Andrew Mwenda has another excellent article up on the Independent. He argues that it isn’t helpful to blame Africa’s economic problems on bad leadership. It may be true that Africa has had a disproportionate share of bad leaders, but this just begs the question of why bad leaders keep rising to the top. Here are some of his main points:
1. “Sub-Saharan Africa has had many changes of leaders over the last 50 years – in all over 300 presidents. Basic mathematical probability would tell you that if the personalities of these individual presidents were the main explanation for poor performance, out of these 300 leaders Africa would have had a high chance to produce the hero we have been looking for like a Lee Kuan Yew (Singapore), a Park Chung Hee (South Korea) or a Chiang Kai Shek (Taiwan). Yet even after 14 presidents of Nigeria, 10 of Ghana, eight of Uganda, four of Tanzania and Kenya, five in Zambia etc we have not seen this happen.
2. Our leaders don’t come from Asia or Europe. They are products of our societies. Therefore, even if their venality was the driving force behind our poverty and bad politics, there must be unique fissures within our societies that produce such a disproportionate amount of poor leadership.
3. There was as much corruption, dictatorship and nepotism in Indonesia under Suharto as in Nigeria under its various military rulers. Yet the developmental results of the two countries were different. In South Korea two former military rulers were arrested and tried for corruption in the 1990s – Chang Du Hwan and Tae Won Roh and both admitted to accumulating fortunes worth over US$ 600 million while in office.
4. This tendency to perpetually condemn our political leaders is actually one way we African elites exonerate ourselves of the blame we must share and allows us to carry a holier-than-thou attitude.”
Mwenda consistently has interesting and thought provoking columns on development and comparisons between Africa and Asia. I’ve been so impressed that I have incorporated a couple of them into my Ph.D. syllabus on economic development.