore; Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt of the United States; Winston Churchill of Great Britain to mention a few examples; are leaders who left a massive imprint on the trajectory of their people’s destiny. We are witnessing the rise of China, South Korea, and Singapore as a result of the work and effort of the leaders referenced. Park Chung Hee elevated a downtrodden and marginalized people from the floor-mat of nations of the world to a first-world economic giant.
So what then is political leadership? It is the obligation and journey to shepherd the people’s affairs responsibly and righteously. Among other things, leaders are supposed to: write laws to extirpate injustice; create policies that redress poverty effectively; be a calming, bridging force of peace when there is strife and division; bring light to the darkness. That is the duty and the responsibility of the mantle of political leadership. Injustice manifests in many ways. In the case of African countries, political leaders who steal the public funds of the people are the most egregious manifestation. How is it possible for a government employee of an African country that did not earn his wealth from other activities able to acquire millions of dollars? Fact is that it is not possible unless they dipped into the public till. Having a justice system that is susceptible to influence peddling and thereby unable to dispense fair and impartial justice is probably right behind stealing of public funds and property.
Public failure in African countries is not due to lack of talented people. Many non-Africans will contend successfully that there is abundance of talent because their influence is being felt mainly outside of African countries where many have established tremendous gravitas in business and social entrepreneurship. Within Africa, there seems to be a “systemic blindness” gripping the political and business infrastructure where the only certainty is irrational greed and selfishness. African leaders are struggling in all the measurable aspects of leadership because in the main they are focused on issues totally unrelated to shepherding the affairs of their people. Rather, most are focused on what and how much they can “eat.” Unfortunately that doesn’t leave much room to dream of what can be.