His Highness the Aga Khan speaking with Mr. Ali A. Mufuruki, Chairman of Infotech Investment Group Mr. Ali Mufuruki is the Executive Chairman of InfoTech Investment Group LTD, based in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The family owned Infotech Investment Group Limited has controlling interests in M&M Communications Limited, a leading advertising agency in Tanzania, Infotech Computers Limited, an IT and Telecoms Services Company, W-Stores Co LTD, the operator of the WOOLWORTHS franchise in Tanzania and Uganda and IIG Retail LTD, the operator of the Levi's franchise in Tanzania. Mr. Mufuruki graduated with a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering design from The Fachhochschule for Technology and Economics in Reutlingen, Germany. He previously worked for Daimler-Benz (now DaimlerChrysler) in Germany as an engineer in the planning division. He was also head of mechanical engineering design at National Engineering Co. Ltd, based in Dar es Salaam before retiring to start Infotech Computers Ltd in 1989. Mr. Mufuruki is currently the Lead CEO of the Tanzania CEOs' Roundtable that brings together CEOs of the top 50 companies in Tanzania, and is Chairman of the national carrier – Air Tanzania Company Limited. He is also the Chairman of Mwananchi Communications Limited, the publishers of leading Kiswahili and English daily newspapers in Tanzania (Mwananchi and The Citizen). Mr. Mufuruki also sits on the boards of Nairobi, Kenya-based Nation Media Group LTD, Tourism Promotion Services East Africa also of Kenya, Stanbic Bank Tanzania LTD and is a trustee of Social Action Trust Fund, a USAID funded non-profit organisation that supports children made vulnerable by HIV Aids. He is a member of the Presidential Investors Roundtable (IIRT) that advises the President of Tanzania on a wide range of economic policy issues. He is a Henry Crown Fellow of the Aspen Institute and Chairman of the Africa Leadership Initiative (ALI), East Africa. Mr. Mufuruki lives in Dar es Salaam with his wife Saada and four children. Following are excerpts from that interview, conducted by africaleadership.net on April 12, 2001 with Mr Mufuruki: Q: Is there a crisis of leadership in Africa? Mr. Mufuruki: Yes, but this is nothing new. Africa has been in a leadership crisis for many centuries. The nature of the problems keeps changing, but the crisis has been the most constant of all occurrences on the continent. Q: What is the nature of the crisis? Mr. Mufuruki: As I said, the nature of the crisis keeps changing. Forty years ago, all of Africa was engulfed in a liberation struggle of some sort. Africa had more than its fair share of bad leaders then. During the Cold War, Africa became the favorite playground of the superpowers and this produced a different brand of leadership, which only aggravated the crisis, especially on the economic front. These leaders put the political and economic interests of their masters -- in this case, the superpowers of the day and their allies -- above those of the people they were supposed to serve. Some introduced failed Marxist policies without the consent of their people, or allowed their mostly poor countries to engage in senseless proxy wars and looted national treasuries to enrich themselves and their friends. Others pursued western economic models but at the same time subjected their people to severe hardships through economic exploitation and political repression. And it was during the 1970s and 1980s that most African economies experienced dramatic economic decline. Right now, the majority of countries in Africa are struggling with the challenge of multi-party democracy, globalization, HIV/AIDS and abject poverty. There is a war in at least one out of three countries and where there is relative peace the situation is still tense, either due to ethnic troubles or religious disagreements. Either way, many of Africa's current leaders seem to be either completely helpless or are actually fomenting the troubles to sustain themselves in power. Q: How does Africa's leadership crisis affect the private/business sector? Mr. Mufuruki: Private-sector growth requires a stable political environment coupled with sensible policies and, of course, good governance. These have been and continue to be in short supply in most African countries. However, there are signs of positive change in this regard in some African countries, including Tanzania, South Africa, Ghana, Senegal, Rwanda and a few more. Whether the trend will be sustained remains to be seen. However, there are also countries that are "achieving" the exact opposite, like Zimbabwe, and Zambia (where the incumbent president is said to be seeking an unconstitutional third term in office), not to mention the war-ravaged countries like Angola, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo and Liberia -- the list is endless! Q: What role is the private/business sector playing, or what role should it play, in addressing Africa's leadership crisis? Mr. Mufuruki: I do not see a direct role for the private sector in the field of political leadership. African politics are and will continue to be dominated by technocrats and career politicians for quite some time to come. The poverty that faces the majority of the people in Africa has helped to perpetuate this state of affairs. Poverty on the one hand drives the wrong people into the field of politics, and on the other hand, makes it extremely difficult for the poor masses to remove or change their leaders when they fail to deliver, even in a multi-party democracy. Business people can help provide leadership in the field of economics, but even this will not be easy because politicians think that they need to control the economy just as much as they control the politics. In short, the political leaders are not willing or ready to accommodate