There is hope for Africa, but the continent has to do more in the areas of capacity building, transformative leadership, and the development of the right mindset if the cup, which is now half full, is to overflow.
Speaking on the sidelines of the 3rd African Union Specialized Technical Committee on Finance, Monetary Affairs, Economic Planning and Integration being held in the Cameroonian capital of Yaoundé, Prof Emmanuel Nnadozie, ACBF’s Executive Secretary (ES), said although Africa was not quite at the level everybody expects it to be, he has high hopes for the continent.
“We used to have barely 20 universities on the whole continent at independence in 1960, and then after a while we had 200 universities. But today we have nearly 3,000 universities on the continent.
“It wasn’t like Africa got independence in fantastic shape. No, we didn’t. We didn’t have hospitals, universities, airlines, but look at Ethiopian Airlines today, it is a huge success. Look at the other things that are happening on the continent,” Prof. Nnadozie said.
He, however, regretted that the brain drain on the continent has taken the best brains out of Africa, but African countries should make the best out of the brain drain by tapping into their diasporas abroad and use them to their advantage as Japan, China, and India did in the past with their own diasporas.
“This is why I am calling on African countries to put in place a very deliberate plan to tap into the diaspora in terms of human and financial capital,” The Executive Secretary said.
According to Prof Nnadozie, one of the most important things Africa needs right now is the right leadership. “We often say the reason why implementation is lacking on the continent is because of the lack of leadership,” he said. “Because if you look at the countries that are industrializing today in Africa, you will see something that is common – it is either they have a revolutionary or a transformative leader who sets the right tone at the top, who gives the national vision, and actually mobilizes the population to support the vision or creates favorable conditions for the strategies to be implemented.”
To address the leadership problem in Africa, ACBF will be launching its flagship publication, the 2019 Africa Capacity Report (ACR), titled, “Fostering transformative leadership for Africa’s development,” with foreword by Rwandan President Kagame.
The 2019 ACR will also look at leadership promotion or leadership institutions, and how Africa could intensify the emergence of good leaders.
As an example, Prof Nnadozie cited Rwanda as an example where the leadership has a good vision. “But why are they getting results?”, the Executive Secretary asked. “It is because at the end of every year the leaders sit down with the people and review the progress made, and plan for the next year based on the national vision.
“If you don’t have strong parliamentary oversight, you don’t have strong institutions, you don’t have a leader who will make sure that things happen, you will not make progress,” Prof. Nnadozie said, adding that “corruption has been coming down in Rwanda because if you do wrong, the punishment will come without fear or favor.”
“Capacity is a very important thing because capacity deficits in Africa are responsible for some of the fantastic agendas, plans, and strategies not being implemented to achieve the desired goals or development outcomes. It is, therefore, important to pay attention to building capacity, and most specifically the capacity of governments and their officials,” Prof. Nnadozie said.
He went on: “When you talk about capacity, people think about human capacity, skills, expertise, knowledge, how to do things; yes, that’s part of it but it is not all of it. In addition to human capacity, you need institutional capacity because institutions are as important as the people who work in them, whether they are regional institutions or country-based institutions. But many institutions do not have strong institutional mechanisms, they do not have the right systems in place, they don’t even have people who are skilled to do the job properly and get results.”
Countries often neglect the building of soft capacities such as developing the right mindset, and this becomes too costly to bear in the end. As Prof Nnadozie put it: “You can educate somebody well, give them the best equipment in the world and the right conditions, but if they do not have the right mindset, they will not be able to produce the desired results.”
Prof Nnadozie cited China where the emphasis is on training people to have the right mindset, because the Chinese believe that “if you believe in yourself, you can do anything.” Africa therefore should develop the right mindset that says, “you don’t need external help to be able to move Africa forward, Africans should believe in themselves.”
China’s Belt and Road Initiative
Prof Nnadozie disclosed that ACBF was working with China to establish a Pan-African Improvement Institute, which will help the Foundation to intensify its work in capacity building.
“We are helping African countries to understand how they can benefit from China’s Belt and Road Initiative,” the ES said. “We are carrying out an analysis of the costs and benefits of the China-Africa relationship. The simplest thing that one can see is to have consultation and a good strategy for engagement with China because China has a strategy for engagement with Africa, but on the African side you don’t see a strategy.
“Secondly,” Prof Nnadozie went on, “Africa should have an approach of working together so that we don’t work against each other to dissipate our interests and energies. This is an opportunity that can help African countries to address especially one of the binding constraints preventing regional integration, which is the infrastructure deficit. As you know the Continental Free Trade Area and the movement of goods and services are not going to happen unless these kinds of problems are addressed.”