Eleven months have passed since the third cohort of our Postgraduate Diploma in Leadership programme embarked on a one-year journey of enhancing leadership competencies, but seems like only yesterday.
With a composition 35 senior leaders from public, private and civil society organisations within Tanzania, the third cohort began its first module on 9 April, 2019.
So far, eight out of ten modules have been covered, namely Financial Skills, Leading for results, Design Thinking for Organisational Development, Sustainable Development, Ethical Leadership, and Strategic Communication.
The remaining modules, Strategic Human Resource Management and Leading Change, have been scheduled in February and March 2020, respectively.
The programme, undertaken in collaboration with Aalto University Executive Education of Finland aims to equip senior leaders in Tanzania with the necessary skills and competencies to achieve sustainable development through competent leadership.
The Graduation ceremony will be held on March 31, this year. Participants from the fourth cohort to be in attendance.
UONGOZI Institute was privileged to facilitate two leadership seminars for Committees of the National Assembly of Tanzania.
The first seminar, organised in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), took place in Arusha from 25th to 26th March, 2019. Those participating included 16 members of the Parliamentary Privileges, Ethics and Powers Committee. The second seminar, held in Dodoma on 30th March, was organised for 26 members of the Administration and Local Government Affairs Committee.
The sessions jointly covered the theoretical aspects of leadership; ethical leadership; personal leadership; emotional intelligence; and managing conflicts of interest.
Collaborations of this nature are important to UONGOZI Institute as they continue to enhance the Institute’s philosophy on achieving sustainable development through competent leadership.
On 18th March, 2019, the third cohort of UONGOZI Institute’s Postgraduate Diploma in Leadership Programme embarked on a new journey by undertaking a personality assessment. Participants were assessed using DISC, a behaviour assessment tool which centres on four personality traits: Dominance, Influence, Steadiness and Conscientiousness.
The assessment offered specific insights into their interpersonal communication abilities. This helps identify how to maximise particular strengths to improve personal performance.
Launched in 2017, Postgraduate Diploma in Leadership Programme aims to develop leadership competencies with a focus on making strategic choices; leading people and other resources; and excelling in personal leadership qualities.
The programme, jointly delivered by UONGOZI Institute and Aalto University Executive Education of Finland, offers 10 modules, combining in-class workshops with online individual or group assignments.
The third cohort includes 35 senior leaders from public, private and civil society organisations within Tanzania. Participants began their first module on Reflective and Inspiration Leader on 09th April, 2019.
15th October, 2018 – Dodoma: A one-week comprehensive leadership programme for senior leaders of the Tanzania Police Force (TPF) was officiated today by the Director of Administration and Human Resource in the Ministry of Home Affairs, Mr. Issa Ng’imba on behalf of the Minister of Home Affairs.
Organised by UONGOZI Institute in collaboration with the TPF, the programme aims to enhance key leadership competencies of senior leaders of the TPF in making strategic choices, leading people and managing other resources, and exceling in personal leadership qualities.
Addressing the gathering, Mr. Ng’imba said he was pleased that the programme has come at an opportune time.
He further stated, “I believe the programme will contribute to the on-going initiatives that aim to resolve frequent leadership and administration challenges faced by Regional Police Commissioners.”
Mr. Ng’imba further noted that misconduct and abuse of authority done by few continue to ruin the image of the TPF. He advised Inspector General of Police (IGP) and all senior leaders in the TPF to adddress the matter soon after the programme.
Speaking on behalf of IGP Simon Sirro, Commissioner Albert Nyamhanga said the TPF, since the initiation of a long-term reform programme in 2006, has continued to transform, and further underscored how the programme will contribute to the realisation of the TPF’s vision.
“Our vision is to become a skilled Police Force that works with the community to maintain peace, stability and accelerate political and socio-economic development of the country. This programme will allow us to reflect on the progress, challenges encountered, and propose a way forward.”
