Africa is a unique continent with many positive indicators for growth and expansion, threateningly knocking on the doors of the Asian tigers to overrun them and become the next big phenomenon in the world .For Africans to realise this dream and not go another 100 years walking in potential, there are some fundamental issues that we have to ruthlessly deal with. They have been named a thousand times, discussed, debated, pondered over, prayed against, you name it but Africans are still unable to deal with the monsters blocking our way to success and prosperity. We can rattle off our problems in our sleep, corruption, bad governance, dictatorship, western capitalist interests, low education levels, innovation barrenness, civil war and strife, disease and poverty. We can add to this list the terror threats of Boko Haram and other extremists groups abducting and randomly killing our fellow countrymen handsomely aided by our lax and unsophisticated security and intelligence. Faced with such a multi-layered, complex and varied set of problems, it may be difficult to navigate our way out of poverty and into development and prosperity. Where do we start? Is it a leadership issue or is it a values and identity issue?
The African development gap can only be addressed by a multi-dimensional, multi-pronged and multi-sectoral approach. However I believe the most radical change that needs to take place is the deliberate and urgent inclusion of young Africans into the political space. The problem is partly due to our long tradition of veneration of our elders. We feel we cannot challenge them or compete with them but that rather a good African will defer to those older than him, listen to instructions and wait to be recognised and rewarded. This is why in Zimbabwe; a youthful and highly literate population can be led by a 91 year old president and compete for his attention by bootlicking and agreeing with everything that is wrong, ultimately hoping for a reward.
In Zimbabwe there are people who are waiting with bated breath for ONE 91 year old man to choose a successor. This speaks volumes to our lack of foresight as black people. In a nation of 14 million people, is it acceptable to leave such a decision of great import and weight to one individual. There are many educated Zimbabweans, leaders of exceptional calibre, leaders that are young and have their fingers on the global pulse. These young people should be grafted into national politics and given space to exercise their talents for the benefit of the nation. We cannot continue living in the era of the war of liberation in a world that is fast developing and becoming increasingly competitive for resources. We are getting left behind and the gap cannot be bridged by someone who is 91years old. This is a reality we have to deal with and ask the necessary question “where are we going?” or rather at this point “where are we being led”. I concede that we have seen some good from these elders, especially in the 1980’s but they are no longer in their prime.
If we are to compare the leadership styles of Uhuru Kenyatta and Robert Mugabe, we will see that they are worlds apart. One of the most refreshing Facebook pages to visit is that of the Kenyan Leader, he is in touch with technology and successfully uses it to communicate with his people. Robert Mugabe does not even have a Facebook page. Kenyatta is relaxed and seemingly approachable. Robert Mugabe is generally tense, feared and unapproachable (from an ordinary citizen’s perspective). Kenyatta is open to new ideas and has his eyes firmly fixed on the future. Robert Mugabe has his eyes firmly fixed on the past, on what the whites did to us, his fights with Tony Blair and so on. This obsession with the past determines our national policies and so far we have allowed it to play out. An example of how aged leadership is adversely affecting is in the manner we deal with droughts. Interestingly, we have had a drought this year and government is urgently looking for funds to import food. A young leader would know that weather patterns in this day and age should not determine food security. We need to start using technology to revolutionaries our agriculture. Instead we have land invasions, poor data, poor planning, corruption and ineffective and inefficient farming methods. If a desert like Israel can be food sufficient and export surplus to other countries, we have no excuse as Zimbabwe. We have the best climate in the world and good farming soils for a variety of crops. All that is needed now is young, dynamic leadership that is forward thinking and committed to the cause of developing Zimbabwe.
It is not ageism to state the fact that these old politicians no longer fit into the vision that we need to urgently start working towards. In fact they are hampering our development and have become a burden to us as a people. They must retire on their farms and pave wave for the young and energetic. As it stands, the only direction we are being led in right now is to the graveyard and I for one have no intention of joining them there.