News Column

Let's Stop 'passing the Buck'

June 30, 2014

Adam Kyamatare

AT THE exact same moment when Africa is doing so well Africans continue to hold a trump card for any problems by blaming the West.

This includes nation states, historical players or even international financial institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.While criticism of these organizations is fair to a certain degree, shouldn't we as Africans step back and look at our leaders?

Who is ultimately responsible for the betterment of a nation's people; an economist in Washington or the head of state? Let us stop passing the buck of responsibility and take ownership.

The curse of African excitement:

African economies suffer from waves of buzzwords. There was the 'African renaissance' of the late 90s, 'a new crop of African leaders' at the turn of the century, and now the phrase of the day is 'Africa rising'.

Recalling all these, President Paul Kagame dryly remarked, 'Why wasn't last century Africa's century?!' There are actually African countries today where a child would have had a more promising future immediately following independence. African societies cannot lose perspective of how far we still need to go.

All that being said there has been immense change. The last decade of African development has been astonishing. In the last 10 years, the gross domestic product has increased more than four and a half times. According to the President of the African Development Bank, it took the United Kingdom more than 150 years to achieve this transformation. But while numerous reasons can attributed to this achievement; exploding demand for raw materials, liberalized economic policies and decreasing violence, one major underpinning reason is that African leaders are getting 'better'.

Measuring leadership:

Measuring leadership is so subjective that it can honestly render significant data biased. Even something as universally appreciated as democracy can be difficult to prove (after all some Americans still debate if George W. Bush was 'democratically' elected in 2000). Other measurements, such as levels of services delivery or increased investment, can be attributed to numerous factors and not just presidents.

But, even with all this, there is this nagging feeling that the current crop of leaders arejust simply better than their predecessors. Listening to Thabo Mbeki and Benjamin Mkapa openly call their peers selfish and laying much of the blame for the lack of development on the shoulders of leaders was refreshing.

Benjamin Mkapa went so far to even scold leaders who seem to blame others for their problems by quoting Shakespeare, "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves."

In another moment that went against the faulty notion that Africans shouldn't air their dirty laundry, President Paul Kagame chastised African leaders for 'flying to Paris [to discuss Boko Haram] for a photo opportunity' when they 'should have been working together already'.

All this is reason for hope. African leaders no long just accept what they're told by outsiders. Foreign NGOs and international organizations' experts aren't infallible and African bureaucrats are openly calling their recommendations into question.

Let's stop blaming others:

Foreign powers will never work for African interests and the swifter that we disavow ourselves of the contrary the better we will all be. African leaders are in debt to their people and not the other way around. It is time that African leaders accept that if their countries begin to fall behind in social and/or economic indicators, they are ultimately responsible.

African populations have to take up this responsibility too. Looking at South Sudan and the Central African Republic today, all one sees is Africans killing Africans.

These problems are related to outside interference, poor economic histories and idle uneducated populations, but far worse is the void of empathetic and determined leadership.

The writer is a Rwandan economist based in Copenhagen

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Source: AllAfrica

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