AFRICA IS NOT A HOMOGENEOUS whole. It is a very large continent of 54 nations. Each of our countries has a different background and characteristics. Thus, when we talk about Africa, we should factor in the different variants.
Africa can therefore be accurately described as made up of three broad areas -North Africa; the Middle Belt or Africa south of the Sahara; and Southern Africa. All those have a complete complexion of their own.
All in all, it is the Middle Belt where we face the real challenges. And Africa's challenges lie in leadership.
Our pioneer leaders were self-made and self-driven. They didn't come to leadership through any individual grooming for political office. So, although they did well, they did not have the skills required for modern nation-building.
Struggling to free yourself from bondage called for bravery and self-sacrifice. The transition to post-colonial rule from the 1960s was largely effected by a freedom-fighting leadership, but whatever achievements there were did not completely translate into the anticipated socio-economic development.
Yes, freedom-fighting called for audacity and risk-taking to life. The first generation of our gallant leadership succeeded in this, but fell terribly short elsewhere. Because they were not groomed for political office, they did not have all the required skills that modern nation-building calls for.
Many of those leaders had not been nurtured in management and were not part of the colonial governance system they opposed--thus they were leaders who had come more by their natural talents to lead rather than having calculated and nurtured capacities to govern and build modern nations. Therefore, some became dictators and set up insipid economies even as we sat on huge natural resources. They were also trapped in the Cold War divide and pretended to pursue ideologies they did not adequately understand or believe in. Eventually, when the Cold War ended, the original strong men of Africa had lost hold.
From that emerged what we may describe as transformational leadership, in the sense that for Africa to really move in an appreciated rate of development, it needed to look at the economy, the framework of law, property rights, religious freedom, and minority rights.
This is why the new leadership decided to change the OAU to the AU - from the leadership of freedom-fighting to a leadership of socio-economic development. The driving policy framework has since become the New Partnership for Africa's Development (Nepad) and the African Peer Review Mechanism. Through these, Africa is serving notice that it has accepted to take the initiative for developing itself socio-economically.
In this respect, what Africa's transformational government has sought to do, especially in the last decade, has been to pursue a vision of development with a missionary zeal. Some headway has been made: we saw, until recently when the global financial crisis caught up with us, a continent whose GDP growth rate was on a consistent trajectory of 5-6 per cent.
Now, all over the continent the developed world is moving intensely towards partnerships with Africa--China and India from Asia have come, but the old partners of the European Union and North America are also in there. But still, Africa has a long way to go in terms of being able to compete on the global market.
This is why Africa has had to demand transformational leadership through the ballot box. The process is young but Africa is in the right direction. It is because of the onerous challenges which still lie ahead that Africa's new leaders need to go through some form of apprenticeship to prepare themselves for the demands of modern nation-building.