In his remarks, the CEO of UONGOZI Institute, Prof. Joseph Semboja touched on the background of the Institute’s engagement with the TPF.
“In the beginning, the TPF was not among the Institute’s main clients,” he stated, “however, under the leadership of H.E. Dr. John Pombe Magufuli that has changed.”
Prof. Semboja went on to explain that to ensure good governance and rule of law, President Magufuli directed the Institute to invest more efforts on three Institutions, including the TPF, in his first days in Office.
Furthermore, he expounded on how the Institute has been implementing the Directive.
“In 2017, in collaboration with Aalto University Executive Education of Finland, we launched a year-long Executive Programme, the Postgraduate Diploma in Leadership, with a total of thirty-two participants, of which thirty were senior leaders of the TPF. At the end of the programme, 94% of participants graduated.”
“This marks the second programme offered to senior leaders of the TPF,” he added.
Concluding his remarks, Prof. Semboja said that the Institute will continue to strengthen the capacity of the TPF’s leadership to help improve services provided to the public.
The five-day programme will cover several leadership development modules, including Personal Leadership, Emotional Intelligence, structure of the Government of Tanzania, Political-Administrative Interface, Good Governance, Ethics and Anti-corruption. It will also have sessions on the structure of the TPF and how to tackle challenges encountered in the implementation of the TPF Strategic Plan.
Facilitators of the programme are former Government leaders; including IGP (Retired) Said Mwema, Commissioner of Police (Retired) Laurent Tibasana and former Regional Commissioner, Hon. Isidori Shirima; and leadership experts from government and non-governmental entities.
The discussion about women in politics and public leadership positions is not new. In 1979, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) was adopted (and signed by Tanzania). In the convention, the basic principle of equality between men and women, and how to ensure women’s access to and equal opportunities in political and public life were set. Yet today, 38 years on, women are under-represented in decision-making positions and attaining them remains a challenge globally.
According to the Inter-Parliamentary Union, only 22.8% of the seats in Parliaments globally are held by women, which is also the regional average for Sub-Saharan Africa. In Tanzania, 126 (36 %) seats are held by women, making Tanzania rank 23rd in the world with regards to women in Parliament. Furthermore, only 17 per cent of government ministers globally were women as of January 2015, with the majority overlooking social sectors, such as education and family matters. At the time of writing, ten women are serving as Head of State and nine as Head of Government, which is around 6 – 7% of the positions available. When looking at the private sector the numbers do not look better. Globally, women hold only 24% of senior management positions. In top executive positions in large companies, women are even fewer. Studies suggest only 8 – 12 % of global businesses have a female CEO or Managing Director. It is a familiar story.
Attaining gender parity in political participation and decision-making was set as a target internationally in 1995 in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. The target was also set as a part of the Sustainable Development Goals under Goal 5: “Ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision making in political, economic and public life”. Since 1995, some progress can be said to have been made as only 10 per cent of the members of legislative bodies were held by women back then. However political representation is not enough, inequalities between women and men persist and major obstacles remain. Research indicates that a more diverse leadership contributes to better policies and, in business, to increased profits. Evidence suggests that companies with better female representation deliver 34% greater returns than those with lesser representation.
So why is the change so slow? Women face multiple interlinked obstacles, linked to cultural, social and institutional factors on all levels in society. This contributes to sustain structural barriers for women in politics and leadership positions. It is necessary to analyse profoundly existing gender roles and mainstream gender policies. Women traditionally, in most cultures, carry the main care responsibilities like household work and childcare. This role is challenging to combine with politics and business life, if systems are not put in place to enable women to have active professional lives. For instance, providing childcare services; creating policies for sharing household responsibilities more equally; and holding legislative sessions during hours when women can participate.
