AFRICA - THE GOOD NEWS NEWSLETTER 14 October 2009 www.africagoodnews.co.za is proudly sponsored by MTN NEWSLETTER #22 ____________________________________________________________ LEADERSHIP AND AFRICA'S DESERVED LEGACY I came across this quote while reading the book titled "The State of Africa" by Martin Meredith which, as you probably know, paints a rather gloomy albeit true picture of our continent. At the very end of his book, the author launches a scathing attack on African leaders and compares them to vampires who thrive on the blood of their citizens. But he also goes on to say that the African people have resigned themselves to a life whereby they have to accept these bad leaders as yet another burden they must bear in their struggle for survival. This book and in particular Nelson Mandela's urgent call to his fellow leaders some fifteen years ago, prompted me to re-examine my personal role as a citizen and my responsibility, passive or active, direct or indirect, in the affairs of my state and the affairs of the continent. I realised that although I have never held political office and do not intend to do so in the foreseeable future, I was not completely innocent of some of the terrible things happening around me. Either by commission or omission, by electing one official and not the other, by supporting a particular policy or opposing it, and in most cases by standing on the fence and watching as if what was going on had nothing to do with me, I became complicit. I realised with growing dismay how it has become a way of life for me and others around me to blame politicians for everything that is wrong with Africa and how we hold as innocent and even victims those, who are not politicians. Yet, we know politicians exist only because we allow them to be and as such we are part of the problem. I realised that until we all recognise and accept responsibility for the endless failures that have come to define life on the continent, we will never make any significant progress. LEGACY In its simplest terms, legacy is something that is handed down or remains from a previous generation or time. In the context of leadership, legacy is the sum total of what is left of a leader's actions and ideas when they move on to their next station in life. As leaders, legacy is something we worry about almost every day. It is as a matter of fact the most important thing in our lives. It is after all how we will be remembered. Beneath this however lies a deeper meaning of legacy, namely the fact that the legacy of a leader is never his or hers alone but rather something leaders share with their followers. In other words, a leader's legacy is only an act in a bigger play involving many actors and a complex script in which he plays merely the leading role. Without his supporting cast, the lead actor is helpless and the play would lose all its meaning. When people trust us with their dreams and aspirations, and especially when they do so of their own free will, be it at the workplace, in politics, in the church or mosque; we become their leaders and they necessarily become our followers. And when our job is done and we move on to the next challenge or even the next life, we leave behind that something called legacy. This however is not ours alone, it s a product of a collaborative effort between the leaders and the led and we share joint responsibility for the shape and quality of such legacy. After all, leaders by definition cannot lead without the consent of their followers and the followers by the same definition get the leaders they deserve. To put this in the African context, the story of our continent has been an unfortunate series of leadership events to say the least. Granted we have had some great leadership moments and we have made great followers at times. However, when everything is considered, the bad times outnumber the good ones and that is the reality we face even today, especially today. For it is true that for every Nelson Mandela, Julius Nyerere, Joachim Chissano or Festus Mogae, we have had countless Mobutu's, Eyadema's, Mengistu's, Botha's, Moi's, Iddi Amin's, Abachas and Master Sergeant Doe's, etc, the list is endless. For every single good man, we have had countless bad men, in many cases even monsters. It is not surprising therefore that the discussion about leadership and the leadership legacies in Africa will remain difficult, almost intractable for the foreseeable future. Nevertheless, it is necessary that we continue to explore this subject with the seriousness it deserves because we have only one Africa, this same Africa that has endured so much. We have no other place to go. We must fix what we have broken; we are after all as one audacious young man said, "the ones we have been waiting for." By Ali A. Mufuruki Ali A. Mufuruki is the chairman and CEO of Infotech Investment Group, based in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. He is also the Founder and Chairman of the Africa Leadership Initiative (ALI) East Africa.