The majority of the one billion people of Africa, (86%), out of the world’s seven billion population (14% of the world’s) live in extreme, squalid, low quality life full of hopelessness is not debatable, so much so that the Mediterranean Sea has now become “the new sea belt of death” for those daily trying to escape collectively Africa to what they describe as the European “lands of human rights and prosperity”. Many writers and documentary makers such as the BBC and the late Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe diagnosed the African problem as “leadership”. Of course, the history of colonialism and slavery partly contribute to our present not so exemplary economic and governance situations.
However, it is no longer plausible to blame history for our current and future challenges, bad governance and failed states. The youngest member of the AU, the South Sudan for instance cannot blame wholly their history for the current on going tragedies and massive disappointments. The problem there is leadership.
Is leadership deficit necessary and sufficient explanation for Africa’s global marginalization-trade, education and socio-economic output since Ghana’s independence in 1957? Most of leadership theorists argue that the causes of human socio-economic ailments are reducible to only two: act of nature and failure of leadership. Where leadership is of good quality, history shows that even the effects of “act of nature” can be greatly minimized. There is a lot of historical evidence to support this conclusion. The question is why have African societies, governments not aggressively developed leaders at all levels of their communities during the past sixty or so years?
Greece and China are great historical models in this respect from the times of Socrates to Confucius who lived in 500 BC China. Surplus educated leaders at all levels in Africa appears to be becoming very critical if the people of the continent have to catch up with the rest of the world sooner rather than later. Leadership in Kenya for example, from the sub-county and primary schools to the grand national level determine the overall direction of the country and how this can be achieved through the main levers of national actions: politics, laws, executive leadership, diplomacy, economic, the military, overseas aid, social services, education and many others. Leadership also determines the climate of ethics, morality and all factors of humanism, patriotism and citizenship prevailing in the society at any given moment. This is seen as national grand strategy and as Sun Tzu puts it in his famous book, The Art of War, “Strategy without tactics is the slowest, most expensive route to victory. But tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat”.
What makes leadership even more critical for Africa’s development, unity, peace and social prosperity is that leadership provides something we call “synchronized thinking”. Besides synchronized thinking leadership helps getting resources, the mix of institutional structure, technology, people and training right and finally building the spirit, values and character that enable people, societies to thrive. Synchronized thinking is the process of creating a great nation or even counties by having every single employee and the general public think in a common way about the meaning of national success and how it is delivered.
Synchronized thinking provides for all members of society and employees objective, common frameworks for institutional performance and basis for public expectations and evaluations.
At the back page of the Daily Nation of February 12, it had a great picture of the Deputy President William Ruto with the chairman of the Council of Governors Isaac Ruto and other governors. This picture captured very well the spirit of synchronized thinking in intergovernmental relations management in Kenya today. In the picture the Deputy President and the governors had attended an Intergovernmental Budget and Economic Council meeting where it was agreed that salaries do not take more than 35 per cent of counties’ funds, among other issues. With devolution moving in the desired direction, I think it is time we address comprehensively “growing” national leadership across all sectors and institutions. Only then shall our dream of catching up with Asian Tigers and others be realised in our lifetime and making the majority of Kenyans happy and optimistic with themselves and country.