Gender mainstreamed policies and laws, like the examples above, have often been passed and enacted when women have entered the legislative bodies. Even if every woman does not necessarily champion gender matters, our socially constructed gender roles gives men and women different experiences and perspectives. Hence, men and women tend to have different priorities while in power. Laws that combat social barriers for women, like access to education, reproductive health services, and tackling gender-based violence are more often passed when women are in decision-making positions. To foster a broader and gender-sensitive representation it is crucial that social barriers are removed. Education is key; not only that equal access to education should be assured, but also the quality of it and how gender is addressed in the education system is important.
It is also important to discuss institutions. Political institutions and organisational cultures may either foster an enabling or disabling environment. These institutions set standards for how easy or difficult it is for outsiders, like women, to win seats in elections or reach leadership positions. For instance, proportional electoral systems with multiple member districts foster an equal representation better than other electoral systems. Another institutional tool is gender quota systems. Tanzania has reached the Beijing target of 30% of Legislature being women due in large part to the implementation of a quota system, which is the case in the majority of countries that have around 30% women in parliaments. When applying quota systems, it is important to analyse their long-term effects on equality. What would happen if the quota system were to be removed, would the representation remain balanced? Do the systems succeed to mitigate existing power structures? A quota system should not erase competition, but ensure that women can enter the competition on equal grounds as men. A quota system pushes for change, but quotas alone won’t erase all barriers.
Other measures must also be considered. For instance, political parties, which often are identified as main gatekeepers for women’s representation in politics, play an important role. Political parties’ bureaucratic processes and systems might either foster or hinder women’s participation. If women are not actively engaged in political parties nor hold leadership positions within the parties, it will be difficult for women to successfully run in elections. Political parties can put in place systems that support and prepare women for leadership, like mentorship programs and the allocation of appropriate resources for women wings, and high-potential women.
Institutions may also foster a certain kind of power culture that can create barriers for women. When women enter legislatures or management teams, they enter a traditionally male-dominant arena where the majority functions according to rules set by men. Women might encounter challenges to act in such systems. Legislative sessions may be held late at night or women do not have access to informal networks, which were created when only men had access to power. Hence, it is important to look at cultures within power establishments. It is also noticed that when women enter legislative bodies they introduce new working tools, which might challenge existing systems. In many countries women platforms, bringing women together across political party lines, have been introduced. This also fosters a cross-party dialogue, which can contribute to a change in the political culture and enhance both women’s participation and representation.
Furthermore, building a political career or becoming a successful leader is a long-term project. You have to gain experiences, build a legacy, create your constituency and have access to both economical and social capital. This can be done both inside parties and in other arenas. In Rwanda, which has the highest number of female members of parliament in the world, many women were active in civil society organisations before becoming elected representatives. Civil society has generally had a stronger track record of enabling women, including; creating networks, finding supporters, and gaining valuable experience. An activist with many supporters is also a person a political party would want to get on board, as such a person has already attracted potential voters.
Finally, we should not neglect the importance of role models. Female leaders and politicians may inspire other women to pursue a career in politics. A study of more than 1700 senior executives worldwide showed that a highly regarded female CEO inspires other women to seek leadership positions. Women leaders are needed in all parts of society. Measures to ensure women’s participation in civil society organisations and local leadership structures are as important as it is to ensure women’s participation in politics and business. It is also essential to address this on all political levels, both locally and nationally.
However, change will not happen if men are not engaged. Men working for equality are as important as women working for equality. Both men and women are needed in politics and business, as well as at home sharing care responsibilities and household work equally with women. Only when gender equality is in focus in all parts of society, will we be able to mitigate power structures that hinder women to succeed in attaining leadership and decision-making roles.
Sandra Grindgärds is a freelance consultant specialising in politics and gender. She has worked with the Tanzania Women’s Cross Party Platform and the UN Peace Operation in Cote d’Ivoire. Prior to that, she was politically active in her native Finland, and she has worked at the European Parliament in Brussels.
