THE state of development of a society or lack thereof is a reflection of its leadership. A poor society such as ours simply means bad leadership is presiding over national affairs, just as much as the developed societies, to a large extent, experience good leadership.
Leadership defines the state of development by setting the agenda, priorities and putting in place a strategic vision for the nation to pursue. It ushers its people’s energies towards achieving national goals and does not submit the majority of its development agenda in the hands of foreign investors.
A society can be considered to be better off when the majority of its members are living a better life with access to basics such as income, health, education, employment, rights, freedoms and opportunities for personal growth. Social progress is the aggregate improvement in quality of life for the population which results in better economic outcomes for the entire nation.
While these are known indicators of social progress to which most African societies aspire, how to achieve them has remained the bane of the post-independent Africa as a whole. Other
than Mauritius and recently Rwanda and Ethiopia, it bears to note that most African countries are yet to define their own development agendas divorced from what obtains from the prescriptive strategies of the global governance markets.
This is because it is an easy way out. African governments, because they are lazy to think, they simply adopt pre-designed templates that conform to the prescriptions of the
international finance institutions which they populate with local text and call them their own national development plans, incognisant of their own national contexts and priorities. In most cases, these are drafted by foreign consultant.
Two points can be draw from this common practice, which has left the continent perpetually poor. First, it gives the leadership easy pseudo-victories through access to credit lines and
acceptability in the global community through compliance, notwithstanding who benefits from the parochial compliance. Second, they have used these adopted strategies’ ineffectiveness to
evade responsibility and as excuses for their failure to lead. African leaders are on record blaming the international finance institutions for this and that policy which left their
countries worse-off, while the same institutions continue to grow and prosper.
The real challenge is not that we have, over the last seven decades, trusted barren and borrowed foreign ideas, but that they have been allowed to occupy and dominate local space at the
expense of the growth of new and local ideas on achieving social progress. Take, for example, the West achieved economic growth through industrialisation and yet African countries feed themselves with Western charity-related development and poverty reduction programmes and policies which do not prioritise development, let alone mention industrialisation.
The reasons for this are very simple. An industrialised Africa simply means a powerful continent and a significantly reduced supply of raw material to Western markets. A powerful Africa
is a threat to both Western and Asian markets. A perpetually stupid Africa simply means an easy raw materials supplier hence the need to sustain the stupidity that obtains among African
leaders by giving them easy credit lines and ensnaring the future of their countries to Western dictates through loans from the international finance institutions.
Resultantly, the entire Africa knowledge industry, including academic institutions have continued to churn out graduates each year who have consumed and are well-equipped with the
knowledge on how the West wants Africa to understand its social progress and not how Africans understand their priorities within their own realities. In fact, the space for African
countries to understanding themselves is closed and even though it is the same African countries that should open that space, they still fear that doing so offends the international community.
For that reason, we have, as a continent continued to be epistemically dependent on the West for basic ideas and tools. In other words, we borrow ideas so that we can qualify to borrow
funds in lieu of opening markets to the West and now with China. This is commonly known as attracting foreign investments.
It is specifically these factors that separate Ethiopia, Rwanda and Mauritius from the rest of African countries. They chose to forge their own economic growth paths based on their local capacities and national priorities. Doing so, allows space to bring local ideas to the table and to make use of local resources without feeling external pressure.
Against their varying historical tides and global pressure to reform or rather to conform, Ethiopia and Rwanda have ushered their people’s energies towards national economic growth ideas and it has paid off. Their plans are not replicas of the international finance institutions, but locally drafted.
Today, they have become among the fastest growing economies on the continent as their divergent approaches began to pay off. For Ethiopia and Rwanda, these have come at a price as both countries have been described, through Western moral lenses, as autocratic.
But with their economies growing exponentially, those tags are gradually peeling off as they are receiving global acceptance and assuming the new tags of trading partners.