non-politicians in their leadership circle. But by creating wealth, not only for themselves, but also for others, African entrepreneurs are contributing to the creation of a society that is less prone to political bribery or bullying, and thus a society in which the quality of leadership will become an important social issue. Through this process and over time, the leadership crisis facing Africa will be brought to manageable levels if not overcome altogether. My answers here reflect my frustration with the slow pace of change more than anything else. The private sector will ultimately take the driving seat, even in Tanzania, but it will take time. Q: Can the private/business sector play a role in influencing governments to create the conditions necessary for economic growth: macroeconomic stability, transparency, respect for contracts? In Tanzania, for example, is there a forum where business leaders like yourself can sit down with government leaders and discuss the "action steps" each sector must take in order to create a solid foundation for future economic growth? Mr. Mufuruki: In terms of whether the private sector can influence this kind of fundamental change, I believe that in our circumstances this is a painstaking job. But we have not given up hope. As a matter of fact, in Tanzania we have a CEO Roundtable made up of chief executive officers of some 20 leading companies based in Tanzania. They represent interests in mining, manufacturing, agriculture, telecommunications, energy, banking, information technology and retail trading. This CEO Roundtable, which is an informal group, has been holding a series of meetings with the President and ministers in the new cabinet since last year, including the new Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, the Honorable Charles Keenja. This month, we also have a one-day retreat scheduled with the new Minister of Finance, the Honorable Basil Mramba, to discuss policy and budget issues. This year's one-day retreat with the President of Tanzania, Benjamin Mkapa, and the CEO Roundtable is scheduled for the second week of May. Another forum for this kind of dialogue is the newly created Tanzania National Business Council (NBC), which is scheduled to be launched this month and which has the endorsement of President Mkapa. The purpose of the National Business Council is to create a platform for genuine and binding deliberations between the government and the private sector, civil society, labor and academia - basically all stakeholders in Tanzania. It surely is a step in the right direction. My role in the NBC is rather small but perhaps very significant in some ways. In early 1996, shortly after the current president came to office, I attended a meeting at the State House. During this meeting I read a statement I had prepared on behalf of the private sector that emphasized the importance of a genuine dialogue between the government and the private sector in our effort to build a successful, private sector-led economy in Tanzania. This started a huge discussion on whether or not there was a private sector in Tanzania worth its name, and if there was not, what needed to be done to create one. I stepped back from active participation in the dialogue sometime in 1998 to focus on building my business, but I continued to be involved in the background, as a member of several boards of directors and through informal groups such as the CEO Roundtable. Q: As you know, TechnoServe is "on the ground" in Tanzania and other African countries, working to build businesses that will fuel rural economic growth. What role can an external organization like TechnoServe play in assisting the private sector to create wealth and overcome this leadership crisis? Mr. Mufuruki: The best contribution that organizations like TechnoServe can make is to quicken the pace of wealth creation in poor societies. These organizations can share their considerable experience and help promote well-tested international "best practices," be it in farming, trading, business methods, management skills or organizational skills. Organizations like TechnoServe could also be goodwill ambassadors for poor economies in the raging debate on globalization, by urging their own countries to adopt trade policies that are fair and supportive to developing nations. The HIV/AIDS and malaria epidemics pose probably the biggest threat to the viability of most African economies. Already they cost the continent billions of dollars in gross domestic product every year. Their combined effect on the lives of ordinary Africans is more devastating than all of the previous wars and the many centuries of deprivation brought about by the slave trade and colonialism. Africa may not survive this current onslaught. Surely, TechnoServe can do something about this, for example, by supporting efforts to provide access to cheaper drugs and where possible vaccines. Q: What are your thoughts about the current debate on debt relief for the poorest developing countries? Mr. Mufuruki: In short, I am of the opinion that debt relief as it is being implemented today will not work. It is designed to make the debt of "poor" countries manageable, using a definition of poverty that is only understood by the IMF and the World Bank. There is a big difference between "manageable debt" and "sustainable debt." The current program attempts to deal with the former. There is also the unresolved issue of how this debt came about, i.e., how it was incurred and whether the lenders were not to a certain extent responsible for the problem that is now being left to the poor countries alone to bear. The IMF and the World Bank seek to use debt relief to protect banks that gave out loans recklessly, in some cases knowing very well that the borrowers would never be able to recover their investment. This is not fair.