UONGOZI Institute is implementing its strategic plan 2016/17 – 2020/21 within which “advancing knowledge and practice of good leadership” is one of its goals. The purpose of this goal is to generate and disseminate new knowledge on leadership. With this, the institute believes it will inspire and engage the research and academic community, think tanks, leaders, and the wider public and hence contribute to advancing the practice of good leadership.
While leadership is important everywhere in the world, the way that it is practiced differs by region and by context. Many studies have examined the practice of leadership in western cultures, but leadership in most of Africa has not been explored in much depth, and there are so many impressionistic assertions about leadership in the continent.
The Institute is seeking to appoint a Senior Research Associate to provide intellectual guidance to its Research Programme on Leadership in Africa. The three-year Programme aims to explore and understand the many dimensions of leadership development and practice in postcolonial Africa. The Programme will contribute towards building a body of knowledge on leadership development and practice in Africa; leadership related policy-discussions across the continent; the design of leadership development initiatives; and strengthened research networks in the area of leadership.
Duties and Responsibilities
The main duties of the post are:
To contribute to the development of the Research Programme on Leadership in Africa;
To contribute to preparing proposals and other activities to secure funding;
To undertake research that contributes to the programme outputs and outcomes;
To contribute towards capacity building of researchers at the Institute;
To participate and present work at seminars, workshops and conferences; and
To participate in round-tables or events open to policy-makers;
Other duties may be assigned from time to time by the Executive Director.
Modality of Engagement
This role is a part-time position and its award is not a contract of employment. The successful applicant can be engaged as a resident or non-resident fellow and for the latter, flexible working arrangements may be negotiated. For resident fellows, it will be the responsibility of UONGOZI Institute to arrange for travel, accommodation, transport, office space and make any other living arrangements for the duration of their stay (a maximum of one year).
The successful applicant will hold a Research Degree (Master’s based on research, MPhil) or PhD. S/he will be a scholar with advanced knowledge of at least 10 years on the subject of leadership. The Programme requires considerable organizational and intellectual skills including a practical understanding of spoken and written English language. It is expected that the successful candidate will already have held a postdoctoral fellowship or the equivalent.
UONGOZI Institute exists to support African leaders to attain sustainable development for their nation and for Africa. We seek to inspire leaders and promote the recognition of the important role of leadership in sustainable development through research, capacity development and public dialogues.
“Each generation must discover its mission, fulfil it or betray it…” – Franz Fanon
Youth leadership development programmes and networks have become abundant in Africa. Each claiming to equip, support, and inspire ‘the next generation of Africa’s leaders’. Leadership is a great challenge for Africa, and one of the things we can draw from the numerous and massive investments in Africa’s young high-achievers and those recognised as ‘high potential’ is that the world is taking ‘the next generation of Africa’s leaders’ very seriously.
History tells us that young people, whether in the civil rights movement of the United States or the ‘Arab Spring’ across North Africa and the Middle East, play a critical role in ushering in change. Indeed, many of the icons of Africa’s independence era were all relatively young when they led us to independence: Kenneth Kaunda (40), Patrice Lumumba (34), Samora Machel (41), Kwame Nkrumah (47), Julius Nyerere (39), Thomas Sankara (33), Haile Selassie I (24), Sekou Toure (36), etc. At the very least, this list of distinguished men (and this is not to detract from the critical role of women in these movements) highlights the potential of youth. It should be noted, none of the above-mentioned (nor other leaders of that generation) ever had opportunities for specialised and dedicated grooming in the form of youth leadership programmes. However, they were visionary in the sense that they quickly realised that they needed each other – the pan-African struggle is and was as much a moral battle as it was a case of ‘enlightened self-interest’ since their fates were intimately linked.
