- Written by Salim Ahmed Salim
African leaders have taken a number of key decisions towards the realization of regional integration.
Regrettably however, there is a great hiatus between those decisions and actual implementation.
One of the main challenges to this is how we take seriously the question of national and region wide infrastructural development and maintenance. There is an urgent need to improve infrastructure and among other things give practical meaning to the commitment to facilitate free movement of goods and peoples. Apart from intra regional infrastructural development and strengthening of our regional economic schemes, we have a duty to bring the issue of United Africa to the people. While I am optimistic that United Africa Dream will be realized in the coming years, it is discouraging to see how ineffectively we have performed in strengthening the Pan African Identity among our people across borders. We are still lingering in an era of prejudices and stereotypes among us keeping our people further apart instead of moving us closer as people with shared history, challenges, opportunities, threats and identity. We need to use both continental inter-governmental and non-governmental institutions to protect, promote and nurture the vision of a United Africa for the new generation to effect within the coming years.
In the coming years Africa must continue its efforts in dealing with the scourge of conflict, which has done so much damage to our people and societies. As a follow up to Declaration issued by the OAU Heads of State and Governments in February 1990, following the end of the Cold War, on the Political and Socio-Economic Situation in Africa and the Fundamental Changes taking place in the World, it was also felt that the existence peace and stability on the continent was critical in pursuing the goals and objective that Africa set for herself in 1990. The OAU Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management and Resolution was, therefore, adopted at the Cairo OAU Summit in July, 1993. It was strongly felt that, with the Cold War out of the way, Africa was indeed, capable of resolving its own conflicts if it was freed from any external interferences.
The African Union, through its Peace and Security Council is making an important contribution. Its efforts need to be augmented by inter alia through the provision of resources. This is one area where the goodwill of the international community in support of Africa’s efforts has been clearly demonstrated. But Africa needs to do more indeed much more itself. Those African countries which are better endowed should really seriously assist in providing significant financial support.
In my opinion, it is unacceptable to rely mainly on external assistance carrying out the various peace support operations. Furthermore such excessive external dependence can be quite costly.
I know this from personal experience when I served as the Secretary General of the then Organisation of African Unity and also when I was the African Union Special Envoy and Chief Mediator of the Abuja Inter Sudanese Peace Talks on Darfur. Thus ultimately it is up to our own leaders – present and future – who can and should prevent conflicts through entrenching and practicing democratic governance, fair distribution of resources and proper and just treatment of all citizens.
In view of the ongoing transformative shifts, we must acknowledge that the inherent social contract within our societies, the relationship between the people, governments, and business as it exists today, is out of sync with the directions in which our societies are headed. The concentration of wealth and power in the hands of small elite is no longer sustainable. As we witness developments occurring both within and beyond the continent, I see a new future where the individual is more empowered than ever before to shape his or her own destiny. This will be more so as the spread of genuine democracy on the continent works to push back the frontiers of human freedom and capacity and significantly unleash the creative potential of our people as they face the challenges and exploit the opportunities that come with Globalisation.
When I reflect on a new paradigm of leadership, I am especially cognizant of the words of the late Pan-Africanist, and very good friend of mine, Dr Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem, who in 2005 wrote: “Instead of constantly enumerating what this leader or that leader is doing wrong why don’t you ask yourself what, no matter how small, you are doing as an individual, a member of an organization, part of a community, your profession and in whatever station you are, to advance the cause of Africa and the dignity of the African. We all can do something or do nothing.” It is here where vast opportunities present themselves before the next generations of Africans.
Our generation was responsible for ushering our continent from the era of colonialism to an era of independence; it will be your generation’s responsibility for ushering us into a brand new world. A world where the new “African Rising” phenomenon is truly achieved and secured. It is in this light that I would like to enumerate three principles for a new paradigm of leadership in our transforming Africa:
• Principle number one; Envision: Just like our Founding Fathers, and the generations of leaders that preceded them, I implore our future generations of leaders to hold fast to a new vision of Africa, one in which our continent is united, prosperous, and at peace with both itself and the rest of the world. These new leaders must remain steadfast to their convictions, underpinned by beacons of morality and humanity, and constantly strive to achieve their visions in the face of all obstacles and anyone who would rebuke such aspirations. Our new leaders must remain cognisant that realising these visions may appear daunting, and I can certainly acknowledge that these journeys will not be easy; however these are the journeys in life that are most worthy ones to embark on!
• Principle number two; Appreciate: In order to understand where Africa is headed, I urge our current and future leaders to forge a deep appreciation of where our journeys have taken us so far, and how we have gotten where we are today. Africa today stands proudly upon the legacies of millions of individuals who contributed their entire lives to ensuring that future generations would have greater opportunities. Each of our countries has a unique history forged from the era of colonialism through to today. Africa’s leaders were not only those who sat atop governments, but the thousands upon thousands more who stirred conversations in the town halls, in the communal homesteads, in universities lecture rooms, in markets, in neighbourhood baraza’s and in taverns. Leadership knows no singular shape or size, colour or creed. I hope our next generation of leaders can skilfully build on our past to continue forging our new futures.
• Principle number three; Globalize, Localize and connect: In this increasingly interconnected world, I urge our next generation of leaders to view themselves both from the perspective of the global as well as the local. Uniquely empowered through changes in technology and the requisite social constructs, these new generations now have the power to not only gather unprecedented amounts of information but also to connect and mobilize thousands upon thousands of like minded individuals spanning the globe. However, serving as a leader not only means bringing your visions onto the global arena, but more importantly, by also affecting positive changes and inspiring others back within one’s community. Transformation starts here, and it is from the nurturing bed of one’s community from which true ideas can germinate and flourish. We can all do something, no matter where we are.
It is these brief thoughts that I would like to leave you with today on how I see the evolution of our leadership on the continent. I am truly optimistic about our shared futures and the direction in which our beloved Africa is headed. And to our future generations of leaders, many of whom may be sitting in this very room today, I urge you to build on the legacies of all those who came before you and to forge a path for those after you to continue towards realizing a peaceful, prosperous, and United Africa.
Mungu Ibariki Afrika
Asante – sana.
Lecture delivered by Dr Salim, former Secretary General of the OAU and Chairperson of the Mwalimu Julius Nyerere Foundation at the Annual Thabo Mbeki Foundation Africa Day Lecture, UNISA, Tshwane, South Africa, 23rd May 2014.