By Kwesi Baako

African leaders
African leaders, Assets or liabilities?

Africa is touted by many as the ‘rising star’; the continent with new opportunities and the place with abounding possibilities for investment. It has also -perhaps in equal measure- gained a certain notoriety for underdevelopment, political instability and social stagnation.

Many forums have been sponsored and held by ‘development partners’ but little exists to be shown as achievements of these forums and conferences.

On the occasion of US president Barak Obama’s visit to Ghana, he made a statement that immediately became the mantra of most politicians. He declared that Africa needs strong institutions and not strong leaders.

Inasmuch as this is true, and is actually probably the bane of most African nations, it appears as if ‘strong leaders’ are a vital component of the equation. This is because the nature of democracy is such that in places like Africa, the constant cycle of tussling for the top seat divides the people into camps called ‘Parties’ with the attendant animosity.

These camps specialize in what is hilariously termed in Ghana as ‘PhD’ (Pull him down) tactics with the so-called ‘foot soldiers’ occasionally locked up in violent clashes.

Perhaps even worse is the phenomenon where successive governments strive hard to downplay the achievements of the previous government and sometimes blatantly refuse to continue with projects and policies initiated by their predecessors.

One is likely to agree with Obama because if the institutions are strong and independent of the executive, then the executive have no choice but to carry out the national consensus. Again, if there are broad national blueprints for development which the executive is bound to follow then this problem could be avoided, but when each government has its own ideas, that is recipe for disaster against the backdrop of constantly changing governments.

There is simply no continuity and fluidity of purpose.

On the other hand, a ‘strong man’ with the right policies and intentions could not necessarily be a bad idea for a continent like Africa with scattered fledgling democracies and a few ‘not-so-democracies’ in-between.

Perhaps, as a continent, (say on the level of the African Union) issues like developing a singular policy framework for development should be seriously looked at. And whatever the politicians do, the emphasis should be on the citizenry. Social reform is vital.

Indeed, until we get back the likes of Kwame Nkrumah, perhaps we may need to heed Obama’s call for stronger institutions in favor of stronger leaders.

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