Sadly, there are few examples where youth organise themselves or are being organised by, of and for Africa. This reflects a failure to recognise the power and importance of networks of and for leaders (and leadership). In part, this is due to an emphasis on leaders as individuals. Sadly, this is a lesson from the past that we are ignoring. Not organising young high achievers and high- potential youths is a missed opportunity. That the world recognises Africa’s talents and potential is great – and well deserved for the many men and women who have had the privilege and opportunity to participate in these programmes. However, there is a missing piece to the puzzle. In order for Africa to progress as Africa, we need to build the relationships between these young individuals to understand our different pasts and value-systems, and build consensus around our common purpose and destiny, on our terms. We are failing to marshal these (would-be) ‘leaders’ into a cohesive ‘leadership’ that will drive the continent and her people forward. This requires specialised investment in and organisation of this demographic that so far has not been forthcoming by the continent itself.
The most valuable component of these programmes is not the technical knowledge that is gained, nor is it the opportunity to practice particular skills associated with ‘leading’. The community (or network) of peers who one can reach out to for guidance or support is by far the most valuable take-away for participants. As mentioned above, the liberation-era leaders across Africa formed these social bonds and are known to have been in constant communication. Despite the lack of specialised grooming, they realised the importance of alliances and a group of leaders (peers) to form a collective leadership. These relationships were vital in securing Africa’s independence. Such relationships are, and will be, vital for good leadership in Africa. As these programmes are often not Africa based or formed, which individuals are being promoted, and why? How are potential-leaders identified? For what purpose are they being groomed? Are we coaching and mentoring would-be leaders to equip them with the skills and knowledge to understand how Africa got to be where it is today, why we face the challenges we face, where Africa’s place is in the world, and what efforts we can build on to get a better seat at the global table?
This piece starts with a famous quote from Franz Fanon, a psychiatrist and anti-colonial philosopher who fought in the Algerian War of Independence. It speaks to the heart of the matter regarding the development of young and emerging leaders in Africa – for what?
Through the African Union, African Heads of State and Government have adopted the Agenda 2063 (with its seven pillars) followed by seven goals. Are these the tasks we are setting our leaders? Are we doing enough to prepare ourselves across private, public, and civil society spaces to take on the leadership challenges that fulfilling these seven goals will face, and are our leaders doing enough to prepare future leaders for this task?
If we are serious about our future, we must groom the young and emerging leaders of today, to move us towards sustainable development and transformation. We must prepare them, so that when they too become Elders, they will in turn help to prepare future young and emerging leaders for Africa. For this, Africa too must look to the talented individuals across the continent and give them the opportunities and support they need to succeed – and we need to get them talking to, and working with, each other.
Most of us may have seen a picture of the African woman carrying a child on her back, a pile of chopped wood on her head, and in addition, some harvest from the farm or a bucket of water. That picture depicts an African woman as an epitome of strength. Not just physical, but psychological and intellectual strength as well. It shows the will and determination to persevere, provide and survive. In Africa, women are arguably the backbone of our communities, and elderly women, especially, are respected for their wisdom. The disturbing question then, is why we have very few prominent women leaders on the continent.
Although the movement towards gender equality has continued to progress in the right direction, it is still dragging and leaving many behind, as is evidenced by gender development indexes across the continent. The percentage of women holding political leadership positions in Africa stands at 24.4% with the number of female parliamenterians in sub-Saharan Africa at 23%. Even in business where there is a semblance of empowered women leaders, statistics such as only 18/107 directorship positions being held by women and 12/109 corporate executive positions held by women in Tanzania exposes the nakedness of such illusions.
In my view, two main challenges exist that hinder the empowerment of women to leadership positions. These problems ultimately reinforce each other. There is the problem of the negatively connoted status of women in society. We live in a rigid patriarchal society where the mindset of a majority of women and men consider the roles of women as secondary. This manifests itself into the compulsion to make the attributes of men the benchmarks for leadership roles. Second, is the internal struggle within and amongst women that subsists; African women are continuously challenged to overcome a two-pronged inferiority complex. They become prone to subconsciously question their self–worth when measured up against other races, and with the pressure to sacrifice their own needs in favour of men’s. The result is a vicious cycle of women clinging superficially to a questionable status quo and subjecting other women to practices that negatively affect both themselves and fellow women.
