It was an honor to deliver a keynote address to the youths of Africa and Asia this past Thursday, 28th July 2022, in Addis Ababa. I spoke about the several challenges in leadership the African continent faces and the fact that African youths can learn from their Asian counterparts.
I highlighted the current generational change that Africa was experiencing and noted that most of Africa’s new leaders would not have been exposed to or experienced any attachment to the struggles against colonialism waged by the earlier leaders on the continent. Instead, the new generation of leaders in Africa is now confronted with the challenge of the second scramble for resources in the continent, with many more than ever before ‘external’ players competing to feed their rapidly developing economies through accessing and exploiting African resources.
I spoke about the need for the African continent to emerge with a new brand of leaders who have a profound social consciousness and want to serve their people for their common good genuinely. Given the enormous challenges we currently face on the continent, which include increasing poverty, poor infrastructure, rapidly growing populations, low levels of education and skills training for young people, climate changes, and the growing dominance of narrow identity groups and subsequent conflicts that arise, time is sure of the essence as we continue to experience continuous changes, new challenges, and opportunities.
The continuous global shift has resulted in significant changes in science and technology, scales and types of production, organizational principles, the invention of new goods and services, and various forms of political and socio-economic development. Those nations who were involved in, or were aware of, those changes – countries such as China, Malaysia, Indonesia, South Korea, India, and Singapore (all in Asia) – acquired the right capabilities and responded positively and timely to the challenges and opportunities those changes brought. They were also able to predict and prepare for future changes, challenges, and opportunities. Africa and African youths can learn a lot from Asian experiences.
I noted that as we now settle into the 21st century with globalization at the helm, it is clear that Africa needs a new class of leaders and leadership. We need the kind of leadership with the intelligence and capacity to wisely anticipate the possibilities of domestic and global social, economic or political change, comprehend its significance, and effectively respond to it. Africa needs intelligent leaders who respect education, are educated, skilled, or experienced, value knowledge and information, and know-how and where to acquire the advice and expertise needed to formulate and implement policies. Africa needs leaders who are committed to the promotion of African perspectives on democracy and good governance. We need leaders who understand economic development strategies compatible with African socio-cultural realities, have integrity, vision, and competence, and can inspire people to realize such a future vision.
Moreover, our leaders must acknowledge the positive contributions of the previous generations and recognize the importance of generational linkages. Those leaders who commit themselves to developing the synergy between the ages are likely to be successful. Therefore, our new generation of African leaders -whether in business or politics would require a reasonable comprehension of the issues they have to deal with –economic, social, political, or global. They will also need a sound understanding of the governance systems in which they work, the principles supportive of good governance, and the practices that might create terrible management in their respective societal contexts.