The type of leaders required by Africa are men and women of reason, who are qualified and capable of holding their own in world affairs, and who can be trusted in their dealings with people and resources.
This is the leadership currently required in Africa to address the continent’s challenges – leaders who give themselves entirely to their nations and to their continent. Without this adequate leadership, progress and development cannot be achieved.
This call for innovative and intellectual leaders in Africa formed part of the dynamic discussions of the 2012 Annual Thabo Mbeki Africa Day Lecture hosted by Unisa and the Thabo Mbeki African Leadership Institute (TMALI) on 24 May. The discussions covered a range of topics and highlighted Africa’s challenges, possible solutions, the role of Western forces in Africa’s liberation, the importance of partnerships within Africa, and the responsibilities of the youth in ensuring they become the calibre of leaders required.
Reverend Prof Barney Pityana, Rector for the College of the Transfiguration in the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, delivered the introductory statement. Click here to read Prof Pityana’s full address.
The lecture also brought together a high calibre of panellists which included:
- Thabo Mbeki, the patron of TMALI and former South African President,
- Joaquim Chissano, former Mozambican President,
- Pedro Pires, former Cape Verde President,
- Olusegun Obasanjo, former Nigerian President.
Prof Pityana said there appears to be much distrust and even contempt for South African leaders who are thinkers and intellectuals. “In the immediate aftermath of the Polokwane Revolution, we were almost egged on to despise the educated elite, and have contempt for the intellectuals. It is charged that they are not in touch with reality, that they are not the common man, and they are not to be trusted because they can be too clever. By so doing we have very much institutionalised mediocrity, and made virtue out of dullness, stupidity and madness.
“…There is most likely to be a tendency from leaders who are without intellect to also lack in moral fibre because they fail to understand the limitations of governance, but also that they may be incapable of drawing from their own capabilities to provide the nation with a new, compelling and confident vision of itself and idealism, to be, at times above the fray, and help guide the nation in its most difficult moments.”
He said the concept of intellectual leaders is not new as Africa’s liberation pioneers were intellectual giants of their time. Kenya’s Jomo Kenyatta, Algeria’s Ahmed Benbella, Egypt’s Abdul Nasser, Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah, Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Patrice Lumumba, Tanzania’s Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, Angola’s Agostino Neto, Mozambique’s Edouardo Mondlane and many ANC leaders until recently, had a particularly strong intellectual capacity.
The significance of Africa Day, as well as the 49th and 10th anniversaries of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) and the African Union (AU) was also commemorated. Mr Pires and Mr Mbeki said even though African countries had achieved independence, Africa was not truly liberated. All of the panelists agreed that in order to achieve liberation, Africa needs to maximally utilise all of its human resources and become producers – of knowledge, technology, and products – instead of consumers. Mr Obasanjo said: “What Africa needs for our growth and development is born here. We don’t have to look outside.”
Prof Makhanya said Unisa was committed to promoting knowledge systems in all the university’s diversities, including, affirming and ensuring that African endogenous, are central to the core business of the university. “It is our imperative and mandate as an African university not only to contribute to the global knowledge systems, but it is our responsibility to ensure that knowledge systems which derive from African experiences, African thought and innovation, are allowed to flourish. We believe that these knowledge systems are resourceful for the advancement of our peoples, development and promote contextual relevancy whilst at the same time, speaking to the global demands.” Click here to read Prof Makhanya’s full address.
The panellists also agreed that instilling African pride was important. Mr Chissano said: “We have achieved tremendously. When people say Africa is a lost continent, and when I see all these students and professors, I say Africa is not a lost continent, Africa is the continent of the future … We don’t have the confidence that we can do things, that we can build, yes there are shortcomings, there are mistakes, but we have to ensure we bypass these and bring about new things.”
He also said that Africans should not be shy about building democracy within the conditions of their culture; but this must come with the understanding that Africans have to defeat the bad things of their culture, because their culture had also evolved.