The status of women and their empowerment is being addressed at various levels and platforms. There is a will and effort to expand opportunities for women to be fairly employed, and to be enabled in business and other economic activities. However, this may not be enough to rapidly expand the pool of women leaders on the continent. Unfortunately, this is due to the lack of discourse on the issue of strengthening women’s self-worth. We have been witness to the sheer unproductive (sometimes destructive) envy by some women at the success of other women. To cap it all, in events that propagate the themes of empowering women, we constantly see selective inclusiveness and apparent disunity, as almost all the invitees belong to the category of the arguably already empowered. Failure to brave the surrounding issues to this challenge may make the efforts to address the negatively connoted status of women futile.
Africa’s women leaders must be at the forefront towards resolving this problem and they need to lead differently. It begins with first leading oneself. This leadership calls for a change in the mindset, a change in the general perceptions of a woman in society, and their inability to take leadership roles. Confidence and a feeling of self-worth are essential attributes of enabling a woman leader to bring on board fellow women and men towards a shared vision.
Furthermore, the woman leader needs to be inclusive. This inclusiveness should of necessity transcend the demarcations of privilege. Women must help each other, rather than break each other, by their actions and practices amongst themselves. They should walk hand in hand, focusing on moving together with a mightier force, even if the pace would be slower.
At the societal level, the woman leader must aim to lead in terms of influencing, shaping and changing the mindset of the people in her environment who are ignorant about or deliberately hindering in one form or another gender equality. She is a central component of the community and must encourage her sisters and brothers, her friends, her daughters and sons, her granddaughters and grandsons, her husband, his friends, and their neighbours to be part of the change. She must recognize, inspire and motivate other women leaders. This recognition should not come in waves that peak and subside; rather it should maintain a constant flow. For, at any time there are many women at various levels who are emerging as leaders and are in need of being motivated to lead further.
As a group, women must own their empowerment. Like the African woman in the alluded to picture above, they possess the strength and ability to persevere and overcome the obstacles towards becoming prominent leaders. African women in leadership positions have and will have more to showcase and reconcile. They are ambassadors for all women in what is still a very much male-dominated world. They must strategically use their roles to enable more women to aspire towards and attain leadership positions.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the above article are the views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of UONGOZI Institute.
Anyone seeking to be a successful leader needs to acquire the skills to negotiate an increasingly complex world environment
Large numbers of migrants crossing borders to escape violence and seeking opportunity elsewhere challenge border post officials and Foreign Ministers alike, not to mention the pressure they create for political leaders to engage in increased coordination in real time, while managing the spotlight of the press and the buzz of social media.
Crowds of young people looking for jobs in Europe and Africa are increasingly vocal and demand the immediate attention of politicians, even though sustainable solutions would take years to put in place.
Contagious diseases like Ebola threaten harmony in previously peaceful communities, compelling global leaders to find urgent and coordinated solutions.
Policy makers need to handle complex scientific and social information with little room for mistakes, whether deciding on genetically modified seed varieties, implementation arrangements to adapt to climate change, or labour policies that balance the needs of the youth and the ageing. Leaders of countries have to increasingly mind not only what is going on within their borders, but also events in countries geographically distant from them. Company executives need to be cognizant of changing preferences and the lightning speed at which trends are shaped and reshaped, and brands lionised or destroyed.
In my book, Leadership in a Globalized World: Complexity, Dynamics and Risk, I present a synthesis of the tools available to leaders to navigate in this complex environment. The areas covered include skills to be adept at observing patterns of change; understanding the dynamics of change; and reacting proficiently to urgent challenges. Other skills relate to harnessing complexity in taking day-to-day decisions, while making smart use of tools for consultation, dialogue, empathising with others, and scanning and mapping risks.
