Landry Signé is Distinguished Fellow at Stanford University’s Center for African Studies, Chairman of the Global Network for Africa’s Prosperity, Professor of Political Science at the University of Alaska Anchorage, an Archbishop Tutu Fellow, and a Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum.
Despite half a century of political independence, Africa remains the continent that is facing the most complex economic, political, and social challenges in the globalized world. Notwithstanding some progress, success stories, and variations of results from one country to another, citizens’ expectations are broadly unfulfilled. The results of consecutive Afrobarometer surveys are telling: high dissatisfaction of citizens towards their leadership. Numerous national initiatives—but also regional ones, such as the Lagos Plan of Action for the Economic Development of Africa, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development, the African Union, and the defunct Organization for African Unity—have thus far not improved the continent’s competitiveness in a globalized world to a satisfactory level. During the anti-colonial struggle, self-determination and indigenous leadership were presented as the solutions to Africa’s challenges. Unfortunately, Africa’s “leadership” has far too often become a tool of disservice to the majority of Africans.
This essay addresses the “leadership” challenge, presents possible solutions, and discusses the role of young leaders in transformational leadership accountability for an economically, politically, and socially more competitive continent. Accountability is explored here in five dimensions: personal, horizontal, peer, vertical, and diagonal.
From the scramble for Africa at the time of the Berlin Conference in the mid-1880s until about 60 years ago, most African countries were under colonial rule, dominated by European colonizers such as the British, French, Belgians, Portuguese, Germans, Spanish, and Italians. Despite variations between direct and indirect rule, settler-based and exploitative colonies, colonial rule was politically oppressive, economically extractive and exploitative, and socially repressive and exclusive. Colonial administrations put in place a series of authoritarian institutions backed by security forces that disregarded local voices and lacked popular legitimacy. They mostly aimed at controlling the territory, dominating the population, exploiting the resources, and protecting the interests of both the ruling class and the mother country.