Delivering superior performance every day requires skills for learning, innovation and creating repeated success, aided by a strong ability to work across borders, co-create with others, and imagine an emerging reality. While the tools developed are from academic research in multiple disciplines, the book relies on a series of case studies from real life to bring to life Theory U.
Learning from examples in a variety of industries, firms, governments and geographies, we discover that a good leader learns from others and from past experiences including – and especially from – failure. Good leaders in a complex world take major shifts in people, economy, resources and technology spheres in their stride. The skill of extracting and following patterns wins when many things are changing. Skilled leaders use change to shape strategy and harness the very complexity they are dealing with, to manage risks and exploit opportunities for results.
Of particular importance are leaders skilled at dealing with local and global issues in a coherent governance framework; whether at the country, corporation, or organisation level.
Good leaders know how to harness the special role of individuals and their preferences to shape common or collective outcomes beyond the scales of their geographical confines. Successful leaders in government, corporations, and civil society, as well as those interested in development, adapt “how” they engage in addition to “what” and “why” they engage in decision making.
Effective leaders are not afraid to fail and even relish it as an opportunity to learn.
Striving towards the horizon, not knowing what lies ahead, navigating through winding paths that are steep and foggy, driven by the desire to get a better outcome, makes the journey of leading in a complex world exciting.
Frannie A. Léautier
Frannie A. Léautier is Chairperson and Co-Founding Partner of Mkoba Private Equity, and previously served as Executive Secretary of the African Capacity Building Foundation
Last month, I attended the African Leadership Forum in the Tanzanian capital of Dar es Salaam on the theme of “Moving Towards An Integrated Africa.” The meeting was hosted by former Tanzanian president Benjamin Mkapa’s Uongozi Institute, and attended by former presidents Olusegun Obasanjo (Nigeria), Festus Mogae (Botswana), Jerry Rawlings (Ghana), Bakili Muluzi (Malawi), and Hifikepunye Pohamba (Namibia). The Executive Secretaries of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the East African Community (EAC) were also present, as were invited civil society actors.
Delivering the keynote address was Ugandan president, Yoweri Museveni, who has long fancied himself as a “Bismarck of East Africa”, with dreams of creating a political federation in a subregion consisting also of Kenya, Tanzania, Burundi, and Rwanda. These aspirations were reflected in his address which pushed for a larger regional market in East Africa to increase the leverage of the subregion to negotiate more effectively with external actors. Citing the high level of cultural integration in the subregion – reinforced by the common lingua franca of Swahili – he called for a political union, noting that for such efforts to succeed, East African leaders would need to explain to their 140 million citizens how regional integration could directly enhance their prosperity and security.
I had the opportunity, from the audience, to challenge president Museveni – who has been in power for 29 years – on the issue of presidential term limits, noting that on assuming office in 1986, he had criticised African leaders for overstaying in power. Museveni deflected the question by arguing that the issue was not about overstaying in power, but rather overstaying “in the resistance”– presumably to “neo-colonialism.”
Contradicting his reputation as a brash, arrogant, no-nonsense former General, Obasanjo came across in his interventions as wise, witty, and adept at using first-hand experiences to illustrate his points. He called for a core group of African leaders to drive regional integration in Africa, much as Nigeria, South Africa, Algeria, and Senegal had done in creating the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) during his own presidential tenure.
He pushed for the abolishing of visas to facilitate the free movement of Africa’s one billion citizens; advocated the improvement of infrastructure and communications; criticised African leaders for talking regional integration while planning on a national basis; and condemned the negative role that external actors have played in sabotaging regional integration efforts in Africa, specifically citing France’s role in West Africa.
Obasanjo went on to praise the efforts of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to promote the free movement of its 340 million citizens: 68% of West Africa’s international migrants remain in the subregion, enjoying one of the world’s most impressive mobility rates. Obasanjo, however, condemned Nigeria’s expulsion of three million West Africans – declared “illegal aliens” – between 1983 and 1985, as having contradicted Africa’s culture of hospitality.
He criticised African governments for rejecting the ideas of an African Union (AU) committee that he had headed, which had recommended that continental leaders raise $750 million to fund their organisation through such schemes as hotel levies and airline taxes. He noted that the lack of sacrifices by African governments was clearly evident in the fact that 80% of the AU’s operating budget was covered by external donors, while AU member states that could afford their dues often failed to keep their accounts current.
Some of the challenges within the Southern African Development Community (SADC) were also discussed: the failure to work more closely with the private sector; lack of effective coordination between national committees and the Botswana-based SADC secretariat; the need for the SADC secretariat to be empowered to make binding decisions; and obstacles to the free movement of Southern Africa’s 231 million citizens, with recent xenophobic attacks in South Africa on SADC and other citizens being widely condemned. It was also observed that some SADC leaders viewed efforts to secure alternative sources of funding from regional sources as an encroachment on their sovereignty. As with the AU and other subregional bodies, the lack of sufficient time devoted to issues of regional integration at SADC summits was criticised. Some of the organisation’s plans were also said to reflect efforts at political alchemy. For example, a free trade area was launched in 2008 that represented more of a political statement than economic reality, as no rules of origin have ever been defined.
The East African Community was, in contrast, praised for its success at increasing intra-regional trade (by 16% from 2005 to 2010). It was, however, noted that though the organisation has had a customs union since 2005, a disproportionate amount of its time has been spent on removing barriers to trade against the private sector. More positively, some innovations have been crafted such as Rwandan customs officials being deployed to clear goods at the port of Dar es Salaam.
With intra-regional trade a derisory 12% on the continent, it was noted that Africans needed to change their mind-sets in order to succeed in their efforts to achieve regional integration. The phenomenon of African countries creating regional organisations with similar goals and overlapping memberships was criticised as inefficient and profligate. Several African regional bodies also lack constitutions and legal frameworks that define their rules, while there are often no independent mechanisms for monitoring the implementation of their activities. A need was thus strongly expressed for a clear division of labour between the AU and subregional bodies, and the use of innovative schemes such as the ECOWAS community levy to fund these organisations.
It was further noted that many African leaders are too preoccupied with political survival at home to prioritise economic integration abroad. These rulers, however, need to act more like economic technicians than politicians. As Botswana’s Festus Mogae – himself an Oxford-trained economist – noted, African leaders have not engaged enough with each other to discuss removing obstacles to regional integration. Africa no longer needs continued negotiations, but the urgent implementation of existing plans. There were calls for a “two-speed” Africa and an “inner core” to drive regional integration. The role of regional hegemons – Nigeria, South Africa, and Kenya – was also highlighted as potential catalysts for integration in need of credible visions that require carrying greater burdens, and even sometimes incurring short-term losses.
Finally, it was noted that Africa is often ill-prepared for most trade and other negotiations. The continent is rarely at the top table of global institutions such as the United Nations (UN), the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the World Trade Organisation (WTO), but often on the margins. Africa often has plans, but no implementation strategy. Its power in these global institutions is often fragmented, and its voice therefore diluted.
African representation on these multilateral bodies is often weak. There were thus calls to tap into the African Diaspora which now contributes $60 billion annually to its home countries: more than the continent receives in foreign aid. Small and medium-sized enterprises are to be strongly supported. Young entrepreneurs should be encouraged to continue to drive change on their continent. Regional infrastructure projects increased, and the same spirit and determination which won the battle for the political decolonisation of Africa must be employed in the current struggle for its socio-economic decolonisation.
Dr. Adebajo is Executive Director of the Centre for Conflict Resolution, Cape Town, South Africa, and a Visiting Professor at the University of Johannesburg.
Dr. Adekeye Adebajo is a Nigerian Rhodes Scholar and the current Executive Director of the Centre for Conflict Resolution in Cape Town, South Africa. Dr. Adebajo is a leading authority on Africa’s international relations and security issues.